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Batteries & Chargers Discuss Li-P, Li-Ion, NiMh, Nicad battery technology and the chargers that juice 'em up!

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Old 12-29-2012, 07:27 PM   #1
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Default Looking for a new charger

Looking for some advice on a new charger. I've been using a couple of Astroflite AF109 chargers with the Blinky balancers which I bought many years ago. Also have an ICE charger. They've worked good for me but I also realize there are much better options today. My current project is a Sig Astro Hog E-Conversion with a Eflite 60. Battery will be a 6S 5000maH. I also fly a large heli with a 6S 4000 maH pack. Looking for a charger that covers all battery chemistries. Any recommendations?


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Old 12-29-2012, 07:42 PM   #2
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I've been very impressed with my Powerlab8. So much so that I bought a second one. This unit covers all my models from my UMX micro planes all the way up to my 700 size electric model. The Powerlabs are the only chargers I am aware of that cover current range from 10ma to 40amps of output.

Below is my "large field setup", four Dell supplies and gives me plenty of power for the field and reduced the dependence on parallel charging.


Below that is the smaller 450 travel kit. One Dell 12v 550 supply and one Powerlab8. Up to six 3s packs in parallel at 3c each. For my smaller models, mCXP 130x and UMX planes I have a 50 watt laptop supply delivering 15v. I also use a 3s as well as 6s pack to power my Powerlab to charge the smaller packs. Works to have one charger that covers all my models and charging scenarios.


Server supplies are inexpensive and helps keep them out of the land fill. Not to mention they are very high quality, have power factor correction are often better performers that many RC grade supplies. If you don't want to put them together, you can get some plug and play supplies here.


Mark Forsyth http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1563369
FeatherMerchant http://feathermerchantrc.com/


My first supply was from FeatherMerchant. I then branched out and picked up some supplies on ebay to play with. I've now wired and assembled several more for myself or friends.









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Old 12-30-2012, 05:07 AM   #3
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If you want the most expensive charger you can buy, a PowerLabs is the one.
If you want a well made affordable high output charger, iCharger 306B is it.

With 6S 5000mAh packs I wouldn't consider anything less than a 1000Watt charger.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:16 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by TheWoodCrafter View Post
If you want the most expensive charger you can buy, a PowerLabs is the one..
Nope, there are a number of chargers that cost more than Powerlab8. The Pulsar is the most expensive, followed by the new iCharger


If you want a well made affordable high output charger, iCharger 306B is it.

With 6S 5000mAh packs I wouldn't consider anything less than a 1000Watt charger
But the 306b is not really a 1000 watt charger. Its only 756 watts. I don't know why you continue to misrepresent the 306b's specs.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:46 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by TheWoodCrafter View Post
If you want a well made affordable high output charger, iCharger 306B is it.
If you want to compare iChargers to Powerlabs, then a better comparison is to the Powerlab6. Here are some points:
  1. Both chargers are rated at 1000 watts. Using the same server supplies on both chargers, the Powerlab6 puts out about 130 watts more than the 306b.
  2. Both chargers support discharging. However most knowledgeable iCharger owners would tell you that its real discharge rating is 0 watts. To use its discharge feature is to risk wear, damage and possibly fire. There are no risks involved in the Powerlab6's discharge feature. In fact comparing the two chargers side by side, its clear the heat sink was properly sized to dissipate the heat on the Powerlab6. Whereas the case was undersized on the iCharger, and the heat sink was not big enough to do the job.
  3. Both have upgradable firmware. But with the iCharger you are just as likely to complete successful upgrade as you are to render the unit brain dead. The Powerlab6 has a bootstrap firmware to prevent having to send the unit in for service should the update be disrupted.
  4. Both units have presets, but the iCharger's are so cumbersome and hard to use, most iCharger owners don't even use then. The Powerlab presets are useful, easy to access and modify. Plus they can be updated and changed from the PC software. Additionally there are 29 library presets which can be loaded if needed, for things like NiZn cells as well as foam cutter preset. There is no software to update or change the settings on the iCharger.
  5. Both charges have graphing software. The iCharger uses a third party tool written in Germany that buggy, limited with most of the documentation written in German. The Powerlab graphing software is specifically written for the Powerlabs by an American. Its simple to use and easy to generate useful logs of your charge cycles and pack health.
  6. Both have out of warranty service. For the iCharger send it to China. For the Powerlab, send it to Maryland, or if you are overseas you can send it to Singapore.
  7. Both units have balancing, the iCharger's is 500ma and the Powerlabs is 1 amp. iChargers start balancing only at the end of the charge. The Powerlabs start balancing when the packs are above 3.8v per cell.
  8. The Powerlab6 is only $15 more than the iCharger.
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:03 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by MikeCr View Post
Looking for some advice on a new charger. I've been using a couple of Astroflite AF109 chargers with the Blinky balancers which I bought many years ago. Also have an ICE charger. They've worked good for me but I also realize there are much better options today. My current project is a Sig Astro Hog E-Conversion with a Eflite 60. Battery will be a 6S 5000maH. I also fly a large heli with a 6S 4000 maH pack. Looking for a charger that covers all battery chemistries. Any recommendations?


Mike
Add me to the Cellpro Powerlab 8 charger list. I've got one, and it is several orders of magnitude better than the Astroflight chargers. (Also have several Astroflight chargers.) It's worked absolutely flawlessly for the past year and a half.

I've been using my '8 charger to charge a 12S2P A123 battery pack as a 6S4P pack, with a charging current of 30 Amps.

That's pulling 54 Amps out of my 12 VDC supply, but that's another issue. This unit now has 238 charge cycles on it, the only issue is the belt only lasts about 100 charge cycles.
http://www.wattflyer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=66066

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Old 12-30-2012, 01:38 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by MikeCr View Post
Looking for some advice on a new charger. I've been using a couple of Astroflite AF109 chargers with the Blinky balancers which I bought many years ago. Also have an ICE charger. They've worked good for me but I also realize there are much better options today. My current project is a Sig Astro Hog E-Conversion with a Eflite 60. Battery will be a 6S 5000maH. I also fly a large heli with a 6S 4000 maH pack. Looking for a charger that covers all battery chemistries. Any recommendations?


Mike
A key question here is what is your desired charge current? Your two packs are similar enough that using 10,20,30,40 amps current may just make the choice for you. At least it'll narrow it down a lot.
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Old 12-30-2012, 02:48 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by nidly View Post
A key question here is what is your desired charge current? Your two packs are similar enough that using 10,20,30,40 amps current may just make the choice for you. At least it'll narrow it down a lot.
Thanks guys for all the info so far.

I've never charged any of my packs at more than about 1.5C because I'm usually not in that much of a hurry. I have so many different models and several packs each that many times I don't even charge at the field. Plus with the old tech AF109/Blinky I don't feel comfortable charging at more than that.

I don't know that I'd want to go higher charge rate, especially with the 6S packs, because of my power issue. I use a deep cycle 110AH battery at the field which works great with the small 2 and 3S packs and an occasional charge on the 6S 4000. But now that I'll have 2 6S packs I'm going to need something different. I don't know if I'd want to go with a cheap Harbor Freight generator and I can't afford a nice Honda. At home I've only got an 18A power supply.


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Old 12-30-2012, 03:03 PM   #9
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A reasonable 2C is 10 amps , and there are a number of chargers in the 20 amp x 400 watt range that are very cheap. Too bad the ice doesn't do 6s pack. I'm not one to talk someone into buying cheap or top of the line.

When I do 6s x 5.0 packs I chose my cheap 400 watt x 20 amp charger OR my Triton 2 EQ (if I'm in no hurry) The Triton isn't going to cut it for you though.

The i-chargers are clearly in a class above the typical chinese clones and the PL- chargers are in a class above the i-charger.
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Old 12-30-2012, 04:24 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by nidly View Post
A reasonable 2C is 10 amps , and there are a number of chargers in the 20 amp x 400 watt range that are very cheap. Too bad the ice doesn't do 6s pack. I'm not one to talk someone into buying cheap or top of the line.

When I do 6s x 5.0 packs I chose my cheap 400 watt x 20 amp charger OR my Triton 2 EQ (if I'm in no hurry) The Triton isn't going to cut it for you though.

The i-chargers are clearly in a class above the typical chinese clones and the PL- chargers are in a class above the i-charger.
I looked at the price of the i-charger and the Powerlab and I wouldn't have a problem with either one as far as price. Not a good place to go cheap. But I also don't want to have to spend way more $ than necessary.

I bought the ICE charger mainly to charge NiCd and NiMH with the occasional LiPo backup to my two AF109's. But even the ICE doesn't do balance charging. In fact the only balance charger I have is the PZ charger that came with my PZ Extra 300.


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Old 12-30-2012, 07:23 PM   #11
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+1more on powerlabs,nothing so nice as charging 6 batteries at the same time. not cheap but a great investment toward maintaining battery conditions and plenty of options for charge rate settings.


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Old 12-30-2012, 07:42 PM   #12
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That brings up a good point. That is IF a requirement is to charge multiple packs at the same time then all the figures need to be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, ect.

If I had to do multiple packs at once I'd look into the 400 watt HK quad OR the new i-charger duo OR many other double output chargers. It kinda depends on if the packs can be done in parallel or not. Many times even same cell count packs cannot be done in parallel.
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Old 01-08-2013, 02:46 AM   #13
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So far I' m leaning towards the PL6. One of my main criteria is safety and I get a good feeling about the PowerLab series. It is really frustrating trying to wade through all the info (read BS) when trying to find a great charger. I've tried reading through the charger info on the various forums and all it does is give me a headache. I even tried asking some of my flying buddies and that was just as frustrating. Several of them use cheap chargers that I wouldn't be comfortable charging my TX pack with.


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Old 01-08-2013, 03:02 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by MikeCr View Post
So far I' m leaning towards the PL6. One of my main criteria is safety and I get a good feeling about the PowerLab series. It is really frustrating trying to wade through all the info (read BS) when trying to find a great charger. I've tried reading through the charger info on the various forums and all it does is give me a headache. I even tried asking some of my flying buddies and that was just as frustrating. Several of them use cheap chargers that I wouldn't be comfortable charging my TX pack with.


Mike
Slinger WI??? Hey, I'm from Racine WI!

Those members in my RC club that have purchased the Cellpro chargers really like them. One member had an assortment of other brand chargers. After he got the Cellpro 10xP, all the other brands got stuck into a cardboard box on a shelf.

The PL6 and PL8 chargers have a lot of custom abilities, where you can specifically name each charging routine to match the batteries you will be charging. You need the "dongle" to do that.

In my case, I've got my name in the LCD display. Then the following.

#1 routine = 4 parallel A123 charge routine at 30 Amps charging.
#2 routine = 2 parallel A123 charge routine at 15 Amps Charging
#3 routine = 1 parallel A123 charge routine at 7.5 Amps Charging
#4 routine = Lipo charging at 2.3 amps
#5 routine = Receiver battery charging at 0.3 Amps
#6 routine = Backup receiver battery charge routine at 2 amps through balance cables.

The LCD display shows exactly which routine you have programmed. The number of cells is automatically determined through the balance cables.

That leaves a dozen or more routines if my feeble memory is correct.

I should buy a spare Cellpro Powerlab 8 in case something happens to this one. Mine has been in use for about a year and a half with zero problems.

You mentioned the "Blinky" balancers in your first posting. IMHO, they are not nearly as effective as the built in balance circuitry in the various Cellpro chargers. In fact I damaged a 6S2P A123 battery pack using a blinky charger. Found out after a hundred or so flights, the A123 pack was way way out of balance, even though the blinky balancer indicated all was OK.

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Old 01-08-2013, 12:06 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by kyleservicetech View Post
Slinger WI??? Hey, I'm from Racine WI!

Those members in my RC club that have purchased the Cellpro chargers really like them. One member had an assortment of other brand chargers. After he got the Cellpro 10xP, all the other brands got stuck into a cardboard box on a shelf.

The PL6 and PL8 chargers have a lot of custom abilities, where you can specifically name each charging routine to match the batteries you will be charging. You need the "dongle" to do that.

In my case, I've got my name in the LCD display. Then the following.

#1 routine = 4 parallel A123 charge routine at 30 Amps charging.
#2 routine = 2 parallel A123 charge routine at 15 Amps Charging
#3 routine = 1 parallel A123 charge routine at 7.5 Amps Charging
#4 routine = Lipo charging at 2.3 amps
#5 routine = Receiver battery charging at 0.3 Amps
#6 routine = Backup receiver battery charge routine at 2 amps through balance cables.

The LCD display shows exactly which routine you have programmed. The number of cells is automatically determined through the balance cables.

That leaves a dozen or more routines if my feeble memory is correct.

I should buy a spare Cellpro Powerlab 8 in case something happens to this one. Mine has been in use for about a year and a half with zero problems.

You mentioned the "Blinky" balancers in your first posting. IMHO, they are not nearly as effective as the built in balance circuitry in the various Cellpro chargers. In fact I damaged a 6S2P A123 battery pack using a blinky charger. Found out after a hundred or so flights, the A123 pack was way way out of balance, even though the blinky balancer indicated all was OK.
The Blinky balancers are definitely not up to the task if the battery is very far out of balance. Most of the time the Blinky would continue to try to balance for quite a while after the charge cycle was over. It just doesn't have the capacity to do much. And of course it's not talking to the charger so if the battery has a problem it'll continue to charge it. About 4 years ago I had a battery go up because the of this. I plugged in the Blinky and only got 2 lights (3 cell pack) at which time I removed it and plugged it back in, got the 3 lights. The AF109 did eventually beep Battery Fault, at which time I unplugged it and took it outside. A few minutes later it gassed and a minutes after that it ignited! Destroyed a perfectly good LiPo Sack but hey, that's what it's for!

I put 2 and 2 together and figured that one of the balance leads was loose which was why the first time I only got 2 lights. A better charger would have prevented this.

I'd like to be able to do parallel charging, not sure how that works. I know that the batteries have to be the same cell count, do they have to be the same capacity and does it matter if one is older than the other or a different brand?



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Old 01-08-2013, 07:28 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by MikeCr View Post

I'd like to be able to do parallel charging, not sure how that works. I know that the batteries have to be the same cell count, do they have to be the same capacity and does it matter if one is older than the other or a different brand?



Mike
The Cellpro web site shows how to do parallel charging. The Cellpro 6, and '8 are designed to charge one pack at a time, or charge parallel connected packs with the same series cell count.

The Cellpro 10xP allows charging two LiPo batteries with separate cables to each. The 10xP has a lower capability of charging at very high currents. Not really an issue unless you're flying with 6S 5000 mah batteries.

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Old 01-08-2013, 10:37 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by kyleservicetech View Post
The Cellpro web site shows how to do parallel charging. The Cellpro 6, and '8 are designed to charge one pack at a time, or charge parallel connected packs with the same series cell count.

The Cellpro 10xP allows charging two LiPo batteries with separate cables to each. The 10xP has a lower capability of charging at very high currents. Not really an issue unless you're flying with 6S 5000 mah batteries.
That's what I will be using on my Astro Hog, 6S 5000 mah. I've pretty much decided on one of the Power Lab chargers. I'm debating whether I should go with the PL6 or PL8. I don't know if the PL8 would be that much advantageous since I doubt I'd ever need to run 8 cells, although the motor I have for the AH can use 7S.



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Old 01-08-2013, 11:23 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by MikeCr View Post
That's what I will be using on my Astro Hog, 6S 5000 mah. I've pretty much decided on one of the Power Lab chargers. I'm debating whether I should go with the PL6 or PL8. I don't know if the PL8 would be that much advantageous since I doubt I'd ever need to run 8 cells, although the motor I have for the AH can use 7S.



Mike
For the extra few $$$$, I'd go for the PL8. That's what I have, and am completely satisfied with it. Don't see a need to ever buy another charger with this in my inventory.

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Old 01-20-2013, 11:22 PM   #19
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Well I finally pulled the trigger and ordered a PL6 combo with a MPA and USB cable. Now all I need to do is sort out the power source. I'm going to need a new power supply, the one I have is only 12V/18A. And I'll need to pick up some new deep cycle batteries for the field. Oh well, it'll be a while before I'll need it, it's pretty cold here in WI right now.


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Old 01-21-2013, 12:44 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by MikeCr View Post
Well I finally pulled the trigger and ordered a PL6 combo with a MPA and USB cable. Now all I need to do is sort out the power source. I'm going to need a new power supply, the one I have is only 12V/18A. And I'll need to pick up some new deep cycle batteries for the field. Oh well, it'll be a while before I'll need it, it's pretty cold here in WI right now.


Mike
If that PL6 is similar to my PL8, you can program the PL6 for the maximum current you can pull out of your power supply. Just set the maximum to 16 Amps or so, and you're good to go.

Those computer server power supplies also work well, you can pick up a used one for about $50. Normally these used supplies are powered up 24/7, and are pulled on a rotating basis. They have a lot of life left in them, when used for a few hours at a time. http://www.feathermerchantrc.com/ Couple of guys in my club have purchased these units from feathermerchantrc., and are quite happy with them. They do require soldering 12 Volt power wires to the unit though.

If you want to charge at real high amperes in your home, one way to do that is put a 10 or 15 Amp or battery charger on your deep cycle battery, hook your PL6 to your deep cycle battery, and charge.

I've done this for many years. Works very well.

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Old 01-21-2013, 01:32 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by kyleservicetech View Post
If that PL6 is similar to my PL8, you can program the PL6 for the maximum current you can pull out of your power supply. Just set the maximum to 16 Amps or so, and you're good to go.

Those computer server power supplies also work well, you can pick up a used one for about $50. Normally these used supplies are powered up 24/7, and are pulled on a rotating basis. They have a lot of life left in them, when used for a few hours at a time. http://www.feathermerchantrc.com/ Couple of guys in my club have purchased these units from feathermerchantrc., and are quite happy with them. They do require soldering 12 Volt power wires to the unit though.

If you want to charge at real high amperes in your home, one way to do that is put a 10 or 15 Amp or battery charger on your deep cycle battery, hook your PL6 to your deep cycle battery, and charge.

I've done this for many years. Works very well.
I downloaded the PL6 manual a few days ago and yes, it can be set to limit the current it draws from it's power source. I'll have to look into one of those server power supplies. My deep cycle battery charger goes to 12A so I could try charging the DC battery while charging with the PL6, assuming that my DC charger wouldn't get confused that way.

As I indicated I ordered a combo that included the FMA MPA. I found a few sites that offered combos that included non FMA adapters but I just wasn't sure I wanted to save a few bucks and take a chance with a knockoff adapter, especially since this will be my first go at parallel charging.




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Old 01-21-2013, 01:59 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by MikeCr View Post
My deep cycle battery charger goes to 12A so I could try charging the DC battery while charging with the PL6, assuming that my DC charger wouldn't get confused that way.

Mike
Running a discharge on a lead acid battery while charging with a lead acid battery charger is not much different than recharging a lead acid battery that's half discharged.

As for those balance connectors, IMHO I don't like those multi-adapters much.

Here is what I did. Take a look:
http://www.wattflyer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=64209

DennyV
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