Battery explosion!!!

Submitted: Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 17:16
ThreadID: 96951 Views:6109 Replies:4 FollowUps:18
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G'day everyone
I thought you folks might be interested to see the results of a battery explosion that happened at work yesterday. It was an N200 lead acid battery in a genset enclosure as soon as the starter solenoid energized on start up, BANG!!! I was in the the enclosure at time. No injuries just a bit of poo in my pants and a hell of a mess to clean up. Sorry but because im not a member and cant upload photos you will have to click the links to see them. Photo 4 is the destruction caused by a failed battery charger. The explosion and fire were on seperate engines.

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Reply By: Chorba - Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 18:01

Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 18:01
Very interesting. I've heard of it happening before. The hydrogen given off by the battery becomes quite explosive when mixed with oxygen. One little spark and BANG !!
This very issue has been on my mind over the last few days in relation to positioning a battery near a fridge. I've now decided I'll definitely not be mounting it in a battery box under my proposed fridge location. It will be going on the other side away from the fridge with wiring gauged to suit.


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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 18:50

Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 18:50
One thing that makes the whole thing worse is the the battery gives off oxygen just the right ratio......all that is needed is a spark.

ALWAYS, always, always mount batteries in a location where they are well ventilated to open air......that is outside air.

Remember Bantam's FART test...if you farted where the battery is stored, if the smell would not disipate as fast as open air its not well enough vented.

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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 19:59

Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 19:59
Depends on what lead acid batteries you are talking about.

Some batteries are designed to eliminate this problem and are safe to use in enclosed places.

My auxiliary battery is contained in a battery box (brand unimportant) and is mounted in the tub of my dual cab. The tub is enclosed by a canopy so you could say it is an enclosed space.

This space is also where I mount my fridge and run it from the battery inside the box.

The difference is the battery is of a sealed Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) construction and does not give off hydrogen or any other explosive gasses into the atmosphere.
An AGM battery is designed to be used safely in confined spaces such as we all require in 4WD touring and camping situations.

AGM batteries are a common and safe solution for 4WD, camper trailer and caravan installed situations.


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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 20:25

Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 20:25
What brand of engine and genset, Paul?

Engine looks a bit funny with its "frosty" coating, certainly a nice mess to clean up. Thanks for the photos,


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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 20:27

Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 20:27
Oops! Looks like i didn't read the last part of the thread properly.

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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 23:01

Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 at 23:01

ALL sealed batteries can and will vent explosive gasses and possibly acid mist under certain situations, and those certain situations are more common in real world applications than a lot of people want to hear.

Go look at the manufacturers safety documents...almost with out exception they will warn about the dangers and state, in very certain terms that these sealed batteries should be properly ventilated at all times and should not be installed in enclosed spaces.

If you wish to argue this point, I can and will quote from many different manufacturer's documents.
If you can find a manufacturer that specicficaly states thet their battery is 100% safe in enclosed spaces I would be very interested to see it.

The issue is best sumarised by a german manufacturer.

While the art of low-gas production type batteries is well advanced, using Low Gassing Lead/Calcium plates and gas recombination techniques with well regulated charging devices, we CANNOT assume that the charging devices will always regulate voltage properly at all temperatures; Nor can we assume that necessary and routine maintenance of the cabling connections has been performed in a series/parallel battery set for mobile or Marine application. Given these variables, we must always design a suitably ventilated system in the event of induced gassing. For this reason it is strictly forbidden to use any battery technology in a sealed box or un-ventilated room. Ventilation to outside air- whether active (forced air) or passive (air slots or limber holes)- is compulsory.

ANY rechargeable battery can and will produce gas.
Ventilate to outside air!

In the situation from the original poster however it looks to me like an actual battery expectation is that it was the battery its self (gasses inside the battery) that exploded in the first instance, rather than the gasses outside the battery.

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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 07:24

Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 07:24

You are a doomsdayer mate.
AGM batteries are the safest of all types to use in confined spaces.

Battery Tutorial


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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 08:27

Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 08:27
I am not a doom sayer, I am a realist.

AGM and other Valve Regulated Lead Acid batteries are much safer than screw top, wet, lead acid, batteries, but people are very commonly over stating their safety and pushing their luck.

AGM is no safer or immune to releasing gasses than any other sealed lead acid battery.

IF as you say AGM was intended for use in confined places and enclosed containers the manufacturers would say so explicity...and they do not.

Lifeline batteries, a US manufacturer of AGM says.

"Never install batteries in an airtight or sealed enclosure and make sure installation is adequately ventilated."

Optima batteries says

Never recharge batteries in an unventilated, enclosed space.

Deka another US manufacturer of both AGM and GELL batteries says in its FAQ section.

Can VLRA batteries be installed in sealed battery boxes?

"NO! Never install any type of battery in a completely sealed container. Although most of the normal gasses ( oxygen and Hydrogen) produced in a VLRA battery will be recombined as described above, and not escape, Oxygen and hydrogen will escape from the battery in an overcharge condition (as is typical of anytype battery).
For safety sake, these potentially explosive gasses must be allowed to vent to the aptmosphere and must never be trapped in a sealed battery box or tightly enclosed space!"

The above issues aside
Remember that a battery is a plastic box filled with toxic metals, acid and explosive gasses...AND like all products they have a limited life and fail in a number of different ways.

Think on this when you decide where and how you house your batteries.

I personally have seen the results and cleaned up the mess when sealed batteries fail.

Alwasy install your batteries in place and in a way that acid leakage or corrosive fumes will not cause significant dammage AND where they are well ventilated.

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Follow Up By: landseka - Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 10:52

Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 10:52
Don't sweat it Bantam, remember, "you cannot help those who will not be helped".

I feel sorry for his family.

Cheers Neil
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 17:54

Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 17:54
The problem is that people who do not know better believe this stuff.

And there are plenty of people who should know better who are installing AGM batteries in pleces where they should not.

Like under beds and in sealed boots in caravans and in pasenger compartments in vehicles.

There is even a manufacture that sells a power pack that contains AGM batteries inside a IP rated sealed box.

I shake my head in disbelief.

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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 19:29

Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 19:29
The problem with folk like you guys as that you are theorists.
You preach the theory of unsafe installations but have no basis of practical facts.

Thousands of us camping folk have auxiliary batteries installed in our vehicles in different locations. The battery boxes are not sealed so in the minutest chance that something drastic happens to the internals of the battery and causes hydrogen gas to escape the confines of the sealed battery, that gas would still vent to the atmosphere as the battery box lids are not of a sealed nature.

Many camper trailer and caravan manufacturers have AGM batteries installed inside the sides or floor areas. Perhaps we should sue them for in your eyes, "unsafe practices".

The fact is that AGM batteries are intrinsically safe to use in these situations.

How many reports of battery explosions in campers, caravans and vehicles can you identify?

As with all things, commonsense and sound practical knowledge can be applied to ensure any installation is as safe as possible and thousands of us apply that knowledge, or rely on licensed installers and manufacturers to ensure safe and practical operation. No individual, or government agency has seen the need to prosecute them for unsafe practice.

You guys can think what you like and choose whatever alternative solution you decide, but don't preach that this practice is dangerous and unsafe unless you have practical facts to support your theories.

Oh, and my family have the utmost confidence in my ability to steer them through this "dangerous world" we live in, thank you very much.

Reply with more drivel if you choose, I'm not biting any more.


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Follow Up By: Geoff in SA - Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 08:14

Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 08:14

lots of heads in the sand
lots of thought provoking comments
My batteries have been installed under a seat in the van next to the gas hot water heater by the manufacturer??
Food for thought................

I am now wondering?????????


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Follow Up By: Flighty ( WA ) - Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 09:14

Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 09:14
Great call Bill.
All points raised bang on the mark thank-you.
I seem to remember a long time ago batteries being mounted under seats of vehicles, with some vehicles having a fuel tank under the driver seat.
Quality of batteries has been improved greatly since then.

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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 10:20

Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 10:20
Firstly, I am not just a theorist, I am a qualified technician that has been working with batteries in some sort for all my working life.

I have been working with sealed batteries sincle when GELL tecnology was new and the term AGM was not yet in general use.
We used to call them "starved electrolite batteries".

I have seen first hand the failures and damage that occurs when people take sealed battery technology at face value and fail to read all the documentation and cautions.

The vast majority of the population would not have seen a catastrohic failures in a normal wett cell screw top batteries, that does not mean they do not happen.

Sealed batteries are far safer, so even less people will have seen failures in these batteries, but let me assure you they do occur.

As far as the manufaturers installing sealed batteries in unsuitable places, many of the same companies are installing gas bottles in in sealed compartments and other unsuitable places.

BTW there is no licencing system or any meaningfull regulation at all regarding DC battery installations in caravans or motor vehicles.
Likewise there is no regulatory body that, sets standards, inspects or prosecutes bad work practices in this area.

Most trailers (including caravans) are manufacturerd by relativly small companies and many of the design decisions are made by people with little or no electrical knoweledge or background.

While we are on the matter of common sence......commonsence dictates that we should be following the clear and easily understood advice of battery manufacturers.

"Never install batteries in an airtight or sealed enclosure and make sure installation is adequately ventilated."

That sounds pretty clear and easily understood and sensible.

As for vehicles with batteries under the seat......yes ther are many, landrovers, mitsubishi vans and others....for the most part those batteries are accessed via the pasenger compartment, but the battery is actually mounted in open air under the floor.

Yes in the past, many cars has petrol tanks either mounted in the pasenger compartment or seperated only by the rear wont find this in any recent vehicles.......

How many battery explosions in caravans....there where graffic pictures posted in this very forum not long ago of a caravan that that the whole front blown out.

We live in time where "good time engineering" is popular, by that I mean designs where things are all fine and beaut if something does not fail or continues to work to expectation.

Sorry I come from a time and from a background where safety and minimal damage was expected in cases of failure.

Yeh the AGM battery will remain sealed, if it remans in good repair, the voltage continues to be properly regulated and the temperature remains with in the design limits.

Not long ago one of the AGM brands was having a problem with corrosion of the positive battery post, in the long term this resulted in failure, but in the short tem the battery was no longer sealed.

Regulators in car alternators often fail and overcharge the battery, a common cause of battery failure and something auto electricians check for when replacing batteries......under overcharge situations all sealed batteries will vent explosive gasses and often acid mist.......IF YOU RE LUCKY....if the battery is old or has be subject to sustained heat, the seals stick and fail to open.
Result, the battery blosw up like a balloon intill the seams split.
This I have seen several times.....I have an example on my dead battery pile at the moment.

The normal service temperature of many AGM batteries is below that experienced as the daily maximum air temperature in some places we wishs to go to.
Under normal charging many sealed batteries will vent explosive gasses and possibly acid mist under these circumstances.

So often we are hearing of "freak accidents"......I have yet to hear of one that was not entirely to be expected and was a result of some sort of follishness.

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Follow Up By: Optima Bill - Thursday, Aug 02, 2012 at 00:41

Thursday, Aug 02, 2012 at 00:41
I have to jump in on this one and at least tell you Optima Batteries point of view. NEVER, EVER put any brand, type etc battery in any enclosed or interior area without being sure it is vented TO THE EXTERIOR.
While AGM batteries are sealed and you can mount an Optima Battery on it's side, all batteries are designed and will vent if overcharged, period. This will produce deadly and explosive gases that could
cause injury or death. We make several batteries that are ventable or you can buy a ventable battery box if our ventable batteries are not suited for your application. Any installation that doesn't follow these simple rules is just unacceptable and you are putting your family at risk by doing so. Your charging system may never overcharge and you may never have a problem, but that one time ther is an issue just isn't worth the risk.
I hope this helps,
Bill Howell
eCare Manager, OPTIMA Batteries, Inc.
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Follow Up By: Big Woody - Thursday, Aug 02, 2012 at 05:51

Thursday, Aug 02, 2012 at 05:51
Perhaps this thread is what you are looking for Sandman - Explosion in Caravan
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 11:17

Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 11:17
Yep that is the recent exploding caravan thread.

As for Bills comments.......The lead acid wound electrode technology used by optima and others is possibly one of the most robust when operated other than upright.

In addition to that, optima have their own patented venting system and a few other tricks up their sleve, which make their batteries more viable to operate and in particular charge other than upright.

the wound electrolite batteries like the optima would be one of the few batteries I would entertain installing other than upright in a vehicle trailer or boat.

It is always far far better to design the installation of batteries so they can be fitted upright...even the optima will withstand shock and vibration better installed upright.

AND batteries especially those with lesser levels of electrolite controll and lesser venting systems, that do not seperate gass and liquid as well as some...... are far less inclined to vent corrosive liquid when installed upright.


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Reply By: firm351 - Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 16:56

Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 at 16:56

Engine in the 4th photo is a Deutz BF6M1013EC 7litre installed in a power station.

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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 09:23

Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 09:23
Thanks Paul,

Had a couple of Deutz 912's driving 15 kva alternators about 20 years ago. Simple and reliable, and good for almost 40K hours before a rebuild. Then bought a 4 cyl Deutz, OHC, oil/air cooling but had numerous dramas with it, and glad to see it go to a "good home"

Later years ended up with Hino/Stamford units, 40 & 55 kva. Pretty good, with no oil leaks, unlike those old aircooled engines.


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Reply By: Geoff in SA - Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 08:19

Friday, Jul 20, 2012 at 08:19
I see there is a member on here called Kor Lighting and he is a seller of batteries
Maybe he could make an unbiased comment

maybe the forum people could point this thread his way??
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Reply By: The Bantam - Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 11:42

Friday, Aug 03, 2012 at 11:42
Just to clear up a few things, and for those who are interested.

I describe what I consider is the likely sequence of events in the original post and the pictures included.

we have a gen set with some sort of charging system associated with some large batteries...I assume the batteries are used to crank the gen set.

so the charger malfinctions or is inadequately regulated to start with

the batteries are therefore overcharged over a considerable period, this results in the production of large amounts of hydrogen and oxygen, that are retained in the inadequately vented generator shed.

This also results in loss of electrolite, resulting in the battery drying out and a large portion of the plates being exposed.....this also leaves a large space in the top of the battery where a near ideal mixture of explosive gasses could accumulate.

When the stater solenoid closed the circuit, to start what I assume is a diesel motor...a large current flows in the starting circuit and in the now partly dry battery plates.....probaly resulting in the plated deforming and making contact or decomposed material from the plates offering a short circuit...thus producing a spark or many...

result the gasses in the upper part of the battery explode, resulting in the rupture of the cases and the ignition of the gasses accumulated in the shed.

The give away that the explosion started within the batteries is that the tops are blown off and outward.

Lessons to be learned.
1. always allow lots of ventilation....remember the fart test.

2. screw top batteries need to be regularly topped up, even under normal charging they will suffer electrolite loss.
The above may have occured at normal charging voltages if the batteries where permanently on charge and not topped up for a long time.

3. check charging voltages.

4. Treat batteries with the utmost rerspect, the bigger thay are the more respect.

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