Fully charged blue battery and short circuit



With such a wide array of battery types to choose from, it’s easy for end users to get confused on which options work best for their needs. This gives distributors an opportunity to serve as a guide for their customers by walking through a series of important factors to consider.  

In this manufacturer roundtable, Sanitary Maintenance tapped into a handful of experts who discussed how distributors can be a resource to their end user customers — particularly when it comes to identifying the top benefits of different battery types, common mistakes that end users make when handling batteries, and best ways to optimize return on investment (ROI). 


Fred Wehmeyer
Senior Vice President of Engineering
US Battery Mfg. Co.
Corona, California


Christine Feodorov
Director of Category Management
Fort Mill, South Carolina


Kimber Parrish
Sr. Director of Product Management
Trojan Battery Company
Santa Fe Springs, California

What different varieties of batteries should distributors offer to end users? 

Wehmeyer — Three general categories of rechargeable batteries commonly used in floor maintenance equipment are cycle, flooded lead acid (FLA), and lithium ion (Li-Ion). FLA batteries are the most common and are highly economical and robust, but require regular maintenance in the form of periodic water addition and terminal cleaning and tightening. Valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries are available as either absorbed glass mat (AGM) or gelled electrolyte (GEL) lead batteries. These batteries are non-spillable, can be operated in any position and do not require water additions. Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries are available in a variety of lithium chemistries with different energy densities and safety factors. The most common lithium options are NMC (the high performing) and iron phosphate (the safest). Lithium batteries are lighter than lead batteries and do not require regular maintenance, but they are the most expensive on a watt-hour basis. 

Parrish —There are three types of battery technologies distributors should offer to their end users: lead-acid, AGM, and lithium-ion batteries. 

Feodorov — Essentially, having the right battery for floor scrubbers and sweepers — in addition to proper maintenance and care — directly affects ROI. Lithium batteries are gaining ground in terms of popularity, especially in the floor care market, and for good reason. They last longer, charge faster, require no maintenance, can be opportunity charged and don’t get damaged if left in a partial state of charge. With the increased adoption of lithium technology, distributors should be offering end users a lithium battery option. While lithium batteries are one of the more expensive batteries distributors can offer, the number of benefits outweighs the initial upfront costs. In fact, the true cost of ownership is far less with lithium batteries when considering life span and performance. Changing batteries less often means fewer replacements and labor costs. These savings make lithium batteries a more valuable long-term investment. 

How many batteries do you recommend per piece of equipment so it can be constantly used? 

Parrish — Battery packs are often created by stringing batteries in series connecting the negative of one battery to the positive of the adjacent battery until the voltage the manufacturer designed the system for is obtained. For example, a 24V system can be created from 4x6V batteries or 2x12V batteries. 36V systems can be created from 3x12V or 6x6V batteries. 

Feodorov — With lead-acid batteries, users have to install several batteries to meet the voltage requirements of the equipment. With lithium batteries, we don’t have to recommend a set number of batteries per machine because they come in the same voltage as the equipment. This offers the user flexibility to scale their battery bank to meet their desired runtime.  

Wehmeyer — Equipment manufacturers determine these parameters for each piece of equipment when designed. It is important to replace batteries with the same type and capacity. The nominal voltage of battery packs is usually an increment of 12 volts (12V, 24V, 36V, 48V or higher) depending on the operating voltage of the equipment. Individual lead batteries usually come in either 6 volt or 12-volt monoblocs. The number of individual batteries is determined by both the voltage and the rated capacity of each battery. Battery capacity can be rated as an amp-hour capacity at an hourly rate, such as 20-hour, 8-hour, 6-hour, etc., or as a runtime at a given discharge rate such as minutes at 75 amps. It is important to match replacement batteries to the rating of the original equipment batteries for best operating time. Batteries connected in series must be the same chemistry, type, amp-hour capacity and age. It is not recommended to connect new batteries in series with older batteries. The number of lithium batteries used in a piece of equipment should closely follow the recommendations of both the equipment manufacturer and the battery manufacturer. Because of the wide variation in lithium battery chemistries and the lack of lithium battery size standards, battery management system (BMS) standards and connection standards, installing the wrong lithium battery or improperly installing a lithium battery in a piece of equipment can result in serious safety issues.  

What types of training should distributors offer to end users as it pertains to batteries? 

Feodorov — Lead-acid batteries require distributors to offer a fair amount of training on topics like how to water, when to water, charging, etc. Lithium batteries are hard to damage and require no maintenance, so there’s less to be trained on when it comes to proper care. However, since lithium batteries are connected in parallel versus series circuits, distributors should consider training related to installation, which will ensure proper connections.  

Wehmeyer — Battery manufacturers usually provide comprehensive training guides with detailed installation and maintenance recommendations at the point of sale and on their websites. This training includes recommendations on installing terminal hardware and torque settings, vent cap installation, watering procedures, battery dimensions, capacity ratings, and more. 

Parrish — Distributors should make sure end users are well-trained on battery life/care training, proper charging and battery safety 

What are some of the most common mistakes or oversights that end users run into when handling batteries? 

Wehmeyer — The most common mistakes or oversights for FLA batteries are improper charging and watering practices (or lack thereof) and improper storage when not in use. These are the same for AGM batteries, except that watering is not needed. All lead batteries should be maintained in a fully charged condition to prevent sulfation and potential freezing. For lithium batteries, the main issues involve selecting the right chemistry for the application and choosing the right charger for the type of lithium battery being used. Lithium batteries do not perform well in either high temperature or extremely low temperature applications. End userrs should closely follow the recommendations of both the equipment manufacturer and the battery manufacturer. 

Parrish — End users may neglect to regularly check and charge their batteries.  

Feodorov — Lead-acid batteries require specific maintenance practices to keep them in good shape. Neglecting the maintenance needs of these batteries causes immediate capacity loss and reduces the life of the battery. One of the most common mistakes end users make is improper watering. It’s not simply adding water, it’s adding the right amount at the right time. If you don’t water often enough the plates get exposed to the air and they become hard and unusable. The other more common mistake is improper charging. When using lead-acid, users must fully charge the battery. This cannot be underestimated. If you let them sit or operate in a partial state of charge, it causes permanent capacity reduction and significantly decreases the lifespan. Undercharging is one of the leading causes of premature battery failure. On the flip side, when handling lithium batteries, end users aren’t making these mistakes as there is no watering needed, they do not need to be fully charged prior to storage and there is no damage to the lithium cells at partial states of charge. 

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Best Uses for AGM, GEL Batteries