Operating voltage is a factor too. Overcharging batteries can cause them to dry out, while on the other hand, undercharging can result in sulphate crystals forming on the plates. These harden and reduce the battery’s capacity.

But by far the most common cause of premature battery failure is high ambient temperature. As temperature increases, so too does the rate of chemical reaction, which leads to water loss and corrosion.

SLA/VRLA batteries have a rated capacity based on optimum operating temperatures of 20-25°C. It’s generally accepted that service life halves for every 10°C constant increase above this recommended level.

“Remember to leave at least a 10mm gap between

each battery block to ensure adequate ventilation.”

At the height of summer, temperatures inside your facility could top a sizzling 40°C or even 50°C – just think about the damage that’ll do to your batteries.

Now if you’re working in a data centre or similarly mission- critical setting, there’s every chance you’ve got sophisticated air conditioning systems in place to keep temperatures within safe limits.

In an ideal world, you’d have a dedicated temperature- controlled room to house the batteries. Because your UPS and IT equipment can handle hotter temperatures, these can often be installed in a separate area.

But what if you’re overseeing a smaller site, a factory, or another harsh industrial setting that doesn’t have these luxuries?

It’s recommended you install the UPS and batteries in a well-ventilated area free of dust or moisture that could affect performance. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight or close to any open windows.

Whilst it might be tempting, don’t just stick batteries and a UPS out of the way in a basement that could be prone to dampness or flooding.

Remember to leave at least a 10mm gap between each battery block to ensure adequate ventilation. This ensures there’s enough room for heat to dissipate and allows for the battery casing itself to slightly expand as it gets warmer.

Doing so minimises the risk of overheating and the likelihood of a condition known as thermal runaway, where increases in temperature cause the battery to swell, which in turn releases energy that leads to a further rise in temperature. Thermal runaway ultimately ends up with battery case meltdown and exposes the grid.

Preventing premature battery failure As with many aspects of facilities management, taking a proactive approach to maintenance is the best way to reduce your risk of battery failure.

At its most basic form, this involves manual checks on each individual cell. Ideally, this should take place at least annually. These physical tests inspect the battery terminals for signs of corrosion, check for leaks or swelling, clean any debris, and – where necessary – tighten inter-cell connections.

There are also several battery tests you can carry out. Impedance testing is a non-intrusive way to build up a ‘history’ of each cell. Carrying it out annually makes it easier for you to spot any signs of deterioration over time.

Impedance testing involves applying an AC current via probes attached to the battery terminals, then measuring the impedance in milliohms. It doesn’t require the batteries to go offline, however, it only offers a broad indication of condition.

A more thorough examination comes in the form of discharge testing, often known as load bank testing. This checks the batteries under both normal and peak load, showing which cells hold the charge and which are approaching their end of service life.

The main drawback of load bank testing is that it takes the batteries out of service. Usually, this lasts for less than 24 hours, but it can stretch to several days in the worst-case scenario.

A final option – partial discharge testing – offers something of a halfway house. Batteries are discharged by 80%, leaving 20% capacity to fall back on if the mains is interrupted and you need to run off the batteries.

Following these positive steps will help lengthen the lifespan of your batteries and ensure you aren’t left feeling drained during the hot summer months. TOMORROW’S FM | 43

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