This is the second part of a two part article about battery upkeep.

5. Wear protective gear

Janitors should always wear personal protective equipment when handling lead-acid batteries. This includes splash goggles or a face shield, a rubber apron, and heavy-duty (not disposable) neoprene or rubber gloves.

6. Invest in helpful tools

Spending a little money on an autofill accessory and a battery tester may be worthwhile for facilities with high turnover or unconscientious employees.

An automatic watering system keeps electrolyte levels high without a human needing to open the battery.

“For a extra few hundred dollars, it can protect your $1,500 set of batteries,” says Uselman.

Facilities with a large fleet of battery-powered equipment may also want a battery tester on hand to help janitors keep tabs on replacement needs.
 
“If you have a machine with four batteries, if one goes bad it can drain the other three to a point where they won’t come back,” says Uselman.

7. Maximize charge cycles

The number of cycles a battery will deliver is directly related to how much energy is removed during each discharge.  This is known as "depth of discharge".  The more energy removed the deeper the depth of discharge.  The deeper the depth of discharge the fewer cycles the battery will deliver over its life. 

Batteries should be charged after every use to help keep the batteries from being deeply discharged and to ensure they are never stored in a discharged condition.  As a rule of thumb, “use” would be typical use lasting 30 minutes or more.

8. Remember to equalize

Batteries gradually self-discharge during storage. When a battery-powered machine goes for an extended time without use, the battery should be equalized.

Basically, this means exercising the battery to keep it fit so it can hold a charge.

“To get the extreme life out of a battery, it needs to run about every seven days,” Cadell says. “These batteries want to be cycled and used.”

Equalization is simple. Connect the dead or nearly dead battery to its charger and set it to equalize mode (if this mode doesn’t exist, call the manufacturer to get the appropriate setting). Start the charge cycle and take voltage readings each hour. The process is complete when the voltage no longer rises, typically about two to eight hours.

9. Assign responsibility

Battery maintenance should fall on the shoulders of one well-trained staff member. When everyone is responsible for a task, it allows for a pass-the-blame mentality where no one actually does the work on a regular basis.

“Batteries don’t just go bad, it’s users who cause them to go bad,” says Anderson. “It’s critical to get a supervisor to take ownership of the batteries, because it’s the most costly replacement item. The fewer people who put their hands on the batteries, the longer they will last.”

10. Store them properly

Do not store battery-operated machines in extremely cold or hot areas. Keep them in a well-ventilated area to avoid the rotten-egg smell, which is caused by the minimal off-gassing emitted by every battery. In most circumstances, batteries should be kept on the charger when not in use.

Go Maintenance-free

When distributors are showing battery-operated equipment, they should have a conversation with customers about maintenance-free options. While traditional lead-acid batteries remain quite popular, many users are switching to sealed gel or absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries.

Sealed, maintenance-free (or, more accurately, low-maintenance) batteries cost about twice as much as flooded batteries. They may be the best option, however, for facilities whose employees don’t excel at maintenance.

“If you you’re at risk of having issues with battery maintenance, go with maintenance-free,” says Uselman. “They’re more expensive and don’t last quite as long in a best-case scenario, but when a wet-cell isn’t being taken care of properly, the maintenance-free battery will last longer.” 

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.