How do I choose the right batteries for my power wheelchair?
Battery-powered wheelchairs have become the vehicle of choice for those with limited mobility. Power wheelchairs require minimum effort and allow a person to cover a much greater distance and terrain than a manual wheelchair.
Power wheelchairs no doubt offer great convenience and ease.
However, one slight drawback is that they are dependent on batteries.
If the battery loses its charge, you could find yourself stranded when you least expect it…
This is a frightening prospect, especially when you are traveling alone and are far from home.
Therefore, the powered vehicle must be fueled with a good battery.
There are several types of electric wheelchair batteries, so selecting the right battery for your electric mobility wheelchair can make all the difference in the length of time you can use your chair on a given charge and the level of power generated to propel you.
Maintenance requirements, battery types and wheelchair usage are all factors to consider when choosing the right batteries for your wheelchair.
How will you use the wheelchair?
When choosing an electric wheelchair battery for your power chair, first carefully review the battery recommendations from the wheelchair manufacturer.
Then, consider how you will use your chair.
For example, will you operate your electric chair mostly indoors for a specific amount of time each day?
Or, will you ride in your chair for more than eight hours a day, including a significant amount of time traveling across rough outdoor surfaces?
According to TOUSDA, there are a few key elements to choosing the right battery for your power wheelchair.
They suggest that before choosing an electric battery, you should look at the capacity or longevity of the battery energy storage and how long the battery can last.
You can consult the amperes or the battery’s longevity, which will be able to let you know if it can last the full day or for a short trip.
Most power wheelchairs are run by 24-volt, deep discharge lead-acid (mostly gel-cell) batteries.
They usually last about 9-14 months or 365 cycles annually.
Yet, the life of a chair battery depends on the frequency and duration of use, as well as the traveling surface.
When you notice changes in power or duration, it is likely time to check and replace your battery.
What type of wheelchair battery and charger best meets your needs?
There are two types of wheelchair battery chargers: manual and automatic.
A manual charger needs supervision to ensure the battery is not overcharged, permanently damaging the battery.
An automatic charger monitors the charge and will automatically shut off when it is fully charged.
Most chargers are too large to be attached to a wheelchair, but a few on the market are portable and allow you to remain seated while the battery is being charged.
Some wheelchair batteries are more efficient in powering electric wheelchairs than others.
Most often, power wheelchairs run on lead-acid batteries.
Wet cell lead-acid batteries are cheaper and usually have a larger capacity.
They allow power wheelchairs to travel longer distances on a single charge.
However, the problem with wet-cell batteries is that they require leveling up with distilled water every few months.
This can prove difficult as the batteries are quite heavy and are not easy to reach.
If the battery case becomes damaged, it could spill the content of the battery causing chemical burns to the user.
So, it is important to take great caution and care when using this type of battery.
Sealed lead-acid batteries are safer to use than wet cell batteries.
They are also known as SLA or Maintenance-free batteries.
These types of batteries do not require filling with water.
Their risk of chemical spills or burns is significantly lower.
They are the only kind of wheelchair batteries that are approved for air travel.
How do I ensure my wheelchair battery is reliable and well maintained?
One of the most important tips when purchasing a rechargeable battery for your wheelchair is to make sure it has the maximum charge it should.
Your battery can be damaged by overcharging.
So make sure you only buy the maximum you can use to avoid replacing the whole battery.
The same goes for discharging it too much.
Make sure you use a battery that’s just right for your particular battery pack.
To optimize your wheelchair battery life, it’s advised to charge your battery daily.
Batteries go furthest on a full charge, but you’ll always want to charge your battery to at least 50% before an outing.
Fully charged power wheelchair batteries last for at least 8 hours and can be expected to achieve a range of around 10 -20 miles.
However, battery health will influence the time and distance you can travel on one charge.
If your battery is more than a year and a half old, you can expect the range it allows you to travel on one charge to dwindle, and you should think about getting it replaced.
The amount you travel and your body weight are additional factors to consider in choosing a wheelchair battery.
How much you tend to do in one day and the kind of terrain that you traverse in your chair will both influence battery life.
If you’re active and like to explore off the beaten path, it will cause more wear and tear on your battery.
Again, hard, flat surfaces are the best for your battery.
Your weight will also affect your electric wheelchair battery’s life.
The lighter you are, the easier it will be on your battery.
And, if you can help it, avoid constantly carrying heavy items while in your wheelchair because more weight equals more battery strain.
You might not realize it, but your wheelchair driving patterns affect your battery life as well!
To optimize it, try to travel at a constant speed rather than in a stop-and-go pattern.
Another factor that might not be so obvious is that maintaining proper tire pressure in your chair’s tires will help your battery as well.
Nothing should stop you from getting where you need to be, and that includes the battery in your wheelchair.
Power wheelchair batteries need to be replaced every so often, so it’s important to understand what type of batteries to use to maintain or improve performance.
Before you choose your next battery, think about which one will be best for your wheelchair.
Or, contact our experts at TOUSDA.