Saturday 7 August 2010

Boat Battery Maintenance Pt I

A few years ago, on an industrial estate just down the road from me. There was a business that re-conditioned batteries. (I used to park my caravan in their secure yard for a small fee) However, these were not the sort of batteries that you might expect to find on a boat. These were large single cell lead acid batteries which were grouped together when in use. Each cell was about the size of a small suitcase.

The batteries were made in such a way that they could be taken apart. The de-sulphating process was done with a device that looked like a large microwave oven but was in fact an ultrasonic cleaner. The process removed what looked like a thin layer of lime scale and the plates came out looking a uniform dark/dull grey colour. The plates had some sort of nylon spacers in between that would not come out until the plates had been ultrasonically cleaned.

The battery acid was re-used (after filtering) and put back into the battery. The battery was then topped up and then checked out with a hydrometer. The battery was then placed on a large charging bank before being returned.

I don’t know much about the internal construction of modern leisure batteries and whether they would lend themselves to some sort of a re-conditioning process. However, I understand that battery re-conditioning chargers use some sort of pulse charge at a high frequency to loosen the grip of sulphation build up on the lead acid battery plates.

Does it work, I've no idea, but it sounds plausible. I can see some logic in the process, but what happens to the crystallised material that gets displaced? Does it go back into suspension in the liquid or build up on the bottom?

I have a Ring RSC 8 battery charger that also has a six stage recondition and recharge cycle. I use it on motorcycle batteries as some of our bikes stand over the winter unused. It has a selectable charging rate of 2-4-6 or 8 amps. The 2 or 4 amp range is good for not overheating whilst charging small motorcycle batteries. It will re-charge a deeply discharged battery that my other specialist and much more expensive motorcycle charger will not touch.

Most of the above is anecdotal evidence and whilst I have thought about looking round for some of the industrial type batteries for the boat. I have never gone past the musing stage. As for a re-conditioning charger for large leisure batteries - Ring make a 16 amp version (RSC 16) of the same reconditioning charger. If you shop around you can find them for around £50/70 each.

This could be a cheaper alternative to purchasing a new set of leisure batteries or extending the life left in your batteries for your boat.

You can also purchase a Pulser specially constructed just for the re-conditioning part of the charging cycle from Courtiestown. 12V 'High Power' Fully Built  £34.50 + £4.00 P and P.

Further Reading

The leadacidbatterydesulfation BBS

The Homepower PDF

The Comcast Page

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