Most battery powered MEWPs are designed to work in temperatures below freezing. However, operating these machines at low temperatures will decrease the performance of the batteries. As a general rule, the battery loses 10% of its capacity for every 15° to 20° below 80° F.
Why Does the Cold Have an Impact on Battery Performance?
- Low temps decrease battery capacity and output. Everything moves more slowly as the temperature drops, including the chemical processes required for lead-acid batteries to charge and discharge. More energy is needed to restart the motion of ions as they slow down due to cold temperatures.
- Electrolyte solution has the potential to freeze. The electrolyte solution (sulfuric acid and water) is evenly mixed when a battery is fully charged. When a battery is discharged, however, the sulfuric acid is embedded in the plates and water is separated from the solution. The water has a potential to freeze and as it freezes, expands by approximately 9% which can damage the battery's structure.
So, before starting work in the freezing weather, consider these battery care tips to avoid downtime.
Tips to Prolong Battery Life
Keep Batteries Warm
- Keep the machine or the batteries in a warm place (above 32°) when not in use or when charging.
- Use a battery heater or battery blanket when operating the machine in low temperatures.
Keep Batteries Charged
- Don't let the batteries get completely discharged. Plug the battery in when the battery's charge nears 20%, to avoid deep discharge.
- Keep the onboard charger plugged in whenever the machine is not in use. Leaving the charger plugged in for an extended period will not overcharge the batteries.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommended charging instructions.
- Keep the battery clean and the terminals tightened. Cold weather can cause your battery to corrode faster. Use a baking soda and water solution to clean off any oxidation.
- Periodically check the water levels in batteries. Add distilled water if necessary. Do not add sulfuric acid.
- Follow other manufacturers' guidelines for battery maintenance.
If you live and work in a cold climate, it is important that you follow these maintenance tips to prevent downtime on the job due to dead batteries and as always make sure as part of your aerial lift specific safe use program that you take the time to select the right machine for the job.