Marine Electronics, September 2021
Portable Battery Chargers
Under normal conditions, we can expect our starter and house battery banks to be topped off regularly by the engine alternator and solar panels, along with perhaps a wind generator and water generator system, depending on our charging array. But when we need to charge a nearly dead battery in short order, it pays to have a portable charger handy to get the boat’s electrical system back in shape as quickly as possible.
If you are looking for a durable, inexpensive charger capable of starting your main engine and charging your cranking battery bank, the Stanley BC15BS is a highly qualified competitor for your search.
As with most chargers in its class, the Stanley 15A charger automatically senses battery charge and selects the correct charge rate to optimize charging time in order to maximize battery life. The unit also offers 40A engine starting capability to get your vessel underway so that your engine alternator, if functioning properly, can take over the job of charging once started.
This Stanley charger also incorporates battery reconditioning technology to help reverse the build-up of sulfates on the battery’s lead plates, thereby improving the battery’s recharging capability and extending its life. At roughly $100, you will be hard pressed to find a better charger in this price range.
West Marine offers its own house brand 15A Automatic Battery Charger, which uses standard three-stage charging from bulk to absorption and float charge. Like other chargers in its class, you can use it for your boat, mobile home, jet ski or lawn tractor, which often sit idle for months without charging.
Two handy features of the West Marine 15A charger are its backlit LCD screen with “Patented Alternator Check,” along with battery voltage test capability, which can aid in diagnosing a battery’s charge capability and overall health.
The West Marine charger also features a patented Engine Start Timer designed to “boost your battery in approximately eight minutes,” definitely a handy feature for getting underway quickly, provided you have an AC voltage source.
The NOCO Pro Series 15A Portable Smart Battery Charger is a rugged, compact, go-anywhere charging device designed to breathe life back into both 12V and 24V lead acid and lithium-ion batteries. NOCO’s charger can handle batteries rated up to 400 amp-hours, which include most of the 8D deep-cycle batteries available on the market.
An integrated JumpCharge feature yields rapid charging of dead batteries in as little as five minutes, an incredible level of performance for such a small, unassuming device. And like many of its competitors, the NOCO Pro offers a built-in battery desulfator to nurse underperforming, sulfated batteries back to life.
At a price of around $180, the NOCO Pro Series charger is not a bargain-basement device. But if we consider the NOCO’s unique features and durability, the extra few bucks spent can mean longer battery life and less headache over the long run.
Having a high-quality emergency charger within our reach at all times gives a lot of breathing room when we most need it. As long you have an AC electrical source, whether from shore or an onboard generator, your choice of battery charger could ultimately determine whether you can crank up the main engine and get underway.
Circumnavigator-author Bill Morris believes the best strategy for succeeding as an offshore voyager is to keep systems simple and, if possible, manual. Key to survival are a windvane self-steering system, a basic array of electronics and an aggressive alternative energy battery charging matrix. Bill is a frequent contributor to Ocean Navigator and the author of The Windvane Self-Steering Handbook (International Marine, 2004) and The Captain’s Guide to Alternative Energy Afloat (Seaworthy Publications, 2019).