Everything you Need to Know About Dual Battery Systems
Nowadays, lots of folks go on camping trips with a myriad of gadgets from convenience items like portable fridges to smart phones, laptops, and cameras so they can stay connected. Unless you’re camping in a powered campsite, charging all these electronic devices with your starter battery typically means you won’t be able to kick over your engine to drive home!Of course, you can always install a second battery but without a dual battery system you’ll almost certainly drain both batteries and be stuck in the same position (literally)!
Dual battery systems are designed to isolate the second (auxiliary) battery from your stater battery so your starter battery doesn’t drain completely and leave you stranded in the bush. Dual battery systems have evolved over the years from basic isolators to today’s DC systems and depending on your power consumption, there are numerous products available. To give you a better understanding of the type of dual battery system you might need,today we’ll be exploring dual battery systems in greater detail.
The first dual battery system included a manual switch to isolate your batteries when your vehicle isn’t running. While this setup was simple and effective, it wasn’t the most practical idea because many people simply forgot to isolate their batteries when they switched off their vehicle! As a result, today’s systems are a little more complicated.
- Basic Isolators
Rather than using a manual switch which connects your two batteries, basic isolators are controlled by the ignition and isolate your batteries when the vehicle isn’t running. This allows you to run your auxiliary battery flat, however the problem is when you start your engine and connect your flat auxiliary battery with your starter battery, you may not have enough power to kick over your engine.
- Smart Isolators
Smart isolators are considered the entry level product for dual battery systems which cost a little more than basic isolators. Rather than isolating the batteries with the ignition, smart isolators are designed to cut in and out at certain voltages which allows a flat auxiliary battery to remain disconnected until the starter battery is fully charged.
- DC to DC Chargers
Newer vehicles are being designed with smart alternators which emits just enough power to charge the starter batter and then completely disconnects once it’s fully charged. As traditional isolators won’t work with this configuration, DC systems were introduced which ultimately act as a battery charger which plugs into your 4WDs wiring and is recognised by smart alternators. This setup essentially creates two separate electrical systems so your starter battery never goes flat and even offers detailed information about battery charging rates and battery conditions.
Battery technology has evolved quite rapidly over the years to meet all types of requirements and budgets. From light-weight batteries to batteries with more energy capacity, today there are deep cycle batteries available which delivers less instant energy (like starter batteries) but has better long-term energy and is designed for constant draining and re-charging.
Every battery is rated in Amp hours which is the number of amps which can be discharged in 1 hour. A 100AH battery can discharge 1 amp for 100 hours or 100 amps for 1 hour. The more Amp hours a battery has, the longer it will last before needing to be recharged.
The primary differences between each battery is related to the construction type.
- Flooded Lead Acid Battery
The cheapest and oldest type of battery is the flooded lead acid battery. They are essentially the ideal starter battery which are filled with lead plates and liquid acid, however they can emit dangerous fumes and therefore must be mounted upright and away from passengers.
- AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat)
The AGM battery consists of fibreglass mats sandwiched together with liquid acid and has a slow discharge rate so they can sit idle for a few weeks without needing to be charged. This makes them an effective deep-cycle auxiliary battery. They are leak-proof batteries so can be mounted on any angle and near passengers if needed.
- Gel Cell
Gel cell batteries are a step up from AGM batteries which consist of gel acid rather than liquid acid. They are maintenance free and leak-proof and are effective deep-cycle auxiliary batteries that can’t handle the intense load needed for starting.
Lithium batteries are also used in smart phones and laptops and are small, powerful, and lightweight batteries. Rather than using lead, fibreglass matting, or gels, lithium batteries use a lightweight chemical and are the latest in battery technology that is predicted to dominate the industry.
To prolong the lifespan of your battery, proper care and maintenance is needed such as ensuring your battery isn’t vulnerable to vibrations, extreme hot or cold, or external damage. Regular maintenance is also required such as routinely checking for cracks, leaks, or dirt. These tasks only take a couple of minutes and will substantially extendthe lifespan of your battery.
While some folks with newer vehicles don’t have a choice other than to run a DC system, most people will find that a lead acid starter battery and an AGM or Gel Cell battery as an auxiliary will provide a sufficient amount of power. Those who are interested in purchasing a dual battery system also need to consider power usage, mounting options, and installation.
For a range of dual battery systems along with expert advice, get in touch with the specialists at TJM Australia by phoning 07 3865 9999.