How can a battery's state of charge be accurately measured?
The state of charge of a lead acid battery is most accurately determined by measuring the specific gravity of the electrolyte. This is done with a hydrometer. Battery voltage also indicates the level of charge when measured in an open circuit condition. This should be done with a voltmeter. For an accurate voltage reading, the battery should also be allowed to rest for a period sufficient to let the voltage stabilize.
When do I need to perform an equalization charge?
Equalizing should be performed when a battery is first purchased (called a freshening charge) and on a regular basis as needed. How often this might occur with your battery will vary depending on your application. You will need to monitor your battery voltage and specific gravity to determine when equalization is needed. For example, it is time to equalize if the measured specific gravity values are below manufacturer's recommended values after charging (recommended value for Trojan deep-cycle batteries is 1.277 +/- .007 at 80o F). Equalizing is also required if the specific gravity value of any individual cell varies 30 points or more. Reduced performance can also be an indicator that equalizing is necessary. Equalization should also be performed when individual battery voltages in a battery pack range greater than 0.15 volts for 6 volt batteries or 0.30 volts for 12 volt batteries.
Does my deep-cycle battery develop a memory?
Lead acid batteries do not develop any type of memory. This means that you do not have to deep discharge or completely discharge a battery before recharging it. For optimum life and performance, we generally recommend a discharge of 20 to 50% of the battery's rated capacity even though the battery is capable of being cycled to 80%.
Do batteries self-discharge when not in use?
All batteries, regardless of their chemistry, self-discharge. The rate of self-discharge depends on the type of battery, the age of the battery, and the storage temperature the batteries are exposed to. As an estimate, Trojan batteries self-discharge approximately 4% per week at 80o F.
What type of charger should I buy?
An automatic charger offers the greatest convenience. Just plug the battery into the charger and the charger does the rest. Manual chargers, although equally effective at charging batteries, require a greater level of attention. Generally speaking, automatic chargers are priced higher than manual chargers.
What size charger should I buy?
A properly sized charger takes into account battery capacity and the time interval between charges. In applications where cycling is infrequent, such as weekend RV users, or infrequent or seasonal trolling motor usage, a charger with an output current rating between 10 and 13% of the battery's rated 20-hour capacity will suffice. In applications where battery recharge must be accomplished within 8 to 10 hours, a three stage, automatic charger, rated at 20% of the battery capacity, may be required.
Example: A good charging rate for a battery with a 20-hr capacity of 225 amp-hr is about 22 to 29 amps. You can of course go slightly higher or lower depending on what is available on the market.