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How to Maintain Your Station Batteries … Part I

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There are various philosophies and opinions for maintaining and testing battery systems.  These approaches can range from the “Do nothing and replace when the battery fails” to the “Intense time-based battery maintenance regiment.”  Obviously the “Do nothing” approach appears a little flawed.  Keep in mind that a battery is a perishable item with a shelf life.  Since batteries are perishable items, there are several things necessary for them to perform to expectations.  They require a constant float charge to maintain freshness as well as periodic inspections to ensure that they are maintaining the charge and have the ability to deliver the rated output.

Besides being perishable, another unique feature of a battery that is unlike other electrical assets is that a battery uses chemicals, metal alloys, plastics, welds, and bonds that must interact with each other to produce a constant DC source.  For this reason the type of battery (Flooded lead-acid, sealed lead-acid or nickel-cadmium) should be considered before embarking on a battery maintenance program.  There are a number of recommended practices for battery testing.  They will typically comprise of inspections, actions, and measurements conducted under normal float conditions and capacity tests performed with the battery system off line.  The most well-known recommended practices are produced by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):

• IEEE 450 Recommended Practice for Maintenance, Testing, and Replacement of Vented Lead-Acid Batteries for Stationary Applications
• IEEE 1188 Recommended Practice for Maintenance, Testing, and Replacement of Valve-Regulated Lead-Acid (VRLA) Batteries for Stationary Applications 
• IEEE 1106 Recommended Practice for Maintenance, Testing, and Replacement of Nickel-Cadmium Batteries for Stationary Applications

If you are a generation owner, transmission owner, distribution provider or you provide service and maintenance to any of the aforementioned entities you may be subject to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) requirements outlined in PRC-005 Protection and Maintenance.  It should be noted that IEEE guidelines were consulted to arrive at the PRC-005 maintenance activities for batteries, but unlike IEEE guidelines the PRC-005 is not a listing of recommended practices.  The PRC-005 is mandatory and enforced by NERC.

Contact Protec Equipment Resources to discuss your battery maintenance and program.  Our knowledgeable staff has reviewed the IEEE and NERC practices and can assist you in setting up a battery maintenance program.  We also offer a complete inventory of battery maintenance equipment ranging from battery ohmic trending units such as the Alber Cellcorder and Megger BITE2P along with capacity test sets like the Megger TORKEL Battery Load Units or specific gravity testers like the SBS Digital Hydrometers.