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Old 27-04-2011, 12:44   #1
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Charger Only Recommendations

Hey all, our inverter/charger crapped out yesterday. I'm rethinking whether I want to spend $2K for an inverter/charger when we hardly ever use AC at anchor. We may just use a small pure-sine plugin inverter to charge electronics and call it good.

What I'm looking for now is a high-quality 12v battery charger with an equalize mode. I looked at Victron Centaur chargers but reading through the manual, I didn't find anything about equalizing. Can that be right? We have a 675AH house bank but I don't think I really need that big of a charger - maybe 40A. How fast do I really need to charge my batteries when I'm sitting at a dock?

Anybody have a good brand recommendation, or inversely, a brand to stay away from? i.e. I hear a lot of negative chatter about Xantrex.

Cheers!

Jason
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Old 27-04-2011, 12:48   #2
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Re: Charger only recommendations

xantrex was good up until china made em using the 2 yr olds to put them together. i have a great one in my ericson. my formosa used to have a rebuildable transformer.chager, but i was talked out of it by a racwer waNTING TO LIGHTEN MY BRICK-- I SHoULD HAVE KEPT IT AS REBUILDING IT COSTS ONLY 50 DOLLARS.
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Old 27-04-2011, 12:52   #3
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Re: Charger only recommendations

Iota with the IQ4 option. Various sizes up to 90 amp. Love mine.
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Old 27-04-2011, 12:55   #4
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Re: Charger only recommendations

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Victron Centaur chargers but reading through the manual, I didn't find anything about equalizing
I would argue that a good 3 stage chargers doesnt need equalisation.

Dave
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Old 27-04-2011, 13:02   #5
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Re: Charger only recommendations

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I would argue that a good 3 stage chargers doesnt need equalisation.

Dave
Before this thread heads off into the weeds discussing whether equalization is required with a good 3 stage charger, let's just say the OP (me) requires equalization from a battery charger whether it will do me any good or not.
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Old 27-04-2011, 13:04   #6
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Re: Charger only recommendations

I have had Xantrex (20A) for 15 years... (5 of them)! They are quite vulnerable to surges & lightning strikes. I STILL LIKE THEM! They are VERY smart, & do a 3 stage plus "equalize". My current one is 7 years old, and in the past, I have paid the flat rate fee for a "re-built". I have not heard of problems with new Chinese versions, but not surprised. Hopefully, when the time comes, I can still get an old "re-built"?

For dockside charging... 20A is enough, IMO. Also, I went out of my way to NOT equip with dual purpose devices, like inverter/chargers. Mine are separate! Why be without BOTH because one crapped out?

I applied this logic to other things as well, and except for the "GPS to computer nav", and "ST-50 daisy chain", I avoid interfacing.

M.

Since I have "old tech" TROJAN wet batteries, I equalize, as one should, a few times a year. In print, battery companies avoid the issue, as many people screw up doing this. Over the phone, I was told that IF done carefully, it IS a good idea! (It really stirs up the electrolyte) I did several, then a cycle, back to back, when my batteries were new. This procedure brought the Ah test that I did repeatedly, up to specs. (Be sure to shut off sensitive electronics while you have such high V, and don't over do it. READ UP ON HOW TO DO IT CORRECTLY, OR DON'T DO IT.
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Old 27-04-2011, 13:33   #7
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Re: Charger only recommendations

The Victron Centaur units do not have equalisation facility, The Victron Phoenix range do.

Dave
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Old 27-04-2011, 13:57   #8
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Re: Charger Only Recommendations

On the Iota the IQ4 option adds the equilization.
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Old 27-04-2011, 14:22   #9
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Re: Charger Only Recommendations

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Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
On the Iota the IQ4 option adds the equilization.
Well, not quite!

As most folks on this Board know, I'm a big fan of the Iota chargers with the IQ-4 smart charge option, either internal or external. I have two of them myself, and have recommended and installed numerous units for my customers.

Iota, however, misuses the term "equalization" in their very sparse documentation. The Iota's never reach true equalization voltages, i.e., 15.5V or above. Rather, they vary between a 14.8V bulk charge voltage, a 14.6V absorption voltage, and a 13.6V float voltage. These are just about right for a 3-stage smart charger IMHO.

What the Iota does, it seems, is revisit the 14.8V bulk charge for a time if the charger has noted no activity in a week or so. It NEVER climbs above 15V. Not nearly enough for a true equalization cycle.

Now, as to whether a smart charger needs an equalization cycle or not, I'd say that the answer is YES and NO. The Iota's don't have one -- at least not a true one -- yet they are far and away the most cost-effective chargers out there today. IMHO, they are a very good choice for most boaters with diesel propulsion.

That said, however, periodic (true) equalization of flooded batteries, indeed, is a good idea. I have proven that over several years of controlled battery tests, and in maintaining my own 10 Trojan T-105's on the boat and at home.

I think there's a market for a little portable "equalizer" that can be used once or twice a year, and easily transported from boat-to-boat. Unfortunately, such a device doesn't exist to my knowledge. The West Marine portable red 30A chargers do, indeed, have an equalization capability, but in my experience it, too, is set too low. Sort of a mini-equalization capability!

The "equalizer" of my dreams has just three controls: Max Voltage, Max Amperage, and Max Time. Armed with such a device, the knowledgeable and prudent mariner could take better care of his/her batteries. We all know, of course, that many boat owners are neither knowledgeable nor prudent -- or simply can't be bothered -- and that in their hands such a device could be lethal! Probably why there aren't any on the market.

Bill
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Old 27-04-2011, 14:39   #10
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Re: Charger Only Recommendations

I went cheap and bought a Schumer x75 from Wallyworld. It says it equalizes, but like the Iota, I'm not sure it boosts the charge voltage to 15+ amps to do the job correctly.
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Old 28-04-2011, 08:00   #11
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Re: Charger Only Recommendations

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bought a Schumer x75 from Wallyworld
And you may have brought an electrical problem aboard. Automotive battery chargers do not generally have any electrical isolation between the safety ground (green) wire and the neutral (white) wire, and do not have a case ground and may or may not be self-limiting. Marine battery chargers are all of the above.

As a point of reference, batteries can accept from .15 C (flooded lead acid), to C (thin plate pure lead AGMs). If your batteries are FLA, you can charge them with a 101 amp source that is properly ventilated, temperature regulated (IOTAs aren't).

Charlie

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Old 28-04-2011, 09:41   #12
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Re: Charger Only Recommendations

I was in similar situation. I went with Xantrex TrueCharge2 - 40A. True, first one did not work correctly, but second unit (replaced free) works very well, so far at least (knock, knock, knock). I like that it can take any dirty voltage (90V-265V, 47Hz-63Hz), charges three battery banks, three stages + equilization, supports various battery chemistries, is very small (important for my installation) and weights less than 5 lbs. Also, works up to 65C, good when ventilation is limited. All for less than $270. Then I got Xantrex Prowatt 2000 SW inverter ($320 at defender). Future will tell whether it was smart decision.
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Old 28-04-2011, 10:13   #13
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Re: Charger Only Recommendations

Xantrex seems to have a spotty record now but I have had good use from their XC series. It takes AC voltage from 100V to 260V, 50 Hz or 60 Hz, sine or square wave, and converts it into 12 V DC. This is handy 'cuz I run my electric system off the charger in Mexico, where AC can get up to 140V with spikes on top of that, to make DC which is converted (when needed) back to 120V AC for the few things I have which run on AC. Shore power is plugged directly into the charger - unplug the three prong twist plug which connects the charger to the boat, plug that into shore power.
I like the 50A size so that I can have some hope of recharging the 900AHr batteries from shore power on an over night stay in a marina.
Unused feature (so far) is that it can handle different types of batteries on different banks simultaneously - say flooded wet cells on two banks and AGM on a third...

Michael
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Old 28-04-2011, 11:32   #14
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Re: Charger Only Recommendations

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Originally Posted by CharlieJ View Post
And you may have brought an electrical problem aboard. Automotive battery chargers do not generally have any electrical isolation between the safety ground (green) wire and the neutral (white) wire, and do not have a case ground and may or may not be self-limiting. Marine battery chargers are all of the above.

As a point of reference, batteries can accept from .15 C (flooded lead acid), to C (thin plate pure lead AGMs). If your batteries are FLA, you can charge them with a 101 amp source that is properly ventilated, temperature regulated (IOTAs aren't).

Charlie

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You do bring up a good point I had not thought about Charlie, now it is off to the tech manual and the electrical schematic to see if this hold true. Thanks for the heads up!
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Old 28-04-2011, 12:18   #15
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Re: Charger Only Recommendations

I think that Victron or Mastervolt are by far the best solution for cruisers unless money is really tight. They are very reliable, have the ground all figured out, and are easy to program.

You're right that Victron has a hole in their product line for 12v charger only. The Centaur is a pretty bare bones unit.

I have a Mastervolt Chargemaster that I like a lot. It has an equalize mode but I haven't used it (AGM's). It also looks like a bit of an afterthought. The unit is very easy to program so you could do your own equalize from the front panel by setting a high charge voltage and low amps - but the equalize mode is there if you prefer.

I'd also take another look at invert/chargers from either of these companies. While it's a little more money, you end up with a pretty much "fool proof" (important to me) and easy to install AC system. That's because you run the entire shore power input (after main breakers of course) into the inverter/charger and all branch AC breakers are attached on the other side. The inverter/charger will "pass through" shore power if it's available (while charging too) or switch to inverter if there is no shore power or the shore power has problems (low voltage). It will even handle brief peaks in boat AC demand by stopping charging or even turning on the inverter to avoid popping the shore power breaker. You don't need to change any switches. You can also set alarms and automatic shutdown to make sure the inverter doesn't run down the batteries.

Carl
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