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Cures For The Curse Of Battery Sulfation

Posted on June 27, 2012 22:52 by Admin

It's surprising how little lead-acid industrial battery systems have changed over 150 years. Despite the invention of other power storage technologies such as lithium-ion, this inexpensive technology is still the common way to power devices from electric wheelchairs to heavy loading equipment. Although the cells are reliable, the Achilles' heel of this technology is sulfation.

What Is Sulfation?

First let's delve into a little bit of chemistry to explain why sulfation happens in industrial battery systems. Each cell in a battery contains two plates immersed in sulfuric acid. One plate is made of lead and one of lead dioxide. During operation the metal plates react with the sulfuric acid to produce a flow of electricity by transforming the lead compounds into lead sulfate. This is sulfation.

Charging a battery runs the reaction in reverse. Lead sulfate becomes lead or lead dioxide again and the battery is restored to its original condition--in theory at least. In real life, the process has a small amount of inefficiency that prevents all the sulfates from breaking down so each time you cycle a battery it loses a small amount of its ability to hold a charge.

Soft And Hard Sulfation

The leading reason industrial battery systems build up sulfation is inadequate recharge. When batteries are not given their full 14-16 hour recharge, they can't break down all the sulfates and can't return to their previous state. However even this soft sulfation can be reversed by occasionally overcharging the batteries to break up any residual sulfates.

Unfortunately, soft sulfation isn't the only problem. If the sulfates are left on the plates long enough due to inadequate charging, then they eventually transform into hard sulfation. Hard sulfation is made up of larger and sturdier crystals and is effectively impossible to remove from the plates. Also called permanent sulfation, these crystals cause irreversible loss of charge capacity and accelerate the eventual death of the battery.

Stop Sulfation Before It Starts

A proper charging schedule is the best way to minimize sulfation in industrial battery systems. Batteries get most of their charge in the first few hours of charging, prompting fleet managers to reduce charging times to save money by stocking fewer batteries. This is a false economy because these undercharged batteries will need more frequent replacement.

Short charge times are commonly the result of charging power cells without removing them from forklifts. The truck is completely out of service and managers want to get vehicles back out on the floor quickly. Instead of driving the forklift into the recharge area, replace the battery with a fully-charged cell and take the drained unit to be recharged. This keeps the trucks in service without jeopardizing the life of the battery.

The best way to reduce fleet expenses is to give your equipment proper maintenance. A few dollars spent today keeping your industrial battery systems going will pay off in the months and years to come.


Forklift Battery Storage Advice

Posted on June 8, 2012 20:13 by Admin

Multi-Shifter's sturdy battery storage systems make it easy to keep an inventory of batteries available for immediate use so your forklifts never have to stop for a charge. By implementing a few smart practices, you can extend the life of your forklift batteries and save money.

Create The Proper Environment

Batteries can be dangerous and should be stored in dedicated areas used for nothing else. The storage area should be kept cool because stored batteries slowly lose their charge over time, and this loss is faster at high temperatures. How cool? Most manufacturers recommend storing batteries at or below 60º F, but even a typical room temperature of 70-80º is fine as long as you keep the batteries charged. Although colder is better, don't allow the electrolyte to freeze as this will ruin the battery.

High humidity increases discharge rate so put the battery storage systems in a dry area. Keep the room well ventilated to prevent buildup of flammable gasses. Natural ventilation will usually do the trick, but if the room doesn't have good airflow you might need to put in a ventilation system.

Dangers To Avoid


Batteries emit hydrogen gas, which is why ventilation is so important. Keep ignition sources away from your battery storage systems. This means no sparks, no open flames, and no smoking in the battery room. Keep circuit boxes and electrical equipment out of the area, with the exception of battery chargers and even these should not be stored in the same room as the batteries.

Other dangers occur if a metallic object such as a screwdriver or a wire should fall across the terminals and cause a short. At the very least, this causes the battery to discharge rapidly and could ruin the cell. A more serious danger is that a worker might touch the metal item, say to remove it, and get a powerful and dangerous shock. Finally, the sparks from such a short could cause ignite the hydrogen gas and create an explosion.

Care And Feeding Of Batteries

Lead-acid batteries don't need a lot of attention while in storage but battery storage systems should be inspected periodically to keep the batteries in top shape. Even if you follow the advice we've given, the batteries will still discharge slowly while in storage. This is fine as long as the charge stays above 70% but if it falls below this it can damage the battery. Bring in chargers to top off batteries with low charges.

Inspect batteries for damage or a buildup of deposits around the terminals. Remove and dispose of damaged batteries, and clean dirty terminals to keep batteries in top shape. Check electrolyte levels and top off any cells that seem low. Use only distilled water to fill batteries. Don't use tap water, and don't try to add more acid.

Use these tips and Multi-Shifter battery storage systems can maintain your stored batteries for two years or longer.