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Chatham Emergency Services Update

By Carey Ruppert - cruppert@chathames.org
Chief, Skidaway Division

Golf Cart Charging Safety

Golf carts are an integral part of almost every Landings resident’s life. We are lucky enough to live in a community where you can take your golf cart to the grocery store or the drive-through teller at your bank. The downside of electric golf cart ownership are some very real dangers connected to the batteries that run them…specifically, the production of explosive hydrogen gas during the charging process.

The operating manuals for most, if not all, electric golf carts warn of the formation of hydrogen gas during normal charging and state that the charging area needs to be ventilated. Old, as well as overcharged batteries, are susceptible to “off-gassing” or the production of higher levels of hydrogen gas. A hydrogen gas concentration of 4% is explosive and can be ignited by a spark from flames such as pilot lights, or by something as small as static electricity. Turn off the golf cart ignition key before starting the battery charger. Always open a garage door or window while charging your cart, and keep ignition sources such as matches, lighters, and cigarettes away from the charging area. As the charger gets extremely hot during the charging process, keep all combustible material and flammable liquids a safe distance away.

Unplug the charger from the cart and wall after charging is completed. This is probably the most often overlooked step with the greatest potential for disaster. Most golf cart chargers will turn off automatically once the batteries are fully charged, but these systems have been known to fail. Chargers working improperly should be replaced immediately. Never charge a golf cart when you are not home to monitor the charging process.

Have your golf cart batteries regularly maintained by “trained and authorized personnel”. It also is suggested that you check your batteries monthly for signs of corrosion (greenish crusting on the terminals) or loose fittings. If your cart batteries are liquid filled, you should monitor and maintain the water level according to the manufacturer instructions.

Many fire departments nationwide have experienced calls in which a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm was set off by a hydrogen gas buildup caused by an old or overcharged cart battery. The CO detector provided a warning of a life-threatening situation – this time it just wasn’t the one it was referring to its label. Even though hydrogen detectors are available, they will not detect carbon monoxide. For the sake of efficiency, it is possible to buy a combination smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. We also recommend that you have a fire extinguisher mounted in the garage, as well as one inside the house. A good location for an interior fire extinguisher is in the laundry room, especially if it is adjacent to the kitchen.