Disclaimer: The observations made here are solely my own impressions and may or may not reflect your experiences with Iota or Progressive Dynamics chargers.
I’m tired of messing with house battery chargers! Shouldn’t they be something you simply install and not worry about for ten years? It would be nice if that were the case.
Since converting the van in 2011, I have had to replace the 55 amp Iota DLS55 / IQ4 battery charger several times. Some time ago I left a review on Amazon documenting some of the frustrations – as did others – about the Iota chargers. The negative reviews were removed! That sort of defeats the purpose!
Just like clockwork, the fourth Iota “bit the dust” in late April while Serena and I were camping. The batteries could have used a little “boost” that day during the cloudy, rainy, spring weather. It is funny how things never fail unless they are needed at the time. But with the solar energy picking up as we neared summer, there was no immediate need for an external charger… so I did not replace it right away.
“Non-necessity is the wicked stepmother of procrastination.” — VT’s rhetorical bullcrap…
Finally, thanks to a “6 months same as cash” option through Pay Pal’s “Bill Me Later”, the van now has a new charger – the Progressive Dynamics PD9245C 45 Amp four stage charger, with built in “Charge Wizard” (analogous to the IQ4 in the Iota).
For this post, “P/D” will stand for “Progressive Dynamics”
So why is the replacement a smaller charger? It’s all that is needed. In three years, I’ve rarely gone below 80% of the van’s 460 AH battery capacity. If there is no / minimal solar (such as in January), it means putting back 92 amp-hours a day. That’s a two or two and a half hour job! In reality, the van usually sits on a float charger before the next excursion.
Fast forward a couple of months…
With the new charger installed, it was time for testing. After a week of humid, cloudy, and stormy weather, the van’s battery bank was sitting at 85% of capacity. I plugged in the charger. It started up, and cycled through its charging modes, and tapered to a gentle 13.2 volt float charge. The new device worked perfectly… better than its predecessor (actually 4 predecessors)! That’s why I’m happy to say some kind words about the Progressive Dynamics charger – converter.
- The Iota used to draw one hell of a spark when you’d plug it in… It’s called “inrush current”. Often, the inrush was enough to trip a campsite breaker. The P/D model doesn’t spark anywhere near that much.
- Anytime I first plugged into shore power, the Iota would usually go straight to a bulk charging mode (14.8 volts), eventually switching to around 14.2 volts (absorption mode), and then quite a long time later, dropping to 13.5 volts float charge. It even did it when the batteries were nearly full! In my opinion, the Iota (all four of them that died) tended to use excessively high charging voltages which might shorten the battery life. Various articles I’ve read recommend a floating charge of 13.2… which is what the P/D unit uses.
- IQ4 (Iota) vs. Charge Wizard (Progressive Dynamics). This option adds the fourth type of charging – desulfation. If batteries are maintained at a “float” voltage for a long time, the acid (which is heavier than water) sinks to the bottom of the battery. Lead sulfate covers the upper portion of the battery plates, decreasing the storage capacity and life of the battery(ies). That’s what both the IQ4 and Charge Wizard options address by periodically giving the batteries a 14.4 volt kick to keep the sulfation minimized. But I noticed one apparent difference between the way the Charge Wizard and IQ4 worked. With the IQ4 attached, you would always want to reset (unplug, plug in) the IQ4 to keep it from going into “bulk mode” on a full battery bank. The IQ4 also had an annoying, blinking LED. The P/D is built in and is “out of sight, out of mind”.
- Price… The Progressive Dynamics was cheaper than the Iota by about 20%. Lately, I’ve been seeing P/D’s for about $140 with free shipping. It’s a lot of quality charger for a decent price!
- Reliability… When the Iota worked, it was a decent charger. But the IQ4 operation was a little quirky and four of the chargers died in several years. During during the same period, it looked like P/D models did not have any similar quality issues. There were more happy reviews. Only time will tell if the new P/D model will be more reliable … but one can only hope!
I would use either charger for a van or camper but prefer the Progressive Dynamics model. Why? I did not like the quirkiness I experienced with the Iota’s IQ4 and the annoying, blinking LED on the pendant (which had to be moved in front of the bulkhead so I could sleep!). Both units work well for keeping the house batteries maintained but I believe the P/D might coddle your house batteries a little better and is more user-friendly.
Thanks for stopping by today! I’m off for a few days and will be camping somewhere with Serena through Wednesday morning. The McDonalds job is still going great. The fun people I work with make the difference!
Bradford the “Van Trekker”
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