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OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF VRLA

BATTERIES
MAINTENANCE – FREE SECONDARY CELLS (VRLA)

1.0 INTRODUCTION

Maintenance free,valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries ensure a


reliable, effective and user friendly source of power. It is spill proof, leak
proof and explosion resistant and there is no need to add water or to clean
terminals. It has low self-discharge rate which eliminates the need for
equalizing charges. The container is made of polypropylene. Each plate is
individually wrapped by a highly absorbant, microporous glass separate
developed specially for VRLA batteries. The chemically inert glass ensures
life long service. The absorbed electrolyte ensures that there is no spillage
even in the unlikely event of puncture of the cell. Gas evolution under float
conditions is negligible. The water loss throughout life due to gassing is
roughly 0.1% of the total electrolyte present in the cell. This will in no way
affect performance and also eliminate the need for specially ventilated battery
room and acid resisting flooring. As the batteries can be installed in stacks,
there will be considerable space saving also.

Various capacities of Batteries are 120 AH, 200 AH, 400 AH, 600 AH,
1000 AH, 1500 AH, 2000 AH, 2500 AH, 3000 AH, 4000 AH and 5000 AH.

1.1 VRLA Technology – A brief review of Chemical Reaction


The electrode reactions in all lead acid batteries including VRLA
battery are basically identical. As the battery is discharged, the lead dioxide
positive active material and the spongy lead negative active material react with
the sulphuric acid electrolyte to form lead sulphate and water. During charge,
this process is reversed. The Columbic efficiency of the charging process is
less than 100% on reaching final stage of charging or under over charge
conditions, the charging energy is consumed for electrolytic decomposition of
water and the positive plates generate oxygen gas and the negative plates
generate hydrogen gas.

Under typical charging conditions, oxygen at the positive plate occurs


before hydrogen evolution at the negative. This feature is utilized in the design
of VRLA batteries. In flooded cells, the oxygen gas evolved at the positive
plate bubbles upwards through the electrolyte and is released through the
vents. In MF-VRLA batteries the oxygen gas evolved, at the positive plate,
instead of bubbling upwards is transported in the gas phase through the
separator medium to the negative plate. The separator is a highly absorbent
glass matrix type with very high porosity, designed to have pore volume in
excess of the electrolyte volume (starved electrolyte design), due to which the
oxygen gas finds an unimpeded path to the negative plate. Reaction reduces
the oxygen gas with the spongy lead at the negative plate, turning a part of it
into a partially discharged condition, thereby effectively suppressing the
hydrogen gas evolution at the negative plate. This is what is known as the
oxygen recombination principle. The part of negative plate, which was
partially discharged, is then reverted to the original spongy lead by subsequent
charging. Thus, a negative plate keeps equilibrium between the amount, which
turns into spongy lead by charging and the amount of spongy lead, which
turns into lead sulphate by absorbing the oxygen gas generated at the positive
plate. The oxygen recombination principle can be shown by the following
reaction:

1. Reaction at positive plate:


H2O = ½ O2 + 2e– …
(1)

2. Reaction at negative plate :


Pb + 1/2O2 = PbO …
(2)
PbO+H2SO4 = PbSO4 + H2O … (3)
To reaction (1)
PbSO4 + 2H+ + 2e– = Pb + H2SO4 …
(4)
To reaction (3)

To reaction (2)
3. The total reaction at negative plate
½O2 +2H+ = H2O

Thus, the recombination technology makes the battery virtually Maintenance


Fee.

1.2 Technical Specification of 1000 AH Battery


1. Capacity of the Battery @ 10 : 1000 AH
Hr. rate discharge to 1.75 ECV
2. Nominal Voltage per cell of : 2.0 V
fully charged battery at 27oC
3. Open Circuit Voltage (OCV) : 2.15 V
of fully charged battery at 27oC
4. Recommended Float Voltage
Condition
(i) Terminal Voltage of : 2.25 V/Cell
Charger
(ii) Float charging current at : Maximum current to be limited to 20% of the rated
2.25 V/cell AH
5. Recommended Boost charging : 2.30 V/Cell
condition for quick charging at
27oC
6. Internal resistance of the cell : 0.257 milli ohms
7. Life Expectancy of the Battery : 4000 Cycles at 20% Depth of Discharge or 20 years
under Float condition

8. Containers:
(i) Material : Polypropylene (Spl. Grade)
(ii) Thickness of wall : 2.3 mm (Approx.)
• Container and • Polypropylene Co-polymer housed
cover in a steel tray
• Separator • Spun glass microporous matrix

• Safety valve • Explosion proof, pressure-regulating


and self-resealing type
• Positive plate • Patented MFX alloy

• Negative plate • Lead Calcium allow

• Terminal • Integral lead terminal with solid


copper core
• Self discharge • Less than 0.5% per week

• Charging • Current limited, constant potential

• Float charge • 2.25 VPC at 27oC with a max.


current limit of 20% of
rated capacity in amperes
• Boost charge • 2.30 VPC at 27oC with a max.
current limit of 20%
of rated capacity in amperes
• Connectors • Heavy-duty, lead plated copper
connectors
• Life expectancy • Float service at 27oC – upto 20 years

• • Cycle duty at 27oC – 80% DOD –


1200 Cycles
• • Cycle duty at 27oC – 20% DOD –
4000 Cycles
Fig. Power Stack Cell – Cut Section

1.3 Freshening Charge

General
Batteries lose some charge during as well as during the period prior to
installation. A battery should be installed and given a freshening charge after
receipt as soon as possible. Battery positive (+) terminal should be connected
to charge positive (+) terminal and battery negative (-) terminal to charger
negative (-) terminal.

Constant Voltage Method


Constant voltage is the only charging method recommended. Most modern
chargers are of the constant voltage type.

Determine the maximum voltage that may be applied to the system


equipment. This voltage, divided by the number of cells connected in series,
will establish the maximum volts per cell (VPC) that may be used.
Table B lists recommended voltages and charge times for the
freshening charge. Select the highest voltage the system allows but not
exceeding 2.37 volts per cell to perform the freshening charge in the shortest
time period. The charging current should be limited to a maximum of 20% of
the rated capacity in Amps.

Table – B

Cell Volts Time

2.25 30 hrs

2.30 12 hrs

Note : Time periods listed in Table B are for temperatures from 15oC to 40oC. For
temperatures below 15oC double the number of hours.

Raise the voltage to the maximum value not exceeding 2.37 volts per cell
permitted by the system equipment. When charging current has tapered and stabilized
(no further reduction for three hours), charge for the hours shown in the above table or
until the lowest cell voltage ceases to rise. Correct charge time for the temperature at
the time of stabilization. To determine lowest cell, monitoring should be performed
during the final 10% of the charge time.

1.4 Operation:

General
All POWER STACK batteries are rated to an end cell voltage of 1.75 VPC at
all rates of discharge.

1.4.1 Floating Charge Method


In this type of operation, the battery is connected in parallel with a constant
voltage charger and the critical load circuits. The charger should be capable of
maintaining the required constant voltage at battery terminals and also supply normal
connected load where applicable. This sustains the battery in a fully charged condition
and also makes it available to resume the emergency power requirements in the event
of an AC power interruption or charger failure.

1.4.2 Float and Boost Voltages


Given below are the float and boost voltage recommended for the POWER
STACK battery system. The average “Volts per cell” (VPC) value of the series string
should be set to the recommended voltage under Float and Boost conditions.

RECOMMENDED FLOAT VOLTAGE 2.25 VPC AT 27oC


RECOMMENDED BOOST VOLTAGE 2.30 VPC AT 27oC
Modern constant voltage output charging equipment is recommended for the
floating charger method of operation of batteries. This type of charger, properly
adjusted to the recommended floats voltage and following recommended surveillance
procedures, will assist in obtaining consistent serviceability and optimum life. The
charging current for the battery should be limited to 20% of its nominal AH capacity.
After the battery has been given its freshening charge (refer to section 4), the charger
should be adjusted to provide the recommended float voltage at the battery terminals.
Do not use float voltage lower or higher than those recommended. This will result in
reduced capacity and/or reduced battery life. Check and record battery terminal
voltage monthly. See Section 8, RECORDS Item B. If normal battery float voltage is
above or below the recommended value adjust charger to provide proper voltage as
measured at the battery terminals.

Voltmeter Calibration
Panel and portable voltmeters used to indicate battery voltage should be
accurate at the operating voltage value. The same holds true for portable meters used
to read individual cell voltages. These meters should be checked against a standard
every six months and calibrated when necessary.

Recharge
All batteries should be recharged as soon as possible following a discharge
with constant voltage chargers.

Determining State-of-Charge
The approximate state of charge of the battery, to some extent can be
determined by the amount of charging current going to the battery. While charging the
current shown by the charger ammeter will start to decrease and will finally stabilize
when the battery becomes fully charged, if the normal connected load is constant (no
emergency load connected). The state when the current level remains constant, after it
has started decreasing, for three consecutive hours would indicate full state of charge
condition and the battery will be ready for normal use.

If the normal connected load is variable (e.g. Telecom application) the state
when the voltage across the battery terminals is stable for six consecutive hours would
indicate full state of charge condition and the battery is ready for normal use.

Temperature of the Cell


The temperature of the POWER STACK cells cannot be measured during
operation. However, cell temperatures are normally within +5oC of the ambient. All
performance characteristics are measured at ambient temperature and corrected to
27oC.
1.5- Equalizing Charge

General
Under normal operating conditions an equalizing charge is not required. An
equalizing charge is a special charge given to a battery when non-uniformity in
voltage has developed between cells. It is given to restore all cells to a fully charged
condition. Use a charging voltage higher than the normal float voltage and for a
specified number of hours, as determined by the voltage used.

Non-uniformity of cells may result from low float voltage due to improper
adjustment of the charger or a panel voltmeter, which reads an incorrect (higher)
output voltage. Also, variations in cell temperatures greater than 3oC in the string at a
given time due to environmental conditions or module arrangement can cause low
cells.

Equalizing Frequency
An equalizing charge should be given when the following conditions exist.

(A) The float voltage of the pilot cell (as per section 7) is atleast
0.05V blow the average float voltage per cell in the blank.
(B) A recharge of battery is required in a minimum time period
following an emergency discharge.
(C) Accurate periodic records (see section 8) of individual cell
voltages show an increase in spread since the previous
readings.

Equalizing Charge Method


Constant Voltage charging is the method for giving an equalizing charge.
Determine the maximum voltage that may be applied to the system. This voltage,
divided by the number of cells connected in series, will establish the maximum volts
per cell that may be used to perform the equalizing charge in the shortest period of
time. Refer to Table-C for voltage and recommended time periods.
Table-C
Cell Volts Time
2.25 30 hrs
2.30 12 hrs

Note : Time periods listed in Table C are for ambient temperatures from 15oC to 40oC.
For temperatures less than 15oC double the number of hours.

Raise the voltage to the maximum value permitted by the system equipment or
recommended equalizing charge voltage whichever is lower. When charging current
has tapered and stabilized (no further reduction for three hours). Continue charging
for the hours shown in Table C until the lowest cell voltage ceases to rise. Monitoring
of cell voltages should be started during the final 10% of the applicable time period to
determine lowest cell voltage in the battery system.

1.6 – Pilot Cell


A pilot cell is selected in the series string to reflect the general condition of all
cells in the battery. The cell selected should be the lowest cell voltage in the series
string following the initial charge. See section 4 FRESHENING CHARGE. Reading
and recording pilot cell voltage monthly serves as an indicator of battery condition
between scheduled overall individual cell readings.

1.7 – Records
A complete recorded history of the battery operation is most desirable and
helpful in obtaining satisfactory performance. Good records will also show when
corrective action may be required to eliminate possible charging, maintenance or
environmental problems.

The following surveillance data must be read and permanently recorded for
review by supervisory personnel so that any necessary remedial action is taken.

(A) Upon completion of the freshening charge and with the battery on float
charge at the proper voltage for one week, read and record the
following :

(1) Individual cell voltage


(2) Battery terminal voltage
(3) Ambient temperature

(B) Every 3 months, a complete set of readings as specified in paragraph A


above must be recorded.
(C) Whenever the battery is given an equalizing charge, an additional set
of readings should be taken and recorded as specified in paragraph A
above.

The suggested frequency of record taking is the absolute minimum to protect


warranty. For system protection and to suit local conditions or requirements, more
frequent readings may be desirable.

1.8 – Temporary Non-use


As installed battery that is expected to stand idle for over 6 months should be
treated as follows. Give the battery an equalizing charge as per section 6. Following
the equalizing charge, open connections at the battery terminals to remove charge and
load from the battery .Every six months, temporarily connect battery to charger and
give it an equalizing charge. To return the battery to normal service, re-connect the
battery to the charger and load, give an equalizing charge and return the battery to
float operation.
1.9 – Unit Cleaning
Periodically clean cell covers with a dry 55 mm paintbrush to remove
accumulated dust. If any cell parts appear to be damp with electrolyte or show signs
of corrosion, contact your local representative of the manufacturer.

CAUTION

Do not clean plastic parts with solvents,


detergents, oils, mineral spirits or spray-type
cleaners as these may cause crazing or cracking
of the plastic materials.

1.10 – Checking Connections


Battery terminals and intercell connections should be corrosion free and tight
for trouble free operation. Periodically these connections should be inspected.

If corrosion is present, disconnect the connector from the terminal.

Gently clean the affected area using a brush or scouring pad. Apply a thin
coating of petroleum jelly to the cleaned contact surfaces, reinstall connectors and
retorque connections.

ALL TERMINALS AND INTERCELL CONNECTIONS SHOULD BE


RETORQUED ATLEAST ONCE EVERY YEAR.

1.11– Determination of State of Charge of VRLA Batteries


Sealed Maintenance Free Valve Regulated Lead Acid Batteries represent the
state of the art in Lead Acid technology. The maintenance-free feature of these
batteries often raises a practical problem in the field. How can the battery bank be
monitored? In conventional flooded batteries, the specific gravity of the electrolyte
gives a fairly good indication of the state of charge of the battery. However, in a
VRLA battery, it is not possible to measure the specific gravity of the electrolyte
since it is completely absorbed in the spun glass micro porous separator. The terminal
voltage of the battery is directly related to the concentration of the electrolyte.
Therefore, if one were to measure the open circuit voltage of the battery, the state of
charge can be determined. The Open Circuit Voltage (OCV) readings should be taken
24 hrs. after charging is discontinued. The OCV value is co-related to the state of
charge of VRLA batteries as per the table enclosed. Sometimes, it may not possible to
disconnect the batteries from service for 24 hrs. And then check the OCVs. Then the
pattern of charging current delivered by a temperature compensated voltage –
regulated charger after a discharge provides the alternate method for determining the
full state of charge. The temperature compensation factor is –3 mV per cell oC rise
from ambient temperature of 27oC.
Under normal conditions the batteries are floated at around 2.25 volts per cell,
i.e. in a DOT system 24 cells are floated at 53.5 volts. During charging as the cells
approach full charge, the battery voltage rises to approach the charger output voltage,
i.e. 53.5 volts and the charging current decreases to the float current value ofaround
50 mA/100 AH for VRLA batteries. So, when the charging current has stabilised at
the float current for three consecutive hours or the voltage across the battery bank
terminals is constant for six consecutive hours, then the battery bank can be
considered as having reached full state of charge.

If the charging voltage has been set at a value higher (but equal to or less than
2.30 VPC) than normal float voltage (so as to reduce charging time), it is normal
practice to reduce the charging voltage to the float value of 2.25V after 12 hrs. Then
the float current will soon stabilize and the above methods can be adopted for
determining the state of charge.

Table
% State of Charge Open Circuit Voltage
100 2.15
90 2.13
80 2.11
70 2.09
60 2.07
50 2.05
40 2.03
30 2.01
20 1.97
0 1.95