Best Converter Charger for an RV – Smart VS. Dumb
Before we had our new RV Solar installed I had never heard of a Converter Charger, and I surely wasn’t worried if it was a Smart Converter Charger or not! Here we are 6 months later and oh how much we’ve learned.
After tons of research on my basic questions: “What is a Converter Charger?”, “Why Do I Need a Converter Charger?”, “What’s the Difference Between a Regular and Smart Charger?”, and “How Many Amps are Needed to get the Best and fastest Charge for my RV Batteries?” Here’s what we’ve come up with on why you should get to know the very important, yet rarely discussed, Converter Charger.
Let’s begin with a simple description: A Converter Charger is a device that Converts 110 Volt AC (household) power into 12 Volt DC (battery) power and simultaneously charges the RV batteries. Simple enough right? Well…nothing beats a good old school flip chart comparison! Go ahead, click play.
What did you think? Did you learn anything new or should we just use the flip chart as fire starter?
Just a reminder, a Converter Charger is only necessary while charging the RV batteries when plugged into shore power or while using the generator. In theory if you have ample solar power and plenty of sun you could ditch your Converter Charger (I would not recommend this as nature doesn’t always cooperate). Also our experience, and this post, is limited to the kind of batteries installed on most RVs: Flooded (or “wet cell”).
Many new RVs, from towables to class A motorhomes, come standard with a “Dumb” Converter Charger because it’s less expensive. This causes RV’ers to run their generators more often for longer periods of time or stay plugged into campground shore power. The worst part of all is the RV batteries never get a quality charge so they don’t last as long.
Here is my kindergarten flip chart side-by-side comparison of a Smart vs. Dumb Converter Charger
The takeaway: A high quality, 4 stage Smart Converter Charger is a worthy upgrade no matter what type of RV you are in, new or old.
Here’s the breakdown on the all important charging stages
1. Bulk – The main part of the charging cycle that quickly gets batteries up to a near 90% charge. Bulk uses the max amperage of the charger and this is where a higher Amp charger will give you a faster charge.
2. Absorption – Tapers the charge amperage down and slowly charges the last 10-20% of the battery before going into float mode.
3. Float – Keeps the batteries “topped up” at a lower voltage (around 13.7 V) to prevent electrolyte loss by overheating or “boiling out” the water in the battery.
4. Equalize – Supercharges the Battery Voltage to remove any sulfur build up that can accumulate on the battery plates (having sulfur build up reduces battery life and quality of charge).
In contrast a “Dumb Charger” has one charging stage that will continuously keep the RV batteries around 13.7 Volts (or 70% full) and never give the batteries a full charge.
One point of “controversy” is: Should the Converter Charger be built into the inverter or separate? Some inverter manufacturers install a Smart Converter Charger directly into the inverter while others do not. There is nothing wrong with a built in Converter Charger as long as it’s a Smart one! We like the flexibility of having our Smart Converter Charger separate from our Inverter just in case one of the devices malfunctions. For our setup, if our Smart Converter Charger fails we can still charge our RV batteries from the solar and invert that power with our 3000 watt Pure Sine Inverter. If everything was built into one device we’d be without power for who knows how long while the inverter was repaired/replaced. Plus if you’re happy with your current inverter and just want to upgrade the Converter Charger to save on generator use and fuel consumption this is a cheap way to upgrade!
I hope this very simple explanation can shed a little light on a topic that’s rarely discussed around the campfire. In order to keep this post easy to understand we haven’t hit on every point about Converter Chargers, but we feel the video and this article will give you a jump start on deciding what’s right for your needs. So…take this new found knowledge to the web and find out what type of Converter Charger you have installed inside your RV and ask yourself the question: Is it Smart or Dumb?
Our 75 Amp Smart Converter Charger came with the Solar Extreme Kit and it’s worked great for us over the past 6 months.
If you want to upgrade to a Smart Converter Charger here’s the Amazon Link to the one we have (Amazon has some of the best prices and we get a little “love” if you use this link to purchase): Go Power! Smart Converter/Battery Charger
We’re sharing from our experience and research, remember these are just our opinions so please do your own research and read our disclaimer.
I agree with you
Why do some people troll other people’s work just to leave valueless comments?
Where can i buy a smart converter
WHy do people give out advice , when they for sure are not fully informed as to what they are talking about.
Have a 1986 Winnie chieftain, 20′. Put a solar panel on it w charge co!lector. Ran great for 8 yrs til I moved under a roof and solar lights died after 3 days under new roof. I thought it was wired to charge deepcell batt’s when I plugged into electrical line, but obviously not. Do I need an inverter for that? I just looked at the magnatek 6432 series charge controller and notice that the third connector on the transfer switch is disconnected. one side is pwr in, while opposite side is power out A and B (two pronged). Was that for the generator it never had installed? Can I connect the second prong, or was that for generator?
Robert T Phillips
You refer to the type of batteries found in most RVs, namely flooded, but do not mention that they are also typically “deep cycle”. That means, among other things, that the mfr recommended bulk charging voltage is higher than many dumb chargers can supply. It is the electrical “pressure” — voltage, that actually fills a storage device effectively, or even at all. Think about filling a balloon with your lungs — relatively easy during the first half of inflation, but harder towards the end. If a charger won’t reach 14.7 volts or more, it’s not going to be well matched to your deep cycle batteries, no matter how much current (amperes) it can deliver.
Hi Jason & Nikki,
We recently acquired a 2002 Keystone Tail-Gator toy hauler with a 4000 BTU generator and 45 amp 6345 (6300 series) Magnetek inverter/converter. It has recently been giving us problems, and we believe it is high time for a replacement. We don’t have a lot of gadgets in the camper, however we would like to get something equal or greater to what we currently have, and are looking to get it in a timely fashion. Can you make any recommendations on make/models please?
If you can afford it, a pure sine wave inverter (as opposed to modified sine wave) will be the best choice because some electronic gadgets don’t run on modified sine wave and their insides will fry (and there’s no way to know until you turn the device on, and then it’s too late). The Bounder had both a Magnum Pure Sine inverter and a Magnum BMS. Great gear! https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/magnum-hybrid-series-invertercharger
Hi folks, I’d like to share what i think I know about my RV electrical system and would you kindly tell me where I’ve got it wrong? The learning started when I wanted to install a 1500 watt inverter. My trailer has 2 six volt Interstate batteries giving me 206 Ahr. and came with a WF-9855 converter.
Batteries; I can draw them down 1/3 before they need to be recharged, thereby maxing out their life expectancy. So 206 x .33 = 68 Ahr. My furnace draws around 10 amps DC so it can run for 7 hrs then it recharge time. So far so good.
Inverters are a whole ne w ball game. I’ve learned that an AC device Wattage DIVIDED by 10 gives you the required DC amps to power that device. Whoa. So amps x volts = watts, 5 x 110 = 550 watts AC. 550 / 10 = 55 AMPS DC! Is this right? I have 68 Ahr available but if I plug a 5 amp AC appliance into my converter it will draw 55 amps DC outta my batteries, in a little over an hour my batteries are done. Is this why inverters require such heavy gauge wiring with distance between it and battery bank kept as short as possible? My 1500 watt inverter will require at least double my battery bank Ahrs to be of any practical use to avoid a 50+ % draw down of my batteries. I’m rethinking this whole deal, the tv/DVD/speakers draw around 3 amps AC so this requires 330 watts. A 400 watt inverter will give me 2-3 hrs of TV every nite while boondocking as long as I run the generator next day.
This is what I think I know. Your feed back is most appreciated, I’m returning this 1500 watt inverter and am postponing any refits for now.
SLA batteries are not wonderful for extended draws like your furnace, also if you’re running the furnace I’m guessing it’s cold. Your batteries will draw down more quickly and they could freeze if they get low. You’re best bet is to upgrade the batteries for more useable AH.
Hey Guys I am building my own small camper. Like a little tear drop trailer. We are planning on dry camping and staying in RV parks. So what else do I need? We want to be able to plug or run our generator to recharge the battery and run our lights, radio and TV. Where does the fuse panel come into play?
There really are no short easy answers with this stuff and without knowing your setup, its really hard to advise. I would suggest calling GoPower directly as they have customer support that can help you through setting up your camper. This way you can tell them what you already have in place and they can help advise on what you might be missing.
Nikki and Jason, Y’all are our mostest favorite full-time RV’ers and my girlfriend and I watch y’all incessantly. Now I want a big boat too 😀 We agree with some of the comments we’ve seen; Jason, you’re a lucky man. Just do what she says and all will be well.
We have been refurbishing an older bumper pull camper for a while and now I’m getting the electrical system back up to running condition. It has old 1992 equipment that still works that I’m not quite $ready$ to replace yet. I have one question that I can’t seem to find the answer to. When I plug the 120v system into the inverter that runs off batteries, does the converter/charger (built into a fuse/breaker box in the camper) automatically realize that the power is coming from the battery and doesn’t try to charge itself? I remember when I was a kid and my dad convinced me that if I tried hard enough I could pick myself up by my own bootstraps… this seems kind of like that.
I am not sure on all inverters, especially older ones, but when we plug in our inverter “knows” that we’re connected to shore power and the built in charger will not allow the batteries to be overcharged. If you replace the batteries I would highly recommend upgrading to a smart charger.
The WFCO 8735 charger that is very common on many campers is a 3 stage smart (14.4, 13.6 and 13.2) charger but the problem is that it will not go into smart mode under normal conditions it will only charge at 13.6 volt.
To charge at 14.4 the voltage of the system has to drop pretty low WITH THE CONVERT CHARGING which normally would not occur unless the camper is drawing a lot of power (i.e. all the lights on for about 20-30 seconds or more).
It will only go in the float mode if there is no power being drawn by the camper BUT with a smoke or CO connected there will always be some power drawn.
Bottom line is you have a single stage charge that takes over a week to charge a normal battery to 100% and the charge will stay at 13.6V so water will need to be added to more often than if it would switch to 13.2V.
If you pull some of the fuses so that the camper does not draw power for radio, CO/smoke detector the power center will go in smart mode after three days. Three days is not long enough to charge a batter that has been drained much at all.
Thanks for sharing Tim, it’s nearly impossible to find out what charger is in most RV so this info is great to know.
This is exactly my situation. I have WFCO 8735 and it will NOT go into bulk mode. My trailer is very small and after much testing and two calls to WFCO I am convinced there is some mismatch. What did you to to solve your issues with the WFCO? Is there another type of smart charger than will actually go to 14.4 with a low battery AND low current draw. My furnace draws 3.5 A and that is it.
After watching this video on the difference between the “Smart” vs. “Dumb” chargers, I started researching what I have in my travel trailer. I have a WFCO WF-8955PEC converter/charger & on their website( http://www.wfcoelectronics.com/UI/Power-Centers-WF-8955PEC.aspx?ptype=3&pid=9 ) it says that it has a 3 stage charging system. Your video says that the “Smart” chargers have a 4 stage & the “Dumb” chargers have 1 stage. Is mine a “Smart” charger?
The pros will tell you it’s the 4th stage that’s the most important. Yours isn’t a “dumb” charger, it’s more of a “B-” charger. Read through some of the comments, I think we’ve had a couple pros touch on this exact question.
A three stage charger is a smart charger so what you have will work. The 4th stage that Jason and Nikki have is an equalize stage which is nice to have when you have flooded batteries.
Mrs. Shawn Castillo
I recently found your site and absolutely LOVE your video’s – they are funny, creative & you guys are so cute together – you make a great team!
My husband and I have grown up boondocking (wild camping as you call it) our whole lives and we have tested/used many systems for power/cooking/water/etc while “off the cord”.
We hope to be traveling full time next year with our special needs adult daughter & her grandma, but right now we camp/boondock several times a year for up to 10 days at a time. We have a 30′ travel trailer and usually have 4 people & 2 BIG dogs on our trips.
I thought I would share some of the things we do, as your followers seem to have quite an interest in the boondocking/wild camping subject.
The best resources we have found for innovative camping/boondocking equipment/supplies is at emergencyessentials.com, Cabelas, campingworld.com & Army Surplus Stores.
I apologize if this comment gets a little lengthy.
1. Water – We buy 5 gallon heavy plastic containers with an attachable spout from WalMart and carry 25 gallons of extra water. Write “non-potable” or “non-drinking” water on them in permanent marker so you know these are ONLY used for toilet water. (Note: These containers leach BPA plastic chemicals & can breed bacteria once water gets warm so we add a capful of bleach to each one & NEVER drink the water).
We put one container in our shower/tub (be sure to secure while traveling). Turn off your water pump switch (this saves elect. & water by not running the pump to flush the toilet) and pour about a half-gallon of water into the toilet, do your business, then flush. This process saves your good RV water for other uses.
For Drinking/Washing Water: We use a “food grade” (non-BPA) barrel with a siphon pump (and treat water with a “safe to drink” water treatment). The barrel is bulky but eliminates the need to carry cases of drinking water. We use this ‘potable’ water for cooking/brushing teeth/ washing, etc. Just siphon the drinking water from the barrel into a smaller jug/container (it is much more manageable this way). You can siphon from the barrel into your RV water tank if you have a long enough hose.
You can leave the barrel/water containers in the back of your pickup or put them on a flat surface (such as a Cargo Caddy) on the back bumper of your RV . You will need to secure the barrel & containers well and it is best to cover them (keep them shaded) if possible – this extends the potability of the water.
We once met a full-time boondocking gentleman that built a wooden cargo box on the back of his RV and had all his water safely locked inside. Just be sure to take all the extra water weight into consideration when loading your trailer!
2. Eliminating Grey Water – since you are packing alot of extra water, you will need a way to eliminate the water without having to break camp & haul your trailer to a dump station every few days.
We purchased 2 Thetford Smarttote Portable Waste Tanks from Camping World. There are 2 sizes, 12 & 18 gallons. The idea behind this is it gives you a way to transport the black/grey water to the dump station. You can toe it on your vehicle or ATV receiver hitch and pull it to the dump station but only for a VERY SHORT distance. If you are miles from a dump station – you will need to haul it in your vehicle.
How it works is you attach your septic hose to your RV waste tank and the other end to the Portable Waste Tank then slowly, & I mean SLOWLY pull out the waste tank valve – about half-way. The sewage/grey water will transfer from your RV tank to the Portable Waste Tank – DO NOT OVERFILL the Portable Tank! Then the next time you are near an RV dump station you can dump the Portable Tank.
We use 2 18-gal (1 for grey water, 1 for black water) for a 10 day stay & they work great. The downside is they can be messy (wear rubber gloves) and are bulky to store (they can be carried on the RV Cargo Caddy with your water) but they are heavy when full.
My solution to the weight issue: we have a long folding dog ramp that we use to load our dogs and I just pull the Portable Waste Tank up the dog ramp into our pickup. Problem Solved!
I have many other great solutions like Solar Oven or Dutch Oven cooking on a Volcano while boondocking but will post those at another time.
Happy Camping Everyone!
Thank you so much for the compliments and for taking the time to share this wonderful info about wild camping. Hope we can cross paths someday out in the wild.
loved the presentation but I really want more info. I set up a 10KW solar PV system here at the house and want to know more about setting one up on a future MH. I also drive an electric car. I noticed in some of your video you must tow a Smart for Two. Is it the gas or electric model? I assume GAS as you would not have the power to recharge the electric. In any case, what when into your main chargers?
I would also love to hear about your experience with the Maxforce 7 diesel pusher and would you still consider the Breeze? I am still two to three years away from retirement so I’m not sure what I want or how big. Right now I’m only one and do not expect it to be more than two, except for guest.
Keep the vid’s coming I really enjoy them.
Hey Joseph, I am not sure exactly what your solar question is other than you want more info? You can see all of our soalr posts here: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/solar
Our Smart car is gas and we love it.
We had a good experience with the Maxforce. The Vesta, Breeze, Via and Excursion… are all great options for a smaller diesel class A coach good for 1-2 people. Good news is you have plenty of time to check out all of your options to see which coach suits you best. Happy hunting!
Are you able to run your ac? I know you are generally in cooler climates than we are here in Central Florida. Thanks!
AC’s are too much of a consistent big draw so you can’t run an AC on solar… yet, hang in there. You never know what they will come up with next!
LOL… you guys are SO cute and SO funny. I love it. Thank you for explaining it all so well.
Me and hubby are still a couple years away from our “launch” plan, but I’m learning all I can about the RV lifestyle and you guys are two of my heroes
Tracy, thanks for the love! It is a lot to learn but all well worth it! I am so glad you were able to take away something useful and can’t wait to see you out on the road.
haha, when I meet you though… I’d really rather you NOT be carrying a stick! ouch! lol, poor Jason!
kidding aside though, It would be amazing to see you guys out on the road someday since I really adore the two of you. Saw you for the first time on house hunters, later on found your web site and savoring my way through all of your old posts.
I am really touched by your “American Road Trip, A Nomadic Dream” video. It is one of my absolute favorite bookmarks, I view it often still for motivation to keep plugging away.
Keep it up you guys! We are living vicariously through you.
Tracy, we hope to meet you out on the road too! Sometimes it’s hard to believe its us that is having all of these crazy adventures. We couldn’t imagine life any other way! Keep plugging away and let us know if there is anything we can do to help you along the way.
Wow! Glad to see you two are still at it! I just popped in for the first time in about a year and wasn’t sure if I was going to find a ghost town, broken link or what, but instead your upgrading and going as strong as ever! Nice work!
Hoping to win!
Been following you guys for a while. RV is on order. Hope to win.
Could really use one of those SMART chargers. Love the video as well as your blog.
Great video! My husband and I learned so much. Thank you!
Great Video, thanks for the good information! Been thinking about purchasing an invertor. It would be great to win one.
Hoping to win. Had trouble entering from my tablet
Ruth La Bounty-Breighner
I follow you guys a lot, Hubbs always says “Oh, the Wynns….” Getting ready for full timing and we need any help we can get!
I so enjoy your blogs, and especially your videos.
So far my own RV adventures have been mostly confined to preparing my new-to-me 30′ Class C for a cross-country trip I hope to begin early spring. I’m learning about solar power (your videos have been helpful!), the RV systems, boondocking and a bunch of other things. I’ll probably get one of the GoPower portable kits to begin with. I’ve installed all LEDs inside, and I’m looking at hooking up a Wave 3 catalytic heater, tapping into the LP line by the stove. Of course, I have to learn to blog too. I’m hoping to do a photo-tips blog as that’s my area of expertise.
Keep up the good work… and good play!
I’m on vacation… so winning one would be great… learning about them however, still needs to wait a few. Although, maybe a few glasses of wine 🙂
awesome gift for Christmas
GEE Wiz I hope I winn I sure could use something smart in my life.
I love all your stuff except anything about food. I am trying to lose weight.
Great information, love following you two!
Would love to see more fun/convenient pet related items please!
Thanx for the clarification guys! We are presently doing our research on what type of solar system, etc that we are going to install. Love your adventures! Hope you are enjoying the new rig, looks comfy.
Great giveaway! Love seeing your adventures. Happy Holidays!
Ok so I am now confused but with the converter I wouldn’t be in the dark!
I would like to know the RV Parks that you do not want to leave because the scenery is just so beautiful, the price is right and the people are great..ones that might be fun to stay for months…BTW, I love everything you post as I get ready to full-time..thank you for all you do for the RV industry..
Love your info. Happy Holidays !
Would love to get an early Christmas present!!
Hmmm what’s it gonna be?
You guys are great if I win that 150 watt inverter I will give 100 bucks to your favorite charity in your name….
Curt and Labbie
Love you guys, keep it up.
We have been looking into solar panels and inverters and I this post helped answer several of my questions, thank you!
I saw your blog. I bought the perfect 22 foot motor home. I bought solar. I bought the compost toilet. I’m copying you to the point it’s creepy. Happy Christmas, and I love free stuff!
In for a chance! 🙂
Thanks for explaining a complicated subject and making it understandable and useful. Love that you are a young couple exploring places and things the younger crowd enjoy.
Thank you for another great blog post!
Your videos are always entertaining AND educational. Thank you.
Marc & Julie Bennett
Man this RVing gig is not as simple as it seems! Thanks for all your tips and videos to help us be more SMART and less DUMB.
Great post guys. My wife and I have been following your adventures since you first got Windy and really like seeing the things y’all get in to. Hope you two have a blessed Christmas with the families. Enjoy yourself in Dallas we are in Midlothian just south. It’s suppose to be a beatiful Christmas Day.
Sorry we missed you in Abbotsford! We’ll catch up with you somewhere!
This was very helpful…been doing some research on what charger to get. It will no longer be a “dumb” choice. Thanks!
I’ve enjoyed following your travels… we too are nomadic and do look forward to crossing paths! Thank you much for the video that you shared — very helpful!
Thank you. The video and blog post were actually very helpful as I was running through a problem on a converter charger for someone yesterday. This confirmed a small question I had and answered with my plethora of useless knowledge. I guess it’s not so useless after all.
I also love free stuff and could use an inverter as I don’t have one yet. What vintage trailers do? I would be the envy of Tin Cans everywhere.
This is an awesome explanation! Good luck to everyone!
Thanks for the insight …… I think
Thanks for the info! Would love one of those awesome inverters!
Your information is helpful as usual. Thanks for all the rv tips and giveaways. We’d love to have an inverter to go with our awesome go power solar panel!
Another very helpful blog. My wife and I are just getting into the lifestyle with our cats and we have found all your insight very helpful.
Happy Holidays we will be full time August 11th woo hoo
I hope I get a snazzy inverter 🙂 I very much need one.
I am glad to know all the research has been done by the best!!
well….I wouldn’t call us experts but if you want to call us “the Best” I think that’s pretty fitting 🙂 Ha. Thanks Debra.
Thanks for the easy to understand explanation.
Excellent information we could use that inverter. We sold the house and are hoping to have an rv by jan 15 2014.
We need to move by Jan 18 oh my this is going to be interesting!
Added a link to my site at daveleephotography.com for your site.
We learned alot from your post. We are glad to have found your site since we are looking into what setup we want for our solar. We would love to win this to help us cut the cost of adding solar for our boondocking. Thanks for the rad giveaway.
Hello. Think we may be kindred spirits! Enjoyed reading your posts.
Don & Shelly Hafner
Nice article. Thanks.
Love following your adventures and reading about the best places to visSqit and dine at.
I just started working at an rv dealership and didn’t understand it….you cleared that up easily!! Thanks
haha, perfect. Glad to help.
I love free stuff!
Love your videos and great destination ideas! We stayed in the exact same site as you posted about right outside Lake Tahoe – was it ever gorgeous! ( and free to boot!)
A couple full timers (and cats) who are fun to follow and learn from.
Very informative article. Thanks!
Yay for hand drawn converter explanations!
Hitting the road full time June 2014.. 2009 Winnebago sight seer named Glor E B. Counting down the days!!
Love your website!
Thank you both for sharing all your wonderful adventures of the past year. I wish you all the best this Holiday Season and be safe in your travels in 2014
I’ve been a long time RVer and love this site. Thanks for offering such continued quality information to the RV community in such a fun manner!
Great post. Something I never thought of beforehand!
Thanks for the heads up! I’ m just about to have my inverter replaced, so this info is quite timely.
Great article, smart is the way to go, solar power enthusiasts have know this for years, nice to see RVers getting on the ball.
i think not a charger dumb but we are ,including me… Because we used all those years so called dumb charger…. And a same time the RV industry laughed all the way the bank .After i read this article orderd a new charger from amazon and i got ot in two days
Thanx for the exelent video
It’s crazy: What you don’t know can hurt you…or at least cost you more money! When we found out about Smart chargers I started researching new RVs and the chargers inside them, it blew me away how many still use a ‘dumb’ charger. Unbelievable!
Interesting article thanks.
Love how you entertain while educating! This is a great topic and an important one for both new and seasoned RVers. Great job.
Nice…thanks for the little lesson….I now know we have a smart converter in our Winnebago…however, I’m not sure if it will Equalize or not. Will have to research a little more on the Dimensions Products.
Patrick & Stephanie
Our coach has 30 amp service and a dumb charger. I did some research a few months ago on upgrading to 50 amp and now that I go back and look at the one I checked out, its a smart one…maybe worth the work. Plus getting to run both ACs in the Florida heat would be nice.
Looking forward to seeing details about your new Feetwood. So will you be doing another solar install?
I LOVED the video. So much wonderful info presented in an easy to follow manner!
I do wonder if, after seeing your video, people think that it’s dumb to use 13.7 volts and smart to use 14.4. Not sure if you explained the ‘why’.
The reason one is called smart is it can sense as the battery charges. If it put out 14.4 or more volts all the time it would boil your battery away in a day. The dumb charger only pumps out enough voltage to get the battery mostly charged, trying to avoid overcharging and water loss, but there will be some, mostly the reason you get short battery life with dumb chargers, but also if you don’t have that extra 30% of charge you will more deeply discharge your battery and they don’t like being discharged below 50%, EVER!
Yes a smart charger charges faster, but the reason it can is because of the stages. The first of the four smart charge modes is called Bulk where the battery can take as many amps as the charger can give because its HUNGRY. This is the sweet spot on running your generator. All the amps your converter can put out are getting captured by the battery. If you have a volt meter on your battery you can watch the voltage rise. The charger is putting out 14.4 volts, but the battery is drawing them down so the meter may only show 10 or 11 volts initially, that’s fine.
When that number starts to rise less is being taken by the battery, you may already be 70% or 80% of the way to a full charge and you can shut off the generator. You will get diminishing returns for all the noise and fuel you will use if you continue. Sadly there isn’t a great way to tell when to turn off the generator unless you install an amp meter in-line with the battery, but if you watch the voltmeter you will get a feel for what number it shows when the generator stops sounding so strained and can turn it off then and there. Point being, don’t use the LED charge lights as you’ll be running the generator all day chasing that last light.
If you plug into shore power or just continue with the generator the charger eventually goes into Absorption mode. This allows the battery to get closer to fully charged by keeping the voltage constant, typically 13.8 volts. When the battery tops out and won’t take any more current the charger goes into Float, a trickle charge of 13.2 volts, your 12 volt devices are not taking power from the battery, yet it’s so low you are not heating up the battery at all. Great for keeping your battery from losing water, a common cause of battery failure.
The last mode helps keep the inside of the battery clean, Equalization mode, for a short time, perhaps just hours, the battery is subjected to an intentional overcharge, the battery gets hot, but it also reacts chemically, stirring the battery acid to protect the battery from becoming inert, the other way batteries die. Then the charge is removed before any damage can be done. Don’t wanna do this all the time, but occasionally is actually good for the battery. Typically smart chargers will do it monthly.
One last thing, if anyone out there has a Progressive Dynamics Charger/Converter 9100 series, run and get the Charge Wizard as it turns your converter into a smart converter for $25. Why they didn’t include it, I don’t know.
Randy, thanks for sharing your technical expertise. You’ve described in greater depth what I touched on in the article under “The Takeaway”. As you mentioned it’s an extremely finicky subject with painfully temperamental batteries…and expensive consequences.
Oops! Guess I know technology, just cannot read…
Very good, thanks!
Maybe one of the best explanations I have seen. I was a bit worried though when Jason was inadvertently (I assume) struck with that wicked tree branch during the slide show.
We will be adding solar at some point once we go full time so we will be interested in your new installation. Will you still carry the portable one?
Gary and Lynda
Gary we will carry the portable kit with the new RV, we love that thing! As for the stick incident…thanks for having my back 🙂
Confusing, but informative. I’ll have to watch it a couple more times. Keep up the awesomeness!!
This was extremely helpful – we are outfitting our rv with solar and I did not know any of this 🙂 Thx
How many batteries of what type did you end up with in the new rig?
Also, please gimme some sine wave love! 😀
We have 4 batteries on the new RV but the Amp Hours is exactly the same as our Vesta at 420 AH. Our new rig is outfitted with a 2000 watt PSW inverter and we are getting new solar in January! Can’t wait!
Love your videos.
Great tip! There is so much to learn about RVs!
Thanks team, my wife and I are full timers first year out after our home went away. Never had a lesson on Converter Chargers we both watched your video.
Our home is called the Dutch, she is a Newmar Dutch Star. The Dutch is our 4th M/H. And the best. Not all 4 in one year but over 17 year period. We enjoy keeping up with your site. Left Texas last week now in Southern California for Xmas. Keep up the good work. Never would of believed my wife enjoyed web site.
Nice post, I like the idea of the battery life being extended. I will look into that as I live 10 minutes away from AM Solar and they are so great to deal with.
Thanks for the very helpful insight to smart charge controllers…they do make a difference! As I learned after installing one at our mountain cabin this past summer. Thanks Wandering Wynns!
Hey, this is brilliant! Very informative and well presented.
Thanks for the very helpful information.
Thank for all the help and for this site.
Very informative and well presented. Next time let Jason have a stick.
We are gearing up to become full-timers. Pure sine is the way to go. Thanks for the video!
j a hamm
learn something new every video. thanks. what about 3stage triplight. good enough?
Fabulous video, Wynns! I learned so much from this video!! Love the simplicity of your videos…oh yeah, and you four! Meowy-Christmas to you and your kitties!
This post, as well as the rest of your posts, is a great resource—especially for someone who is about to embark on an RV adventure of their own. Keep up the great work!
An inverter would be nice on our boat. Thanks for the info and chance to win.
Well since you won’t give my details to Aliens, I will comment. I could really use another inverter for our RV 🙂
Good start to a complex subject but I want to know more. More photos showing the actual items close up would help clarify. I know your hands are full right now but this spring and summer as you are breaking in your new system give us updates. It would even be fun to compare two identical RVs, same brand, same model, at the same boondocking campground, using the same sunlight. Your electrical system versus a stock RV. Which unit recovers faster? Surely Fleetwood would be interested in this side-by-side comparison. I thoroughly enjoy your postings.
We too want to see side-by-side comparisons. We’ve asked Go Power! to do some testing on the “bench” at their HQ, they have the proper instruments to measure amps, watts, continuous power ratings, charge times, etc. unfortunately we are not equipped for this type of specific testing.
If you want to see the charger up close visit the GP website, or click the Amazon links we provided in the article.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it’s difficult for me because we want to film it all with extreme details…but we’re limited by time and resources 🙁 Oh well, at least we got the into video complete 🙂
Enjoyed this post. Learned a lot about chargers. Thanks Steve
Can I tell you how fabulous you guys are! Getting our rig ready for off grid camping YAY! We have learned so much from you. Hope to run into you guys on the road.
Would love to see you walk through the process of deciding the size of solar power needed to provide the power needed
Very informative! This explains why my 2 year old RV battery is already in need of replacement.
Great explanation and funny, informative video! We’ve had a “smart” multi-stage system the whole time we’ve been on the road, ands it’s awesome. Ours is one of the “all-in-one” converter/charger/inverter units (2,800 watt pure sine), so we’ve been lucky that it’s never failed (oops… shouldn’t have said that). =:-O
On another note, we still have no idea how you two fit so many unusual items on board. Got a flip chart? Sure! Need some golf clubs? Right here! Your RV is like Felix the Cat’s bag of tricks. lol
Although Jason got tagged with “Dumb” during this shoot, we know he’s not, as evidenced by his choice of a mate <— sucking up to Nikki. Big.Time. 😛
Interesting video – enjoyed your 3 minute outdoor education segment. So now I know that I need a Solar system, a smart charger, and a full sine wave inverter – all connected to Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries – to be state of the art. Thanks!
So – what setup does your new Fleetwood Excursion – “Wynnston” – have in it? I would imagine that Fleetwood gave you pretty much a stock model, leaving any upgrades (like your composting toilet) to you guys.
Keep your videos coming – this is fun!
I am fortunate to know exactly what you all are talking about. I have been an electrician for over 25 years and I hate my dumb charger, LOL. I have just a pop up trailer, so no upgrade for it, but when i do go bigger, it’s a total separate system as you guys have done. Thank you Jason (Dumb) and Nikki (Really smart!) for your info and videos. Looking forward to more in the near future. Good luck with the new ride, also.
Thanks for another informative post!
And people say PowerPoint Presentations are boring!
OK, I know that was lame but I need a comment to enter the contest! Seriously, though, nice job!
Loved the video, we both watched it twice and chuckled, which makes your videos fun to watch, and learn. Enjoy your new ride!
Love your videos, entertaining but very informative.
I love the humor you two use in presenting your material. It takes a boring, complicate subject and makes it fun and easier to understand. Bravo! 🙂