A battery conditioner is a simple, computerized device that charges, maintains, and prevents sulfation from occurring in lead batteries. Sulfation is common in batteries that sit for periods of time between uses, such as in secondary vehicles, pleasure boats, motorcycles, off-road vehicles or personal aircraft. Sulfation is the primary cause for battery failure, and is a result of repeated swings from a discharged state to a charged state, overcharging and hot climates.
Sulfation occurs when sulfuric acid or electrolyte breaks down, causing lead sulfur crystals to coat the lead plates inside the acid battery. This interferes with the battery’s ability to convert chemical energy to electricity, weakens the electrolyte solution and lessens the battery’s ability to accept a charge. Sufficiently advanced sulfation will render a battery useless, and can happen in as little as six months to a year.
A battery conditioner like Battery Minder works in a three-fold way. First, it can recondition a used battery by sending small, resonate electronic pulses through the battery to break down moderate levels of lead sulfuric crystals. This not only cleans the plates but returns the "escaped" sulfur to the electrolyte solution, revitalizing it. Secondly, the conditioner will charge the battery automatically whenever it falls below peak levels. Finally, it maintains this peak by monitoring the battery’s state, charging only when necessary, thereby preventing future sulfation and overcharging.
A battery conditioner requires a power source, such as an AC outlet, but uses only pennies of electricity per month. Some manufacturers also offer solar powered versions for use in locations where electricity is not readily available, such as on an airfield tarmac or dock.
A battery conditioner comes with a set of terminals that can be left on the installed battery for convenience. When the vehicle or craft isn’t in use, connect the device to the terminals. Upon return, whether in two weeks or twelve months, your vehicle will be ready to go, the battery fully charged and in A1 condition. Disconnect the battery conditioner, and you’re on your way.
The only care when using a battery conditioner will be monitoring the level of electrolyte solution, adding distilled water as needed. This will probably be a yearly task for most, as the device will never cause electrolytes to “boil out.” However, sulfuric acid does evaporate and levels should be checked more often in warmer climates.
There are several types of battery conditioners on the market, so be sure to read the fine print. Very inexpensive models might be marketed as battery conditioners when they are actually simple trickle chargers, some of which even lack the built-in feature of switching off when the battery is fully charged. Others might lack the ability to recondition a moderately sulfated battery, and are better suited to using with a newer battery that has not yet been compromised by sulfation. For those that live in hotter climates, you might consider a device with a “temperature compensator” feature, which adjusts the charging voltage according to ambient temperature.