Sunday, December 28, 2008

Battery Safety Tips

We must think safety when we are working around and with batteries. Remove all jewelry. After all you don't want to melt your watchband while you are wearing the watch. The hydrogen gas that batteries make when charging is very explosive. I have had 2 batteries blow up and drench me in sulfuric acid.. That is no fun. This is a good time to use those safety goggles that are hanging on the wall. Sulfuric Acid eats up clothing and you may want to select Polyester clothing to wear, as it is naturally acid resistant. I just wear junk clothes, after all Polyester is so out of style. When doing electrical work on vehicles it is best to disconnect the ground cable. Just remember you are messing with corrosive acid, explosive gases and 100's amps of electrical current.

Basically there are two types of batteries; starting (cranking), and deep cycle (marine/golf cart). The starting battery (SLI starting lights ignition) is designed to deliver quick bursts of energy (such as starting engines) and have a greater plate count. The plates will also be thinner and have somewhat different material composition. The deep cycle battery has less instant energy but greater long-term energy delivery. Deep cycle batteries have thicker plates and can survive a number of discharge cycles. Starting batteries should not be used for deep cycle applications. The so-called Dual Purpose Battery is only a compromise between the 2 types of batteries.

Wet Cell (flooded), Gel Cell, and Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) are various versions of the lead acid battery. The wet cell comes in 2 styles; serviceable, and maintenance free. Both are filled with electrolyte and I prefer one that I can add water to and check the specific gravity of the electrolyte with a hydrometer. The Gel Cell and the AGM batteries are specialty batteries that typically cost twice as much as a premium wet cell. However they store very well and do not tend to sulfate or degrade as easily or as easily as wet cell. There is little chance of a hydrogen gas explosion or corrosion when using these batteries; these are the safest lead acid batteries you can use. Gel Cell and some AGM batteries may require a special charging rate. I personally feel that careful consideration should be given to the AGM battery technology for applications such as Marine, RV, Solar, Audio, Power Sports and Stand-By Power just to name a few. If you don't use or
operate your equipment daily; this can lead premature battery failure; or depend on top-notch battery performance then spend the extra money. Gel Cell batteries still are being sold but the AGM batteries are replacing them in most applications. There is a little confusion about AGM batteries because different manufactures call them different names; some of the popular ones are sealed regulated valve, dry cell, non-spillable, and sealed lead acid batteries. In most cases AGM batteries will give greater life span and greater cycle life than a wet cell battery.

SPECIAL NOTE about Gel Batteries: It is very common for individuals to use the term GEL CELL when referring to sealed, maintenance free batteries, much like one would use Kleenex when referring to facial tissue or "Xerox machine" when referring to a copy machine. Be very careful when specifying a battery charger, many times we are told by customer they are requiring a charger for a Gel Cell battery and in fact the battery is not a Gel Cell.

AGM: The Absorbed Glass Matt construction allows the electrolyte to be suspended in close proximity with the plateÕs active material. In theory, this enhances both the discharge and recharge efficiency. Actually, the AGM batteries are a variant of Sealed VRLA batteries. Popular usage high performance engine starting, power sports, deep cycle, solar and storage battery. The AGM batteries we sell are typically good deep cycle batteries and they deliver best life performance if recharged before the battery drops below the 50 percent discharge rate. If these AGM batteries are discharged to a rate of 100 percent the cycle life will be 300 plus cycles and this is true of most AGM batteries rated as deep cycle batteries.

GEL: The gel cell is similar to the AGM style because the electrolyte is suspended, but different because technically the AGM battery is still considered to be a wet cell. The electrolyte in a GEL cell has a silica additive that causes it to set up or stiffen. The recharge voltages on this type of cell are lower than the other styles of lead acid battery. This is probably the most sensitive cell in terms of adverse reactions to over-voltage charging. Gel Batteries are best used in VERY DEEP cycle application and may last a bit longer in hot weather applications. If the incorrect battery charger is used on a Gel Cell battery poor performance and premature failure is certain.

Battery Maintenance is an important issue. The battery should be cleaned using a baking soda and water mix; a couple of table spoons to a pint of water. Cable connection needs to be clean and tightened. Many battery problems are caused by dirty and loose connections. A serviceable battery needs to have the fluid level checked. Use only mineral free water. Distilled water is best. Don't overfill battery cells especially in warmer weather. The natural fluid expansion in hot weather will push excess electrolytes from the battery. To prevent corrosion of cables on top post batteries use a small bead of silicon sealer at the base of the post and place a felt battery washer over it. Coat the washer with high temperature grease or petroleum jelly (Vaseline), then place cable on the post and tighten. Coat the exposed cable end with the grease. Most folks don't know that just the gases from the battery condensing on metal parts cause most corrosion.

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