Trickle charger, battery maintainer and battery charger – a lot of jargon

Trickle charger, battery maintainer and battery charger – a lot of jargon

You’ll hear each of these terms bandied around the campfire a lot.  To a certain extent they can be used interchangeably but they serve slightly different purposes, and you need to use the right one to get the right result.

A trickle charger is designed to slowly charge a battery at a very low rate, typically between 1 to 3 amps. It is primarily used to maintain a battery's charge over long periods of inactivity, such as during storage or when you only use the boat or RV in the summer.  They provide a low-level maintenance charge to prevent the battery from self-discharging and sulphating.  Not to be used for rapid charging or deeply discharged batteries.  The name says it all… the charge comes in as a trickle.  They are simple devices with basic charging capabilities, often lacking advanced features like charging algorithms or automatic shut-off.  Hence the price point.

A battery maintainer performs a similar function to a trickle charger but typically includes more advanced features and functionalities. It is designed to keep a battery fully charged and maintained over extended periods without overcharging or damaging the battery.  More sophisticated than a trickle charger, battery maintainers often incorporate smart charging technology, such as microprocessors or charging algorithms; these monitor the battery's condition and adjust the charging voltage and current accordingly.  

A battery charger is used to recharge a battery from a low or discharged state back to full capacity. Unlike trickle chargers and maintainers, battery chargers typically deliver higher charging currents and are capable of charging batteries more rapidly.  There are lots of type of battery chargers, including manual and automatic chargers. Manual chargers require you to start and stop the charging process, while automatic chargers feature built-in safety features and charging algorithms to regulate the charging process automatically.  Battery chargers are suitable for charging deeply discharged batteries, jump-starting vehicles, and providing a quick charge when needed.

Trickle chargers, battery maintainers, and battery chargers are all part of the maintenance tool kit but they each bring they different qualities in their charging rates, functionalities, and applications. Trickle chargers provide a low-level maintenance charge, battery maintainers offer advanced charging and maintenance features, and battery chargers are capable of rapid charging and restoring discharged batteries to full capacity.

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