04. Proper Charge Methods 7

GUIDE: Batteries in a portable world. 4. Proper Charge Methods 7

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Plastic SLA batteries arriving from vendors with less than 2.10V per cell are rejected by some buyers who inspect the battery during quality control. Low voltage suggests that the battery may have a soft short, a defect that cannot be corrected with cycling. Although cycling may increase the capacity of these batteries, the extra cycles compromise the service life of the battery. Furthermore, the time and equipment required to make the battery fully functional adds to operational costs.

The Hawker cell can be stored at voltages as low as 1.81V. However, when reactivating the cells, a higher than normal charge voltage may be required to convert the large sulfite crystals back to good active material.

Caution: When charging a lead acid battery with over-voltage, current limiting must be applied once the battery starts to draw full current. Always set the current limit to the lowest practical setting and observe the battery voltage and temperature during the procedure. If the battery does not accept a normal charge after 24 hours under elevated voltage, a return to normal condition is unlikely.

The price of the Hawker cell is slightly higher than that of the plastic equivalent, but lower than the NiCd. Also known as the ‘Cyclone’, this cell is wound similar to a cylindrical NiCd. This construction improves the cell’s stability and provides higher discharge currents when compared to the flat plate SLA. Because of its relatively low self-discharge, Hawker cells are well suited for defibrillators that are used on standby mode.

Lead acid batteries are preferred for UPS systems. During prolonged float charge, a periodic topping charge, also known as an ‘equalizing charge’, is recommended to fully charge the plates and prevent sulfation. An equalizing charge raises the battery voltage for several hours to a voltage level above that specified by the manufacturer. Loss of electrolyte through elevated temperature may occur if the equalizing charge is not administered correctly. Because no liquid can be added to the SLA and VRLA systems, a reduction of the electrolyte will cause irreversible damage. Manufacturers and service personnel are often divided on the benefit of the equalizing charge.

Some exercise, or brief periodic discharge, is believed to prolong battery life of lead acid systems. If applied once a month as part of an exercising program, the depth of discharge should only be about 10 percent of its total capacity. A full discharge as part of regular maintenance is not recommended because each deep discharge cycle robs service life from the battery.

More experiments are needed to verify the benefit of exercising lead acid batteries. Again, manufacturers and service technicians express different views on how preventive maintenance should be carried out. Some experts prefer a topping charge while others recommend scheduled discharges. No scientific data is available on the benefit of frequent shallow discharges as opposed to fewer deep discharges or discharge pulses.

Disconnecting the float charge while the VRLA is on standby is another method of prolonging battery life. From time-to-time, a topping charge is applied to replenish the energy lost through self-discharge. This is said to lower cell corrosion and prolong battery life. In essence, the battery is kept as if it was in storage. This only works for applications that do not draw a load current during standby. In many applications, the battery acts as an energy buffer and needs to be under continuous charge.

Important: In case of rupture, leaking electrolyte or any other cause of exposure to the electrolyte, flush with water immediately. If eye exposure occurs, flush with water for 15 minutes and consult a physician immediately.

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