((( UPDATE – Factory is going to replace the Iota for free including shipping! )))
After crying in my Diet Coke all night about the Iota charger failing, it suddenly occurred to buy a cheapie charger and top off the house batteries with a portable unit. If the charger was a piece of crap, I could always return it after the new Iota came… 😉
I went to Wally World (Wal-Mart) and bought a little Schumacher XCS15 marine charger. It will charge at 15Amps (my old one was 55Amps). That is not a bad rate if you don’t have a big bank of batteries or try to run them into the ground between charges. Half drained, my battery bank would be 230 AH which would take about a day to charge. For the little excursions, it never sees more than about 25% discharge or about 100A at most. The little charger can handle that in a night.
The Shumacher has a three stage charge rate that is controlled by a microprocessor. It’s incredibly simple to use: just hook it up, turn it on, and select the battery type.
There is a helpful LED display that indicates the percent of charge present in the battery. As a former 1980s era electronics technician and half-blind dimwit, I was thrilled to see BIG RED LEDs. LCDs are no fun to try and read! When the display reaches 100% you can turn it off or leave it on to maintain a full charge status. I will opt to turn off the unit after an hour or two at 100%. AGM batteries have slow self-discharge rates so it is better to be safe and unhook than to leave it on when the microwave kicks in.
Granted, this is NOT a charger you want to abuse. It’s probably not going to put out very clean DC and certainly not a lot of it. Don’t leave it on and crank up the inverter and microwave. You might fry it! Hell, you likely will fry it – I’d bet money if you think you wont.
But if you want a cute little portable charger for those cold winter nights, this is a impressive but compact and lightweight unit that won’t set you back more than about $50. It’s a good investment. I’m going to put this little guy in an old CPAP carrying case and tuck him under the bed just in case I fry another expensive charger.