Batteries are part of our everyday life. Many of us cannot last a few hours, let alone a day without accessing our smartphones or tablets. Every time we go out, we either drive our car or take a form of public transportation. We use a remote control to switch channels while watching television. As you can see we frequently interact with batteries throughout our daily routine without always realizing it. This is especially true if you use powered mobility equipment, such as a scooter, power assist wheelchair, or fully powered wheelchair. Knowing how to properly handle and care for your batteries will help maximize your wheelchair’s battery life. In this blog we will go over 4 best practices of caring for a Nickle Metal Hydride (NiMH) wheelchair battery. For a detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of using NiMH wheelchair batteries check out our blog here.
1. Handle with Care:
NiMH are particularly sensitive to internal damage from being dropped. Although the robust battery case may seem intact after being dropped, internal damage to the individual cells may have occurred. Damaging internal cells can cause the battery’s self-discharge to increase. Self-discharge is a phenomenon in which internal chemical reactions reduce the stored charge of the battery without any connection between the electrodes. So even though your back up battery is fully charged, waiting to be used, it is actually losing its charge from damage caused by an impact. Always use caution when removing a battery from the chair and handling it, make sure it is stored in an area where it is safe from being bumped, or knocked down. Additional issues that could arise form dropping a battery are:
- Damaging the terminal prongs of the battery
- Cracking or breaking the battery case
2. Storing Temperature:
NiMH batteries are temperature sensitive. Relatively small differences in storage temperatures can result in an increased rate of self discharge. Heat especially increases self-discharge, its always a good idea to check your battery labels to know what specific temperature constraints of your battery. Taking a back up battery with you is always encouraged over leaving it in a hot car, extreme heat over time can also irreversibly affect the batteries overall capacity. A range of 20°F to 110°F will provide a safe storage temperature for your battery, note that direct sunlight and humidity can also cause damage to the battery.
There are a few points to consider when charging your NiMH battery. The charger itself can be stored at a range of 10°F to 115°F, if the charger and or battery are either over or under the indicated temperature range charging will stop until a suitable temperature is reached. It is also important to note when to charge your battery, make sure to periodically monitor your battery level. Often times battery fuel gauges are found on either the battery, chair, or both. Charging is recommended when about 25% charge or red LED lights are left on your fuel gauge. If you allow the battery to fully discharge, it may not take a charge because the voltage level could be too low for the battery to communicate with the charger. To maintain ideal battery life and capacity, discharge your battery down to one flashing LED on the battery fuel gauge and allow battery to charge a complete charging cycle once a month.
4. General Tips:
If your battery is not being used for long periods of time, remember to cycle charge the battery at least once a month. This will help maintain capacity and battery life for an inactive battery. Also, remember as with most electronics, water is not our friend. Make sure when storing or charging your battery that no source of water can reach the battery. Dust and debris also can interrupt terminal connections, make sure all terminal ports are clean and free of dust before charging. Finally, always refer to the user manual for the specifics of the device you are working with.
The NiMH battery is an excellent power source for mobility equipment. With the right type of care and maintenance you will be able to get many useful years out of your NiMH battery. Hopefully these tips have provided you with some best practices to consider when dealing with your own battery. Be sure to follow us on Facebook for the latest in Tailwind blogs, videos, and images.
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