Hands-On: Solar Charging
November 1, 2009
Filed under Gear Reviews
Storing a motorhome – and in some cases a dinghy vehicle – requires adequate preparation to keep systems from deteriorating. One of the more problematic issues is battery charging, especially if the rig is confined without electrical power. For these situations, a company immersed in the charging business for more than 10 years, PulseTech, markets a solar charging system that’s designed to not only keep batteries charged, but also conditioned enough to prevent sulfation.
The SolarPulse SP-5 is a 5-watt charger using a solar panel that’s smaller than 9 x 9 inches and is only 1.5 inches thick. It connects to the battery(ies) using a 17-foot cable that plugs into a control box. The control box is connected to the battery lugs using ring terminals at the end of a 3-foot length of wires.
To test the SolarPulse unit, we installed the charger in a Jeep Wrangler that’s stored in a garage sans 120-volt AC power (the motorhome is stored in a separate location that has power). It only takes a few minutes to install the box. While it can be attached to any flat surface near the battery using screws, we elected to use industrial-grade two-face tape, which worked perfectly. The wires and plug terminal were then routed to an inconspicuous place in the grille, but easily accessible when connecting to the cable from the solar panel. The panel was installed on the side of the building with the most direct exposure to the sun. Polarity protection prevents system damage should the wires be hooked to the battery incorrectly – although that’s hard to do since the wires are color-coded in black and red.
The solar unit puts out 350mA at up to 16.5 volts; pulsing DC current – a process patented as Pulse Technology – is designed to remove sulfation deposits from the battery plates, which increases long-term efficiency and overall battery longevity. Once a battery becomes sulfated, it’s virtually impossible for it to accept an adequate charge – and sulfation is the No. 1 reason batteries in stored vehicles fail, and are replaced prematurely.
After two months in storage with the SolarPulse working away, the starting battery in the Jeep maintained 12.5 volts. Considering the parasitic drain of the aftermarket stereo system, and the fact that sunshine is not the norm where the Jeep is stored, the PulseTech charger worked as promised. You can tell when the unit is charging via the red LED built into the box.
PulseTech publishes a $180 retail price, but the SP-5 solar charger can be easily found on the Internet for $162.
For more information, phone (800) 580-7554, or visit www.pulsetech.net.