A cable-free future?
17 September 2014
Natalie Dowse, product and marketing manager for Truvox International, explains why battery-powered floor cleaning options are proving so popular
Battery-powered floor cleaning machines have been steadily gaining in popularity over recent years. Across the Atlantic, a poll conducted by Altura Solutions Communications in April 2012, asked cleaning professionals if they would prefer a battery-powered machine or a ‘conventional’ model with a lead. 88% of respondents opted for battery power – and we are getting similar feedback from UK and European clients. So why is this?
One of the biggest benefits of battery-powered machines is the safety factor. Having no trailing power lead to stretch across a corridor or room eliminates a significant tripping hazard. Another benefit is that operatives do not have to plug and unplug equipment as they work, enhancing productivity.
Older battery-powered machines can be heavier than newer models, and this can have an effect on manoeuvrability. However, added weight can also be a good thing, as this can increase the contact pressure with the floor, making for a more thorough and efficient clean.
Batteries come in three main formats, each with different features and benefits, plus variations in cost and maintenance methods. They are as follows:
Deep-cycle, flooded or lead-acid – These are the oldest types of batteries used in professional cleaning equipment, and they are similar to those used in cars. The charge from within the battery comes from an electrolyte that is approximately 65% water and 35% sulphuric acid. These are typically the most economical choice, but they must be installed properly to prevent any discharge of the electrolyte, and maintaining them correctly takes more work.
Gel batteries – These first came onto the market around 30 years ago, and in these types, the sulphuric acid in the battery is in the form of a gel. They are totally sealed and do not need to be refilled with water, making them safer to work with.
Absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries – The electrolytes in these batteries are absorbed into a glass mat. While AGM batteries are more expensive than other options, they store well, hold their charge longer than other types of battery, and offer greater manoeuvrability.
The need to recharge more often can affect productivity, so many manufacturers are now investing heavily in developing rechargeable batteries that last even longer. Energy usage is also being improved, increasing the ‘charge efficiency’ of batteries – i.e. how much electrical energy has to be put into the battery when charging, compared to how much energy is put out when the battery is used.
No matter what type of rechargeable battery you use with a cleaning machine, they need to be properly maintained – for the sake of both safety and efficiency.
One particularly important thing to remember is that, in most cases, the battery should not be fully discharged before being charged again. Some manufacturers have addressed this issue by incorporating technology that will turn a machine off before the battery is completely discharged.
Other maintenance issues to be aware of include:
• Do not store the battery in unusually cold or unusually hot areas
• If the battery requires water in order to operate, check water levels frequently
• Make sure cables and connections are clean and securely fastened
• Some batteries, such as deep-cycle batteries, should not be left in equipment for long periods of time, so if the machine will not be used for a week or longer, remove the battery and store it safely
• Always wear eye protection when servicing batteries
Many cleaning professionals agree that battery-powered machinery is the key trend that is set to stay in our sector – and as technological developments continue, the pace of progress can only speed up even further.