If you have an electric golf cart, take a few minutes to read this post. One of my neighbors had quite a scare when their electric golf cart gave off a deadly hydrogen and sulfur-dioxide based gas.

Just a few weeks ago, a neighbor posted their story on Nextdoor.com. Their carbon monoxide detector alarm sounded but when firefighters arrived there was no sign of CO gas. Instead the Sarasota County HAZMAT team blamed the family’s golf cart for producing a deadly hydrogen and sulfur-dioxide based gas. Sarasota County Fire Chief Michael Regnier said “We do see this with golf carts where people are charging their golf carts in garages.” Regnier urged owners of older golf carts to be cautious while charging the batteries in an enclosed space. If the battery becomes overcharged, it can give off hydrogen gas. “The charging system that they have is not one that turns off once the battery is charged right away,” stated Chief Regnier.

I must admit I was skeptical when I first read my neighbor’s post on Nextdoor.com. Lead acid batteries used in golf carts do not emit carbon monoxide. After a little research I found an article on Firehouse.com that threw some light on the subject (See below for a link). It turns out that over-charging a golf cart battery may produce hydrogen and sulfur-dioxide gases. CO detectors will react when the hydrogen level is greater than 300 ppm for 30 minutes according to Firehouse.com. The article goes on to explain the dangers of hydrogen gas:

“So what?s the problem other than nuisance alarms? The dangers of hydrogen became readily apparent as the research continued. Those dangers include asphyxiation, fire, and explosion. Three conditions must exist to cause batteries and charging systems to form an explosive situation. First, there must be an accumulation of hydrogen gases. Second, a failure to detect the hydrogen gas must exist. Third, there must be a source of ignition. Hydrogen gas is odorless, and colorless, and its flammable limits are between 4% and 7%. The level of hydrogen which will produce an oxygen deficient environment is well within the flammable limits. This makes the possibility of fire and explosion very real. In addition, the potential of forming and igniting flammable mixtures is higher because the gas easily migrates through small openings, cracks, and crevices. Ignition sources such as electrical sparks, open flames, and static electricity are readily available and are quite common in the residential as well as commercial environment.”

Well, this is news to me! So if you charge your golf cart in your garage, use care. Make sure there is adequate ventilation and if your CO detection alarm sounds, evacuate right away and call 911.

Sarasota family nearly killed by over-charged golf cart

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