Keeping the Ham Shack & my Lithium batteries warm in winter

Lithium batteries need to be protected from freezing temperatures during charging. In this video and blog, I demonstrate how a Chinese diesel heater can keep our lithium batteries, and the off-grid ham shack warm enough for charging, even when it’s far below freezing outside.

By now, many of us have seen the electric cars stranded in cities hit with harsh winter weather. Unlike the average electric vehicle driver experiencing winter with an e-vehicle for the first time, we can easily prevent any damage to our lithium batteries during cold weather charging. First, by understanding their temperature specs for charging, and next by building a solution to keep them within that temperature range.

As a rule, we should never charge our lithium batteries when the internal temperature of the pack is below freezing. Some packs like the self-heating packs from Power Queen EU or Power Queen USA (more links below) use a portion of their internal capacity to preheat the battery pack to a safe charging temperature. Ironically, I didn’t know about these packs when I first discovered Power Queen Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, and failed to grab one of the self-heating models. Living in the Arctic, I’ll eventually get one here.

Diesel heating

One of the reasons for trying a diesel heater was the ability to automatically adjust the level of heating based on a preset temperature on the thermostat. Unfortunately, the heater was too good at heating. The heaters lowest setting was still too high once the space had reached the desired temperature. This wasted diesel fuel unnecessarily! Thats when I decided to order a better designed thermostat, one which added the ability to switch on or switch off the diesel heater based on high and low temp thresholds. That thermostat can be found from Bureck here.

Automatically cycle your heater to maintain your ideal temperature!

Advanced Chinese diesel heater remote controller. Communicates with stock diesel heater controllers.

For the off-grid ham shack project, heat was important for the lithium batteries, as well as for the Operators in the shack! Of course, it was also important to keep frost out of the space, since frost can damage the radio and computer equipment we use regularly.

I decided to try a Chinese diesel heater from Vevor. This is a 3kw model. It came with most if not all of the components included in the kit to install it. This heater is detailed in the first part of the video below. Check out the thermal images of the heaters inlet vent below.

Power for the diesel heater

Like any other diesel engine, the diesel heater relies on DC from a battery, to power its internal glow plug. The glow plug then warms the heater’s combustion chamber, generating the heat. The DC energy comes from the same Power Queen LiFePO4 1280-watt-hours batteries powering the off-grid ham shack.

During glow plug start-up, the diesel heaters may reach a 9 amp load. This load only lasts ~4 minutes, when the heating starts up, and fan starts blowing air into the ham shack.

Power Queen LiFePO4

Power Queen offers a range of LiFePO4 batteries for off-grid use. These batteries are available throughout the European Union, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. In fact, you can get a 5% discount using JULIANOH8STN while shopping on their various websites.

Use discount code JULIANOH8STN

Power Queen made the “Building an off-grid ham shack” project possible. Please show some love.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, heating and charging the batteries and comms gear in the off-grid ham shack is no different than heating an electric car for charging, while it is in the garage. It may seem annoying, having to take care about the battery level of an electric vehicle or the batteries in an off-grid ham shack. The reality is, we can use lithium batteries in cold weather once we understand how the cold affects them, and securing a warm place to charge them within temperature spec. For the off-grid ham shack, this is relatively simple, as the diesel heater does all of the hard work.

Julian oh8stn

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