In this series, we take a look at what makes a specific product tick. In this case we look at smart chargers. What makes a smart charger smart? How do specific “smart” features work? Why are these features relevant when charging today’s batteries? At Clore Automotive, our primary smart charger offering is our line of PRO-LOGIX battery chargers from SOLAR.
Just What Makes a Charger Smart?
While the term smart charger can mean different things based on the supplier or the market served by a specific product, we would suggest that, at a minimum, a smart charger must incorporate the following four aspects into its operation:
– automatic operation
– microprocessor-controlled charging
– the ability to charge multiple battery types
– transition to an automatic maintenance mode upon
completion of the initial charging process
While there are many automatic chargers in the marketplace that aren’t what we would define as smart chargers, automatic operation is the first requirement of any true smart charger. This is critical for smart operation on several levels, including eliminating the possibility of overcharging a battery and providing a base level of beneficial charging for the batteries serviced.
Microprocessor-controlled charging takes the concept of automatic operation to a higher level and really provides the basis for smart charging. Through the use of a controlling microprocessor, the charger’s hardware can be precisely managed to deliver very specific charging routines and better respond to the specific needs of each battery serviced. This aspect also enables numerous features that make battery charging safer when compared to traditional chargers.
The use of a controlling microprocessor also allows different charging routines to be programmed into the charger, enabling it to properly service multiple battery types. Optimal target voltages, for instance, are different based on the battery types being charged: a flooded cell lead acid battery wants to be charged to a higher voltage than an AGM battery. The ability to dial in the correct charging parameters by selecting a specific battery type is a critical aspect of a smart charger.
Finally, upon completion of the initial automatic charging routine, a smart charger should transition to some type of automatic battery maintenance mode. This keeps the battery ready for service when it is connected to the charger for extended periods. There are almost as many different approaches to maintenance mode operation as there are chargers, but to be considered smart, a charger must have some type of maintenance routine.
What Do “Smart” Features Do? Why Are They Important?
As noted above, at a minimum, a smart charger will keep you from overcharging your battery and enable you to charge a variety of battery types. What does this mean and what are the practical benefits of these smart charging features? The benefits of smart chargers can be broken down into three key categories: beneficial charging, the versatility to charge the batteries of today and tomorrow, and enhanced safety.
When you reach for your battery charger, in a professional shop or in a home garage, what you are trying to do is restore power to a depleted battery. Because a smart charger employs a sophisticated charging routine compared to a traditional charger, it is more likely to be able to restore the battery’s capacity and enhance its capability. Thanks to its controlling microprocessor, a smart charger can also incorporate features such as temperature compensation and other adjustments that improve the effectiveness of each charge performed. This translates into a longer useful life for the batteries charged.
In addition to charging effectiveness, a smart charger provides dramatically more charging versatility than a traditional charger. By having specific settings that allow you to properly charge multiple battery types, a smart charger can be used to charge virtually any vehicle starting battery you encounter. In a shop, this means having the confidence that you can provide a beneficial service to your customer, no matter what battery is installed in their vehicle. In a home garage, this means you can use one charger to charge all of your vehicles, from cars, truck and SUVs to motorcycles, personal watercraft and ATVs. This aspect of smart charger operation has become more important in recent years, as non-traditional starting batteries, such as AGM and Gel Cell batteries, have gained in popularity.
Finally, smart chargers bring significantly enhanced safety to the task of charging batteries when compared to traditional chargers. At a minimum, they incorporate reverse polarity protection and spark-free battery connections. In addition, they can have the ability to detect a shorted cell, sense excessive battery sulfation and adjust to severely discharged batteries. Each of these conditions presents a challenge to effective charging and can cause unsafe charging conditions if not handled properly. A smart charger reduces the risks related to battery charging, making it safer for the operator and the battery/equipment being charged.
New PRO-LOGIX Battery Chargers utilize an advanced multi-phase charging process to deliver an optimal charge to each battery serviced, regardless of battery size or type. No guesswork or mystery… if it is a lead-acid battery installed in a vehicle, it can be charged and charged right with PRO-LOGIX.
PRO-LOGIX Battery Chargers deliver two tools in one. They function as an advanced automatic battery charger to bring depleted batteries to full charge so that they can be put back into service. Plus, they function as an advanced automatic battery maintainer, conditioning and maintaining batteries in long term storage.
The PRO-LOGIX charging process results in improved battery condition and restored reserve capacity. Special SOFT START and RECONDITION routines automatically engage as needed. Whether your battery is new or in need of reconditioning, PRO-LOGIX is the charger for you.