No cords versus unlimited cleaning time? That is the essence of the argument on whether or not battery-powered cleaning machines can supersede traditional plug-in cable operated versions. Vedant Matta, Business Development Manager, Charnock Equipments Pvt. Ltd, takes stock of the growth of technology in batteries used in cleaning machines.
Some argue that cable-operated machines place restrictions on the size of the area to be cleaned besides presenting a tripping hazard. Conversely, others claim that time spent on recharging batteries could have an adverse effect on productivity.
Battery-powered machines are evolving rapidly and the limitations they used to pose, such as shorter working times, frequent recharging and environmental concerns, have become less of an issue in the present times.
The evolution of battery-driven machines has been in terms of the batteries used and the kinds of chargers being used to recharge them primarily. The conventional machines used lead-acid batteries with external chargers. These batteries needed to be topped up with distilled water regularly to ensure a healthy life and an external charger to recharge.
However, in the past few years these batteries have been replaced with gel batteries. Gel batteries are essentially sealed batteries and are maintenance free. Machines using Gel batteries are equipped with on-board chargers so they are rid of the hassles of an external charger.
The recent advent in this field has been the development of lithium-ion batteries for usage. Lithium-ion batteries has helped to reduce the weight of battery-powered machines. This is a real advantage and the lifetime of these batteries is far longer than that of lead-acid batteries; however, the cost effectiveness and environmental safety has to be assessed.
There are certain other advantages that a battery-driven machine has over the traditional cable operated versions, these are:
1. They reduce the risk of trips and falls. With no trailing cables to cause hazards in the workplace to the public or to the cleaning operatives themselves.
2. They are quieter
3. There is no need to look for a grid/ power connection. They are easier to maneuver and can be used for cleaning whenever required.
4. They also give workers the flexibility to clean any area at any time of the day or night, bringing higher productivity and increased profitability.
5. They can incorporate technical enhancements such as traction, dosing systems and displays. Such refinements can only be implemented at great expense with plug-in machines.
Battery-powered machines are usually the best option in larger indoor environments. These include hospitals, retail outlets, factories and public buildings (malls, airports and railway stations). Such areas are in continual contact with people throughout the day and require continual cleaning and battery-driven machines are better suited.
The selection of the machine should be based on the area of application and the cleaning job at hand. It is therefore important to take into consideration not only the initial acquisition costs but also the costs to be incurred over the entire lifecycle of the machine.
In principle, battery-powered machines cost more to buy and the maintenance costs need to included for battery wear and tear – especially with conventional lead-acid batteries. But the more often cleaning is undertaken, the more economical a battery-powered machine becomes. When batteries are left to discharge too far, the life span gets critical. Hence, the battery as such much depends on the user too.
The trend in today’s day and age is towards longer life and high-energy batteries that are lighter in weight and more compact in size.
However, as technology in battery power storage is developing; perhaps attributed to the success in the mobile phone market, battery life continues to increase along with the reliability of the battery-operated equipment.
The demand for battery powered machines will continue to grow as battery technology evolves and flexibility becomes ever more important but at the same time, they need to be cost effective.
As of today, battery-operated and cable operated machines co-exist because of the applications in question and the country where they are being used. Cable operated machines still remain the attractive option as they are the cheapest and simplest option available.