Cleaning Equipment Battery Options:

How to Make the Right Choice!

Cordless cleaning equipment is becoming more and more popular in the Jan/San industry.  As these more convenient and practical options increase in popularity the importance of batteries has never been higher.  That said, many end users don’t fully understand the options available to them and proper battery maintenance required to care for them.  In this article we will outline the most popular battery types on the market, their benefits and shortcomings as well as maintenance required for each.

Battery Options

1.) Wet Cell (Flooded Lead-Acid) Batteries

Wet cell batteries are the original rechargeable batteries. A wet cell battery has a liquid electrolyte. As hydrogen and oxygen gasses are released through the vent caps due to electrolysis, the liquid electrolyte level in the wet cell will gradually lower over time. Therefore, it is important to periodically add distilled water to your flooded batteries. The battery cell temperature and humidity are two factors that affect the rate of this occurrence.

  • PROS:
    • Tried and true. Widely used. Easy to troubleshoot.
    • High surge current.
    • Can handle overcharging.
    • Inexpensive & readily available if replacement is needed.
  • CONS:
    • Require a lot of maintenance
      • Check level weekly and fill with distilled water to ensure water level stays above the plates.
      • Routinely check terminals for corrosion.
      • Best to use no more than 50% before recharging
    • It’s a heavy battery.
    • Wet cell batteries must always be kept upright and stored in a well ventilated area.
    • Opportunity charges* count as full cycle (1 hour or 10 hour charge both = 1 cycle)

*An opportunity charge is when you charge a battery for a short period of time that does not bring the battery back to a full 100% charge.

2.) AGM (Absorbed Glass Matt) Batteries

In AGM batteries, acid is suspended in a glass mat separator. The electrolyte is held in the glass mats, not freely flooding the plates like a wet cell battery. These batteries are totally sealed. Having been originally developed for military use, these batteries are built tough.

  • PROS:
    • 100% Maintenance-free (no topping off with water).
    • Shorter recharge time than wet cell.
    • Hold charge better than wet cell if equipment is not regularly operated.
    • Don’t have to be kept upright. Easy and safe to transport.
    • Can fully charge at a lower voltage and accept a higher current charge.
    • More environmentally friendly than wet cell.
    • Discharge significantly less hydrogen gas.
    • Can be discharged deeper than flooded batteries without major damage.
    • Can handle higher temperatures.
    • Self-discharge more slowly than wet cell batteries.
    • Opportunity charges do not count as a full cycle in terms of lifetime.
  • CONS:
    • More expensive than wet-cell battery.
    • Generally do not last as long as a properly maintained wet-cell battery.
    • Overcharging leads to premature failure. Make sure you have the right charger!
3.) Lithium Ion Batteries

Regarded as the next generation of energy storage, the lithium-ion battery is a rechargeable battery that is becoming a common replacement for lead-acid batteries. The lithium ions in Li-ion batteries move from the negative electrodes to the positive electrode during discharge and then back during charging.

  • PROS:
    • 100 % Maintenance-free.
    • Significantly longer run times. Up to 20 times longer than AGM or wet cell.
    • Operational in a wide range of temperatures.
    • Lightweight.
  • CONS:
    • Lithium ion batteries are the most expensive of the bunch, though longer run times, long battery life, and lack of maintenance help offset the higher initial cost.

Proper Charging & Maintenance Matters

If you decide to go with a wet cell or AGM battery it is very important that you follow the best practices for charging and maintenance.  You should also understand the common mistakes that can occur and the effect they can have on your battery over time.

Charging Best Practices
  • Avoid using old chargers for new batteries or coupling old and new batteries together.
    • Either of these practices can significantly lower the life cycle and effectiveness of your battery.
  • Utilize opportunity charges with AGM batteries but avoid them with Wet Cell whenever possible.
  • Always store batteries fully charged when you are not using them.
Maintenance Best Practices
  • Avoid freezing temperatures and direct heat exposure.
  • Always wear safety glasses and gloves when checking the batteries.
  • If acid comes in contact with skin or eyes flush with water and get medical attention.
  • Keep sparks, flames and smoking material away from batteries.
  • Always use insulated tools.
  • Don’t allow the tool to touch more than one post at a time.
  • Keep battery compartment open when charging.
Common Mistakes & Consequences
  • Under-charging—storing in a state of discharge will lead to sulfurization on the plates.
  • Over-charging—causes accelerated corrosion on the positive plates, water consumption and high internal water temp.
  • Under-watering—if the plates are exposed, irreversible damage is caused
  • Over-watering—dilutes the electrolytes.

How Johnston Can Help

Johnston works with numerous trusted & high quality equipment manufacturers like Karcher & Windsor to provide you access to top of the line equipment to match your situation. Johnston’s equipment experts can help asses your current situation and advise on the best equipment and battery types to suit your specific needs.  In addition our experts can help identify potential problem areas in your processes and help you to improve them through training, reinforcement and proper product selection.  Our team even offers customized preventative maintenance programs where an expert from our team will check on your fleet regularly, keep it in great working order and inform you of any necessary maintenance or repairs.  Contact a Johnston expert today to get started.

About Johnston

Johnston has always stood for reliability, commitment, quality, and service. Our heritage means years of accumulated industry knowledge, the ability to see the bigger picture, and the know-how to determine the best possible approach. Combining this mastery with the drive to deliver exceptional results, Johnston goes beyond sales, developing strategic, end-to-end tailored solutions for each customer since 1881.

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