Batteries make the world go round! Although this may be a slight exaggeration, there isn't much these days that doesn't run on at least one of these bad boys. If you love yourself a bit of BCFing (and let's face it, who doesn't?), you'll find knowing a bit about batteries isn't a bad shout. Whether you're a 4X4 fanatic, bonkers for boats, or simply crazy about camping, these hot tips on choosing the best battery are sure to come in handy.
Do batteries come in different types?
They sure do! There are three main types when it comes to batteries. These are lead-acid, AGM, and lithium, each with their own list of benefits. Let's take a look at each of them to help better understand what battery is right for you. There’s one thing they each have in common… you can find them all at your local BCF!
What is a lead-acid battery?
The lead-acid battery is the first form of rechargeable battery ever developed, so they've been around for yonks. They're cheap, convenient, and just what you're looking for when the fourbie is refusing to turn over. It's the large current and surge capabilities that have made lead-acid batteries so effective around an engine, and hard to question their quality when 150 years down the track they're still going strong. A combination of low-tech equipment and easy manufacturing has helped keep lead-acid batteries as a viable alternative to the big two of AGM and lithium.
When it comes to battery maintenance, lead-acid are unfortunately a bit on the needy side, with regular water level checks and a top up with distilled water a necessity (when required). Lead-acid batteries have a depth of discharge (DOD) of 50%, meaning they should always be recharged at or before this point to maximise the lifespan.
It's also important to note that lead-acid batteries are heavy, with some models weighing as much as 32kg. This is due to them containing lead plates and sulfuric acid, plus, its high energy density certainly doesn't help the matter. This is important to think about especially when kitting out a smaller boat or kayak.
When it comes to lifespan, you can expect around 200-300 cycles (charges) or roughly 2-3 years.
Pros of lead-acid
- Technology that has been around this long is tried and tested.
- High discharge capability
Cons of lead-acid
- Should never be stored in a discharged state.
- Low weight to energy ratio
- Limited number of full discharge cycles
- Maintenance required.
- Electrolyte and lead content not the best for the environment
What is an AGM battery?
The AGM battery has been the BCFers' best bud for many years. Considered a better alternative to your standard lead-acid battery, AGM (or absorbed glass mat if you want to get fancy) is a perfect addition to the camping, boating, or 4X4 kit. Whether you're looking to set up a dual battery system in the fourbie or want an electric motor on the water-based pride and joy to sneak up on some unsuspecting fish. This is the go-to solution for those that need deep cycle or backup power to cope with the ever-growing energy demands of our day to day.
AGM batteries offer a low self-discharge rate and are the best battery choice when dealing with colder climates. It's the reliability and low cost which has seen AGM batteries become so popular, as they come as a fully sealed unit - which means they're maintenance-free! As with their lead-acid buddies, AGM has a DOD of 50% and should be charged accordingly. Now we also need to talk about the limited cycle life you get from an AGM, meaning they can only be discharged and recharged a certain amount before they begin to degrade, and you'll need a new battery. You can expect a useful lifespan of roughly 300-400 cycles and 3-5 years – that’s a decent innings.
Pros of AGM
- Can be stored in any position.
- Durable and resistant to vibrations and shock
- Longer lifespan than lead-acid battery.
- Added safety – They do not contain any liquid chemicals that can leak
- Easy installation
Cons of AGM
- More expensive than lead-acid
- Sensitive to overcharging
- Heavy compared to lithium-ion
- Reduced capacity over time
What is a Lithium-ion Battery?
Lithium batteries have been an absolute game changer for the BCFer. Offering an AGM alternative that's light, efficient, and powerful to boot. Weighing less than half the weight of an AGM, it's no surprise that camping and 4X4 enthusiasts alike have jumped on the lithium bandwagon. Now, it’s not only the weight where these guys shine, they also have a DOD of around 95% meaning you'll get a lot more use out of one of these beauties before you need to grab the charger. Speaking of recharging, their cycle life isn’t half bad either, lasting for up to 5,000 cycles before needing to be replaced. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, and we need to talk about the elephant in the room… they're expensive! However, once you weigh in all the factors: deeper DOD, longer cycle life, plus that impressive weight reduction, you can't go wrong!
Pros of Lithium-ion
- High energy density
- Charging efficiency
- Longer lifespan
Cons of Lithium-ion
- Initial cost
- Sensitive to temperatures
What size will I need?
There's no one size fits all when it comes to batteries! The BCFer who's using it to charge their fridge/freezer, AC, and lighting in the caravan will need a whole lot more power up their sleeve than the fisho who's just running their sounder and boat lights. For an easy way to work out how much power you'll actually need, our power calculator has all the answers.
Charging your battery
No matter what type of battery you go with, you'll need a way of charging it up when it gets low on juice. Using the correct charger and charging methods play a huge role in getting the best performance and life out of your battery. These days most chargers have an automatic three-stage system that detects what type of battery is being charged and adjusts its setting accordingly. If you're heading off the grid for more than a few days or simply like your battery chargers sunny side up, a solar panel could be the answer! Using the power of the sun to keep your battery and devices going day after day. Be sure to check out our ripper range of battery chargers and solar panels to help keep your battery in tip-top condition.
Do I need a special charger for lithium?
Short answer… yes! Lithium batteries have a different charge profile than their AGM counterparts, and as such, you'll need to get your hands on a lithium-compatible charger. All lithium batteries have a battery management system (BMS) built in, which will protect the battery from operating outside of its safe limits.
Hopefully, you've found this buyer's guide useful and it's only a matter of time now before your BCFing adventures begin. If you need any more help with choosing the right battery, the experts at your local BCF have all the knowledge under the sun. And if you'd rather shop from the comfort of home, our online store could be right up your alley.