[TR] Battery charging

DAVID MASSEY dave1massey at cs.com
Sat Dec 26 07:48:42 MST 2020

 There have been a lot of blanket statements regarding chargers and battery charging.  Unfortunately, life is never as simple as we wish it to be.  And most of that can be attributed to the wide variety of styles of chargers.  One of the things I do in my professional life is evaluate chargers and they do vary widely.  

First off, any reasonably priced charger cannot harm a battery very quickly.  Using a charger intermittently is the best practice.  A lead-acid battery will self-discharge at a rate as high as 10% per month so using a charger for a few hours each month is all that is required to keep up with a dormant battery.  If you want a set-and-forget charging regimen buy a plug-in charger and set it up to run the charger for an hour a day. or 15 minutes.  Or get a timer with week-to-week programming capabilities and set it up to run an hour a week.  Depending on the charger, of course.

The class of so-called trickle chargers vary the most.  Some are intended to keep a charged battery charged.  If you hook these up to a discharged battery they will burn up.  Some will regulate to 14 volts others to 13.5 volts.  Some are designed not to draw any current back out of the battery when AC is not applied, others will drain the battery at a low rate if not plugged in.  These range from cheap to really cheap.
Smart chargers cost more but are worth the price.  Smart chargers will automatically detect when a battery is charged and switch to a "float" mode.  Most have indicators to let you know when this happens.  However, not all smart chargers are the same.  Most can be left connected to the battery full time and will not draw current from the battery when no AC is applied.  Many of these will just start charging when power is switched on so using this type of charger with a timer will be fine.  But there are some that require user set-up each time power is applied.  These will not work with a timer but will be fine if you manually connect and charge your batteries.  I have a couple of these and they require that the user select the battery chemistry each time it is plugged in.  Great charger otherwise.
These chargers are designed to remain connected and powered up indefinitely and I've seen this done many times with no adverse effects.  However, doing so on a battery in a car that is down for the winter is unnecessary and a waste of electricity.  It is better connect it once a month or so and top-up the battery and leave it be.  

And it will give you peace of mind.

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