Note: This is an old subject for many of us. For those of you for whom the subject is new, the previous generation float chargers were great and employed ancient, proven technology for around the same price as the new ones. This thread was not meant for a discussion on what $5 will bring you, but rather as an info center on the new model.
*** NEWEST UPDATE *** 8-28-11
I've been running an experiment on one of them.
1. It's been sitting outside continuously floating my low antimony (typical) starting battery for about 4 weeks now.
2. Ambient temps have generally been peaking in the mid 90s during the day with an average low of around 60 each morning
3. Sitting in the sun, battery cells themselves get well over 100F
4. Some bubbling, but rarely more than 1 every 2 seconds or so
5. Zero water loss... ergo my concern over this new, higher float voltage has waned
NOTE: Higher antimony (golf cart-type) batteries might bubble (gas) a little more, but then again, you can't charge just one 6V jar at a time, so this little floater may not have the "oomph" required to do much more than... float. It will be interesting to see what this unit does on mena's bevy of L-16s.
Previous Update: (It turns out the mexbungalows has already had a chance to test the new models at 100F with no gassing problems. So because the amperage of 400 mA is so low, the new float voltage of 14.1 to 14.2 appears be OK for RV-sized batteries. For smaller batteries like little lawnmower jars, the diode still might be a good idea, but I'll defer to mexbungalows again on that.)
Last time they were on a decent sale, I picked up 8 of them for 5 pucks a piece. If you're patient and watch closely, you can pick them up for $4 or even a few pennies less with coupons and such.
4 of them were for my hot rodder FIL, but I opened all 8 and tested them first. Every single one of them charged in the very low 14s, where my old one charges at right around 12.95V. 12.95 is plenty for a float in anything but freezing temps and I think it may have actually improved my boat battery over the winter.
I did not witness any bubbling in my boat battery at around 50F, but it is a low antimony starting battery. A GC battery may have gassed at that temperature and voltage.
Also... they have now skimped on the clamps. The old one were pinner (thin,) but at least they were copper. The new ones are some kind of crappy steel with freakin' copper paint! Real nice. But I guess maybe that's good. A little insulation to help reign in some of that high voltage.
For the mildly tech savvy, the right diode from Radio Shack, soldered inline on the positive DC side should drop the voltage to more like 13.6 or so.
I guess you can not expect a regulated voltage output on a $5 charger, that Harbor Freight is buying for less, and marking it up about 25%? So they must be buying them for $3.55 or something like that.
Reminds me of the old "Converters" used in RV's until about 1990, if you had 115 volt input, then the output was OK. But higher voltage in, and you overcharged the battery, lower voltage in, and the battery might not charge at all.
My B-W (Magnetek) 6300 series does a surprisingly good job of maintaining a voltage of around 13.5 to 13.6 regardless of 109 VAC or 130 VAC (knock on wood.)
Also, my previous gen HF floater has been great! (Again... knocking on wood.)
The output is actually WELL regulated. It's just that they upped the voltage with the new units. They were all right around 14.2V either open or clamped to the battery. The old ones had the Chicago Electric name on 'em. The new ones, Cen-Tech.
The everyday price for those is more like 10 bucks or so. Hard to say what they pay for them. They could be a "loss leader," i.e. HF could be taking a loss at those sale prices with the idea of enticing suckers like us into the website in the hopes that we will buy other stuff. "After all, shipping won't be much more. I'd hate to waste those shipping dollars so I should load up now!"
But I'm sure everyone here is too smart to fall for that, right?
These don't line up the way I copied it, but match correct floating volts with temp-- eg 14.2/15F and 13.2/85F
(From Randy at bestconverter's for the Paramode converter)
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