By Dan McMartin
Selecting and maintaining the right batteries for your equipment and building systems will help to minimize risk, manage costs, and reduce downtime. Batteries aren’t always top of mind until they fail or cause a serious issue. Get ahead of battery failure and optimize performance and efficiency with these four simple tips.
- Start with Battery Chemistry: Popular battery chemistries include lead acid, Nickel-metal hydride, Lithium-ion, and alkaline. Beyond chemistries, battery types like sealed lead-acid have many categories, such as deep cycle, high-rate, gel, and others. Once you have identified the chemistry needed and the required rating, you can determine the proper way to test, install, and maintain that battery.
- Freshness Matters: What is battery freshness? Different battery chemistries need to be kept at specific levels of charge or freshness. For example, if you receive a batch of 12V 7ah sealed lead-acid batteries for alarm panels and they are reading below 12.4V, they are not fresh and most likely beginning to sulfate. Once a battery enters sulfation, it is irreversible and will never meet its intended performance. Using a simple multimeter will allow you to check the battery and determine if it is ready to use or needs to be charged. Lithium-ion batteries are a bit different and enter a “sleep mode” once they are discharged to a certain point. It can be easy to mistake them for a dead battery. Attaching them to a charger will typically wake them up and allow them to be charged or used. Check with your battery supplier to ensure they are delivering freshly charged batteries to save you time and potentially money.
- Charging to Spec: In the event your battery does need to be charged, you should select the proper rate of charge. While it is tempting to choose a higher current for a quick charge, you should confirm it won’t damage the battery. For instance, a 12V 7ah sealed lead-acid battery should be charged at a low current such as 2amp, while a 12V 100ah battery can accept 5amp without damaging the battery. Another important consideration is to not overcharge the battery. This could lead to reduced battery life and even swelling or thermal runaway, which can ultimately be destructive and dangerous.
- Bigger Isn’t Better: Choosing a battery that physically fits the device is important but only part of the equation. Most devices specify the required battery rating and may have a built-in charging system intended for that exact spec. If you place a battery with a higher rating in the device, it may never bring that battery up to a full charge. This defeats the purpose of the higher rating while possibly compromising battery life.
There are many factors outside of chemistry and specifications, such as usage and environment, that can impact battery life and performance. A battery specialist can provide advice during the selection process and offer guidance on charging and maintenance, so you can focus on keeping building systems and equipment operational.
McMartin is supplier quality engineer manager for Interstate All Battery Center, where he is responsible for ensuring that all products are up to the company’s quality assurance standards. he serves as an important touchpoint between All Battery Center and Interstate’s suppliers, continuously seeking out ways to improve the supply chain process. Serving as the management representative for Interstate’s ISO 13485 based Quality Management System, McMartin is passionate about innovation and strives to maintain Interstate’s reputation as the highest-quality battery supplier.