10 Questions to Consider Before Purchasing a 12V Battery Charger

Southlake, TX — NOVEMBER 30, 2015

Safety, "plug and play" functionality and an ability to combine maintenance charging with desulfation to keep battery plates clean and capable of holding a full charge are key elements in selecting a 12V battery charger.

Beyond these three "must have" functions, a consumer should consider basic questions to purchase the best product to fit their needs.

  • What are you using the battery charger for?
  • Where are you going to put the charger?
  • What voltage is the battery being charged?
  • What size charger do you need?
  • What features should you consider?
  • Are you a fleet manager looking to recover underperforming "bad" batteries?
  • Are you managing a stockpile of new replacement batteries and need to keep them "factory fresh"?
  • Are you looking to place cars, boats and various recreational vehicles in winter or long-term storage and need to maintain batteries over a course of months?
  • Are you looking for one battery charger that will evaluate and test all types of 12-volt batteries, including AGM, gel-cell and VRLA?
  • Are you looking for a battery charger system that will maintain and charge as many as 8 batteries automatically in a cycle rotation?

At the end of the day, it comes down to a simple understanding that all batteries, regardless of their chemistry, will self-discharge. The rate of self-discharge for lead acid batteries depends on the storage or operating temperature. At a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit a lead acid battery will self-discharge at a rate of approximately 4% a week. A battery with a 125-amp hour rating would self-discharge at a rate of approximately five amps per week. Keeping this in mind, if a 125 AH battery is stored for four months (16 weeks) winter without being charged, it will lose 80 amps of its 125-amp capacity. It will also suffer from severe sulfation, inhibiting the plates from accepting and distributing a charge.

From the average consumer to vehicle service pros there are a wide variety of battery charging products to choose, however, it is recommended that before purchasing, they would benefit from considering the 10 questions above to select a product or products that would best fit their needs.

Consumers shopping for maintenance battery chargers, for example, should understand the term "pulsing", which may or may not be reflective of the chargers' ability to remove lead sulfate buildup on the battery plates—the #1 reason for battery failure.

A charger may deliver a pulse charge, however, that doesn't mean the pulse is cleaning the battery plates of sulfates and restoring the battery's ability to fully recharge.

Also, consumers should understand that some "smart" chargers not only feature LED's to indicate the battery's state of charge, but also are capable of switching from a bulk charge to a float maintenance charge depending on the battery's state of charge. Plug-and-play smart chargers will not turn on unless connected properly and will not arc.