On-Board Battery Charger for Boat (The Ultimate Guide)

It helps to have a system with the “smarts” built in if you don’t happen to have a lot of “smarts” when it comes to knowing the chemistry and charging requirements of your boat’s batteries. Fortunately, there are current “smart” charging solutions that make maintaining batteries nearly foolproof. When you want to find the right on-boat battery charger for boat, continue to read this article and we will be sharing the options available out there.

What is an on-boat battery charger for boat?

The battery is to a boat what the fuel tank is to a car: a source of energy required for the machinery to function properly. Of course, after a given amount of usage, the battery’s energy level depletes, and you must recharge it. The battery charger is useful in this situation.

According to the voltage of the batteries, the battery charger’s specific job is to transfer electricity from a source—typically 115V or 220V—to 12, 24 or 48V DC in order to charge the batteries. Large boats often have an independent power source, such as a diesel generator, to which AC equipment, such as the battery charger, may be connected. It’s critical to realize that the battery charger need power to operate; it is not self-sufficient. On smaller boats, you must delay connecting to a 220V outlet until you return to the marina in order to recharge the different batteries on board.

Read: Is Traveling A Hobby? The Ultimate Guide To An Exciting Way Of Life Learn about the Downsides Of Traveling As A Hobby

What are the distinctions between a starting battery, service battery, and emergency battery?

According to the different sorts of uses, there are three primary battery families found aboard boats. They vary technically because they are designed to satisfy various purposes.

  • Starter battery

Similar to a starter battery in an automobile, the starting battery’s function is to start the boat’s engine as its name suggests. The battery’s ability to produce a high peak of power in a short period of time is necessary for this. As soon as the boat begins, the alternator will replenish the starting battery, allowing it to be used again before having to be recharged.

  • Auxiliary battery

lights, a refrigerator, an autopilot All of the onboard direct current equipment is powered by the service battery. It must continue to work over time since it is utilized the whole navigation duration. This technically requires that the battery have a higher rate of charge and discharge than a beginning battery.

  • A backup battery

Boats of a specific size often include backup batteries. It is a backup strategy that will only be used in an emergency (radio, emergency light for example). As a result, the backup batteries must have a lengthy lifespan in order to function as a backup energy reserve when necessary.

It’s good to know that two different batteries are required to start and power the on-board devices if the backup battery is optional. The boater stands the danger of being unable to start if one battery is utilized for both tasks.

For whatever size or type of boat, we offer onboard battery chargers, portable battery chargers, and combo inverter/battery chargers. Check out our West Advisor, Do-it-Yourself: Power Inverter Chargers, for further information. choose a converter, converter/charger, or inverter.

When charged according to the “Ideal Charge Curve,” which is the suggested charging schedule by almost all marine battery manufacturers, marine deep-cycle batteries last the longest and charge the quickest. Keep in mind that there are at least two considerations when proposing certain voltages for batteries in the description that follows: 1) The voltages given are temperature-dependent; 2) Gel batteries charge at different (and lower) voltages than flooded-type and AGM batteries.

As a result, it is difficult to suggest certain charging voltages since they change depending on the battery’s temperature. The parameters utilized in our West Advisors reflect the fact that most of us run our boats best in temperatures between 50°F and 90°F. Lower temperatures call for greater voltages, whereas higher temperatures call for lower voltages. Note: In the next section, we define the battery bank’s capacity (measured in amp-hours) as C.

An illustration of the ideal charge curve

The bulk phase of the “ideal charge curve” The labor-intensive work is done here. Charge the batteries at a rate of up to 20–40% of their amp-hour capacity at a voltage of around 14.6 volts (gel: 14.1 volts). A 200 amp-hour battery, for instance, would be charged at 40 to 80 amperes. Since the battery absorbs more current when it is depleted, this will charge the battery to roughly 75% of its capacity and is effective (replaces more amp-hours per hour of charge time). Unless there is an AGM option, AGMs need slightly different voltages and should be charged using lead-acid settings.

Phase of acceptance: Battery is kept at 14.6 volts (Gel: 14.1 volts) while the amperage is gradually decreased. This will gradually restore the remaining 25% of capacity. If your battery can take current equivalent to 2 percent of C at 14.6 volts, it is completely charged (a 200 amp-hour battery will only accept four amps).

How to Size a House Battery Bank

Float phase: The voltage is decreased to 13.4 volts (Gel: 13.8 volts) when the battery’s acceptance falls below two to four percent of C in order to sustain the battery without leaking electrolyte from the cells. Not a charging phase, but a maintenance phase.

Equalization: This is an optional, commonly skipped procedure that protects flooded lead acid batteries from early aging. The battery is kept charged at four percent of C after the acceptance phase is over until the voltage plateaus, which is typically between 15.5 and 16.2 volts. As a result, the electrolyte is regulated to boil and the lead sulfate crystals that have accumulated on the battery’s plates are dissolved, forcing the battery to its greatest possible level of charge.

This step is completed after each charge cycle in industrial settings where maximal energy storage is crucial. To increase the lifespan and capacity of wet batteries in the maritime environment, it is more likely to be done every 20 to 50 cycles. Batteries made of gel and AGM shouldn’t be equalized. The battery should be unplugged from all loads during equalization since excessive voltage may harm electrical equipment including lightbulbs.

With automotive-style alternator regulators, uncontrolled solar panels, ferroresonant chargers, or taffrail generators, this form of multi-stage battery charging is not viable. We highly recommend using effective charge devices that use contemporary multiple-step regulation for both shorepower charging and alternator control.

What kind of charger do I require?

The size and kind of your batteries, as well as whether your yacht has a constant or sporadic supply of AC power, will decide how large your charger has to be. Smaller chargers are needed for boats that spend the most of their time at a dock permanently connected to shore power. You need enough power to float-charge your batteries in addition to having enough capacity to operate the continuous loads on your battery system, such as DC refrigeration (which is typically the greatest consumer of battery power) and lighting. A decent rule of thumb is to have as much amperage as the total of the DC loads plus 10% of the battery’s amp-hour capacity.

If you’re sailing or moored out and aren’t always plugged in, you should, if at all feasible, have enough capacity to recharge during the time you have available. You need enough juice to replace the electricity used by all of the DC loads listed above in addition to an average charge rate equal to the needed amp hours divided by the available hours. Floating batteries can accept a charge rate of up to 25% of C; gel batteries can accept a charge rate of up to 30%; and AGM batteries can accept the highest charging amps, up to 40% of C. Maximum amperage that batteries can accept during the Bulk Phase of the charging cycle varies depending on battery chemistry.

How long does charging take?

You should be able to restore the 35 percent of battery capacity by running a correctly sized alternator for little over an hour if you operate your home bank between a 50 percent and 85 percent state of charge, as many experts advise, and charge once daily. Smaller alternators or batteries that have been depleted more thoroughly will take longer. Unexpectedly, utilizing a big charger or a big alternator to pour on the current might be ineffective and reduce the life of your batteries. Batteries heat up and emit a lot of gas when there is too much current (when the electrolyte dissociates into hydrogen and oxygen). Rapidly approaching voltage limit results in downshift from bulk to acceptance phase. A better approach is to increase battery capacity, which may even shorten the time required for recharging. Larger battery banks can accommodate more charging amps, which allows for quicker recharge and reduced engine runtime.

While in Motion, Multi-stage Smart Charging

A multi-stage smart shore power charger is simply one aspect of effective battery charging. To enhance the effectiveness of your charging system, you need both a high-output alternator and a voltage regulator with intelligence. The alternator’s job in automotive applications is to maintain a starting battery’s health while giving power to the electrical and electronic systems required to run the vehicle (for example, headlights, CD player, vanity mirror lights). In this setting, a simple, internally-regulated alternator is often more than enough.

In order to accommodate engine starting and storage battery loads on a boat, the alternator and regulator must handle a significantly higher battery capacity. The regulator and alternator must be able to operate efficiently at lower rpms and endure harsh conditions. In addition, the alternator and regulator could not be used for a while (surprisingly, one of the toughest aspects of alternator life). At the same time, this system has to live up to boaters’ expectations of battery charging with the least amount of engine running.

Modern electronics and inverter technologies need an increased load, which is satisfied by intelligent voltage control. Intelligent regulation adjusts the alternator’s output to the precise specifications of your batteries (such as AGM, gel, Optima, deep-cycle flooded), allowing the charging system to make the best use of the higher voltage that high-output alternators offer while also enabling batteries to charge more quickly. Simply inform Max Charge and ARS-5 regulators what battery type you are using, and the regulator will take care of the rest since they have developed programs for each battery type.

Additionally, a lot of clever voltage regulators can detect changes in the temperature of the battery and alternator and adjust the voltage accordingly to enhance safety and performance. The regulator has the authority to entirely stop charging in the case of a situation that endangers the system or the vessel.

Tips for Increasing Battery Life

  • Battery life is increased by shallow discharges.
  • The maximum safe discharge is 80 percent.
  • Never let batteries sit with a deep discharge for an extended period of time.
  • After each usage, charge the batteries.
  • Don’t combine fresh and old batteries.

How to Quickly Kill a Battery?

When It Is Undercharged Batteries that are often not completely recharged accumulate lead sulfate, which hardens on their plates, causing them to become sulfated and progressively lose their functionality. The battery charger is effectively tricked by increased resistance during charging, which results in falsely higher voltage readings, subsequent undercharging, and a downward cycle. A sulfated battery may only be repaired up to a certain degree before needing to be replaced. Charge your batteries regularly, and in temperate areas (every six to eight weeks) and the tropics (more often), equalize your wet cell batteries.

Overcharging: Consistent overcharging (NOT equalization), which is especially harmful to Gel and AGM batteries, boils the electrolyte out of the cells and may even result in thermal runaway, in which the battery heats up uncontrollably. On his liveaboard Catalina 30, one of our authors suffered thermal runaway brought on by a ferro resonant “dumb” charger, with almost disastrous effects.

Excessive deep discharge: If at all possible, avoid totally draining a deep cycle battery. The battery’s life will be reduced the deeper the drain. If possible, the batteries should be charged and discharged between 50 and 85 percent of their capacity, and if they are flooded batteries, they should be regularly equalized. The battery develops sulfation when it is kept in a totally drained condition, such as during winter storage.

Final words

By following these steps, you can proceed with purchasing the best battery charger for your boat. Make sure that you pick the right product, so that you can continue to use it without any issues at all.

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