Protecting Your Investment, the Often Overlooked, Investment Batteries and Chargers
Now is the time to pay more attention to your Batteries and Chargers. Over the years, more and more forklift users have replaced their propane powered forklifts with electric powered forklifts. At the same time, the Technology has drastically improved in both Batteries and Chargers. The day of plugging in a battery and turning the dial to Daily or Equalize are all but gone. And with the rising costs of lead, along with the increasing regulation of hazardous materials like lead and acid, along with the increased awareness of these regulations, we can no longer treat our batteries and chargers as second class citizens.
Batteries and Chargers are now more expensive than ever to replace, and there are so many more options, it can be confusing. Batteries can be High Energy, Low Water, Maintenance Free, or Economically Priced. The days of SCR and Ferro Chargers aren’t gone, but many more options are available. Many people are going to, Demand, High Frequency, Rapid Charger, or any combination of those options.
No matter what you have for batteries or chargers, here are Some Rules that are Applicable to almost all Battery/Charger Applications, to help you get the most out of your existing fleet:
· Water and Clean Your Batteries on a scheduled basis, based on your usage. Obvious, but still one of the biggest problems we see.
· Once you’ve picked a Charging Profile be disciplined and stick to it. It makes a difference.
· Maintain & Monitor your Batteries and Chargers
Watering and cleaning are generally done after a battery has been charged, but you always want to have enough water/electrolyte to cover the positive and negative plates. How do you check? If you have a Battery Monitoring System, like “Blinkies” it is easy. If the light is red, it needs to be watered, if it is green, you are okay. If you have a Watering System, often called “Single Point Watering System”, you should check the battery level before watering, unless you have a regular watering schedule, this should be done on a weekly basis, in most cases. If you don’t have any of the systems above, and your battery has caps, pull off a couple in different areas of the battery. Look into the cell, there should be a “Splash Plate”, if you can’t see any liquid at all, add water until it reaches the “Splash Plate”, but only up to the splash plate. If you add more, you may have a clean up after the battery is charged.
Once the Battery has gone through a complete charge cycle, the battery top should be neutralized and wiped down. If your watering is done properly, your batteries in good shape, and your chargers are working correctly, there should only be a minimal amount of clean up.
Proper Charging is the other key to long battery life, and lower energy consumption. There are a variety of charging profiles, and that could be an article in of its self. The point is, whether you choose Rapid Charge, Demand Charge, or the Traditional Charge Cycle, follow the plan. This becomes more critical when you choose the Rapid or Demand Charge Profiles, and you minimize your fleet size, which increases your cycles.
A Battery Cycle is charging a battery through gassing and discharge of a battery. When you short charge a battery during the charge cycle, you basically waste one of your cycles. A Cycle is when the battery has been on charger, started to gas, without completing the charge cycle. The key factor to using a cycle is getting to the gassing stage. Once the battery gets to the gassing point, the battery has used one cycle. The battery should be at the hottest point in the charge cycle at this point. If pulled off the charger at this point, not only did it go through a cycle, but it did not get fully charged. It was also not allowed to cool down. Heat can lead to considerable battery damage, which is often signified by excessive water use. Watch out for heat in the battery, connectors, and cables, it may be a sign of a problem. Watch out for batteries or individual cells using more water than others, it also is a sign of problems.
Monitoring your batteries & chargers can be accomplished in many ways. There are battery and charger monitors and software. Another option is to hire a service to take readings and report to you. The other option is to do it “In-House”. If done in house, you are going to want the person trained. They will need to know what the readings should be, based on the equipment you have and your application. The key is to look for trends, like excessive water usage, excessive heat, or readings that do not make sense, like high voltage but low specific gravity, or low voltage and high specific gravity.
While the Newer Charger will often have an Error Code, in these instances, many of the older chargers won’t. The only way to tell is to take readings, throughout the cycle.
Chargers also need to be monitored, to make sure they have the proper output throughout the Charge Cycle. Many of the newer chargers can actually be calibrated, for older batteries, for specific applications, or for the normal calibration that may be needed. While relatively simple to do, the person checking and calibrating should be properly trained. Improperly trained person could be hurt and or damage both the battery and charger.
Keep an eye on your batteries and chargers, your pay back will be a full life, lower utility bills, and less equipment problems, but that is another article for another day.
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