Written Tutorial | How Do I Pick a Battery Charger?
Let me start with a disclaimer; BatteryStuff.com does not sell inexpensive off the shelf chargers such as the type often found at retail outlets and certain other online stores. We cater specifically to microprocessor controlled chargers, also known as Smart Chargers. All the chargers we stock are reviewed, tested, and selected based on function, reliability and durability. These chargers are designed to charge lead acid and other types of batteries based on computer generated algorithms. Simply put, the charger collects information from the battery and adjusts the charge current and voltage based on this information. This allows the battery to be charged quickly, correctly, and completely when using a smart charger.
All The chargers we sell can remain connected to the battery(s) indefinitely and will not overcharge or damage your battery(s). Here are some simple steps to aide you in selecting the correct charger for your needs.
Step 1 Determine what type of battery or batteries you will be charging. Maintenance Free, Wet Cell (flooded), AGM (absorbed glass mat), Gel Cell or VRLA (valve regulated lead acid). In most cases one charger will work for all types except for Gel Cell. However, some of our Gel Cell chargers will work well with the other battery types.
Step 2 What size is your battery? What we mean is not physical size, but how many Amp hours does your battery store. As an example, a typical full size auto battery is about 50 amp hours, and it would take a 10 amp charger approximately 6 hours to recharge it if the battery were completely dead. Another example, a Marine Deep Cycle Battery may be rated at 100 amp hours, so it would take a 10 amp charger about 11 hours to recharge a dead battery to near 100% full charge, from a completely discharged condition. To calculate your total charge time, a good rule of thumb is to take the amp hour rating of the battery and divide by the charger rating (amps) and then add about 10% for the extra time to totally top off the battery. Some folks need to size the charge for quick recharge, therefore requiring more amps from their charger. Others are not in a hurry and may select a smaller charger. The most important thing here is to make sure you have enough charger power to do the job you require in the time you allocate.
Step 3 Know your desired outcome. Some folks require a charger to keep their motorcycle, classic car, or aircraft battery charged during the off season. In such a case a simple low current charger will work fine. Others require a fast and powerful charger to quickly restore a trolling motor battery or a wheel chair battery set. There are certainly other factors in selecting a battery charger, and it would be difficult to cover them all, but here a few. Input voltage, generally for use foreign countries. Exposure to elements, i.e. would you benefit from a waterproof charger? Perhaps you will need a charger that doubles as a power supply for a RV or some other application. Often people will need to charge multiple batteries simultaneously, so multiple bank chargers may be needed. Following is a list of definitions of different types of batteries and their uses.
Flooded: This is the traditional engine start, tractor and deep cycle style battery. The liquid electrolyte is free to move in the cell compartment. The user has access to the individual cells and can add distilled water as the battery dries out. Popular uses are engine starting and deep cycle designs. Typical absorption voltage range 14.4 to 14.9 volts, typical float voltage range 13.1 to 13.4 volts.
Sealed: This term can refer to a number of different constructions, including only a slight modification to the flooded style. In that case, even though the user does not have access to the cell compartments, the internal structure is still basically the same as a flooded battery. The only difference is that the manufacturer has ensured that a sufficient amount of acid is the battery to sustain the chemical reaction under normal use throughout the battery warranty period. Other types of lead acid batteries are also sealed, as explained below. Very popular uses are engine start and limited starting/deep cycle applications. Typical absorption voltage range 14.2 to 14.7 volts, typical float voltage range 13.1 to 13.4 volts.
VRLA: This stands for Valve Regulated Lead Acid battery. This is also a sealed battery. The valve regulating mechanism allows for a safe escape of hydrogen and oxygen gasses during charging. Typical absorption voltage range 14.2 to 14.5 volts, typical float voltage range 13.2 to 13.5 volts.
GEL: The Gel cell is similar to the AGM style because the electrolyte is suspended, but different because technically the AGM battery is still considered to be a wet cell. The electrolyte in a GEL cell has a silica additive that causes it to set up or stiffen. The recharge voltages on this type of cell are lower than the other styles of lead acid battery. This is probably the most sensitive cell in terms of adverse reactions to over-voltage charging. Gel Batteries are best used in VERY DEEP cycle application and may last a bit longer in hot weather applications. If the incorrect battery charger is used on a Gel Cell battery poor performance and premature failure is certain. Typical absorption voltage range 14.0 to 14.2 volts, typical float voltage range 13.1 to 13.3 volts.
Note about Gel Batteries: It is very common for individuals to use the term GEL Cell when referring to sealed, maintenance free batteries, much like one would use Kleenex when referring to facial tissue or "Xerox machine" when referring to a copy machine. Be very careful when specifying a charger. More often than not, what someone thinks to be a Gel Cell is really a sealed, maintenance free, VRLA or AGM style battery.
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Written Tutorial | How Do I Pick a Battery Charger?