Your Boating Spring Checklist Should Include Deep-Cycle Battery Maintenance

As summer approaches, boats often get a spring cleaning where the vessel gets washed, engines get tuned, and seals get inspected. Most often, the vessel’s batteries were removed for storage, but that doesn’t mean they should simply be plugged back in without checking them as well.

Most boats have two types of batteries on board, one for starting the engine(s) and a deep-cycle marine battery for powering accessories such as troll motors, lights, radio, navigation, etc. All of the vessel’s batteries should have been fully-charged before long-term storage, but deep-cycle batteries use for powering accessories need some additional maintenance to keep them working reliably.

Most boats will have a single 12-volt or a series of six-volt flooded lead-acid (FLA) deep-cycle batteries. These are the most cost-effective type of battery versus an AGM or maintenance free batteries. To get your FLA batteries in shape for summer boating, put on some rubber gloves and protective eyewear and remove the vent caps on the batteries to check the level of the electrolyte. The lead cell plates of the battery should be completely submerged in the electrolyte. If not, add distilled water to the point when the plates are fully submerged, usually, 1/4-inch below the bottom of the fill well in the cell cover. Do not overfill.

Once you are sure the battery cell plates are properly submerged in electrolyte the batteries should go through a full charge cycle. Once completed, check the electrolyte levels again and add distilled water to any of the battery cells that may need it.

Check for corrosion on the battery terminals and wiring. Corrosion can be cleaned by spraying a solution of baking soda and water to neutralize the electrolyte, then using a wire brush with a plastic or wood handle, the terminals and battery connectors can be cleaned. Use a silicone spray to keep the terminals and connectors clean and to prevent additional corrosion from building up.

Once your deep-cycle batteries are clean and fully charged, it’s a good idea to make sure you do not discharge the batteries past 50-percent. This dramatically reduces battery life. Battery manufacturers also recommend giving your deep-cycle batteries an equalization charge. This is an extended, low current charge performed after the normal charge cycle. It helps keep all the cells in balance. Actively used batteries should be equalized once per month and most battery chargers will have this function built into it. If you have an automatically controlled charger that doesn’t have an equalization function, you can unplug it and reconnect it after completing a charge to give an extra equalization charge.

Once you’ve provided the proper maintenance to your deep-cycle marine battery(s), they should give you optimum performance throughout your boating season. Occasionally, check the condition of each battery charge by using a hydrometer to test the cells and determine the state of charge indicated on the hydrometer and the battery manufacturer specifications. Keeping your marine batteries in shape will make them last much longer and allow you to enjoy your time on the water.

Getting The Most Out of U.S. Battery’s Mobile App

U.S. Battery introduced its mobile app earlier this year.  This powerful tool allows users to access exclusive U.S. Battery content from their Apple or Android device. Here are a few ways that the app can be useful to you.

Battery Application Guide

When it comes time to replace one or more of your deep cycle batteries, selecting the right one for your application can be confusing. Battery powered vehicles and equipment often operate under different voltages and run-times, which makes selecting the right deep-cycle battery particularly important.

U.S. Battery Manufacturing created its mobile app to help you make the correct battery selection. The included Battery Application Guide makes it easy to find and select the right battery for a variety of applications including golf carts, floor machines, aerial work platforms, and more. By selecting your machine’s manufacturer and model, you can determine the batteries best suited to ensure your machine’s optimal performance.

Access to Product Spec. Sheets

From the app, you are able to easily access the most up-to-date spec. sheets and product information for all of U.S. Battery’s Flooded Lead Acid and AGM batteries.

 User-Specific Notifications

Learn about new products you might be interested in as soon as they are announced. Users can create a login and get notifications on new products, events, articles, and videos that are customized to their particular interests.

The U.S. Battery app is free and is available for download from iTunes and Google Play.

Simple Solar Power Upgrade For Marine Use

This boat owner and blogger pieced together a simple solar system to efficiently re-charge his deep-cycle batteries

Mark McMaster wanted to add a solar charging system to provide efficient power on his 34-foot, 1983 Tollycraft Series II boat, and reduce the need to run a noisy generator and conserve fuel. “We don’t have an onboard generator, and we hate the noise in quiet anchorages,” says McMaster.

TollyBatteryCompartmentBeing in the Equipment Business, especially related to golf courses and parks, McMaster was familiar with battery powered products and 12-volt deep-cycle batteries. “We supplied these machines with a variety of brands of batteries, but hands down, the best overall performance has been with U.S. Battery Products,” said McMaster.

It didn’t take long for McMaster to install a bank of four US2200 XC2 6-volt deep-cycle batteries in 2013 to his boat. Once he decided to go solar, he added a second set of four batteries and began the conversion. McMaster added four 100-watt flexible panels from Amray Solar and attached them to the bimini for the time being. A Victron MPPT charge controller was also used along with LinkPro battery monitor. The system allows McMaster to monitor the system via the Victron app and with the four solar panels, has so far managed to keep the batteries fully charged.

“The system works great so far, beyond expectations,” says McMaster. “We’ll get a better test of the entire set-up once we head out for a two or three-week trip. My only wish is that I should have taken better care of the batteries when I started. I should have performed an equalization charge on them on a regular basis and not let them get down to the 55-percent discharge range. I might replace them next spring and we’ll definitely use U.S. Battery products.”

You can see the entire solar system upgrade and other upgrades he’s made to his boat, on the Tolly Rodger blog: https://tollyroger.com. More information on U.S. Battery deep-cycle batteries for marine and RV applications can be found on the U.S. Battery Manufacturing website at https://www.usbattery.com.

Wiring system and controller for the battery bank.

Wiring system and the controller for the battery bank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solar panels temporarily attached to bimini.

Solar panels temporarily attached to bimini.

Diagnosing Battery Charger Problems

Undercharging is one of the most common reasons for reduced operating time and overall poor performance of golf cars and other types of electric vehicles that use deep cycle flooded lead-acid batteries. While many golf car operators blame the batteries, the problem can also result from a poorly performing charging system. Keep in mind that battery chargers are subjected to temperature extremes and corrosive environments that can affect their performance over time. So before you replace another set of batteries, try these diagnostic procedures to ensure your charger and charging methods are working properly. 1. Connect the charger and make sure it is on and charging. Test the voltage at the battery pack positive and negative terminals. On-charge voltage will normally continue to increase until the charger terminates the charge automatically. It is important to determine the maximum on-charge voltage and charge current (on the charge meter if available) observed near the end of the charge cycle just before the charge terminates. 2. Once the charger has completed a charge cycle and has automatically turned off, unplug the power to the charger. Wait one to two minutes and reconnect it. The charger should resume charging normally. Note the charge current and the time at the beginning of charge. This is usually described as an ‘equalization charge’ and should continue for at least 30 minutes before checking the charger’s performance. With many chargers, this step can also be performed by unplugging the DC power cord from the charger to the battery pack. If this method is used, confirm that the charger restarts and continues to charge for at least 30 minutes. 3. It’s at this point that you can begin to check the charger’s performance. Check the on-charge voltage at the battery pack’s positive and negative terminals. The voltage will normally continue to increase to the range of 2.50-2.60 volts per cell, until the charge terminates automatically. See Table I to determine the minimum and maximum on-charge voltages for the battery pack based on nominal pack voltage. If the voltage does not increase or initially increases and then decreases, record the following information. a) The maximum and final on-charge voltages. b) Charge current (if available). d) The charging time from the start until it terminates automatically.

 

Graph Battery On Charge Voltage

4. The next step is to check the on-charge voltage of each battery and compare it to Table II to determine the acceptable Charge Voltage Variation for each battery’s nominal voltage. If the voltage varies beyond the values stated in Table II (either variation from pack average or variation from highest to lowest), replace the lowest voltage battery and repeat the diagnostic test. Test the failed battery separately to determine mode of failure.

 

 

Graph Battery On Charge Volt Variation

Armed with this information, you may be able to determine that the charger is not working properly if:

a) Both the on-charge voltage for the battery pack or on-charge voltage for each battery fail to reach the equivalent of 2.5 volts per cell times the number of cells connected in series.

b) The on-charge voltage increases and then decreases (with charger still charging), and if the on-charge voltage of each battery does not vary by more than the values shown in Table II for 6, 8, or 12 volt batteries; either variation from pack average or variation from highest to lowest. c) If the battery pack on-charge voltage reaches the equivalent of 2.60 volts per cell ( the maximum in Table-I), and the charger does not terminate the charge after 1-3 hours. If you found that your charger is not working properly, keep in mind that your batteries may still be good. Flooded lead-acid batteries can be brought back to full capacity with a full charge.

If you decide to purchase a new charger, look for a programmable charger with a selection of multiple charge algorithms. Deep cycle batteries from various battery manufacturers require different charge characteristics to deliver optimum performance and life. Most charger manufacturers provide programmable chargers with selectable charge algorithms designed for each battery manufacturer’s products. Using the battery manufacturer’s recommended charging procedure will optimize battery performance and life of your battery pack.

After you fully charge the batteries with your new charger, you can always take specific gravity readings for each battery with a hydrometer to determine if the battery is at a full state of charge. Several cycles of charging and discharging with the new charger may be required to return the battery pack to peak capacity. For a more detailed version of this charger diagnostic procedure or more information on flooded lead acid batteries or specific gravity readings for batteries, visit www.usbattery.com.

U.S. Battery Products Receive Bold New Labeling That Also Provides Product Information At-A-Glance

U.S. Battery Manufacturing has updated all of its products with bold, new labels that provide information customers need to easily pick the right battery for their application. “Our new battery labels were designed to be larger, bolder, and allow people to easily see the battery’s performance data and the specific applications they are designed for,” says Don Wallace, U.S. Battery CMO/Executive Vice President. “We asked many of our global distributors to provide some input into the label design. So in response, we have included a QR code for quick access to information on our website as well as application icons that are easy to see and recognize when the batteries are displayed on retailer product shelves. These changes will also address the new labeling standards that will be required in 2016.” The switch to the new battery labels will be a rolling change that will begin February 1, 2015. In a short amount of time, all U.S. Battery products will be shipped with the new labels, and will feature all the same internal components that provide the efficient battery design U.S. Battery customers have come to depend on. Manufactured in the U.S.A., U.S. Battery products feature XC2™ Diamond Plate Technology® to provide the highest initial capacity, highest rated capacity, and the ability to reach peak capacity in fewer cycles than any other battery in their class. For more information contact U.S. Battery Manufacturing, 1675 Sampson Ave. Corona, CA 92879. (800) 695-0945. Visit www.usbattery.com.

U.S. Battery Attends The International Work Boat Show & Conference In New Orleans, Louisiana

U.S. Battery is teaming up with one of its dealers, Battery Sales And Service, to display at the 2014 International Work Boat Show & Conference, held in New Orleans, LA December 3rd thru the 5th. The show is host to more than 1,000 marine product and service suppliers who connect with thousands of buyers for fleet and independent vessel owner/operators. “The International Work Boat Show is a great place for us to team up with dealers like Battery Sales And Service, and provide additional information and product support for a variety of companies in the marine industry,” says George Stratis, U.S. Battery Southeastern Regional Sales Manager.

With many marine vessels equipped with electronic appliances, stereo systems, radar, GPS and other accessories, it places a high parasitic load that can quickly cut the service life of an ordinary battery. U.S. Battery’s Marine deep-cycle batteries are designed to withstand discharge cycling, while providing higher initial capacity, performance, and longer service life that can save money and lower annual operational costs. Marine operators and suppliers attending the show, are invited to Booth #3754 to learn more about U.S. Battery marine products.

For more information, contact U.S. Battery Manufacturing, 1675 Sampson Ave. Corona, CA 92879. (800) 695-0945. Visit www.usbattery.com.