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Banks bank on Lithium batteries for security

Load shedding has had a massive impact on banking intruder detection systems.

Banks have been challenged by load shedding to keep security systems operational – specifically intruder detection systems.

As the level of load shedding has intensified, lead acid batteries, which were being used by most banks to run intruder detection systems, have been showing a significant reduction in life expectancy and a high level of unreliability.

“Another factor was the battery’s operational time,” says Francois Smuts, key accounts support manager of the Elvey Group. “With daily load shedding sometimes exceeding six hours, the older battery technology was not coping, unable to recharge properly between these long bouts of load shedding.

“The challenge was to select the most reliable battery technology to meet the specific needs of extended load shedding. The products being used were based predominantly on lead technology, and to a lesser extent gel.”

“But these technologies were failing to keep intruder systems running during excessive load shedding periods, causing a spike in battery failures.”

Replacing failed batteries in the field increase labour and traveling costs.  With outlying branches, this could equate to a full day’s labour and over a thousand kilometres travelled in some cases.

 Uniross Batteries MD Michael Rogers says: “Banks needed to review the available options. Years ago, before lithium technology became available, evaluations and tests were conducted, and at the time, lead was determined to be the most economical choice.

“Around 18 months ago, one of the Big 5 banks requested Elvey to evaluate the possibility of replacing lead batteries with lithium equivalents for use in their intruder systems from a feasibility and safety point of view.

Michael Rogers, MD of Uniross Batteries

“Initially, the intruder system manufacturers strongly advised against this based on safety issues.  This was because, in general, the battery monitoring and charging circuitry of intruder systems are designed for safe use using lead batteries. At that stage, lithium batteries were more prone to an explosion than lead acid.

 “But with advancements in battery technology, lithium batteries now include a built-in Battery Management System (BMS). This monitors the lithium battery and will shut it down should there be a risk of a failure or overheating. As a result, the lead batteries were replaced with lithium.”

Says Smuts: “In the evaluation, extensive tests were conducted using DSC and Texecom Intruder systems, simulating a typical bank environment. It was found that lead batteries in intruder system could be replaced by lithium batteries with no safety or performance issues while providing all the benefits of lithium.

“We chose the Uniross 7AH and 20AH lithium batteries to replace the current lead batteries. Our tests revealed that the BMS used by Uniross in their lithium series batteries are more in-line with the typical intruder system’s battery charging circuitry, taking frequent load shedding in consideration.”  

 Smuts says the lithium solution is performing according to expectations but will need some time for the banks to have accurate figures relating to the benefits. 

“But already the uptime is significantly higher as well as performance and reliability. From a cost saving point of view, relating to historical battery replacements, cost savings are expected to exceed 60% over the next two to three years.

“In terms of productivity benefits from a load sheading point of view, because lithium batteries maintain their voltage, virtually throughout a discharging period, an intruder system’s battery operational time is extended by at least 15%.  In some cases, this equates to hours.

“With service providers spending less time replacing and fault-finding battery related issues, their average callout turnaround time for other intruder system related issues is dramatically reduced.”

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