Consistent Battery Maintenance Is Key To Longevity And Performance

There’s something to be said about due diligence, especially when it comes to your golf car’s batteries. While many individuals and golf courses are content with simply charging batteries overnight, and checking water levels whenever they get around to it, others conform to a strict maintenance schedule that ultimately prevents numerous conditions that can lead to poor performance and ultimately, battery failure.

Run It Till It Dies

The downtime while your batteries are charging is often inconvenient and some golf car owners run the car until it’s nearly out of power or dead altogether. Batteries that experience frequent deep discharges (discharges of more than 50-percent of a battery’s rated capacity) will have dramatically shorter life than batteries with lower depth of discharge (DOD). The use of ‘opportunity charging’ or charging at every opportunity instead of waiting to recharge until batteries are fully discharged will dramatically increase battery life. (This should not take the place of fully charging regularly.)  If you need longer runtime between charges, consider switching to batteries with higher amp-hour capacity.  This may require switching to a different type of battery with a lower voltage per monoblock but higher capacity.

For example, a golf car with a 48-volt battery pack can use four 12-volt batteries, six 8-volt batteries or eight 6-volt batteries (if space is available).  While all provide the same 48-volt pack voltage, the eight 6-volt batteries provide the highest capacity and runtime. According to Fred Wehmeyer, Senior VP of Engineering at U.S. Battery Manufacturing, a battery that is routinely discharged to 40% DOD will last about 2.2 times longer than a battery that is discharged to 80% DOD. The initial cost for eight 6-volt batteries is higher than four 12-volt batteries; but considering how much longer they will last, the return on investment is much greater.

Water Whenever

Failing to consistently check water levels and add water to your batteries can also result in low capacity and eventual battery failure if left unchecked. Watering flooded lead-acid batteries is one of the most basic and important maintenance procedures. During battery charging, gases evolved from the decomposition of water results in water loss. This lost water must be replaced by regular water addition.  The rate of water loss can be even higher at elevated temperature and water levels must be checked more frequently. If water is not replaced regularly, the tops of the battery plates in each cell can become exposed to air and damaged to the point that capacity is reduced and battery life is shortened.  Electrolyte levels should always be maintained above the top of the plates by adding water before charging and after charging to about 1/8-inch below the bottom of the vent wells.  Final watering should be done after charging to prevent electrolyte overflow.

If you really hate watering batteries, consider a Single Point Watering System and a battery watering monitor. These often come in kits that are pre-made for specific golf cars and/or battery packs. Monitors such as U.S. Battery’s Sense Smart Valve works with SPWS systems and indicates via a dash or battery mounted LED when the batteries need water.

Summer’s Over; Park It Till Next Year

Improper battery storage is, unfortunately,  a common practice with resorts and RV owners. Storing your golf car with the battery pack in a discharged condition for a long period of time can lead to sulfation (a condition that leads to the development of large lead sulfate crystals that reduce the battery’s available capacity). Over time, this sulfation can reduce both the full charge capacity and overall life of the battery.

The battery pack should always be fully charged before the vehicle is put into long-term storage. In winter months, this also prevents the batteries from freezing. Maintaining the batteries at full charge will keep your batteries in good condition until the next time you use them.

Selecting The Right Single Point Watering System

Watering batteries is a necessary maintenance procedure to keep flooded lead-acid batteries performing at their best. But for those that dread the procedure because the batteries are difficult to get to or if they require removing the batteries simply to peer into the cells and check the water level, there’s a much easier way.

Many people are familiar with Single Point Watering Systems (SPWS). These can be a time and labor saver that makes it much easier to add water to flooded lead-acid batteries. These systems simply replace the battery cell caps with small valves that allow water to pour into each cell when they need it, and shut off when the level is correct.

While the process sounds simple enough, the types and kinds of systems can be confusing. For battery manufacturers like U.S. Battery, one of the leading manufacturers of flooded lead-acid batteries in the United States, they are big promoters of using SPWS. For those not knowing which type of SPWS to get, they offer some guidelines to help to make the right decision.

The company works with two major SPWS manufacturers, Battery Watering Technologies (BWT) and Flow-Rite. Both systems are excellent in providing easy ways to keep batteries and battery packs watered correctly, but they differ in their construction. the BTW system utilizes flexible hoses that are easily attached to the battery or battery pack and can be used with a gravity-feed water tank or siphon hose to direct water into the batteries. The BWT system is perfect for tight compartments where reaching the batteries may be difficult but because of the flexible tubing, it can accommodate changes to your batteries and system. For example, if you had an SPWS on a 48-volt system that uses eight 6V batteries, the BWT system could easily be used on a system that was switched out to which could be changed later to using four 12V batteries.

The Flow-Rite system is similar in that it attaches to the batteries in the same way, but it uses more durable-harder water manifolds that are made for specific applications and the number of batteries used in that application. Converting from eight to four batteries would require a new system of hoses, but because the Flow-Rite hoses are more durable, they have the advantage of being able to withstand more abuse in rugged or high-vibration applications. For vehicles and machinery that have very tight compartments and limited space where changing battery types is not an option, the Flow-Rite system could be a good long-term solution.

View images of step by step installations of both systems here: https://usbattery.com/products/watering-systems/

Sense Smart ValveThe best system will depend on your specific application but both systems can also benefit from an electrolyte sensor, which will indicate when it’s time to add water to your batteries. U.S. Battery offers its Sense Smart Valve, which fits into one of the battery pack’s cells, and features a sensor that indicates via an LED light that changes from green to red if your battery pack needs water. Because the sensor is built into an SPWS valve, it works with BWT systems and also has an available dashboard mountable indicator.

No matter which type of system is best for your application, using an SPWS is definitely a much easier way to water batteries, and in doing so, you’ll also prolong the life and performance of your battery pack, which will save you money in the long run. For more information on SPWS systems and flooded lead-acid batteries for your particular application, visit www.usbattery.com.

 

Know Your Battery’s Water-Fill Level

Anyone who has a set of deep-cycle flooded lead-acid batteries knows that proper maintenance includes checking the water level in each cell, after a full charge. Although it’s easy to carefully add water to each cell, many people get confused as to how much water to add. Too little, and they’ll be having to add more sooner than is necessary. Too much and it runs the risk of overflowing when the batteries are charging.

care-maintenanceThe proper method recommended by most battery manufacturers is to add enough water so that the cell plates are completely submerged, but not so much that the water is up to the battery case cell cap vents. The proper fill level, according to battery manufacturers, is approximately 1/4-inch below the fill well bottom. (See photo example)

Battery manufacturers also recommend using only distilled or deionized water and to use a watering gun or pitcher to fill each battery cell. Ensuring your batteries are properly watered will add life and provide optimum performance from your deep-cycle batteries. For more information on battery maintenance, visit www.usbattery.com.

Keep Batteries At Full Charge During Winter

 

One of the most common mistakes during winter months is storing golf car batteries in a discharged state. A discharged battery in extremely cold temperatures will allow the electrolyte to freeze, causing it to expand. Electrolyte expansion can crack the battery case, causing a leak or complete battery failure. A fully charged battery has a freezing point around -80 °F while a discharged battery has a freezing point around 20 °F. By keeping the battery fully charged during the winter months, the electrolyte is less likely to freeze and cause unexpected failures.

Proof Proper Maintenance Adds Years To Golf Car Batteries

In many retirement communities, electric golf cars are the major form of transportation. For one dealer, Jim’s Carts N Parts in Milton, Wisconsin, they train customers in performing proper maintenance procedures on the golf car batteries within the vehicles they sell.  While other golf car dealers hand out pamphlets on battery maintenance, Jim Naughton Sr. takes the time to personally conduct classes for each customer before they take possession of a new or used golf car purchased from them.

The results of these efforts are demonstrated with this latest testimonial from the company, who came across a set of U.S. Battery US2200 XC2 batteries that were purchased new and installed on a customer’s golf car in June of 2012. The team at Jim’s Carts N Parts had purchased the vehicle as a trade-in for a newer model. Once they checked the condition of the batteries, which included a discharge test, it indicated that the batteries lasted 72 minutes on a charge and were still at maximum capacity after more than five years!

Proper battery maintenance for flooded lead-acid batteries is simple and can be checked with an inexpensive hydrometer. More information and tips on proper battery maintenance and using a hydrometer to test a battery’s state of charge, are available at www.usbattery.com.

 

Make A Battery Cleaning Solution

Keeping your battery and the terminals clean is a key maintenance procedure to getting the most performance from your deep cycle batteries. Corrosion occurs when acid from inside of the battery makes its way to the terminals and connectors on top of the battery. The acid attacks the battery terminals and connectors, which if left untreated can reduce or disconnect power to the vehicle. In addition, untreated corrosion can lead to arcing, where the electrical current jumps an air gap resulting in a spark. This arcing can melt terminals, damage connectors, or cause ignition of hydrogen gas emitted during charging.

Fortunately, battery terminal corrosion can be easily cleaned with a special solution that neutralizes battery acid. The solution can be made by mixing one tablespoon (15ml) of baking soda to every 1-cup (250ml) of hot water. Apply the solution to the corroded areas of the battery terminals and use a wire brush or toothbrush to gently clean off any additional residue on the terminals. Once the terminals and wiring are clean, rinse the area with water to rinse any remaining solution off the batteries. Use some paper towels to dry the area.

To slow down the corrosion process apply some corrosion prevention spray to the terminals to coat them. Make sure to check the terminals approximately every six months and clean as necessary. Be sure to use protective gloves and safety glasses to prevent injury and ensure all connections are safely removed from the batteries prior to cleaning. For more battery maintenance tips, visit www.usbattery.com.

Extending Battery Life With An Equalization Charge

Equalization Charging Can Prevent Electrolyte Stratification

By Fred Wehmeyer, Senior VP Engineering for U.S. Battery Manufacturing

Extending the service life of flooded lead-acid batteries for a golf car fleet is definitely an easy way to save money on annual operating costs. Many fleet managers diligently perform routine maintenance such as checking the battery’s water levels, cleaning terminals, and following proper charging techniques. However, many don’t realize that over time batteries can develop electrolyte stratification. Electrolyte stratification is the result of poor acid circulation that causes higher concentrated acid to fall to the bottom of the battery. This can cause poor battery performance and in extreme cases, stratification damages the bottom of the battery plates causing early battery failure.

Performing an equalization charge reduces the chance of electrolyte stratification.  An equalization charge simply adds an extended high voltage charge at the end of the normal charging process. Charging the battery at a higher voltage level promotes gassing (bubbling) of the electrolyte. The bubbling “re-mixes” the acid and water and prevents stratification from occurring.

 

How To Perform An Equalization Charge

Many high-quality battery chargers have an equalization feature that performs this process as needed, but if your charger doesn’t have one, it’s a simple step-by-step process.

 

1. Make sure the battery is a flooded lead-acid type.

2. All electrical loads to the battery must be removed.

3. The process must be performed in a well-ventilated area with the operator wearing protective equipment such as safety glasses and gloves.

4. Connect your charger and charge the batteries until the normal charge cycle is completed.

  • If the charger is equipped with an automatic equalizing mode, make sure the charger is connected and powered up long enough to complete the equalization.
  • If the charger is not equipped with an automatic equalization mode, assure the charger completes a full, automatic charge and then restart the charger by disconnecting AC power and reconnecting. The charger should restart and extend the charge time by 1-3 hours.

5. Look for gassing and bubbling of the electrolyte to ensure the process is working.

6. Using a hydrometer, take specific gravity readings every hour.

7. You will know that the equalization process is complete when the specific gravity values no longer increase during the gassing stage.  If the charger terminates the charge automatically, before the hourly specific gravity readings are constant, restart the charger and continue the process until specific gravity readings are constant. Consult your battery manufacturer for fully charged specific gravity values.

8. Make sure to replace any water lost during the process.

care-maintenance

Equalizing is just one of several procedures you should be adding to your maintenance schedule every time you service the batteries.  This regular service, including watering, should be performed at least once a month or more frequently during periods of heavy use. For more information, contact U.S. Battery Manufacturing, 1675 Sampson Ave. Corona, CA 92879. (800) 695-0945. Visit https://www.usbattery.com.

Using Runtime Ratings To Compare Golf Car Batteries

 

When it comes time to purchase a new set of batteries for your golf car or complete fleet, it makes sense to compare products and shop for the best value.  Because there are so many batteries available for a single type of vehicle, it’s important to make sure you’re comparing batteries with the same internal construction (Flooded vs AGM vs Gel), voltage output, and capacity ratings.  This is where it can get confusing for many golf car owners and fleet managers.

The information on the labels can sometimes be confusing as manufacturers don’t always list the same testing criteria, making comparisons difficult. An example of this is when trying to compare two similar batteries that show different battery cycle life ratings. Battery cycle life ratings are often based on selective data from the manufacturer.

Comparing Depth Of Discharge

Typically, cycle life ratings are determined based on the depth of discharge (DOD), the percentage of amp-hour (AH) capacity discharged from the battery on each discharge. Most battery manufacturers recommend a 50 percent DOD for optimum cycle life vs runtime. The problem is that cycle life can be quoted at a wide variety of DOD ratings which can result in what appears to show a longer cycle life for one battery type over another. This makes for a comparison that is not accurate. When comparing cycle life ratings, make sure they are rated using the same DOD.

Comparing Amp-Hour Ratings

Amp-hour ratings are often used to compare similar lead-acid batteries and can also be misleading. As an example, a 6-volt battery may list its amp-hour (Ah) rating as 200 Ah at the “20hr rate”. This means that the battery will provide 10 amps of current for 20 hours until the battery is fully discharged or “spent”.  A common mistake is assuming that a battery with a 200 amp-hour rating will provide 200 Ah at all discharge rates. Enter Peukert’s law. This states that battery capacity decreases as the rate of discharge increases.  If the same 200 Ah battery is fully discharged at a higher rate over five hours, the battery will deliver only about 150 Ah at 30 amps.  Also, the relationship between battery capacity and the rate of discharge is not linear, so it is important to find the rated capacity at the discharge rate for the application in which you plan to use the battery.  Most battery manufacturers publish tables of ratings vs discharge rate or discharge time for each battery type.

Look At Runtime Ratings

Even though manufacturers list various amp-hour ratings, it’s often difficult to know which ones to use in order to make the right comparison for your application. It may be more accurate to use the runtime ratings in minutes that can typically be found on the battery manufacturer’s spec sheets and websites.  As an example, U.S. Battery publishes ratings that show how many minutes a battery can provide at 25, 56, and 75 amp-draws. By comparing the rated runtime in minutes, you’ll get a better idea of the performance you can expect when comparing two similar batteries. These runtime ratings are based on the actual discharge currents seen in typical applications and may be more applicable than the amp-hour ratings. For example, RV and marine discharge rates usually fall into the 25 amp range while most golf car discharge rates fall into the 56–75 amp range (56 amps for 48-volt cars and 75 amps for 36-volt cars).

Key things to remember when comparing batteries:

  1. Cycle life comparisons should be made at the same depth of discharge (DOD).
  2. Amp-hour ratings should be compared using the same discharge time and/or discharge current that will be used in the application.
  3. Run-time ratings may be the most accurate comparisons when selecting a battery for a given application.

RV Batteries- Tips To Extending Battery Life

Simple Steps To Ensure You’re Never Without Power In Your RV

Backup battery power in your RV provides a great advantage when visiting campsites or locations where hookups aren’t available. However when the maintenance of these deep-cycle batteries is neglected, it can dramatically shorten their overall performance and service life.

While it’s sometimes difficult to always remember to water and check your RV’s batteries, following a strict and regular battery maintenance program can dramatically increase their performance and longevity.

A regular maintenance program for deep-cycle batteries isn’t extremely difficult. Here are several simple procedures to follow that will make them last longer and save you money in the long run.

 

1) Safety Is Most Important
Be sure to wear gloves, eye protection, and work in a well-ventilated area. Remove any electrical loads, even a battery charger, when servicing batteries.

2) Check The Batteries
Open the battery compartment and check to make sure the vent caps on top of the batteries are properly seated. The vent caps contain spark arrestors to help prevent ignition of gasses in and around the batteries. Always keep them in place except during watering.

3) Clean Terminals
Use a solution of baking soda and water to neutralize any corrosion on battery terminals. Use a wire brush with a wooden or plastic handle to prevent accidental arcing. Rinse the area with water and dry with a clean cloth.

4) Check Connections
Battery terminal connections can come loose, so check to make sure they’re tight. The recommended terminal torque is 100 inch-pounds or just 15 to 18 pounds on the end of a six-inch wrench. Use insulated tools or wrap them with electrical tape to prevent accidental arcing. Add a bit of silicone spray on the terminals to resist corrosion.

5) Check Electrolyte Levels
Check the electrolyte levels of the batteries every two to four weeks depending on use. Some electrolyte is lost after each charge cycle, so it’s important to make sure the electrolyte is at the proper level—about a quarter inch below the bottom of the fill well.

6) Add Water
If electrolyte levels are low, add water, but follow these procedures:
a) Always charge the battery before watering but make sure the electrolyte covers the plates before charging. b) Use caution when removing the vent caps to prevent acid splatter. c) Use only distilled or deionized water. d) Use a watering gun or pitcher to fill each cell to prevent over-watering (never use a water hose). e) Water all cells evenly and replace the battery vent caps assuring each one is properly installed and seated.

7) Perform An Equalization Charge
Every thirty days, you should perform an equalization charge, especially if your RV has been in storage. An equalization charge is an extended charge that is done after the normal charge has completed. It causes additional gassing in the electrolyte (bubbling) which is essential for mixing the electrolyte to prevent electrolyte stratification. Stratification is a build-up of stronger acid at the bottom of the battery that can reduce battery life. Make sure to check the battery manufacturer’s recommendations for proper charging to make sure the correct charger is being used. If your charger is equipped with an automatic equalizing mode, make sure the charger is connected and powered up long enough to complete a full equalization charge. If your charger is not equipped with an automatic equalization mode, assure the charger has completed a full charge and then restart the charger by disconnecting AC power and reconnecting. The charger should restart and extend the charge time by one to three hours.

According to Fred Wehmeyer, senior vice president of engineering at U.S. Battery Manufacturing, these maintenance procedures can dramatically increase the life of your RV’s batteries and save you the cost of having to replace them more frequently. In the long run, you’ll enjoy your trips and not have to worry about the power going out when you need it most.

For more information on U.S. Battery’s line of RV and Marine products, visit www.usbattery.com.

Battery State Of Charge Temperature Correction Factor

Here’s an easy way to factor in temperature when checking a battery’s state of charge

By simply using a hydrometer to measure a battery’s state of charge, most fleet managers can determine the condition of the flooded lead-acid batteries powering their vehicles. The process can determine if a battery is at the end of its life, if it has a bad cell, or if the charging methods aren’t properly keeping the batteries fully charged.

For those that include this as part of a maintenance routine, you must also make sure to factor the temperature of the electrolyte. Heat and cold will affect the outcome of any hydrometer reading and without adding or subtracting a correction factor, hydrometer measurements can be off. This is one of the most common questions that fleet and maintenance managers ask when trying to keep a log of battery performance across their entire fleet.

The basic temperature factors to add or subtract from hydrometer readings is simple if you start from a baseline of 80⁰F or 27⁰C. The first important point to note is that this baseline is for the temperature of the electrolyte, not ambient temperature. So it’s important to have a quality thermometer to use with your hydrometer when taking state-of-charge measurements.
The correction factor is simple:

In Fahrenheit-
Add 0.004 for each 10⁰F the electrolyte temperature is above 80⁰F
Subtract 0.004 for each 10⁰F the electrolyte temperature is below 80⁰F

In Celsius-
Add 0.005 for each 7⁰C the electrolyte temperature is above 27⁰C
Subtract 0.005 for each 7⁰C the electrolyte temperature is below 27⁰C

Make sure to compare your readings to the manufacturer’s specifications for battery open circuit voltage (OCV) vs state of charge (SOC). Most are listed by battery voltage and also show specific gravity (SG) vs state of charge. It’s also important to use the proper safety precautions when performing any maintenance to flooded lead-acid batteries.

By applying the temperature correction factor, you’ll be certain that your hydrometer readings are correct, and you can take the appropriate action to get the most performance and longevity from your batteries. To find additional resources on battery maintenance and ways to increase battery efficiency and service life, visit U.S. Battery’s website at www.usbattery.com.