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Breaking Down Your Battery Options

Battery operated floor cleaning equipment has many advantages- but what about the batteries themselves? Are all batteries created equal? 

Let's Imagine...

You are looking at the Factory Cat Micro-HD Walk Behind Floor Scrubber. You may notice that the machine comes standard with a 130ah WET battery but has options for a 150ah WET, 115ah AGM, or 140ah AGM. Or the Tennant T1B comes with AGM or lithium ion batteries. The Tennant T2 brochure lists optional lead acid and optional gel batteries with differing run times. What does all this mean?
 

Battery icons with different charges

What does it all mean?  

Deep-cycle lead-acid battery technology is commonly found on floor cleaning equipment, which means the battery is rechargeable and designed for deep discharge, between 45% and 75% of its capacity, making it ideal for regular machine use. Starting batteries, by contrast, discharge only a small part of their capacity. 

There are two categories of deep-cycle batteries: flooded and valve regulated lead acid (VRLA). VRLA batteries, sometimes called sealed lead-acid (SLA), gel cell, or maintenance free batteries, can be broken down further into two more categories: Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) and Gel. Flooded and AGM are two primary battery types found on floor cleaning equipment. In addition, the latest innovation in battery operated equipment technology is the Lithium Ion (Li-ion) battery. 

We’re breaking down the good and the bad of each to make it easier for you to select which battery option would work best for your needs. In general, the three types of batteries that floor cleaning equipment come equipped with are Flooded (Wet), AGM, or Li-ion:
 

1. Wet Cells or Flooded Lead Acid Batteries: 

Wet cell batteries are the original rechargeable batteries. A wet cell battery has a liquid electrolyte. As hydrogen and oxygen gasses are released through the vent caps due to electrolysis, the liquid electrolyte level in the wet cell will gradually lower over time. Therefore, it is important to periodically add distilled water to your flooded batteries. The battery cell temperature and humidity are two factors that affect the rate of this occurrence.
 

THE GOOD:

  • Tried and true. Wet cell batteries have been around for a long time. They are widely used in an array of settings from aviation to cell towers to industrial cleaning equipment. 
  • High surge current.
  • Easy to troubleshoot.
  • Can handle overcharging.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Readily available if replacement is needed. 

THE BAD:

  • Must be topped off with distilled water periodically.
  • It’s a heavy battery.
  • Wet cell batteries must always be kept upright and stored in a well ventilated area.
     

2. Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) Batteries:

In AGM batteries, acid is suspended in a glass mat separator. The electrolyte is held in the glass mats, not freely flooding the plates like a flooded battery. These batteries are totally sealed. Having been originally developed for military use, these batteries are built tough.

 

THE GOOD:

  • Maintenance-free (no topping off with water).
  • Shorter recharge time than flooded lead-acid.
  • Hold charge better than flooded if equipment is not regularly operated.
  • Don’t have to be kept upright.
  • Easy and safe to transport.
  • Can fully charge at a lower voltage and accept a higher current charge.
  • More environmentally friendly than flooded lead-acid.
  • Discharge significantly less hydrogen gas.
  • Can be discharged deeper than flooded batteries without major damage.
  • Can handle higher temperatures.
  • Self-discharge more slowly than flooded batteries.
     

THE BAD:

  • More expensive than wet-cell battery.
  • Generally do not last as long as a properly maintained wet-cell battery.
  • Overcharging leads to premature failure.
     

3. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) Battery

Back in 2010, Tennant revealed the world’s first Lithium-ion powered vacuum street sweeper, the 500ze, heralded as a significant step in the drive for reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality. The Lithium-ion batteries allowed this street sweeper to run for a full day working cycle.

Right now you may have one sitting within an arm’s reach. Cell phones and other portable or home electronic devices are just some of the places you’ll find Li-ion batteries.

Regarded as the next generation of energy storage, the lithium-ion battery is a rechargeable battery that is becoming a common replacement for lead-acid batteries. The lithium ions in Li-ion batteries move from the negative electrodes to the positive electrode during discharge and then back during charging.
 

THE GOOD:

  • Maintenance-free.
  • Significantly longer runtimes. The Tennant T1B, for example, comes with an option of AGM or lithium ion batteries. The lithium ion batteries provide 20 times longer battery life!
  • Operational in a wide range of temperatures.
  • Lightweight.

THE BAD:

  • Li-ion batteries are the most expensive of the bunch, though longer run times, long battery life, and lack of maintenance help offset the higher initial cost.

When it comes to investing in floor cleaning equipment, there are many details to consider. The battery of your machine is one that should not be overlooked. When making an informed decision in regards to which machine would be best for your unique needs, don’t forget about the battery. Spending more upfront could mean reaping the benefits of higher productivity and longer battery life. This in the long run saves money. Conversely, an affordable and reliable flooded battery might be just what you need. If you have questions about the battery on your equipment, our equipment experts are here to help. If you happen to be in the market for a new battery for your machine, do not hesitate to reach out to us for advice!

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