In the world of commercial scrubbers and sweepers, there are many different options and features. One of the features weighing on a purchasing agents mind is going to be what kind of propulsion system to go with. While LP (Liquid Propane) is an option for certain types of sweepers and a small selection of scrubbers, the overwhelming majority of machines are going to be designed for battery power. This is because for the majority of commercial scrubber and sweeper use cases - whether ride-on or walk-behind - a battery system provides the correct balance of safety, usability, and convenience.
So that’s it - Battery is the way to go for your new scrubber, right? Well, not so fast… Now we have to consider what TYPE of battery is best for YOU. The truth is, all of the currently available battery configurations have strength’s and weaknesses respectively, and the best way to know which one is going to be right for you is to be thoroughly familiar with all of the differences and features. Let’s start with the most popular:
‘Old Faithful’ - Flooded or “Wet” Lead Acid Batteries –
Flooded batteries are a great option for your scrubber because they provide an excellent balance of output, efficiency, and cost. They are by far the cheapest option and are typically readily available when it comes time for a replacement. The flooded batteries in your scrubber are much like the flooded batteries in many of our vehicles that help us start our cars; They are comprised of a series of lead plates surrounded by a solution of sulfuric acid and water. The fundamental difference between the cranking battery in your car and a “Deep Cycle” battery that will do well in your scrubber, is the thickness of the plates themselves. While this reduces the initial cold cranking ability of the battery, it dramatically increases the overall storage capacity allowing for longer run-times while also providing the durability needed to withstand the continual recharge and drain consistent with using a scrubber. However, this type of construction means that what you gain at accessibility and in price, you lose in the area of maintenance and many times longevity if not given the proper ‘TLC.' In fact, the primary difficulty our customers run into when their machines get put out for use is executing a solid maintenance strategy that results in a battery lifespan consistent with manufacturer expectations. Have no fear, the strategies, tips, and tricks to keep your batteries running great are here:
- Never leave your batteries discharged for an extended period of time.
- Always try to recharge your batteries completely each cycle.
- Always keep the terminals of your batteries clean.
- Be sure to regularly check that the terminal cables are tightened.
- Water levels should be checked daily and reservoirs filled using Distilled Water Only.
‘No Maintenance’ - Sealed Lead Acid Batteries
You may be in a situation where the maintenance requirements of a flooded battery are not desirable. For instance, if the scrubber is going to be used by others; Particularly if there are going to be multiple individuals or teams using the equipment without direct supervision, it can become difficult to ensure the proper maintenance steps are taken on a consistent basis. If this poses too much of a risk to the longevity of your batteries, then sealed batteries may be a good alternative for you.
Sealed batteries come in two main categories – Gel batteries & AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat). Both styles are constructed with a series of Lead plates much like their flooded battery cousins. However, instead of being submerged in an acid solution, the electrolytes necessary for the battery to function are suspended in either a silica gel substance (In the case of Gel) or in a specially designed glass mat (In the case of AGM). The voltage limit will differ from a flooded battery of the same specification so If you are going to go with one of these battery options for your scrubber, be sure to tell your sales person so the appropriate charger can be included. The primary drawback of sealed batteries is going to be their cost. Sealed batteries can cost anywhere from 50% - 100% more when compared to their flooded counterpart. Though, don’t get too stuck on the cost; Sealed batteries (AGM in particular) can offer the following advantages:
- Faster Charging times
- Instant/On-demand high load currents
- Glass mats allow for greater lead density leading to a better power to weight ratio
- Better performance in colder temperatures
- Low to little maintenance means a greater chance of achieving the full lifespan of the battery
- AGM batteries do much better at withstanding deep cycling applications such as in a battery powered scrubber
‘The New Guy’ – Lithium-Ion Batteries
|Tennant T1 with optional Lithium-Ion Battery
A relative newcomer to the battery field, Lithium-Ion batteries are increasingly common in consumer electronics like cell phones and laptops. Lately, they have also begun to make an entrance in the renewables field, and we are even seeing floor cleaning equipment manufacturers implement the technology. Compact scrubbers such as the Tennant T1B, leverage the incredible power to weight ratios a Lithium-Ion battery provides to allow for world class specifications in a compact package. A properly implemented Lithium-Ion Battery can provide the overall best performance of all the options discussed through:
- Greater depth of discharge
- Less self-discharge
- Will have an overall longer lifespan
- Requires little to no user maintenance
- Charges very quickly with the appropriate ‘Smart Charger’
If you’re thinking “Well that settles it, the lithium-ion is the way to go”, You will first need to consider that a Lithium-Ion battery option is not always available for every scrubber. As the technology continues to grow, the options will expand, but being a niche product in the cleaning field, the cost may at times be prohibitive depending on the use case. Don’t forget to add to the conversation the need for a ‘Smart Charger’ – This is not only for the health of the battery but to avoid a potential fire hazard.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??
Batteries may often be an afterthought when considering your cleaning equipment purchase. When you look at things closely, though, you see that there are a lot of factors to consider. The decision can be a huge piece in your equipment performance puzzle and greatly affect your long term satisfaction with the machine. The bottom line is that there is going to be an option that is best for you and with a little research, and hopefully some help from our spectacular Sales Team, we can make sure you end up with YOUR best solution.
About the author:
Philip Carmona has formally been with Southeastern Equipment since February of 2016. He has brought with him more than 12 years of successful team building, project and operations management experience from his previous entrepreneurial endeavors. His background provides a unique perspective and invigorating energy to the Southeastern Management Team, that positions the company to capitalize on their stellar track record of success. Originally from Upstate New York, Philip and his family have recently relocated to Columbia, SC from Charlotte, NC to be at the Main Operations Center daily.