On Board Battery Chargers

This is an item that I said I'd never buy, so much for that train of thought!  I've have found though, that having 3 batteries on board and having to "hop" around and hook up the charger to each one to charge it, was getting to be a bit of a pain in the sphincter!  On my last boat (Trophy) it had a shore power plug in and it looked after the batteries all on its on, and it only had 2 batteries.  So, I did a little shopping around and checked out some "road tests" on these devices and one thing I did find out about all of them, they ain't cheap when compared to a normal battery charger.  In fact, some of them are 10 times the price of a plain old charger, so that's a bit pricey for sure.  For the normal fishing boat however, you don't have to go to the super pricey one or go cheap on some liquidation brand charger, just go middle of the road, so to speak.

This one on the left was purchased locally for $125.00, the same one out of Cabelas is about a hundred bucks but throw in some shipping and duty (made in China of course) and they won't be far off in price.  What impressed me about this one and I didn't really see it until it was outta the box, was the quality construction of the unit.  Real heavy duty outer casing and the wiring was second to none, with heavy rubber cable guards the entire lengths of the wires.

This model is a 8 amp 2 bank charger, which means it puts out a total of 8 amps but, has the ability to charge two separate batteries at the same time, whether they are deep cycle or just a starting battery.  It also is able to distribute different amounts of power to each battery, so if one of the batteries is almost charged and only needs say 2 amps of power, the remaining 6 amps will go to the other battery if it needs more to charge it up.  You won't find this in your normal one battery charger.  This unit also cycles through different charging states until the battery is fully charged and then stays in a "maintenance" mode to keep a trickle charge to the battery.

Installation is "Greg simple" so anyone can do this one, just be careful when dicking around batteries, there's nothing worse than grounding out a wrench or screwdriver or something and getting blinded by the arch that's created!  That flash actually isn't as bad as when you pull your arm or hand back from the arch and get it snagged on a chunk of metal or screw sticking out, that's what hurts!  The instructions, yes, more instructions, call for putting the unit in a spot that has at least 8"all around the unit, ya, good luck with that!  A more important factor in this is that the area is open or can be opened up to fresh air when charging the batteries. 

The wiring hookup is straight forward, there are two sets of leads for this unit, one went to the deep cycle up front (where the charging unit was installed) and the second went to the starting battery at the stern.  Now, the unit only has 5' cables on it, so I "plumbed" in some 10 gauge wire to run to the battery at the stern.  Something to note here, I looked for a "hot wire" in the fuse box which is located in the helm area.  I did find one but, it was obviously wired through the big motor and regulator because, I could not get a direct voltage reading from that wire. I could get a lead through the cigarette lighter but, I opted for a direct connection.  The instructions don't say anything about the wiring other than not to cut the leads shorter than the factory length simple because they have an inline fuse installed.  In the end, a direct line is better anyways, IMHO, rather than running current through other devices to get back to a battery.  So, all installed and all I have to do now is plug in one plug and my batteries are all looked after.  A topic of debate on batteries is that some say they should always have some sort of charge going through them to prevent sulfates from building up on the plates in the battery.  This may be true, depending on how often you use your boat and how long its running to charge the batteries properly.  I know that in my case the big motor doesn't run that often and although the kicker does put out a trickle charge for the batteries, it is not long enough to ensure a proper "full" charge.  The other thing with this system is that if I'm off on a fishing trip somewhere for a few days, all I have to do is plug in the small genny that I use for the camper and I can now keep the batteries topped up out anywhere!  Ain't "stuff" great!!  After using the charger for the first time I did find that my batteries were charged and stay charged at a higher rate than my plain jane garage charger did, and it too had a deep cycle mode on it!  In fact, after an entire morning of running the deep cycle and using the stuff I usually run on it, the charge on the battery dropped negligibly, obviously due to it being charged properly, finally!  You just gotta love technology these days!