A Heated Discussion on Lead-Acid Batteries
Having just endured one of the hottest Julys on record, many people have been subjected to extremely hot environments lately. And, in some cases, where their bodies have produced or absorbed more heat than they could dissipate, people have been experiencing an abnormally high body temperature due to the failure of their body to thermoregulate. This is called hyperthermia.
In fact, as I wrote this piece, the outside temperature was 92°F with 65% relative humidity, which according to the NOAA chart, indicates a heat index of 108°F – in the “danger zone.” The National Weather Services will usually issue an alert when the heat index is expected to reach 105°F–110°F for two consecutive days.
Meanwhile, in the July 2020 issue of the IEEE Spectrum magazine, there is an article titled “The Year is 118 A.A.C. (After Air Conditioning).” After all, air conditioning (A/C) was invented in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier. But, did you know…
- Of the more than 1.6 billion A/C units in the world, over half are in China and the U.S.?
- It is estimated that cooling will account for over 30% of electric generation capacity at peak loads by 2050?
- The growth of A/C units in high-population countries such as China, India and Indonesia will greatly increase the region’s emissions of carbon dioxide?
Personally having spent some time in the Middle East in the 70’s, using “water coolers” – window units that circulated water across a rotary fan – seemed like a much more efficient way to cool ourselves down than the typical evaporator/condenser unit.
HEAT AND BATTERIES
So, we know excessive heat can cause damage to our bodies, but what does it do to batteries? Well, hot weather can in fact be more damaging to car batteries than cold weather. They typically perform adequately up to 90°F, but above that, the chemical reaction will accelerate, resulting in the loss of electrolyte, which can cause the battery to dry out and eventually fail.
The same is true for stationary lead acid batteries. With today’s AGM batteries, where water cannot be added, a 10% water loss in a VRLA battery can equate to a 25% loss in capacity. While VLA batteries handle heat better than VRLAs, because the electrolyte is always in contact with the cell container for better heat dissipation, VRLAs will also fail sooner when used in poorly ventilated UPS applications.
Even though a battery operating at a high temperature can show increased capacity at times, the life of the battery will always be reduced. For every 15°F-18°F above the ideal operating temperature of 77°F, the expected battery life is lowered by 50%. So, unless your battery is in a cool location with natural air flow or a rotary fan, it’s time to pay tribute to Mr. Carrier for the invention that will help maintain your batteries.
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