We’re going to look at the three biggest mistakes you should avoid when you’re charging lead acid batteries and how can you prevent them.
Forklift trucks are an integral part of any warehouse or distribution center, helping to move around large amounts of products. Warehouse forklifts are typically powered by an electric lead acid battery. Not only are battery powered forklifts trucks more environmentally friendly, they don’t give off fumes, such as carbon monoxide, that gas powered forklifts do.
Using lead acid batteries for a motive power fleet gives several advantages for safety and reduces the impact on the environment. However, there are some challenges to operating and maintaining a fleet of lead acid batteries, specifically, charging the industrial batteries that power your forklifts.
Most people don’t realize how easy it is to make severe mistakes when charging a forklift battery and how much those mistakes can cost.
Mistake #1: Not watering the battery
Most lead acid batteries used in electric forklifts need to be watered regularly to keep them operating at their best. The electrolyte fluid within the battery contains both sulfuric acid and water. During normal usage only the water in the electrolyte fluid is consumed in the process so it’s important that it is replaced. A dehydrated electric forklift battery can quickly become irreparably damaged if it’s left without water too long. It’s important to routinely check the water levels in your batteries. This can either be done with a manual check or using an electrolyte monitoring device such as a SmartBlinky.
If you are checking manually, the ambient temperature will change how often you’ll have to check. In warmer countries or during summer months the electrolyte level can deplete much faster than in a colder climate or warehouse. It’s always better to check often so a weekly check as part of your warehouse maintenance plan should be fine. If you’re using a battery electrolyte indicator then this is very quick and easy to do as you’d just look on the top of the battery rather than having to open the vent caps and check. This helps to make battery watering quick and easy to do.
If indicator or manual check shows that the battery needs watering then it’s important that it is topped up after the battery has finished charging. Deionized water is should be used for filling lead acid batteries as tap water has particles that can damage the forklift battery. It’s very important that you take care not to overfill the batteries. Adding too much water can dilute the electrolyte solution or even make the electric forklift battery overflow. This is not only dangerous to the operator it’s causes damage to the battery and can be costly to clear up
Mistake #2: Opportunity Charging
Trying to keep an electric forklift batteries topped off at all times, known as opportunity charging, is something many owners and operators do. Some do it as they believe the battery will then last the full shift but doing this can actually shorten the useful life of their lead acid batteries.
Due to their chemical makeup, lead acid forklift batteries only have a limited number of times that they can go through a charging cycle. The industry standard is around 1,500 charging cycles so it’s really important you maximize the number of charge cycles. So if you charge a forklift battery once a day, you should get 4 years of useful life out of your battery. If you do a top up charge four times a day then that’ll shorten the life to less than a year, driving up total cost of ownership as you’ll have to replace your batteries much more often.
The best way to maximize your battery life and performance is to only charge them once they’re somewhere between 20% and 30% charge left. This helps to ensure that you get the best use out of the battery without risking letting it go completely flat. If batteries are fully drained or left without charge for too long it can cause a host of other problems such as the battery becoming sulfated which reduces the amount of charge the battery can hold, further reducing performance.
The best way to get the most out of your batteries is to make sure they are fully charged and fully cooled down before they are used. If you have a fleet of batteries to change between you can manage this process really easily with a battery management system, such as an iBOS Basic. The iBOS gives a clear indicator which battery is charged and the most cooled down, meaning that’s the one to take next. With proper management some lead acid batteries can last up to five, six or even sometimes seven years before they need replacing.
MISTAKE #3: Mismatching charger and battery voltages
If you have a few different types of forklift trucks in your fleet, there will more than likely different voltages on the batteries. A mistake that occurs quite often is that the operators may connect the lead acid battery to a charger with an inappropriate charging voltage.
This can cause an adverse reaction with the electrolytic fluid that damages the battery and leaves it inoperable. This can kill the battery completely if the charger voltage significantly exceeds what the battery was made for. To stop this from happening it’s really important to check that you’re using the right industrial battery chargers for your forklift batteries.
There are a few ways to combat this problem. If you aren’t using variable voltage battery chargers, make sure all the chargers and charger stations have their voltage clearly marked and the operators are trained to follow the right charging processes. You can even set out specific charging bays for specific truck and battery types to make it easier for operators.
So WHAT CAN THESE FORKLIFT BATTERY CHARGING MISTAKES COST YOU?
If you make some or all of the mistakes we’ve listed it can cost you:
• Time. When lead acid batteries become inoperable, the forklift trucks they power can’t be used. If a battery has been damaged it won’t hold it’s charge in the same way so will need to be changed more often.
• Money. If you’re reducing the performance and potential of a battery you’ll have to replace them a lot sooner than you should do, making maintaining your forklift fleet so much more expensive.
• Employee Safety. Lead acid batteries can be dangerous for operators if they aren’t maintened properly. If a battery is overfilled or charged improperly it can cause lead acid spills which is dangerous to operators and costly to clean up.
If you need any more advice or you have any questions leave a comment below or send us an email via email@example.com