Batteries are like living organisms. They periodically need exercising and maintenance to prevent sulphation from building up on the battery plates. Batteries that sit unused for a long period of time (longer than four weeks) need a maintainer.
Think of ice cubes. The water freezes because it sits dormant. Running water never freezes because the molecules are always in motion.
The same is true for your batteries. Maintaining the battery keeps the molecules in motion. When maintained, sulphation won’t rear its ugly head (just like the ice in a flowing fountain).
Effects of Sulphation
Once the plates become sulphated, the battery sees a reduction of run time or starting capabilities that worsen with time. And, once heavily sulphated, you cannot recover the battery. The battery may take or show a good charge but will not carry a load.
Other problems can occur when trying to charge a sulphated battery. While the charger tries to charge the battery, the battery plates do not accept the charge. The charger stays in constant charge mode and can cook a battery. This can happen more so when there are multiple batteries in the loop. Chargers will only shut off once it sees the battery is fully charged. In other cases the battery is so bad or the voltage is so low the charger cannot read the battery and thus goes straight into its float/trickle mode without doing anything to the battery.
Choosing the Correct Maintainer
The type of battery, either standard starting batteries or deep cycle rechargeable batteries, determines what charger/maintainer to use.
For standard starting batteries any 1 to 3 amp fully automatic unit will work fine. Not designed for deep cycling, standard starting batteries can’t handle multiple discharges. Generally, these batteries are good for 3 to 4 discharges.
Choosing the correct charger/maintainer for deep cycle rechargeable batteries depends on the amp hour or reserve capacity of the battery and whether you want to charge or just maintain the battery. The higher the amp hour of a battery, the higher the charger amps you’ll need to charge the battery. For maintaining only, a lower amp charger will work.
Below is a general size chart for choosing the correct charging amps for many SLA rechargeable batteries:
You can estimate charging times with the following formula: (Battery Capacity) / (Charger amps) = Charging Time
Connecting Your Charger to Your Battery
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