Land chargers, wind generators, solar panels, and petrol fed generators offer means for mobile vehicles to produce power and recharge the battery banks. These mobile power generation methods are often used in RVs, Yachts, big rigs, and other systems where current provided by the alternator alone is insufficient to power the accessories in the vehicle. Let's face it, you can only run so big an alternator.
To ease in the discussion, we will break the two types of systems discussed above into 2 basic types;
Mobile Battery Chargers - solar, wind, and generators
There are 3 methods for connecting DC or AC loads to batteries to charge them, directly, with a controller, and with a dumpload. Each is explained below:
Directly Connecting Power - AKA One Stage Battery Charging
Generally connecting solar panels, a generator, or other charging system directly to your batteries is asking for trouble. The power is not regulated into the battery, and trickles into them at whatever rate it is generated. There is nothing in the system to protect from overcharging, and the battery is the stop gap for any extra production. The unregulated charge on a battery bank does one of 2 things depending on the type of battery you have installed...
With flooded batteries, the excess charge boils the electolyte away, and you must maintain them by adding water.
With AGM batteries you can't add water, so you reduce their lifespan exponentially.
A one stage charger, or direct generator connection that is not monitored is the equivalent of putting a turkey in the oven at 150° for a month. It isn't cooked well, but it is crispy and dry. You have to inject water to even have a chance.
Charge Controllers - AKA Two Stage Regulated Battery Charging
Charge controllers come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, amperages, and applications. The bottom line, they run a charging routine on batteries that are "sensed" to be below 100% charge. If the battery is 100% charged, the charge controller switches the voltage to a harmless level, aka the "FLOAT VOLTAGE", usually 13.1 - 13.5 volts, again depending on the type of battery you have. The charger does not eat the extra voltage, that is for a dumpload. For the turkey reference, the charging routine is the cooking regimen. The charging regimen on the battery makes it "ready" just as cooking a turkey in the oven does. Once cooked though, the turkey should be removed from the oven. The float voltage is the equivolent for the battery of putting the turkey on a warming plate, rather than leaving it in the oven indefinitely.
Dump Loads - AKA Two Stage Regulated Battery Charging Backwards
Some Charge controllers can be configured as dumploads. Dumploads are hooked up to a battery to relieve some charge from the system when at or above XX%. For instance a wind generator can be hooked directly to a battery like we discourage above. When you add a dumpload, it senses the state of charge on the batteries, and makes sure they stay below 100% so the charger can not "COOK" them. The dumpload runs no charging routines and is passive to the charging of the batteries. The dumpload switches on once it "senses" the battery bank nearing 100% charge, turning on something at least the size of the generator to eat up the power. A dumpload assumes someone else is cooking the turkey, and is constantly watching over the cooks shoulder to make sure it doesn't burn the bird. If the cook, "the generator," is ever close to burning the turkey, it jumps in and throws cold water on it......smile, that was funny, you know someone like this.
Dumpload systems work well for wind generators that create a voltage level that is faily regulated, aka has a range of 13.1 - 14.4 volts per 12 volts of battery bank. This is rare for wind generators, and most have a much wider variety of voltages that they pass to they battery bank. Therefore we encourage you to install a charge regulator to regulate that voltage and provide a steady charge to the battery bank. A dumpload is battery insurance, not a battery charger.
Stationary battery chargers are just that, any battery charger that sits somewhere. You probably have one in your garage. If you use your battery more in a day than your alternator can replenish, the battery charger is a simple method to recharge the system. There are a few considerations.
If the system is on - aka there is something using power only use chargers with a 2 stage charging regimen. The load will confuse a three stage charger.
If the system is completely off - aka you installed a battery interrupt switch as discussed below, you can install a 2 or 3 stage charger without hurting the batteries.
To make your system easy to connect and disconnect we suggest you install a pair of Anderson connections on the charger and the vehicle makes the connection easily and painless, you don't even have to lift the hood.
* Remember Safety first, if you are going to add a land charger to your vehicle's battery bank, add a vehicle interrupt switch, properly known as a charger interlock. This switch disables the vehicles electrical system so you don't try to drive off while connected to the charger. To take the mistique away, a charger interlock is any relay installed keeping the vehicle's circuit open while charging. The open circuit renders the starter useless, nobody will inadvertantly drive off with the charge cord plugged in. Avoid the headaches, avoid the hassles, be safe, and just do it right.
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