Batteries -proper maintenance vital

16th of May 2013
Batteries -proper maintenance vital

There are many types of battery now being used on cleaning machines: flooded batteries; sealed AGM and gel versions, lithium-ion batteries, batteries that can be charged throughout the day, etc. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type and in which environments are they most suitable for powering cleaning machines? Battery supplier Trojan writes exclusively for ECJ.

Today’s maintenance professionals face a variety of challenges ranging from limited staff, shrinking budgets and increasing environmental regulations. These issues can cost both time and money when it comes to successfully completing floor cleaning maintenance tasks. But choosing the right battery for your floor scrubber, knowing proper battery maintenance and educating your staff are a few important ways to ensure the safe, uninterrupted operation of your floor machines, and key to getting the biggest return on your battery investment.

So what battery technology do you choose?  Deep-cycle batteries, whether they are flooded, AGM or gel, are the best choice for cleaning machines because they are optimised for the deep discharge, characteristic of daily floor scrubber operations. Whether to select flooded lead acid (FLA), or valve-regulated lead acid (AGM or gel) battery technology depends on your budget or the environmental regulations in place at a particular location.

Overview of FLA (Flooded)

FLA batteries provide the best cycling performance of all deep-cycle battery technologies. They are the most ideal option for a majority of floor scrubber and floor sweeper equipment where lowest cost is a key factor.  To achieve maximum potential cycle life, flooded batteries require periodic ‘watering’. The frequency is determined by how the equipment is operated and is based on individual use. Trojan Battery recommends electrolyte levels be checked at least every two weeks to ensure optimum performance. Deep-cycle flooded batteries that use single-point watering systems are becoming popular since they take the guesswork and mess out of watering.

Overview of VRLA (AGM & Gel)

If maintenance cannot be guaranteed on a regular basis, maintenance-free VRLA battery technology, such as AGM or gel, should be considered for floor cleaning applications. While maintenance-free batteries provide more convenience, that convenience comes with a price. VRLA batteries are typically more expensive and have lower cycle life when compared to FLA batteries. In industries regulated such as educational institutions, airports and hospitals, VRLA batteries should be used since they contain no free-flowing electrolyte, and have little to no off-gassing during charging.

Maintenance key

Proper maintenance of deep-cycle batteries, whether they are FLA or VRLA, will provide maximum performance and longer life extending your overall equipment runtimes.  Following these simple steps ensures you will get the most life out of your batteries, as well as enable you to operate at optimum levels.

Safety - the safety precautions and procedures outlined below should be followed whether handling FLA or VRLA, such as AGM or gel, batteries.

• Always wear protective clothing, safety glasses, and gloves when handling and/or performing battery maintenance
• Never add acid to a battery
• Keep batteries clean and dry
• Keep sparks, flames and cigarettes away from batteries
• Charge only in well ventilated areas
• Avoid skin contact with electrolyte
• Always use insulated tools


• Charge batteries after each use and follow the manufacturer’s instructions
• Before charging, ensure the electrolyte level is above the plates in flooded batteries only
• Tighten vent caps before charging
• Do not interrupt a charge cycle
• Never charge a frozen battery
• Avoid charging at temperatures above 120°F (49°C)
Watering (flooded batteries only)
• Add water only after fully charging unless plates are exposed, and then add only enough water to cover the plates
• Check with the manufacturer regarding proper electrolyte fill levels
• Never allow the electrolyte level to fall below the plates
• Use distilled water


• Clean the battery terminals and cable lugs regularly with a solution of one cup of baking soda and one gallon of water using a wire brush.  It is imperative to properly maintain the entire battery connection because corrosion at either end of the connection can cause high resistance and potential battery failure. Rinse with water and dry thoroughly
• Coat all connections with anti-corrosion spray or silicone gel to resist corrosion.
• Tighten all wiring connections per the manufacturer’s specifications
• Do not over-tighten which can result in post breakage
• Avoid under-tightening which can result in post meltdown
• Make sure there is good contact with
the terminals.

Equalisation (flooded batteries only)

• Connect battery to charger, set to equalise mode, and start the charge cycle
• Take voltage readings every hour
• Equalisation is complete when voltage no longer rises
• If charger does not have an equalisation setting, call the battery manufacturer.
Storage - there are very important steps that should be followed when storing batteries for an extended period of time.
• Completely charge batteries before storing and monitor every six weeks
• Batteries gradually self-discharge during storage, with AGM batteries self-discharging at a slower rate than flooded batteries. Monitor voltage every 4-6 weeks, and give stored batteries a boost charge when at 70 per cent state or less.
• Store batteries in a cool, dry location avoiding freezing temperatures
• Keep batteries fully charged to
prevent freezing
• When batteries are taken out of storage, recharge them before use
• Avoid direct exposure of batteries to heat sources, such as radiators or heaters

Regardless of which battery technology you choose, remember that a battery is only as good as the maintenance it receives.  Proper maintenance of deep-cycle batteries will provide maximum performance and longer life, extending your overall equipment runtimes.  Following these simple steps ensures your machine’s deep-cycle batteries will enable you to operate at optimum levels day in and day out.


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