Best battery FAQ ever:
Deep Cycle Battery FAQ
This is the applicable part:
Amp-Hours - What Are They?
All deep cycle batteries are rated in amp-hours. An amp-hour is one amp for one hour, or 10 amps for 1/10 of an hour and so forth. It is amps x hours. If you have something that pulls 20 amps, and you use it for 20 minutes, then the amp-hours used would be 20 (amps) x .333 (hours), or 6.67 AH. The generally accepted AH rating time period for batteries used in solar electric and backup power systems (and for nearly all deep cycle batteries) is the "20 hour rate". (Some, such as the Concorde AGM, use the 24 hour rate, which is probably a better real-world rating). This means that it is discharged down to 10.5 volts over a 20 hour period while the total actual amp-hours it supplies is measured. Sometimes ratings at the 6 hour rate and 100 hour rate are also given for comparison and for different applications. The 6-hour rate is often used for industrial batteries, as that is a typical daily duty cycle. Sometimes the 100 hour rate is given just to make the battery look better than it really is, but it is also useful for figuring battery capacity for long-term backup amp-hour requirements.
Why amp-hours are specified at a particular rate:
Because of something called the Peukert Effect. The Peukert value is directly related to the internal resistance of the battery. The higher the internal resistance, the higher the losses while charging and discharging, especially at higher currents. This means that the faster a battery is used (discharged), the LOWER the AH capacity. Conversely, if it is drained slower, the AH capacity is higher. This is important because some manufacturers and vendors have chosen to rate their batteries at the 100 hour rate - which makes them look a lot better than they really are. Here are some typical battery capacities from the manufacturers data sheets:
Battery Type 100 hour rate 20 hour rate 8
Trojan T-105 250 AH 225 AH n/a
US Battery 2200 n/a 225 AH 181 AH
Concorde PVX-6220 255 AH 221 AH 183 AH
Surrette S-460 (L-16) 429 AH 344 AH 282 AH
Trojan L-16 400 AH 360 AH n/a
Surrette CS-25-PS 974 AH 779 AH 639 AH