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Find the right battery chemistry

27 September 2016

There are many options for powering floor maintenance equipment. Deep-cycle, lead acid technology is the most economical and reliable choice, but what type of battery chemistry is right for your equipment, budget or working environment? Vicki Hall, director of global technical services at Trojan Battery Co., explores the various chemistries including flooded, gel and AGM, and what is currently being adopted in the market

Today facilities maintenance management teams face a multitude of challenges. From maintenance backlogs, and balancing maintenance budgets to limited staff, lack of time to complete work and increasing environmental regulations. The last thing they need to worry about is the performance of the battery powering their floor machines.

By gaining a clear understanding of the various battery technologies ensures that the type of battery used to power floor cleaning machines will function at peak levels of performance and reliability, providing uninterrupted operation of equipment.

Deep-cycle batteries, whether they are flooded, AGM or gel, are the best choice for operating battery-powered floor cleaning equipment because they are engineered to handle the rigors of deep discharge on a regular basis, common in these applications. It’s also important to select a deep-cycle battery that provides true deep-cycling performance. Many deep-cycle AGM batteries on the market today were originally designed for UPS or standby applications, where the batteries are basically "on hold" until needed, not for applications such as floor cleaning which consistently deeply discharge the batteries.

Flooded battery technology

While deep-cycle flooded batteries are the most economical, they do require regular watering which can be challenging for operators on the job site. Without regular watering, flooded batteries will prematurely fail, resulting in frequent and expensive battery replacements. However, the availability of single-point watering systems makes maintenance of flooded batteries quick and easy. Battery watering systems, such as Trojan HydroLink, are very convenient in effectively watering flooded batteries and avoiding the potential mess of overwatering. HydroLink can be quickly installed and fill a set of batteries in less than 30 seconds. It features automatic valve shut-off to prevent overwatering of battery cells, which can cause acid spillover. The system also includes a battery indicator mechanism which can be easily read to determine whether or not the batteries need to be watered before operating, as well as internal and external flame arrestors for safety.

AGM & gel battery technology 

AGM and gel batteries, also known as VRLA (Valve Regulated Lead Acid) types, are maintenance free and engineered to provide rugged durability and performance for a variety of applications. While VRLA batteries do not require watering, they are a bit more expensive than flooded models, so customers must determine if a VRLA maintenance-free battery is more cost-effective in the long run.

Importance of battery charging

However, both flooded and AGM batteries do require regular charging, an important maintenance practice. Floor machines may sit idle for periods of time, so it’s important that staff check the voltage of deep-cycle batteries on a regular basis. The last thing a floor machine operator wants is to be faced with equipment with a battery that is only partially charged, which decreases their overall performance for the day. Reading the voltage of VRLA and flooded batteries will let you know the batteries state of charge. It’s also important to understand that consistently overcharging or undercharging a deep-cycle battery will impact its overall performance and life, resulting in increased operating costs since batteries will have to be replaced more frequently.

Regardless of which battery technology is selected to operate floor cleaning equipment, proper maintenance of the deep-cycle flooded, AGM or gel batteries is critical to providing maximum performance and long life of a battery investment. To support proper battery maintenance, Trojan Battery has developed “Trojan Tips,” a series of video tutorials which address a wide variety of battery maintenance, charging and safety topics. These videos are designed to assist users to operate their equipment at optimum levels day in and day out.