Choose your Portable/Maintenance Chargers Carefully!!
If you’ve read my articles for any period of time you probably realize that there are a few things that I can’t stand;
#1 well marketed products that actually suck in reality.
#2 Pop-up brands ( pop-up brands =companies that never existed before Amazon) that slap their sticker on the cheapest Chinese products they can find and then market them as a reputable brand.
Things I Like;
#1-manufacturers who aren’t afraid to step out on a limb and go so far above and beyond what the rest of the industry is doing that it makes the competition look like they’re stuck in the 1940s. Victron does that with these chargers.
Sadly, the portable or maintenance/”trickle” charger market is flooded with products that are stuck in the 1940’s. Most of them I wouldn’t charge a $25.00 U1 garden tractor battery with.
My dad’s whole adult life was spent as an antique car collector. Most of these cars sat for months and months and months without any use. So, over the years my dad collected a massive pile of trickle chargers or maintenance chargers as some of these companies like to call them . Every single one of them, that we recovered from his barn after he passed away, is the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever seen. I now understand why my dad replaced batteries so often. The chargers he was buying were pure junk.. His collection included brands such as the well-known “Battery tender”, Schumacher, Duracell, NOCO, Diehard, Harbor freight, Guest, Century, and even one that was stickered by John Deere.
A number of years ago one of our wholesalers took on the NOCO line. It was marketed as the second coming of Jesus. I bought a bunch of them to maintain customers batteries over the winter only to find out they do no such thing. They turned off after the battery has been charged and then they go to sleep/turn off. They do not do a float stage. When the charger turns off the battery then self discharges and can start to sulfate.
All in all I bought three or four of these NOCO “chargers”. I know, I know, I failed to do enough research before pulling the trigger! I just bought them based on the introductory price and you guessed it the glossy marketing. Stupid me!! After realizing how bad these chargers were I, took about three or four of them up to our camp where they wound up charging the Kubota tractor the plow truck, a couple of old vehicles we have up there, ATV’s, snowmobile’s etc. Over the winter we threw one of the NOCO’s, a G3500 on the plow truck. It’s a Ford F550 diesel. When it finally snowed and we went out to start the truck all it did was make a “click, click” …The battery charger was still on and the light was solid green indicating it was ready to go and the battery state was at 100% No such thing, the batteries were at 11.6 V before we even tried to start it. The charger was still saying they were perfect and sitting at 100% SoC. Click click click….. We wound up having to replace the batteries on the plow truck thanks to that well marketed NOCO charger. Since our debacle with the NOCO chargers, Victron launched its new series of IP 65 and IP 67 chargers. The NOCO’s up at camp, and here in my shop, have all been replaced by Victron chargers.
Let me sum this article up in one line for you:
There is no need to invest in any maintenance or portable charger other than the VICTRON Blue Smart IP 65 OR IP 67’s!
The entire point of this article is to get you to stop buying crappy chargers, as I did, that are marketed as the second coming of Jesus when they are far from it. For this article I spent hundreds of hours testing the 5 gal bucket full of portable charges my dad had, including the NOCO chargers that we had. None of these chargers were worth the cost of the orange 5 gallon Home Depot bucket I had them in, yet some of these chargers cost as much as $150 or more. Some of these chargers were so bad they only charged the battery to 13 V and then stopped at that point. You cannot charge a battery without hitting an absorption voltage and do so in a healthy manner. Some of the chargers, such as the NOCO would charge to an absorption voltage then shut off completely with no float whatsoever. One of the NOCO’s would not turn back on until the battery bank got down to about 12.52 V. The other one I had allowed the battery bank to fall all the way to 11.6 V and it never turned back on. This is the charger that killed the batteries on the F550.. NOCO swears this cannot happen yet it did and my Fluke meters are NIST calibrated..
The key to understanding some of these “well marketed” chargers is this:
As can be seen below, from a support chat with NOCO, their chargers do not float charge the batteries. This one charges to 14.5V then turns off and waits for the battery voltage to drop to 12.7V. It then repeats the 14.5V>drop to 12.7V repeat>repeat.. Apparently, I got two defective chargers that need to be sent back? What are the odds of that?
Trickle Charger – a trickle charger is a charger that puts out a constant-current and has no voltage regulation. A true trickle-charger should never be used on lead acid batteries and be left unattended. Lifeline battery goes so far as to prohibit the use of trickle chargers.
Maintenance Charger-a charger that is supposed to bring the batteries to an absorption voltage and then drop to a float voltage. Throughout this testing we discovered that this definition is not adhered to by most of the manufacturers marketing and selling “maintenance chargers”.
Smart Charger- a charger that does multiple stages of charging; Bulk, absorption and ends with a float voltage.
The Victron Blue Smart IP65 & IP67 Chargers
The Victron Blue Smart and IP 65 and IP 67 chargers are by far the best small amperage chargers you will find at any price, yet they are very reasonably priced. These chargers cost less than some of the other so-called “maintenance” chargers out there, yet they do far more and feature full custom programmability.. They’re also covered by a five year warranty!
The BlueSmart IP65 chargers (water resistant) are available in 12V- 5A, 7A, 10A & 15A + 24V 5A & 8A.They are available in both 120V (North America) and 230V models.
The Blue Smart IP67 chargers are water resistant. Available models include: 12V 7A, 13A, 17A, 25A, and 24V 5A, 8A, and 12A
One of our IP65 12V 5Achargers set up to maintain a Firefly Carbon Foam Battery.
like many Victron products the IP 65 and IP 67 chargers are Bluetooth compatible. These chargers can be custom programmed to charge any type of battery you wish to charge including LiFePO4. All you need to do is download the Victron connect app.
When you open the app your charger should show up in the device list. If you have multiple chargers, as we do, you can name each charger. As can be seen from this list my phone is seeing three of our Victron IP65 chargers. One of the chargers is set up to charge firefly batteries. One of the chargers is set up to charge Lithionics and one of them is just named charger #2
Another cool feature of the IP 65 and IP67 chargers is that you can run them in power supply mode or in battery charger mode. It can run as either a multistage battery charger, or a power supply, it’s your choice.
This is the main page of the app. To change anything you simply click the gear icon as pointed to by the green arrow.
Once you click the gear icon you will land here. In the section with the red box you can choose any one of Victron’s pre-defined programs or a custom saved program of your choosing. You can also select full amperage , in this case 5A, or a slow 2A charge for smaller batteries.
For Custom Programming you toggle at the green arrow;
Once you click “Advanced Settings” You will get a Lawyer warning;
On the next page you select “User Defined” then click on “Expert Mode”.
Next we’ll set the absorption voltage by clicking on the absorption voltage line;
Next you set your absorption voltage by using the + & – arrows and selecting OK. Yes, you are seeing that correctly. Victron allows you to adjust voltages to the hundredths position! If you want to set it at 14.67V instead of 14.6V, go right ahead. This feature alone is enough to keep all the other chargers back in the 1940s..
Repeat the same steps for setting the float voltage. Please note that Victron actually treats you like an adult and allows you to either enable or disable the entire float stage. Your Choice! For the Firefly AGM I have set float to 13.4V.
These are the other parameters that can be set;
What the Heck is “Storage voltage”?
In one of my articles from 2010 LiFePo4 batteries on Boats, I go into great detail about how LiFePo4 batteries cannot be charged like lead acid batteries. Float charging LiFePo4 batteries is not necessarily good for them. They prefer to be stored long term at about 50% state of charge and not be left on permanent float. I discussed how we we need to have different terms, float voltage and storage voltage. Well, wouldn’t you know Victron is the first to do so & it’s brilliant. Even though this is a Firefly battery, the inventor of these batteries Kurtis (a Fellow Mainer) preferred to see them at 13.2 V maximum for float voltage. So, I was able to set a short float of 13.4V which is what the North American importer says is okay. Then after 13.4V, it drops down to a 13.2V storage voltage. There is no other charger manufacturer that allows you to set a storage voltage!
So, How Does The Custom Programming work?
For this testing I chose to use our fluke to 289 set for voltage data logging. I didn’t realize it at first but it was set to capture once each second. This makes for a huge .CSV file. Nothing Excel couldn’t handle, of course. Note the accuracy of the absorption voltage which had been set to 14.4V!
This is what our custom programming looked like;
As can be seen the Victron BlueSmart IP65 performed exactly as it was programmed. With the new Victron IP 65 and IP 67 chargers there is absolutely no reason on earth to purchase anything else. You get what you paid for…
Victron even offers some cool accessories that are also reasonably priced.
While the ring terminal plug and quick-clips come with each charger they are also available separately.
Q: Can I permanently mount these chargers?
A: Yes, these chargers can be permanently mounted and they have four mounting holes specifically for this purpose. Any permanent mounting must be done to Marine safety standards including a fuse in the battery positively than 7 inches of the battery and all other protocols followed. the IP 65 charger needs to be mounted in a dry area just as you would with any dry mount charger. When permanently mounting these chargers will need to use the ring terminals not the alligator clips.
Q: Do these chargers meet the safety standards?
A: Both theBlueSmart IP65 and the IP67 chargers are UL 1236!
Q: I have a Victron Orion TR Smart and it runs hot How hot do these chargers run?
A: Both the IP 65 the IP 67 are incredibly efficient chargers. To test this out I discharged a 125 amp hour Lithionics LifePo4 battery to 0% SOC and set one of our IP65 chargers to 5A and let it go. After 20+ hours of continuous bulk charging the charger was barely warm to the touch. There are many chargers in this size range would have burned themselves up trying to tackle this.
Victron IP65 & IP 67 Wish List/Shortcomings:
#1: when these chargers are set to run at their full amperage, there is slight voltage drop between the charger and the batteries. They really need to make these chargers compatible with the Smart Battery Sense which would provide battery temperature and battery voltage data over Bluetooth.
#2 There are many lithium iron phosphate batteries out there that require an absorption duration that is shorter than one hour, the current minimum. This is a simple programming change that many of us in the industry have been asking for for Since these charges were launched. I don’t know why Victron has not been able to do this?
#3 No US 120V 6V charger in this line-up.
I should not need to mention this but I will. Always buy your Victron components from a reputable dealer, preferably one who also installs Victron components or who can provide you tech support. Big online monster retailers do not provide any support. You can usually tell the dealer is an upstanding legitimate veteran dealer because they abide by Victron’s MRP. If you find pricing on any of these chargers that is below what you see here ,walk away from the dealer! They are either a gray market dealer or adealer who is not abiding by Victron’s strict policies. If they are willing to circumvent their dealer agreement they’re willing to screw you too.
Blue Smart IP65
Case for IP65 $28.05