Battery Room Locations for Electric Forklift Users

The first step in designing a state-of-the-art battery room is choosing a place to build.

The traditional approach in warehouse design is to focus on the aisles first, later tucking charging areas into leftover space, regardless of proximity to lift truck traffic or necessary infrastructure.

Today, we know there is a better way. When designers plan battery rooms based on projected workflow and existing infrastructure, they can keep lift trucks in the aisles longer while reducing total operational costs.

Whether you simply convert an existing space into a charging area or plan a greenfield facility from the ground up, consider these six factors when deciding where — and how — to build a forklift battery room.

Lift Truck Distribution within Facilities

Study lift truck traffic patterns to determine the optimal placement of a battery room. How many forklifts are in the fleet? Where in the facility will they be operating? Are there other powered devices, such as pallet jacks, that also use removable industrial batteries?

Once you have a traffic plan projected for your facility, look for space that is equidistant from all heavy-traffic areas. Often, this is somewhere near the center of a facility. Locate battery rooms as close to work areas as possible to significantly limit forklift travel.

Larger facilities might consider installing one or more satellite battery rooms, especially when departments use different types of vehicles with unique charging/changing requirements.

Working with the Electrical System to Charge Batteries Efficiently

While charging forklift batteries is significantly more affordable than buying fossil fuels, electricity does not always come cheap, and many factors can drive up the price. The further away a large-draw area is from the main power feed, the higher the facility's electric bill.

Battery-room location can help reduce energy output in two ways. First, when you locate the battery room near the facility's main power feed, you reduce consumption. Secondly, by limiting the distance that lift trucks have to drive when they need a battery change, you will conserve battery power, leading to less-frequent charging. Over time, these practices can shave significant sums off of electricity bills.

For long-term savings, consider the existing distribution of electrical power within a facility before choosing the location for the battery charging station.

Planning the Water Supply in the Forklift Battery Room

Where there are forklift batteries, there must be water. Three vital battery room operations require adequate plumbing:

  1. Watering Forklift Batteries - Industrial batteries lose water through evaporation and gassing. That missing water must be replaced to prevent capacity loss over time.
  2. Battery Washing - When electrolyte leaks onto battery cases, it can corrode terminals and cause self-discharge. Washing battery cases regularly prevents these damaging effects.
  3. Eye Wash Stations - Federal regulations require eye wash stations in all battery charging areas. Without them, a minor accident could lead to permanent damage or even blindness.

While the runoff from forklift batteries may be considered hazardous waste, and should not enter sewage systems without treatment, eye washes often do require drainage. Check plumbing requirements before choosing a location for the battery room.

Perfecting the Battery Room Floor

Like Very Narrow Aisle trucks, Operator Aboard Battery Extractors operate best on extremely flat floors. Imperfections in concrete flooring can cause stress on tracks and vehicles themselves, slowing production, or even creating a serious hazard.

The process of installing a BHS Battery Room Floor begins with a comprehensive flooring profile. If certain areas do not meet stringent standards of flatness, installation specialists will grind them into spec before proceeding.

That said, if you have a choice between an area with smooth, flat floors and a space lined by rough, pitted concrete, the former is a better choice for building a charging area.

For more information on flooring requirements for Operator Aboard Battery Extractor Systems, visit the BHS Floor Specification page.

Ensuring Adequate Ventilation for Gassing Batteries

At the end-stage of a full charge, forklift batteries produce hydrogen and oxygen gasses. Without adequate ventilation systems in place, these gasses can collect in pockets near the ceiling, growing increasingly explosive.

Choose a charging location that can support a comprehensive Battery Room Ventilation System, which detects hydrogen levels in the air, automatically activating a powerful Hydrogen Exhaust Fan when the concentration reaches a threshold of 1 percent or greater.

Ventilation systems in charging areas are required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, the International Fire Code, and National Fire Protection Agency Fire Code. Check the Battery Room Regulations page for details.

For more information on ventilation requirements for charging rooms, see the Hydrogen Gas Ventilation Calculator.

Floor Space Requirements for Charging Rooms

In warehousing more than any other industry, space is value. So the less square footage you can devote to the battery room — while providing adequate clearance for safe operation — the more room will be left over to fill with stock.

A sizable battery collection does not necessarily require a larger charging room. By building up instead of out, even facilities that use hundreds of forklift batteries can safely store, charge, and change their stock without taking up valuable square footage.

Operator Aboard Battery Extractor Systems reach up to four levels high, effectively quadrupling storage and charging space without adding to the battery room's footprint. Operator Aboard Battery Extractors themselves safely travel the face of the racking system, changing batteries from every level in just 2-3 minutes.

No matter which Extractor System fits your fleet, devote enough space in traffic lanes to allow forklifts to pass each other and maneuver safely. The battery-change lane should be wide enough to allow operators to move around their trucks, so they can easily connect and disconnect batteries.

Finally, NFPA 70: National Electrical Code requires clearance of at least 3 feet in the "depth of the working space in the direction of live parts" for electrical equipment, including battery chargers. Provide enough space for Battery System Stands to allow this clearance.