Battery care is relatively simple, especially for “maintenance-free” options like AGM, gel and lithium. That said, manufacturers say there are a handful of common mistakes that could be avoided with proper training.

The No. 1 maintenance mistake, battery manufacturers say, is incorrect charging. 

“There’s a lot of confusion with how to charge batteries,” says Pogue. “I’ll ask a big group of end users when to charge their batteries, and I may get seven different answers.” 

Fully charging batteries is important. Too often, users don’t complete the charge cycle between uses. Over time, that mistake can sulfate the lead plates and drastically reduce run time and shorten the battery’s lifespan.

Many companies are now using three shifts for cleaning instead of just two. One shift uses the batteries for a few hours and then charges them for a few hours before the next shift repeats the process. It’s a never-ending cycle of not fully charging the batteries.

“They may need a second machine to swap throughout the day,” says Karlovic. “Have the first shift use machine one, second shift use machine two, and then third shift can go back to machine one once it’s fully charged.”

Another common problem is over-discharging a battery. Using too much power can also greatly reduce a battery’s overall lifespan. 

“Batteries like to keep a good state of charge on them,” says Pogue. “The less you discharge the battery, the more cycles you’re going to get. Keeping a battery completely charged up drastically increases the amount of years you’ll get out of it.”

Many floor machines automatically shut off when a battery is drained to 20 percent. Battery manufacturers say it’s actually far better to use no more than 50 percent before fully recharging it. This approach will nearly double the life cycle of a battery. 

Battery manufacturers disagree on “opportunity charging” (short bursts of charging, like during a lunch break). Some say the practice can dramatically reduce the lifespan of most batteries, particularly AGM and gel. Others say it may not be problematic to use new on-board, high-frequency chargers for quick recharging.

“The overall life expectancy of a flooded lead acid or AGM battery is predicated on the depth of discharge,” says Wallace. “The deeper you discharge the battery, the more you reduce the life expectancy of the battery. Opportunity charging reduces the depth of discharge and theoretically adds life to the battery.”

Speaking of chargers, they are another common point of confusion. Many end users don’t realize that switching batteries may render their existing charger incompatible or require a change in settings.

“Distributors need to be aware of what chargers work with what batteries and what algorithm or profile is on each charger,” says Karlovic. “Some users get a year out of their batteries and decide it’s because that brand is bad. In fact, it may be that the charger wasn’t set up for their type or brand of battery, or it’s just not a great charger generally.”

Educate clients that not all chargers are created equal. Some charge at just 9 amps while others go up to 50 amps. Also, some are reprogrammable, allowing a switch between wet-cell and maintenance-free batteries.

Not sure what battery or charger is best for a client? Talk to the battery manufacturer about placing a data tracker on a floor care machine. The tracker paints an accurate picture of how long janitors use their batteries and how often and how long they charge them.

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Distributors Should Teach Customers About Battery Use
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