The floor cleaning industry has long been in the business of operating floor scrubbers and sweepers that rely on battery power to keep equipment running. Floor care equipment batteries have eliminated messy chords and directly aided in freeing up janitorial staff to have free reign of a space.
The adoption and implementation of new battery technologies in floor care machines, continues to revolutionize the floor cleaning industry due to increasing operation times resulting in increased productivity and efficiency.
In addition, powerful batteries combined with advanced technology lead the industry to autonomous robots that can handle the mundane tasks of floor cleaning so staff can focus on higher priority tasks. These Cobots work alongside janitorial staff, and at the same time offer staff a healthier way to get the job done because they can take on the repetitive and time consuming tasks that often lead to injury.
Battery life is directly related to increased amounts of floor space cleaned in less time. Continued advancements in floor care equipment batteries allow businesses to focus on creating the cleanest environment possible, safer and healthier working environments for their janitorial staff, and an increased ROI.
This makes it even more important to understand how to keep floor cleaning machine batteries running optimally.
Battery life depends on the type of battery installed in a scrubber or sweeper and is linked to proper care. Beyond that, the manufacturer’s instructions should be followed as equipment is designed to work with specific batteries, and selecting the right battery based on age and type of battery is key to battery maintenance.
Wet Flooded Lead Acid Batteries, for example, require more maintenance than other lead acid battery types because the plates need to be submerged in an electrolyte and water mixture, as this produces power. Refilling this mixture should happen weekly and the plates must be covered with distilled water before charging and after charging—however, the electrolyte can expand during the charging period so it is important to add the proper amount of distilled water so as to avoid over-flowing---which can damage the equipment and be potentially harmful to users. It is also important to note that water must be distilled to keep the battery working correctly.
AGM and GEL Lead Acid batteries are both considered to be “low” maintenance batteries as they do not need water added to the cells. However, these two types of lead acid batteries take longer to charge and can be easily damaged by opportunity charging. The best way to maintain them is through proper charging.
Lithium Ion batteries are also considered “low” maintenance as there is no adding water, or periodic discharging. The best way to prolong the life of lithium ion batteries is also through proper charging techniques as they can be sensitive to heat due to the movement of lithium ions. It is best to store them in cool, dry, temperatures.
Proper charging techniques are one of the most important ways to support and prolong battery life.
LEAD ACID BATTERIES: Industry guidelines show that lead acid batteries should be charged after each use of 20 minutes or more. It is best to charge them overnight and make sure the charger shows the battery is fully charged prior to using again.
It is also important to make sure AGM and GEL batteries are kept with their specific charger as GEL batteries are sensitive and have charging stations designed specifically for the gel-like substance.
New best practices regarding “opportunity” charging show that this practice is not good for lead acid batteries, unless that battery is specifically designed to function this way. Opportunity charging means plugging the battery in to charge for a brief period and not allowing it to fully charge. This practice can shorten the life of the battery and should be avoided. Lastly, do not over charge lead acid batteries: it is recommended that batteries not be charged more than once in a 24-hour period.
LITHIUM ION BATTERIES: As noted earlier, lithium ion batteries are sensitive to extreme temperatures, however they are some of the fastest charging batteries on the market, and longest lasting. The charge/ discharge cycle of lithium ion batteries is between 2000-5000 cycles (depending on the battery) compared to 200-500 cycles for lead acid batteries. Additionally, lithium ion batteries are not negatively impacted by "opportunity charging," making them even less maintenance and easier to care for.
PROPER CARE DURING DOWN TIME: prolonged downtime can reduce the life of all batteries after a certain period. ISSA and Clean Fax.com address the issue and note: “In the worst cases, 7-10 days may already be enough to kill a battery, depending on the charging level before it was left idle and the cleaning machine it might have been connected to.”
If batteries will have a prolonged idle time it is important to make sure they are fully charged and unplugged from any equipment however, leaving them on the charging station is suggested. This way, if power is turned off, and then back on, the battery can immediately start charging again. Some batteries may be able to last up to three months sitting idle if fully charged, but again, it depends on the type and usage of the battery. A sure-fire way to kill the battery is leaving it plugged into equipment while sitting idle, this is not advised.
The cost of batteries is dependent on the type, size, and manufacturer: In an interview for ISSA and Cleanfax.com, Tom Coyne, Sales Director at Battery Service Hub, says “the costs for a new battery [are] between $375-$3,750 (300-3,000 GBP) depending on size and type.”
Important things to note when figuring out initial costs are the expected life of the battery, number of charges, and disposal. Even though a battery may have a lower price point initially, the long-term care, durability, and disposal of the equipment could end up costing more than a battery that costs more upfront.
For example, lithium ion batteries are some of the most expensive batteries on the market but, due to the length of their charge cycles, they do not need to be replaced as often, and there is very minimal maintenance involved—thus they can be more cost effective.
It is important to read all manufacturer's instructions and suggestions for proper care and maintenance to ensure cleaning staff and equipment operators stay safe. Proper battery choice is an important first step for the proper and safe operation of floor scrubber machines. Other key steps according to Cleaning Maintenance Management are:
Never add “acid” to any battery
Charge batteries in well-ventilated, temperature controlled, and open spaces
Wear Personal Protective Equipment when handling batteries
Never store or bring near open flames, gases, or flammable materials
Essentially, having the right battery for floor scrubbers and sweepers in addition to proper maintenance and care, directly affect ROI.
Proper charging practices can reduce downtime, keeping employees working longer, not to mention it is a direct link to battery life—the better these practices are followed the less likely it is a business will have to buy new batteries—a costly expense.
In addition, choosing the right battery for the machine can directly affect increased productivity and efficiency—cleaning staff can get more done in less time by not having to spend time on battery maintenance or wait for replacement batteries due to improper care.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to understanding batteries for automated floor cleaning equipment. ICE Robotics is an industry leader in autonomous floor cleaning equipment. We use world leading lithium ion batteries in our equipment and are here to help. For more information on how ICE Robotics can help please reach out to our Client Care Team.