If the machine isn’t being used, Cadell suggests putting it on a charge cycle at least every six months to keep the battery primed. Water levels in acid batteries should be regularly checked to ensure the plates don’t dry out.

“Over time, the heat from the battery causes the water level to evaporate,” he says. “This is only done for acid batteries.”

Water should be added only after a completed charging cycle. This will prevent overfilling and water boiling out of the cell caps, which isn’t only messy but can be hazardous. The water should be added to the top, slightly above the plates, about an inch from the top of the battery.

“Water boils every time the batteries are charged, causing the water in each cell/compartment to evaporate,” says Anderson. “If that water isn’t replenished, it exposes the lead plates to air and they essentially cook themselves, ruining the overall health of the battery.”

Many of these concerns are eliminated with “maintenance-free” sealed batteries like AGM, gel and lithium. Although it’s true that AGM batteries can receive an “opportunity charge,” this shouldn’t be the standard approach. Instead, these batteries should still receive a full charge every 24 to 36 hours.

To ward off problems and finger pointing, a designated person should be tasked with battery maintenance.

“There’s nothing quite like a standard operating procedure that spells out who is responsible for checking wet-cell fluid levels, when and with sign-off,” says McGarvey. “BSCs should also ensure personal protective equipment is available and being used properly. Provide frequent in-service training for operators, which can be supported by distributors or equipment representatives. Finally, partner with a supplier that offers equipment service and repair.”

As for storage, the best strategy is keeping all battery-run equipment in a well-ventilated area, especially when charging. This is the case for wet-cell/flooded batteries that can boil over if too much distilled water has been added, but it’s also the preferred approach for sealed and lithium batteries. If one is defective or gets too hot, it can explode, so treating them all the same when charging and storing is safest.

SLA and AGM batteries can be kept in the machine when stored. But if stored outside of the equipment, they should be placed on a wooden board — not directly on metal or concrete surfaces. They should sit on a low, well-ventilated shelf that isn’t subjected to temperature extremes.

Even with a specific person assigned to the task of overseeing this aspect of operations, battery care can still be difficult to police, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

“The cost of replacing one, two, four or six batteries can be at the low end of $100 up to a common charge of $2,000,” says Anderson. “Batteries will eventually give up, stop accepting charges and die. At some point, replacement costs are inevitable, but why speed up the process of replacing batteries in six months when proper maintenance could realistically extend life two years or longer?”

Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelance writer from Long Beach, California.

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Consistent Battery Charging And Use Is Crucial