Can you imagine being out in the middle of nowhere on your boat and your just drifting along and relaxing and then you decide it is time to head back to shore but you realize that your battery is dead or let’s say you haven’t even left the dock yet but you have your family and friends waiting anxiously for you to start and when you try and your battery is dead. Although one of these scenarios is worse than the other neither one of them is convenient. This is why you should never be without a Marine Battery Charger. With one of these onboard you’re sure to have the security and confidence of not being stranded no matter what your plans may be.
While these types of Chargers are not expensive, and you can buy one just about anywhere, be sure to do your due diligence and shop around. Make sure that it has some of the following characteristics as not all Marine Battery Chargers are alike. The following are some questions you should ask yourself when looking for a charger for your boat
1. Is it interactive – The leading cause of death of a battery is charging the battery excessively and the second is not charging it enough. You need to look for a Marine Battery Charger that will do neither, automatically. You should look for a charger that is 20% of the Ah capacity of the battery you need charging. Ah is the expression in ampere-hours it stands for the capacity available of a cell/battery. This can be confusing and it will take some simple math to figure out what size charger to get. Make sure you know your battery before buying a charger, for example if you had a 200 Ah battery then take 20% of 200, which is 40 then you need to look for a 40 ADC charger.
I don’t know about you but this entire math made my head hurt. To avoid the headache of this and taking a chance that your battery dies an early death I would just try to buy a fully interactive charger that will do this adjusting for you and tell you when your battery is charged. I would look for a charger that has some safety features to protect you, your battery, and the charger itself. Included are built-in protections against reverse polarity, short circuits, open circuits, sparks, overheating, overcurrent, overcharging, and abnormalities. These Marine Battery Chargers offer intelligence to alter the battery-charging process so you don't have to. You just plug in the on-board battery charger and forget about your batteries.
2. Is it waterproof – Now this might seem like a no brainer but you would be surprised how many manufacturers out there that sell a charger that isn’t, so you need to make sure that the housing of the marine battery charger is fully sealed making it waterproof. This type of housing makes it well suited for the harsh environments that can be found on board so you need to make sure that somewhere in the description it says that it is 100% completely sealed.
One other thing to look for in the description is an IP rating that is good for Marine use. Just in case you are unsure what this means, the IP part of a rating is for International Protection or Ingress Protection – this is a rating that consists of the letters followed by two digits or one digit and one letter. The exact code to look for in a Marine Battery Charger is beyond the scope of this article but here is a very short version of what to look for. The first number after the IP code is for protection of the equipment inside the enclosure against harmful ingress of water and for a Marine Battery Charger it should be at least a 5 which is for water test and for a piece of equipment to be rated for this it is tested for a duration of 3 minutes with a water volume of 12.5 liters per minute. To get an even better charger I would look for an IP rating that starts with a 6. This is where the enclosure is tested with powerful water jets for 3 minutes and the water volume of 100 liters per minute. So you can see the higher the first number after the letter P the better.
3. Is it designed to be used with more than 1 battery type – Even though it may be called a marine charger it should be designed to be used with batteries found in boats, golf carts, UTVs, ATVs, tractors or generators. A good charger should be designed to charge and maintain your battery through a multiple step process and can be used for more than one battery type.
A charger should also be small and lightweight but this is almost an industry standard. The ones that I have seen are just over 10 pounds in weight and are roughly 11x7 and just 3 inches wide so they will fit in the smallest areas if you want to keep it on board which I highly recommend you do.
Although I didn’t put this in the top 3 there is something else you need to check – if you are going to keep your charger on board a boat make sure that it doesn’t interfere with an on-board radio. The radio won’t specifically say that it does so you might have to do a little more research or read the reviews and see what others have to say. If you still can’t find the answer then you have two choices. 1) Buy it and hope for the best although most, if not all, companies will back up their Marine Battery Charger with some sort of guarantee and you could always return it. Or 2) you could call the manufacturer of the charger and just ask.