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Sealed lead acid batteries, also called SLA or VRLA (valve regulated lead acid), are used for a wide variety of applications today. Automobiles, motorcycles, ATV’s and other sports utility vehicles, home alarm systems, toys, backup systems, mobility scooters, wheel chairs, generators, and more, depend on the reliability and efficiency of SLA batteries. The batteries come is a variety of shapes, sizes, voltages and amperages, and different types depending on the intended use.
There are 4 different types of sealed lead acid batteries, each with a specific set of features:
1. General Purpose 2. Deep Cycle 3. Gel 4. High-Rate UPS The General Purpose battery is the most versatile of the four and is reliable for backup or cycling. They are used in such household mechanisms as sump pumps, fire and security systems, UPS battery backups and riding toys. Starter batteries for automotive use are considered general purpose, too. They provide the initial power needed to start the engine, and are then recharged during driving. They can’t deep cycle, so are not useful for applications requiring reliable longer term power.
Deep Cycle batteries provide long term power, where a constant flow of power is needed for a period of time. The term deep cycle refers to the fact that they can be discharged down to as low as 20% of a full charge. The uses for this type of battery include wheelchair and mobility scooters, industrial floor scrubbers, RVs, and trolling motors for fishing boats or other marine applications. It is possible to use a deep cycle battery as a starting battery, but it won’t have the power that a traditional starting battery does. They tend to be larger and heavier than general purpose batteries, since they have thicker lead plates which provides for the deep cycling. The life of this type of battery, or the number of cycles, depends on the average depth of discharge. If the discharge is too small or very deep, the battery will not last as long as one with an average depth of discharge around 50%.
Gel batteries also offer long term power and the greatest number of cycles, making them ideal for heavy everyday uses such as heavy use wheelchairs, communications arrays, wind generation and solar power as well as trolling motors and RV uses. The sulfuric acid electrolyte in the gel cell is thickened with a silica material so it can’t spill, and these batteries can function even if installed upside down. They are safer than the general purpose battery, but they are more expensive.
High Rate UPS batteries are ideal for emergency situations because they deliver fast power for backup applications. They are heavier than some of the newer batteries on the market, but they are still the most popular because they are less expensive, and very efficient. They can provide a very large amount of energy for a short time period, so they are particularly good as starter batteries. They have a long lifespan and need little maintenance, making them ideal for data centers, emergency lighting or server banks.
If you need a replacement battery for a particular use, you don’t have to purchase of battery made by the same battery manufacturer. However, you do need to get a similar type. The replacement battery should have the same dimensions and voltage, or there could be a safety issue or risk of damaging the item needing the battery.