Lead-Acid Storage Batteries
LEAD-ACID BATTERY TYPES
LEAD-ACID BATTERY TYPES
Generally there are two types of lead-acid storage batteries, based on their method of
construction. These batteries are either called flooded (or vented) or sealed. Flooded and
sealed batteries also differ in their operation. All lead-acid batteries produce hydrogen and
oxygen gas (gassing) at the electrodes during charging through a process called electrolysis.
These gases are allowed to escape a flooded cell, however the sealed cell is constructed so
that the gases are contained and recombined. It should be noted that hydrogen gas is
explosive in air at only 4% by volume. Flooded and sealed lead-acid batteries are discussed
in the following paragraphs.
Flooded Lead-Acid Batteries
Flooded cells are those where the electrodes/plates are immersed in electrolyte. Since gases
created during charging are vented to the atmosphere, distilled water must be added
occasionally to bring the electrolyte back to its required level. The most familiar example of
a flooded lead-acid cell is the 12-V automobile battery.
Sealed Lead-Acid Batteries
These types of batteries confine the electrolyte, but have a vent or valve to allow gases to
escape if internal pressure exceeds a certain threshold. During charging, a lead-acid battery
generates oxygen gas at the positive electrode.
Sealed lead-acid batteries are designed so that the oxygen generated during charging is
captured and recombined in the battery. This is called an oxygen recombination cycle and
works well as long as the charge rate is not too high. Too high of a rate of charge may result
in case rupture, thermal runaway, or internal mechanical damage.
The valve-regulated battery is the most common type of sealed battery. It was developed for
stationary and telecommunication battery applications. These types of sealed batteries have a
spring-controlled valve that vents gases at a predetermined pressure. Typical pressure
thresholds are from 2 to 5 psig, depending on the battery design. Although the term "valve-
regulated" is often used synonymously to describe sealed lead-acid batteries, not all sealed
batteries are valve-regulated. Some battery designs employ replaceable vent plugs or other
mechanisms to relieve excess pressure. Sealed batteries were developed to reduce the
maintenance required for batteries in active service. Since electrolyte levels are preserved by
trapping and recombining off-gasses, there should not be any need to add distilled water over
the life of the battery. These batteries are often misnamed "maintenance free." In fact, all
maintenance practices applicable to unsealed type batteries are applicable to sealed type
batteries. The only exception is that electrolyte levels cannot, and should not need to be,