November 2018 November 2018 - Page 13

tronic devices contain tiny rechargeable batteries that you recharge frequently with the special charger that came with them. The life of these batteries is long enough that before they quit working you will have moved on to a newer model of the electronic device. These, too, are low-power batteries. Starting batteries The trend in golf/automotive style batteries is toward “maintenance-free” designs, so most of the starting batteries you have will be sealed say “maintenance free” on them and have a warning not to open them. Automo- bile-style batteries last about five years if they are properly main- tained. In the case of the mainte- nance-free batter- ies, “maintained” means washed once a month to remove accumulated dust and dirt that might be con- ductive while making sure the connections are clean and tight. Lead-acid batteries live longest if they are kept fully charged. Keeping them fully charged is usually taken care of by the vehicle’s charging system when the vehicle is run regularly. Lead-acid batter- ies will slowly discharge them- selves over time so a vehicle in storage should be checked once a month with a load-type battery tester and recharged as necessary. In Michigan, fully charged batteries can be left out in the cold. However, if left in the cold in the discharged state, they will freeze and split their case, destroying the battery. The second style of lead-acid battery is the flooded cell battery, represented by the less expensive full maintenance automotive-style starting batteries and the hard working “deep-cycle” batteries for electric golf course vehicles. Removable caps allow access to the individual cells of the bat- tery for adding distilled water (to keep the electro- lyte level where it should be) and for measuring the specific gravity of the electrolyte with a hydrometer as part of checking the battery’s health. Electric vehicles While several different chemistries are available to choose from and are available in maintenance-free versions, the least expensive way to store elec- trical power is with the deep-cycle version of the lead-acid flooded battery that requires regular maintenance. This battery has been improved over the years, and is produced in large numbers for electric golf cars. It is also used for silent electric mowers and utility vehicles. Since the amount of power these machines take to run is substantial, electric vehicles are powered by an array of batteries. For banks of batteries like this, semi-automatic watering systems are available which greatly improve the accuracy and speed of raising the electrolyte to the proper level without overfilling. It is important to use distilled water because in the five years of the battery’s lifetime, the total volume of the battery liquid will have been replaced 16 times. If there were any minerals in the water, they would be left behind in the battery, shortening battery life. Safety warnings Warnings appear molded into the case or as stickers applied to the outside of batteries. Lead, sulfuric acid and hydrogen gas are part of the warnings anyone working with batteries should be prepared to deal with. In the typical lead-acid flooded battery, water is lost both when the bat- tery is charging and when it is discharging. The water is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, and bubbles out of the batteries. Maintenance-free cells have a catalyst built into the caps that return the gases, recombined as water, to the battery. In the older style, the gases vent out of the battery which explains the impor- tance in keeping fire and sparks away from batter- ies. The gases are produced in the perfect ration (HH:O) for an explosion. Good ventilation, caution and flame arrestor caps can prevent an explosion from happening. NOVEMBER 2018 13