The charging system on Beach House is coming along and is a major improvement from what we started with. It is also a bit unconventional for a boat charging system. After many years of installing these systems on my own and other boats I am always looking for a better and simpler way. The trend on boats today is to move away from simple into the complex as manufacturers try to integrate more systems and get single pieces of equipment to do more. The results have been more breakdowns and fewer repairs that can be done by owners. More capabilities and information are at your fingertips, but at a cost. In the last year, I have heard more and more reports about the Iota battery chargers and their use on boats. These units are not just chargers but converters as well. This means that the 12 volt system on the boat can be run off these units even if a battery were not connected. Not all marine battery chargers can do this and some can be damaged trying. The units convert the 120 volt AC to 13.6 volts nominal DC. The units are called "smart chargers" because they will deliver maximum current for whatever period of time needed to replace the charge but not stress the batteries. It will cut back to virtually milliamps once full charging has been achieved while still maintaining the proper voltage and will maintain that voltage under whatever demands are placed on it. The units are completely silent and do not run hot like many other chargers. They also use what Iota calls Tight Line Regulation which insures that the output voltage stays steady from no load to full load. This will keeps onboard pumps, lights, and motors operating at the correct voltage and thereby increasing their life. An equalization charge on the batteries on a regular basis goes a long way to prolonging the batteries life. The Iota will sense if an equalization charge has not been done for a week and will equalize without overcharging and gassing the water out of the batteries.
There is one drawback to these units. They are not designed for multiple banks of batteries. For that reason I had put off installing one until I did a bit more research and determine how others have overcome this shortfall. In discussion with other boat owners and the helpful folks at Iota the answer for us was simple. The chargers range from 15 amp up to 90 amp. The solution to our dilemma turned out to be as simple as installing a charger for each battery bank. By installing two chargers, which can be done in series or parallel , you have doubled what a single charger will do. By installing a single 45 amp charger on each bank we can charge them most efficiently and will have a back up in the event one would fail. A bonus is that even with two chargers they are less expensive than most of the "marine" chargers on the market. But we still had one more problem to overcome. With the starting battery we actually have three banks to charge.
This set up may not work for every situation but we have found it perfect for our current charging needs. The house bank consists of two sets of two 6 volt deep cycles at 220 amp hours each for a total of 440 amp hours. These are equivalent to two 8D's which would cost four times as much and weigh four times as much. In the past we have averaged about 6 to 7 years for each pair with this set up and 8D's over the years have not given us better service. The start battery is a single heavy duty truck battery for cranking. When we are cruising our power demands are rather high so an efficient and simple charging system is important to us.