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Testing Battery Specific Gravity with Hydrometer

Temperature’s Impact on Charging Deep-Cycle Batteries

The chemistry of flooded lead-acid deep-cycle batteries makes them one of the most cost-effective methods of energy storage. The composition of the battery’s design, however, makes it sensitive to temperature, which can affect its charging and discharging rate, something that should be addressed in regular maintenance routines.

Cold temperatures slow the rate of charging and discharge, while warmer temperatures increase the rates. This means that it may take longer for your batteries to fully charge in the winter than they will in the summer. Additionally, in the warmer summer months, batteries may discharge more quickly. Battery manufacturers use 80-degrees F (27 C) as the baseline temperature for optimum operation and calculating charge and discharge rates. Obviously that doesn’t work for everyone, so it’s important to take specific gravity readings with a hydrometer to know if and when your batteries are properly charged in all temperature conditions.

Specific gravity is the ratio of the weight of a solution to the weight of an equal volume of water at a specified temperature. A hydrometer can give you an indication of the state of charge of the battery’s electrolyte. A higher number indicates a higher concentration of acid in the electrolyte, indicating the battery is charged. A lower number indicates that the concentration of acid in the battery is less, showing the amount of discharge of the battery.

Battery manufacturers recommend using a simple correction factor to your hydrometer’s readings. Using 80-degrees as your baseline, subtract (.004) from your hydrometer reading for every 10-degrees below 80 °F (5.6-degrees below 27 °C). For example, if the temperature of the electrolyte is 50 °F and your battery specific gravity reading is 1.200, you must subtract .012 from your reading. In this case .004 for every 10-degrees equals .012. Subtract this from 1.200 and your corrected specific gravity reading is 1.188.

Specific gravity readings must be done on every cell of each battery in the pack. Compare the readings to the battery manufacturer’s specifications to indicate the state of charge of your batteries. While it’s not necessary to calculate your hydrometer’s readings for slight variations above or below 80 °F, it should be done in extreme weather conditions or seasonally to ensure that your battery-powered vehicles or equipment are performing at their best.

Diagnosing A Bad Deep-Cycle Battery

Finding The Weak Deep-Cycle Battery In Your Pack

There’s a time in the lifespan of a deep-cycle, flooded lead-acid battery where it will begin to fail and not hold a full charge.  Typically there’s no indication when this happens, other than when your battery-powered golf cart, aerial platform, forklift or floor cleaning machine slows down and stops operating. While deep-cycle batteries do often go beyond their advertised lifespan, they will eventually lose performance. A single tired battery in a battery pack can bring down the overall performance, so finding which battery is the culprit is vital to restoring the full potential of your vehicle.

Fully Charge the Battery Pack

Begin your diagnosis by completely charging the battery pack and checking each battery’s specific gravity readings with a hydrometer. Healthy batteries should have similar specific gravity readings in all cells.  If a battery has one or more cells with low specific gravity readings, it may be getting weak and nearing failure.  If all the batteries have low specific gravity readings, try performing an equalization charge.  If the specific gravity readings continue to increase with equalization charging, the problem may be the charger or the charging methods and not the batteries.  Equalization charging should be performed monthly on healthy batteries and more frequently if continuous undercharging is detected.

Perform a Full Discharge

After charging the batteries and the specific gravity readings indicate that all the batteries are fully charged, perform a discharge as the car would normally be used over the course of a day.  If the runtime is significantly shorter than normal, there may still be a weak battery in the pack.  Check the battery voltages and specific gravity readings and confirm that all connections are clean and tight.  If one battery is significantly lower than the rest, mark that battery as a suspect. If no low battery is found, use a load tester to perform a timed load test.  Battery packs that give less than 50% of the rated runtime are usually considered to be no longer serviceable.

Measure Voltage

Using a multimeter, measure the voltage at the end of the discharge test to locate a potentially bad battery. The one with a significantly lower voltage than the rest of the pack at the end of discharge is usually the culprit.  If all the batteries have low voltage and low runtime and your hydrometer readings on all the batteries don’t single out a bad battery or cell, then the entire battery pack may be at the end of its service life.

Replacing One Or More Batteries

If a bad battery is identified, it may not be necessary to replace the entire pack.  Battery manufacturers suggest that it is acceptable to replace one battery in the pack with a new one if it is under six months old.  If the battery is over six months old, it’s usually best to replace it with another battery from your fleet that has a date within six months of the rest of the pack or replace the entire pack.

For more information on deep-cycle batteries, run-time ratings, and maintenance tips to keep golf car batteries running longer, visit www.usbattery.com.

Why Only Distilled Water Should Go Into Your Deep-Cycle Battery

Electric vehicles that run on one or more deep-cycle batteries require watering after the batteries have undergone a full charge. According to engineers at U.S. Battery Manufacturing, a global leader in deep-cycle batteries, water is lost from battery cells by evaporation. This happens during various instances such as, the heat that occurs during the charging process, heat from weather conditions, and during equalization charging, where the electrolyte in the battery bubbles to mix the electrolyte and prevent stratification (sulphuric acid settling at the bottom of the cells) which can diminish performance. 

Checking water levels periodically maintains the health of the battery cells and according to battery manufacturers, adding the right kind of water will aid in that process. Battery manufacturers such as U.S. Battery recommend using distilled water. 

Using ordinary tap water or softened water is bad for your deep-cycle batteries, as the minerals found in the water can react with the electrolyte and minimize performance and increase sediments 

Battery manufacturers recommend checking water levels frequently, usually after charging. When filling, it’s important to use proper safety gear such as latex gloves and eye protection. Manufacturers also emphasize that it’s important to fill battery cells only with enough water to cover the cell plates, but not to overfill, as the electrolyte expands with heat and overflow. To avoid splashing or overfilling, it’s recommended to use a hand pump or battery pitcher to fill each battery cell.

Adding the right kind and amount of water in your deep-cycle battery’s cells, will ultimately keep them in top shape and extend the life and performance. For more information, visit www.usbattery.com

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.

The Electric Golf Car Market Expected To Expand

Market Researchers See Continued Growth On Electric, Battery Powered Golf Cars Through 2026

According to a market analysis by consulting and marketing research firm, Future Market Insights, the golf car market is expected to be positive for the long-term, with electric golf cars having the highest anticipated compound annual growth rate of 6.4 percent through 2026. (Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2016-2026 ).

According to the research, the growth is due to the electric golf car as internal transportation for developing countries, as well as private clubs, golf-centric real estate developments, the travel tourism industry which is expected to include new construction of resorts and golf courses.

Golf Car Options Magazine also published the research, but they suspect that this expected growth of the global golf car market will be challenged with the maintenance of lead-acid batteries, claiming that they are also less efficient and require frequent charging. While battery maintenance is essential for optimum performance in electric golf cars, items such as single point watering systems, Sense Smart Valves and proper charging techniques, can dramatically reduce maintenance and extend battery life. In addition, flooded lead-acid batteries have the benefit of being recycled at a rate of 99 percent, with the recycled lead going back into new golf car batteries in a closed-loop system.

The report goes on to say that electric powered golf cars are expected to continue to dominate the market in terms of value over the forecast period.

How Excessive Heat Will Affect Your Deep-Cycle Batteries

Battery powered vehicles are becoming more popular in a variety of industries, and where temperatures fluctuate drastically, it’s important to know how to properly maintain deep-cycle batteries in these conditions.

During summer months, some parts of the country can experience extreme heatwaves where temperatures soar into the triple digits. This affects the performance of batteries to a point where precautions should be taken.

Flooded Lead-Acid batteries often need watering, so during extreme heat conditions, it’s important to check water levels more frequently.  It’s essential to fill each battery cell with water so that the electrolyte is just below the vent tube, but covers the cell plates entirely.

Because of the chemical make-up of deep-cycle flooded lead-acid batteries, they will charge and discharge at different rates, depending on the ambient temperatures. This sometimes leads to overcharging during excessive heat conditions, where specific gravity readings, (done with a hydrometer) may show that the battery is not fully charged when it actually is.

For every 10-degrees F (7-degrees C)  above an ambient temperature of 80-degrees F,(72-degrees C) you must add 0.004 (0.005 for Celsius readings) to your hydrometer reading to get the proper state of charge of the battery.  In doing so, you might notice that the deep-cycle flooded lead-acid batteries in your equipment or vehicle may charge faster in excessive heat conditions than they do in colder temperatures.

Checking water levels and preventing overcharging by checking the battery’s state of charge and applying the temperature correction factor will definitely keep your batteries in top shape during excessive heat conditions. Your batteries will also perform better and last longer, lowering your annual operating costs which can be a dramatic saving for fleets with battery-powered vehicles.

 

Hate Watering Your Batteries? There’s An Easier Way

Single Point Watering Systems Make Watering Batteries Safe And Easy

Monitoring the level of electrolyte in your Flooded Lead Acid batteries is one of the necessary maintenance procedures to keep your batteries working properly, and extend their service life. While it sounds like a simple process, it can be very time consuming and cumbersome. Checking the water level in four or six batteries in a vehicle often requires removing the vent caps on each battery and visually inspecting the water level. In many cases, that can be difficult depending on where the batteries are located in the vehicle. If they’re difficult to reach, it can also add difficulty in adding the right amount of water, as overfilling can also cause problems, as well as not adding enough water too.

One of the ways to make the process much easier is investing in a Single Point Watering System (SPWS).  These systems allow you to add water to all of your vehicle’s batteries at one time, from a single water tube that is easily accessible. In addition, SPWS units also stop the flow of water, once it reaches the proper level within each of the battery cells. For battery powered vehicles with difficult access to the battery compartment, this makes battery maintenance much easier, and can ultimately extend the life of the batteries which can save you money in the long run.

Sense Smart ValveGoing one step further, SPWS manufacturers also have sensors available, that can be used with your watering system to monitor water levels in the battery pack and indicate when the batteries need watering. Manufacturers such as Flow-Rite and BWT have complete systems that are easy to install, and consist of valve caps that replace the factory units and allow water to be poured into each cell via a network of hoses. Most systems are also available pre-assembled for your particular application, and do-it-yourself systems are also available for custom applications.

It’s also good to point out that SPWS usually last a long time with proper care, and with constant monitoring, you’ll never need to spend too much time out of your weekend checking and watering your vehicle’s batteries again. For more information on a variety of single point watering systems for flooded lead-acid batteries, and sample installations, visit www.usbattery.com.

Illinois Doctor Uses U.S. Battery 12-Volt Deep-Cycle Batteries To Covert His BMW To Electric

With only a 12-mile commute to his office, Dr. Karl Klontz thought it would be environmentally responsible to convert his 1994 BMW 318i from gas to electric power, which would also coincide with his solar energy lifestyle. “As a hobby, I work with solar power, going abroad annually to install solar arrays at schools, clinics, and hospitals in developing nations at no cost to the recipients,” says Klontz. “I decided to make the car electric as I’d already installed small solar arrays on my house to power the lights and appliances.”

Klontz electric motor Klontz realized he used his vehicle on a daily basis and that it consumes the most energy out of all his possessions. “I figured my car was a candidate, so I converted it to electric in order to commute to my job 12 miles away each day,” said Klontz. The conversion of his BMW to electric wasn’t easy, but he managed to gather up the components and put it all together to make it work. “The trickiest parts were finding the proper alignment and bracing for connecting the electric motor to the drivetrain, and the arrangement of the electric components,” said Klontz. “I worked slowly over two years to complete the project in my free time.”

The vehicle is powered by nine U.S. Battery US12V XC2 deep-cycle batteries wired in series that make up a 108-volt system. “I’ve heard from a number of sources in electric car conversion circles, that U.S. Battery products were very reliable providers of energy for jobs such as the one I undertook,” said Klontz. He checked into using Lithium-ion batteries, but the cost was prohibitive. Nonetheless, Klontz’s conversion works fine for his daily driving routine.

“The system has lasted roughly two years with approximately 1,400 charge/discharge US Batterys in Klontz conversioncycles,” says Klontz. “With the car in its fifth year of running, I’ve logged nearly 20,000 miles on the vehicle.” Klontz is well versed in making flooded lead-acid batteries last and adds a maintenance routine to keep the batteries in top condition. “I rely on a number of strategies to keep the batteries running as long as possible,” says Klontz. “I try not to discharge them too deeply on any drive. I recharge them immediately after making each trip, particularly in cold weather. I check their fluid levels regularly. I keep the terminals clean, and I check their individual cell specific gravity at the first sign of any voltage lowering.”

Since Klontz recharges the batteries using the solar array in his home, the cost to operate his car dropped to almost nothing, and his carbon footprint is greatly reduced. Overall, the conversion and its advantages showcase what’s possible and Klontz is happy with what he’s accomplished. “If I were to convert another car to all-electric, I’d choose a lighter model,” said Klontz. Lighter models, however, come with less overall structural protection for the driver, and the BMW has proven to be an exceptionally rigorous vehicle in terms of suspension, brakes, and other underlying features.”

 

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.

 

Is Your Floor Cleaning Machine Undercharged?

Ninety percent of the problems maintenance crews have with their battery powered floor cleaning machines, is that they run out of power before they have time to finish the job. This is due to improper charging, where the batteries are not given enough time to reach full capacity and are starting the work day in an undercharged condition. If this is a constant problem, it can eventually lead to batteries that go bad before they need to, and this can be a costly addition to battery replacement costs.

There’s an easy way to find out the battery’s state-of-charge (SOC) with a simple hydrometer.  First, make sure your floor cleaning machine is equipped with the correct deep-cycle batteries for that application. Using the hydrometer requires gloves, safety glasses and should be done in a well-ventilated area. Measuring the SOC of each battery cell and comparing hydrometer specific gravity readings to the specifications found on the battery manufacturer’s website, you’ll be able to determine if the battery is charged or undercharged. If it’s undercharged it’s imperative to give the batteries additional charging times. If the cleaning machines are always in use, try to find times to give them additional charge time during lunch breaks, or when workers may not be using the machines. This will ultimately extend battery life and increase the run times of the machines and add to productivity.

If, however, the batteries are charged for a long period of time and never seem to become fully charged, it can be an indication of other problems in the battery, or with your charger’s algorithms. Check with the battery manufacturer is these problems persist. For more information and tips to improve battery maintenance visit www.usbattery.com.