APC UPS batteries swollen

Discussion in 'Electronic Repair' started by Jim shedden, Oct 28, 2003.

  1. Jim shedden

    Jim shedden Guest

    Hi,

    I just bought a used UPS, as is. Looks in fine condition and is
    3000kva for $100. The batteries need replacing and seem to be swollen
    or stuck in the case (5U rack mount). Really can't seem budge them at
    all, and I don't want to break them and make a mess. From what is
    visible, I see no leakage, but a crack along the seam of the case on
    one. It bulges a bit at that point, so I think they're swollen stuck.

    There look to be 4 x 12Volt 17AH sealed lead acid batteries in there.

    Any suggestions greatly appreciated. I would hate to hack out the
    battery bucket because it is all riveted, but if I have to I will. I
    don't see any way to push them out from the back, and if necessary to
    do so, I may have to drill a hole but would probably hit a battery in
    the process.

    Other thoughts may include silicone spray and heat guns. I really
    don't have an aproach yet. Would they shrink if I charged them?

    What might cause the swelling? Overcharge? Cold temperature storage
    without charging? Failure to replace when necessary?

    Thanks in advance for any ideas!

    Regards,
    Jim
    Jim shedden, Oct 28, 2003
    #1
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  2. On 27 Oct 2003 19:19:57 -0800, (Jim
    shedden) wrote:

    >I just bought a used UPS, as is. Looks in fine condition and is
    >3000kva for $100. The batteries need replacing and seem to be swollen
    >or stuck in the case (5U rack mount). Really can't seem budge them at
    >all, and I don't want to break them and make a mess. From what is
    >visible, I see no leakage, but a crack along the seam of the case on
    >one. It bulges a bit at that point, so I think they're swollen stuck.


    Yep. A while back, I ended up with about 35ea APC 1400RH SmartUPS's
    with swollen batteries. Only two had leaked, but all were an ordeal
    to extract. I ended up making a battery puller out of an iron bar. I
    would reach in behind the battery and pull them forward as a group
    (there were 4ea 12V 7AH batteries). To release the batteries from the
    side walls, I used a large paint scraper or putty knife. I had to
    beat on the knife with a hammer in some cases.

    >What might cause the swelling? Overcharge? Cold temperature storage
    >without charging? Failure to replace when necessary?


    Overcharging. In this case, marginal design.


    --
    # Jeff Liebermann 150 Felker St #D Santa Cruz CA 95060
    # 831.336.2558 voice http://www.LearnByDestroying.com
    # -cruz.ca.us
    # 831.421.6491 digital_pager AE6KS
    Jeff Liebermann, Oct 28, 2003
    #2
    1. Advertising

  3. Jim shedden

    budgie Guest

    On Tue, 28 Oct 2003 05:32:49 GMT, Jeff Liebermann
    <-cruz.ca.us> wrote:

    >On 27 Oct 2003 19:19:57 -0800, (Jim
    >shedden) wrote:

    (snips)

    >>What might cause the swelling? Overcharge? Cold temperature storage
    >>without charging? Failure to replace when necessary?

    >
    >Overcharging. In this case, marginal design.


    Very often, in the search for a balance between battery lifetime and
    discharge recovery time, the UPS manufacturer favours the latter. The
    charging circuitry on some is little short of criminal negligence, and
    overcharging followed by premature SLA failure is fairly normal.
    budgie, Oct 28, 2003
    #3
  4. Jim shedden

    Jim shedden Guest

    Jeff Liebermann <-cruz.ca.us> wrote in message news:<>...
    > On 27 Oct 2003 19:19:57 -0800, (Jim
    > shedden) wrote:
    >
    > >I just bought a used UPS, as is. Looks in fine condition and is
    > >3000kva for $100. The batteries need replacing and seem to be swollen
    > >or stuck in the case (5U rack mount). Really can't seem budge them at
    > >all, and I don't want to break them and make a mess. From what is
    > >visible, I see no leakage, but a crack along the seam of the case on
    > >one. It bulges a bit at that point, so I think they're swollen stuck.

    >
    > Yep. A while back, I ended up with about 35ea APC 1400RH SmartUPS's
    > with swollen batteries. Only two had leaked, but all were an ordeal
    > to extract. I ended up making a battery puller out of an iron bar. I
    > would reach in behind the battery and pull them forward as a group
    > (there were 4ea 12V 7AH batteries). To release the batteries from the
    > side walls, I used a large paint scraper or putty knife. I had to
    > beat on the knife with a hammer in some cases.
    >
    > >What might cause the swelling? Overcharge? Cold temperature storage
    > >without charging? Failure to replace when necessary?

    >
    > Overcharging. In this case, marginal design.


    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the response. Excellent URL, by the way! I checked out a
    few of your stories, quite amusing.

    I'll let you know how I make out. Any hints on preventing the
    catastrophic failure of the replacement batteries? I have access to a
    fluke scopemeter and a DC current probe for it. Can the charging
    circuit be easily "dummy loaded" and checked out? Care to share your
    experience?

    At $200 for replacement batteries, I want to make sure that I'm not
    putting them in for destruction (need UPS, not 'Easy Bake Oven'. I'd
    rather not learn quite so expensive a lesson by destruction!).

    Regards,
    Jim
    Jim shedden, Oct 28, 2003
    #4
  5. Jim shedden

    kc8adu Guest

    the swelling is due to positive grid corrosion.
    lots of sla batts do this at end of life.
    btw you can spend the same money you would on replacement sla's and get some
    deep cycle batts to use externally.
    "Jim shedden" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Hi,
    >
    > I just bought a used UPS, as is. Looks in fine condition and is
    > 3000kva for $100. The batteries need replacing and seem to be swollen
    > or stuck in the case (5U rack mount). Really can't seem budge them at
    > all, and I don't want to break them and make a mess. From what is
    > visible, I see no leakage, but a crack along the seam of the case on
    > one. It bulges a bit at that point, so I think they're swollen stuck.
    >
    > There look to be 4 x 12Volt 17AH sealed lead acid batteries in there.
    >
    > Any suggestions greatly appreciated. I would hate to hack out the
    > battery bucket because it is all riveted, but if I have to I will. I
    > don't see any way to push them out from the back, and if necessary to
    > do so, I may have to drill a hole but would probably hit a battery in
    > the process.
    >
    > Other thoughts may include silicone spray and heat guns. I really
    > don't have an aproach yet. Would they shrink if I charged them?
    >
    > What might cause the swelling? Overcharge? Cold temperature storage
    > without charging? Failure to replace when necessary?
    >
    > Thanks in advance for any ideas!
    >
    > Regards,
    > Jim
    kc8adu, Oct 28, 2003
    #5
  6. Jim shedden

    James Sweet Guest


    >
    > I'll let you know how I make out. Any hints on preventing the
    > catastrophic failure of the replacement batteries? I have access to a
    > fluke scopemeter and a DC current probe for it. Can the charging
    > circuit be easily "dummy loaded" and checked out? Care to share your
    > experience?
    >


    A Scopemeter is way more than you need even, though the DC current probe
    will simplify things somewhat. Just put in new batteries and put the current
    probe around one of the wires to them, or just unhook one wire and run it
    through the amps jacks on a standard DMM. Plug the unit in so it's charging
    the batteries and measure the current. Let the batteries charge overnight
    and then measure it again, that should give you the full charge current as
    well as the trickle charge, compare it to what the manufacture recommends or
    to standard guidelines for the batteries.
    James Sweet, Oct 28, 2003
    #6
  7. Jim shedden

    Bill Janssen Guest

    James Sweet wrote:

    >>I'll let you know how I make out. Any hints on preventing the
    >>catastrophic failure of the replacement batteries? I have access to a
    >>fluke scopemeter and a DC current probe for it. Can the charging
    >>circuit be easily "dummy loaded" and checked out? Care to share your
    >>experience?
    >>
    >>
    >>

    >
    >A Scopemeter is way more than you need even, though the DC current probe
    >will simplify things somewhat. Just put in new batteries and put the current
    >probe around one of the wires to them, or just unhook one wire and run it
    >through the amps jacks on a standard DMM. Plug the unit in so it's charging
    >the batteries and measure the current. Let the batteries charge overnight
    >and then measure it again, that should give you the full charge current as
    >well as the trickle charge, compare it to what the manufacture recommends or
    >to standard guidelines for the batteries.
    >
    >
    >
    >

    Even carefully charged batteries can "swell" I have seen batteries in
    telephone
    offices with that same problem. There was a routine to check the plates,
    in clear
    cases, and when they started to touch the case the battery was replaced.

    Before the routine inspections there were a few broken cases.

    Bill K7NOM
    Bill Janssen, Oct 29, 2003
    #7
  8. If you can't drill out the rivets, try this to get them out: Put the
    entire battery case in lots of dry ice to cause the batteries to shrink
    a bit. Once you are sure they have soaked a while, use a heat gun to
    work on the metal chassis and cause it to expand. I assume that they
    battery case and the electronics can be seperated for this operation.

    Jim shedden wrote:

    >Hi,
    >
    >I just bought a used UPS, as is. Looks in fine condition and is
    >3000kva for $100. The batteries need replacing and seem to be swollen
    >or stuck in the case (5U rack mount). Really can't seem budge them at
    >all, and I don't want to break them and make a mess. From what is
    >visible, I see no leakage, but a crack along the seam of the case on
    >one. It bulges a bit at that point, so I think they're swollen stuck.
    >
    >There look to be 4 x 12Volt 17AH sealed lead acid batteries in there.
    >
    >Any suggestions greatly appreciated. I would hate to hack out the
    >battery bucket because it is all riveted, but if I have to I will. I
    >don't see any way to push them out from the back, and if necessary to
    >do so, I may have to drill a hole but would probably hit a battery in
    >the process.
    >
    >Other thoughts may include silicone spray and heat guns. I really
    >don't have an aproach yet. Would they shrink if I charged them?
    >
    >What might cause the swelling? Overcharge? Cold temperature storage
    >without charging? Failure to replace when necessary?
    >
    >Thanks in advance for any ideas!
    >
    >Regards,
    >Jim
    >
    >



    --
    Joe Leikhim K4SAT


    "Jazz is not dead. It just smells funny." -F.Z.
    **THE-RFI-EMI-GUY**, Oct 29, 2003
    #8
  9. Jim shedden

    Jim shedden Guest

    (Jim shedden) wrote in message news:<>...
    > Hi,
    >
    > I just bought a used UPS, as is. Looks in fine condition and is
    > 3000kva for $100. The batteries need replacing and seem to be swollen
    > or stuck in the case (5U rack mount). Really can't seem budge them at
    > all, and I don't want to break them and make a mess. From what is
    > visible, I see no leakage, but a crack along the seam of the case on
    > one. It bulges a bit at that point, so I think they're swollen stuck.
    >
    > There look to be 4 x 12Volt 17AH sealed lead acid batteries in there.
    >
    > Any suggestions greatly appreciated. I would hate to hack out the
    > battery bucket because it is all riveted, but if I have to I will. I
    > don't see any way to push them out from the back, and if necessary to
    > do so, I may have to drill a hole but would probably hit a battery in
    > the process.
    >
    > Other thoughts may include silicone spray and heat guns. I really
    > don't have an aproach yet. Would they shrink if I charged them?
    >
    > What might cause the swelling? Overcharge? Cold temperature storage
    > without charging? Failure to replace when necessary?
    >
    > Thanks in advance for any ideas!


    >
    > Regards,
    > Jim


    Hi,

    Just a quick note to close out the thread. Thanks for the replies.

    I did a major disassembly of the ups. All the parts except the
    batteries visually look fine, so I'm making the investment in new
    batteries. The old ones did have swollen plates and actually cracked
    the battery case, jamming themselves in REAL GOOD.

    Should anyone be stuck in this situation, I don't recommend doing this
    unless you are experienced at working on LIVE possibly LETHAL
    circuitry. Follow all manufacturers precautions (and take it to
    them!). The batteries in the back can't be disconnected because the
    front ones block them and may contain quite some power.

    I actually entered through the left side wall. Some rivets have to be
    drilled (don't forget to vacuum out any shavings!), then the left side
    panel can open. More rivets will open the left wall of the battery
    bucket and relieve the pressure. The fronts are out now and the backs
    are disconnected. I'm confident I can retrieve them as well.

    It may be possible to solve this without removing the top panel and
    all the circuitry and wiring attached. Just go in through the left
    panel. If you can do it, it is far safer because your biggest hazard
    will be 12V at high current. You won't see any inverter or control
    circuitry.

    Regards,
    Jim
    Jim shedden, Oct 30, 2003
    #9
  10. Jim shedden

    budgie Guest

    On 30 Oct 2003 06:32:21 -0800, (Jim
    shedden) wrote:


    >Hi,
    >
    >Just a quick note to close out the thread. Thanks for the replies.


    (snip)

    Jim, I hope that when you reassemble it you go the extra yard and
    either fit spacers (if practical) to avoid the tight fit *next*time*
    (because there WILL be a next time), or replace the rivets with
    threaded fixings.
    budgie, Oct 31, 2003
    #10
  11. Jim shedden

    Jim shedden Guest

    (budgie) wrote in message news:<>...
    > On 30 Oct 2003 06:32:21 -0800, (Jim
    > shedden) wrote:
    >
    >
    > >Hi,
    > >
    > >Just a quick note to close out the thread. Thanks for the replies.

    >
    > (snip)
    >
    > Jim, I hope that when you reassemble it you go the extra yard and
    > either fit spacers (if practical) to avoid the tight fit *next*time*
    > (because there WILL be a next time), or replace the rivets with
    > threaded fixings.


    Hi,

    Once you know the how to open the case, with a cordless drill and pop
    riveter, it is a fairly quick and painless job. I hope to get 3 - 4
    years out of the batteries that I ordered. After that, maybe I'll be
    lucky enough to be hooking up a 24 volt fuel cell (I can dream, can't
    I...).

    Your suggestion has merit though. Sheet metal screws would have been
    removable, but you would have sharp points protruding into the battery
    compartment. If you reached in for the back cells during normal
    replacement, you could get cut. There is probably a fastener that
    would do it, but I can't think of what it would be at the moment.

    What I didn't expect was the size of the transformers in the unit.
    When I bought it, I figured the majority of the weight would be the
    batteries. It is still very heavy with the batteries out. I built a
    little scooter for it and it lives on the floor.

    Now for the 30 amp branch circuit...

    Regards,
    Jim
    Jim shedden, Nov 1, 2003
    #11
  12. Jim shedden

    budgie Guest

    On 31 Oct 2003 17:09:13 -0800, (Jim
    shedden) wrote:

    > (budgie) wrote in message news:<>...


    >> Jim, I hope that when you reassemble it you go the extra yard and
    >> either fit spacers (if practical) to avoid the tight fit *next*time*
    >> (because there WILL be a next time), or replace the rivets with
    >> threaded fixings.

    >
    >Hi,
    >
    >Once you know the how to open the case, with a cordless drill and pop
    >riveter, it is a fairly quick and painless job. I hope to get 3 - 4
    >years out of the batteries that I ordered. After that, maybe I'll be
    >lucky enough to be hooking up a 24 volt fuel cell (I can dream, can't
    >I...).
    >
    >Your suggestion has merit though. Sheet metal screws would have been
    >removable, but you would have sharp points protruding into the battery
    >compartment. If you reached in for the back cells during normal
    >replacement, you could get cut. There is probably a fastener that
    >would do it, but I can't think of what it would be at the moment.



    I suppose that seeing it would make it all clear to me, but if there's
    clearance for a pop rivet then I would have expected a riv-nut or
    similar to also fit.
    budgie, Nov 1, 2003
    #12
  13. Jim shedden

    James Sweet Guest


    >
    > What I didn't expect was the size of the transformers in the unit.
    > When I bought it, I figured the majority of the weight would be the
    > batteries. It is still very heavy with the batteries out. I built a
    > little scooter for it and it lives on the floor.
    >


    Yes these tend to use 60 Hz magnetics making them *very* large and heavy,
    I'm really not sure why they do that, these days it seems like it would be
    cheaper to use a small high frequency transformer and then rectify and
    filter that, then electronically modulate it to a 60 hz signwave.
    James Sweet, Nov 1, 2003
    #13
  14. On 28 Oct 2003 05:32:28 -0800, (Jim
    shedden) wrote:

    >Thanks for the response. Excellent URL, by the way! I checked out a
    >few of your stories, quite amusing.


    Amusing? I'm serious. Thanks for the kind words, but the web pile
    needs a massive overhaul and update. Many of the docs have not been
    updated for years.

    >Any hints on preventing the
    >catastrophic failure of the replacement batteries?


    Yeah. Keep the charge current low and the temperature down. In my
    never humble opinion, methinks APC designed some (not all) of the
    UPS's to charge quickly. After a power outage, they wanted the
    batteries to be fully charged quite rapidly. Would you want to wait
    perhaps a full day for a large battery pack to fully charge after an
    extended power outage? I suspect the alleged overcharge is a side
    effect of rapid charging.

    It's also helpful to know what causes swelling. Take one of the
    batteries apart and you'll notice the swelling always occurs
    perpendicular to the plates. That's because charging and discharging
    a battery is a destructive phenomenon. Lead is literally removed from
    the plates and disolved into solution during discharge. Lead is
    replaced (plated) onto the plates during charging. If the lead is
    replaced unevenly, erratically, or too rapidly, it tends to build a
    rather lumpy mass in the spacers between the plates. Eventually,
    these can even short a cell. The phenomenon is worst when you
    discharge a gel cell completely, and then rapidly recharge it.

    Overheating will also cause the plates to warp. Here's where the
    debate starts. Batteries of any type, including gel cells do not get
    warm until they overcharge. I've performed experiments with extremely
    rapid chargeing of NiCd, NiMH, and Gel Cells, to see what happens when
    a battery is charged at rediculously high currents. Each one responds
    slightly differently and with varying degrees of success (and
    explosive effects). However, one common thing I've noticed is that
    the temperature does NOT rise until the battery is fully charged.
    Therefore, I can deduce (i.e. guess) that if the gel cells are warm,
    they're being over charged. The reason it's a guess is that I haven't
    done much testing with gel cells. Most of my experiments have been
    with AA NiCd and NiMH.

    In the case of my APC 1400RH UPS's, I use only external batteries.
    These are big, size 27, 100(?) AH, Gel Cells. However, I do not
    program the UPS to know about the larger batteries. It thinks it's
    charging a smaller battery pile, and therefore seems to limit charge
    current to what I would consider a more conservative level.

    >I have access to a
    >fluke scopemeter and a DC current probe for it. Can the charging
    >circuit be easily "dummy loaded" and checked out? Care to share your
    >experience?


    Overkill. Use the built in diagnostics to display the current drain,
    or just use a VOM (volt-ohms guesser) in the ammeter range, to display
    DC current and voltage. The real trick will be to calculate the
    desired charge current and maximum terminal voltage. Incidentally,
    you can really kill a gel sell with exessive charge terminal voltage,
    even if the charge current is low. The absolute maximum charge
    voltage is usually printed on the gel cell.

    >At $200 for replacement batteries, I want to make sure that I'm not
    >putting them in for destruction (need UPS, not 'Easy Bake Oven'. I'd
    >rather not learn quite so expensive a lesson by destruction!).


    You don't want to know how much money I've burned learning about the
    characteristics of those APC 1400RH boxes. A brand new set of
    internal batteries lasted exactly 6 months before they too were toast.
    If I had left them in the box, they would have swelled and eventually
    died.


    --
    Jeff Liebermann 150 Felker St #D Santa Cruz CA 95060
    (831)421-6491 pgr (831)336-2558 home
    http://www.LearnByDestroying.com AE6KS
    -cruz.ca.us
    Jeff Liebermann, Nov 2, 2003
    #14
  15. Jim shedden

    Brian Friedl Guest

    Different UPS, same problem. My SmartUPS 700 gave me a warning about a
    week ago that I needed to replace batteries. Sounds good, they were
    two years old. Well, while I was waiting for the 2 12v 7.2Ah in series
    to come in, my UPS suddenly turned off and would not turn back on. I
    was away from the computer at the time, so I have no idea how long the
    UPS was in this state. Depression of the on button would cause the UPS
    to emit a dying whine from the small alarm speaker.
    At this point, i figured it was because of the dead batteries, and
    needed good ones to power up. Removal of the batteries revealed
    battery 1 appeared fine and registerd 12.54vdc. Battery 2, however,
    has a overheated, bulging cell and registered 10.36vdc. Voltage
    readings of the two batteries in circuit while UPS plugged in (but
    still cant turn on) showed 7vdc?!? Batt 1, in circuit, read 12v, but
    batt 2 read -4v? wtf?
    Problem solved. Replaced batteries with UPS unplugged and got a
    surprise arc. Status LED's on front came on for a second, and heard
    relays click on and off. Plugged UPS in thinking all was well, and
    heard speaker beep, then some crackling sounds and finally the dreaded
    smoke. I immediately unplugged UPS from live power and battery power.
    Smoke appears to have originated from some square caps near the
    regulator ICs. Since old batteries didnt spark or anything, i tried
    plugging them in for kicks.
    Brian Friedl, Nov 19, 2003
    #15
  16. Jim shedden

    Brian Guest

    (shameless bump)
    Brian, Nov 22, 2003
    #16
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