Charging Up Batteries, Let's Be Smart About It

Properly charging your batteries is critical to the life and longevity of your battery. You made the investment in a good battery, so now be good to it and charge it properly. If you do, you will get all its worth out of it. Batteries that are not charged and maintained will fail prematurely. So, let's be smart about! Invest in a smart charger! What is a smart charger anyway? These power supply devices are commonly defined as such that have switch mode capability. These chargers are known as high frequency chargers that are able to interpret signals or communicate via microprocessors and can self monitor and control the charging process. Let's dive into the three stages of the smart charging process:
  1. Stage 1 - Bulk Charge. This is the stage where the primary work of charging up a drained battery takes place and at the highest voltage and amp capacity the charger is able to deliver. Charge rates may vary slightly between different brands, however, for 12 volt traditional flooded lead acid batteries the voltage charge rate would be 14.6 to 14.8 or even a bit higher. For AGM 12 volt batteries the charge rates of 14.5 to 14.8 are used and gel batteries would be the lowest at 14.1- 14.4. At this bulk rate charge you are charging the battery to reach full charge.
  2. Stage 2 - Absorption charge. Since a smart charger is able to measure the voltage it knows when it reaches about 70-80% full charge and voltage. At this point the absorption charging stage begins and a lesser steady current is supplied in a gradually diminishing rate until the battery safely reaches full charge and tops off the battery and then the current levels off. This charge stage takes more charge time than the bulk charge stage takes.
  3. Stage 3 - Float Charge. This stage of charging is where your smart charger will charge the remaining portion of your battery, typically the last 15% (chargers will vary) and take the state of charge through to 100% and maintain 100% state of charge. It decreases and then floats or trickles a charge on the battery at that point just to maintain the full state of charge without overcharging your battery. Since the smart charger does not overcharge the battery but merely maintains it, there is no need to shut off the charger. It is safe to be left in the float mode. Some chargers will even shut themselves off at the full state of charge and will turn on as needed.
Batteries that are connected to smart chargers are well maintained batteries and this smart charging process will maximize the life and usefulness of your battery. It means that particular charging manufacturer's marketing department has been working overtime to come up with a way to make you think their technology is more sophisticated than "the other guys'" technology. There are many terms used today to describe one brands technological superiority over another. As a consumer, it's easy to get glamored by advertised battery and charger "technology" but it's really important to remember the rechargeable lead acid battery was invented over 150 years ago, and neither the rechargeable lead-acid battery, nor the chargers have changed a whole lot since then. Charging a battery is a simple matter of manipulating time, voltage, and sometimes current. So, when you see the words "Smart Charger" just know it has automatic shut off and or moves to float mode, but nothing about the unit is actually "analyzing" your battery ... The charger is simply reading the voltage and reacting according to it's design so that you don't have to. Most automatic battery chargers use a basic three stage profile that continues to work very well in optimizing a battery's life, there is simply no need for extreme technology here. Any brand that claims to extend the battery life by leaps and bounds, or fully charge a battery in half the time of a comparably sized charger should be viewed with suspicion. For more help in choosing the charger that's right for your batteries, call your local Powerstride Battery. Or, visit online at:  
Oct 31st 2018 The Battery Genius

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