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Primer on Batteries for Boaters

For many boaters, batteries and electrical matters, in general, are not their strong suit.  They feel more comfortable talking about horsepower, gallons per hour and top speed. But batteries aren’t going away and the more you know about them, the better your boat will be equipped to conduct its mission.  This primer on lead-acid batteries will answer most of your questions about this arcane subject.

Nearly all boaters need reliable, durable batteries, no matter what the boating pursuit or the budget. Boat batteries can range in size from the little 7-pound mini’s designed to power a kayak‘s sonar/GPS to the big 180-pound 8D’s putting out over 2250 starting amps, capable of cranking massive 12-cylinder CAT diesels. Specialized house batteries — deep-cycles — keep onboard electronics and lighting functional, whether you’re running a 21-foot center console or a 125’ motoryacht.

The batteries that suit you and your boat best depend on what they are needed for, and how much charging capacity is required. Batteries, no matter what their chemistry, fall into two categories:

  1. Starting, or cold cranking batteries
  2. House, or on large motoryachts called “hotel” batteries.

In this report, we will cover conventional lead-acid batteries, which have essentially been used for at least the last 150 years, but have been improved and tweaked over that time to a point where they are relatively long-lasting, reliable and safe. In Part II of our report, we will address the relatively new lithium-ion batteries.


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