Which Battery Wash Equipment is Right For Your Facility?

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By Jennifer Taylor April 9, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

Regular battery washing is an essential part of fleet maintenance, and while battery room managers understand the importance of washing lift truck batteries regularly, the ideal wash equipment will vary from operation to operation. Choosing the right equipment will allow for a better return on investment, and in some cases, longer-lasting equipment.

For instance, large fleets will need to process much more waste water, and may consider installing an automated wastewater recycling system to provide battery wash cabinets with a continuous supply of clean water. Smaller operations can opt for affordable recirculation/neutralization systems to handle contaminated water.

Before choosing a wastewater system, managers must decide between wash stations and enclosed wash cabinets. This equipment is required to keep wash runoff contained, in observance of environmental regulations. In addition to these larger investments, battery washing areas require adequate safety equipment. In this article, we'll take an introductory look at these technologies and the factors that can affect their functionality (as well as the overall return on investment).

Why Battery Washing is an Important Maintenance Task for Lift Truck Fleets

During the charging process, forklift battery cells lose a small amount of electrolyte, and over time, the electrolyte builds up to form an acidic sludge across the surface of the battery. This coating of conductive material causes a low-level but constant power discharge, expending valuable charge/discharge cycles and shortening operating life. When ignored for long enough, a dirty battery will deplete its capacity entirely, and corrosion can cause serious leaks.

Over-watering batteries can cause electrolyte boil-over, which speeds up this process (by some estimates, each boil-over prevents a battery from utilizing about 3 percent of its total capacity). If boil-over occurs, it is best to wash the battery right away, carefully neutralizing the escaped electrolyte with a baking soda solution. However, no baking soda can be allowed into the battery cells, which would neutralize the acid and ruin the battery.

Fleet management consultants recommend yearly battery washing as part of a scheduled maintenance program, but some operations may find that more frequent washing leads to longer battery life spans.  More shifts can necessitate more battery washing, and operating environments can also have an effect on maintenance requirements.

Lift Truck Battery Wash Stations vs. Cabinets

Battery wash stations allow facilities to manage the hazardous water while maximizing battery life. The simplest designs control spray on all sides, reliably containing wash water. Some stations are designed to work in conjunction with recirculation/neutralization systems, which filter and reuse wash water. This process minimizes environmental impact and operation costs.

While stations control spray and collect wash water, wash cabinets are fully enclosed and designed to automate the battery washing process with various options and features. Most battery wash cabinetsintroduce an electrolyte neutralizing agent during the cycle, and some include air compressors for quick drying and automatic brushes for gently abrasive scrubbing.

The water used to clean batteries is contaminated with lead, acid and other harsh industrial waste chemicals and cannot be allowed into the sewer system. Because of these contaminants, anyone washing batteries or even standing close to the process should wear full personal protective equipment. Eye wash and safety stations must also be located nearby.

Maximize Battery Life with Regular Washing

To get the best return on forklift battery investments, regular maintenance is essential. Washing batteries regularly is an important part of an efficient and cost-effective lift truck fleet, and for operations with large battery banks, battery wash cabinets offer quick, reliable cleaning services. Smaller facilities and buildings without designated battery rooms should consider a mobile wash station along with a recirculation/neutralization system to process waste water. In any case, regular washing is critically important, and optimized equipment will greatly extend the operating life of a typical lift truck battery.

 

References

eTools: Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklift)
Occupational Health and Safety Administration, United States Department of Labor. n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015
Forklift Battery Care Instructions
McLeod, Scott. Fleetman Consulting Inc. n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015
OSH Answers Fact Sheets: Forklift Trucks – Batteries
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2 Oct. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
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