NASA had a situation where an emergency generator’s battery exploded, spraying sulfuring acid. Fortunately, no one was around. As such, no one was hurt. However, NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation Facility took note of the situation and designed solutions to prevent further explosions. If a battery can explode at NASA, the same thing can happen to you.
This Defense Infrastructure Organization paper mentions a similar scenario. They found an exploded generator start battery. The explosion scattered debris and sulfuric in the vicinity. You can imagine how bad things would have been if someone had been around. The debris and sulfuric acid would have caused severe harm.
Generator batteries can explode for various reasons, including:
1). Battery Reached End Of Their Lifespan
Some batteries are old. They have reached the end of their lifespan. Others are worn out because high temperatures have prematurely aged them, reducing their lifespan. Cheaper batteries made from low-quality components can explode at this stage.
2). Thermal Runaway
Batteries can explode because of the loss of water in the battery cell. You won’t notice the accelerated electrolyte loss because the battery is sealed. Therefore, even with proper maintenance, the battery can still explode.
Keep the threat of thermal runaway in mind. The term refers to a situation where the battery generates more heat than the heat dissipation mechanism can remove. Experts blame this phenomenon on overcharging and over-discharging.
3). Poor Storage Habits
Poor storage habits can lead to explosions. For instance, if you expose the generator battery to high temperatures for long periods or you allow corrosive substances to invade the item, don’t be surprised if an explosion occurs down the line.
4). Accumulation Of Hydrogen & Oxygen
Batteries turn electrolytes into hydrogen and oxygen during a process called electrolysis. These gases can accumulate, forming a cloud that a spark can ignite, causing an explosion.
Overcharging and rapid charging can increase the chances of an explosion by elevating the production of hydrogen and oxygen..
5). Using Wrong Chargers
VRLA (Valve Regulated Lead Acid) and AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries are more likely to explode because they generate more heat when you pair them with the wrong chargers and poorly ventilated environments.
Poor ventilation allows the heat to accumulate, which, in turn, encourages explosions to occur.
6). Factory Defect
Some batteries have factory defects that lead to explosions. Do you remember those stories of smartphone batteries that had a tendency to explode because of a factory defect? Generator batteries are the same. They can explode because the battery you bought came from a batch with a fault.
Batteries with factory defects are challenging because you may not identify the problem until multiple consumers report explosions.
How Do I Know Whether Generator Battery Is Going To Explode?
You can’t tell that a generator battery is about to explode. But you can make an educated guess by looking for symptoms of a bad or damaged battery, for instance:
- Look for broken terminals.
- Look for swelling and bulging.
- Look for physical signs of damage, such as cracks and breaks in the shell.
- Look for leaking and discoloration.
- Check the voltage. Do the readings match the battery’s voltage or fall significantly below?
- Have you noticed a disturbing chemical smell?
- Is the generator working? Has it refused to start? Check the battery.
- Use a laser thermometer to check the temperature of the battery. Abnormally high temperatures should scare you.
These symptoms don’t necessarily prove that a generator’s lead acid battery is about to explode. But they should give you pause because they show that something is wrong. At the very least, your battery needs replacing.
How To Prevent Generator Battery From Exploding?
1). Apply all the relevant precautions when you store the battery. That includes keeping it at room temperature or below. Cold weather is not conducive for batteries, but low temperatures are not as bad as high temperatures.
2.). Don’t store the batteries in heavily humid environments. Simarine recommends a vapor-proof container. You should also charge the battery fully before placing it in storage. Placing a battery with a low charge in storage allows crystals to form.
3). If you expect the generator to remain in storage for a long time, disconnect the terminals to prevent the battery from discharging completely.
4). Don’t allow the generator to remain dormant for too long. Take the device out of storage and run it every few weeks.
5). Keep an eye on the water level. Low water levels will cause harm.
6). Clean the terminals and tighten them. Eliminate the gap that usually forms between the poles.
6). Use vaseline to prevent oxidation between the terminals. Most of these steps are maintenance tips that allow the battery to stay in decent shape. A healthy battery is less likely to explode.
7). Keep the generator and its batteries in a well-ventilated environment. Don’t crowd the device with objects that allow the heat to accumulate. That includes placing items such as blankets on the generator.
8). Keep sparks away from the generator. Otherwise, they may ignite the gas cloud. The Montana Association of Counties reported a scenario in which an employee ignited the hydrogen and oxygen gases of a lead-acid battery after wiggling the cables and producing a spark.
9). Don’t allow the vent plugs to clog. Clean them with soap and water to remove dirt and grime.
10). Replace frayed cables. Frayed wires are susceptible to arcing, and the last thing you want is for arcing to send a spark to the battery. Don’t hesitate to replace damaged cables. Electrical tape can help you in an emergency, but you should replace the wires in the long term. Electrical tape can fall off.
11). Avoid overcharging and over-discharging.
12). Don’t hesitate to replace a damaged battery, especially when you notice breaks and cracks in the shell.
What Should I Do If Generator Battery Is Exploded?
1). Check the other batteries for signs of damage. Replace them if you notice any troublesome symptoms.
2). Carry out proper maintenance on the remaining batteries. That includes checking the water level and adding distilled water where necessary, cleaning the terminals, and starting the generator routinely, especially when it spends a lot of time in storage.
3). Keep proper records that track your maintenance habits. This will help you identify the cause of the explosion. If you haven’t performed maintenance in a long time, you can blame your negligence for the explosion. You can also create a stricter maintenance routine that prevents similar incidents from happening in the future.
4). Create protocols that tell everyone what to do if a battery explodes and someone is harmed. This will guide everyone’s response during an emergency. Your protocols can also list some viable disposal methods. After all, you can’t just throw the dead battery in the trash. Your local authorities may penalize you for doing a poor job of disposing of hazardous materials.
5). Start tracking the ages of other batteries. Try to replace them every few years. The duration you select will depend on the manufacturer’s recommendations. Aim for five years to be on the safe side.
6). Check the battery chargers. A faulty battery charger can cause a battery to explode. Your maintenance routine should include an inspection of the chargers. Replace them routinely. Ask the battery’s manufacturer for a recommendation. The wrong battery charger is just as likely to cause an explosion.
7). Don’t allow anyone to handle the exploded battery without wearing protective gear. That includes gloves, goggles, and boots. You should apply similar precautions while handling healthy batteries in case they explode.