You can have the best battery in the world, but without a good charger to keep it going, you’ll be left with nothing more than a really big paperweight. Countless users accidentally ruin batteries by making simple charging mistakes.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can (or should) run right out and buy the first charger you see and consider yourself home free.
The charger, battery, and the application must all be compatible, and unfortunately, many charger manufacturers don’t consider ease of use. To make sure you don’t fall victim to battery charing mistakes, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about chargers for your battery.
Slow Or Fast?
With chargers, you really only have slow, fast, or super fast to choose from.
Ultimately, the charging speed you need will depend on your battery and your application. If you’re looking for something to keep the battery in your hot rod charged over the winter, then low and slow will work just fine.
If you are looking for a charger to get your boat moving again if your battery dies in the water, well then you’ll definitely want to consider something with a little more juice.
The safest bet is to check out the recommendations from the battery manufacturer. Often times they will have specific guidelines to help you manage to best charging for their battery.
Pro-Tip: The faster you deliver the charge to the battery the warmer the battery will get. This can do a number of things, one of which is increasing the amount of off-gassing, which will require good ventilation to prevent harm.
So Many Options, So Little Time
You’ll run into many different types of battery applications, and lots of chargers on the market – very few are created equal. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
A trickle charger is designed to push a low voltage charge to the battery over a period of time. Many of them have an automated feature, meaning they will turn off once the battery reaches a specified maximum level of charge and then turn back on once the battery drops below a specified minimum level of charge.
These chargers are great for keeping your battery charged while in storage.
A smart charger monitors the voltage level in the battery, and stops charging once it’s full. Many batteries have seen an early demise due to overcharging. Smart chargers prevent this and in turn help increase the lifespan of the battery.
Unless the charger is specifically labeled otherwise, it’s a safe bet that it’s a standard, regular old charger. This just means that it will push an electrical current to the battery until you unplug it.
Regardless if the battery is fully charged or not. The risk of overcharging is high and you’ll need to keep a close eye it. You’ll also want to test the voltage in the battery often to make sure that you don’t under or overcharge it.
Pro-tip: Before you run out and buy a charger, make sure you know your battery. The size, or amp-hours your battery stores, will help you figure out how long a specific charger will take to charge your battery.
Take the total amp hour rating for your battery and divide it by the amp rating on the charger.
Then, add 10% to figure in totally top off time. So for instance, a battery with 50 amp hours will take 6 hours to fully charge with a 10 amp charger.