KELTEK Blog

Secrets of the Vehicle Upfitting Industry: Power Management

Posted by Drake Dawson on Mar 26, 2018 8:00:00 AM

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Ask any of the guys in our shop and they’ll tell you one of the most common calls we get is, “Our battery keeps dying.”

There's a great scene in the movie Ironman where Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) realizes that his power center has been rendered useless and he asks his assistant for help. She comes to his aid and asks, “Is that the thing keeping you alive?” Ironman’s response is, “It was, but it’s now an antique…”

Check it out here:

Ironman needed a revamp of his power center and we think that is a great parallel to one of the greatest sources of frustration our customers see — and much like his assistant, we are here to help.

In one of our earlier posts, we discussed the benefit of the Odyssey deep cell battery as well as the HAVIS Chargeguard product. We’d like to take a deeper look at this powerful combo and how you can prevent your battery from ‘becoming an antique.'

The first step you’ll want to take is diagnosing the source of the issue. Is it the battery or the way your power is being managed?

To figure that out, you have to run what’s called a load test on the battery. Start by completely charging the battery. Then you’ll watch it both with the entire power load (vehicle and peripheral systems) drawing power as well as the battery isolated without the peripheral systems.

Upfitter tip: we recommend monitoring for at least an hour in both scenarios.

Comparing those two load tests, you’ll be able to diagnose if the battery is handling the voltage requirements appropriately.

If not, you more than likely will need a new battery. We recommend and stand behind the Odyssey battery. This powerful solution is designed for first responder vehicles and can provide deep cycle power reserves and has massive cranking power. Conventional vehicle batteries can provide one or the other, but not both.

If after the load test you diagnose that the battery is not the culprit, the issue lies in the vehicle’s power management (or lack thereof). 

There are two main ways to initiate power from the battery: an ignition block (starts drawing when the ignition is activated) and a hot block (direct from battery and always on). Many Upfitters connect directly into one or both of these systems to run the variety of systems that are required in today’s first responder vehicles. While certainly easier from an installation perspective, the problem in both of these options is that they aren’t intelligent; that is, they don’t have the capability to tell your battery when you do and do not need access to power. They are either on or off — and once they’re on, there’s nothing communicating to the battery when they no longer need to draw power (even if the ignition has been turned off).What’s missing is a brain.

The "brainof our recommended power management solution lies in the HAVIS Chargeguard product. Like an air traffic controller, it directs and monitors everything so your battery functions properly and your devices have power when they need it.

Here’s a diagram:

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Click image to enlarge or download.

In our years of Upfitting, we have yet to find a more stable and powerful power management solution. While the benefits to this product are numerous, we'd like to highlight a few: 

Battery monitoring:

The Chargeguard is able to monitor you battery’s voltage and shut your peripheral items down if it notices the required load exceeds capacity — ensuring you always have enough juice to at least start the vehicle. For instance, you can program the Chargeguard to different thresholds (i.e. "At ___ volts, set a 1-hour timer before shutting down power to peripheral devices," and "At 11 volts shut everything down to preserve vehicle ignition capacity.")

Dual Phase:

The Chargeguard is also capable of dual-phase power management. This functionality allows you (or your Upfitter) to dictate which systems you want tied to the ignition switch (on and off with the status of the ignition) and which systems you need tied to the hot block (on even after the vehicle is shut off). This can be helpful when you may not need the car running but need access to power through your siren light controller, radar, lighter wells, etc.

Upfitter tip: If you are running an end-of-shift switch through a Chargeguard, be weary of accessing the internal dip switches while any power is running. Better yet, let your trusted installer assume liability when accessing the Chargeguard unit. 

Like Ironman, you need access to power in an instant or both you and the people who depend on you will be vulnerable. Ask your installer about the measures they take to prevent that vulnerability. Understanding how your Upfitter plans to handle power management can save you loads of headaches and downtime down the road. Our team has years of experience so if you believe your fleet may have a power related vulnerability contact us today for a free audit.

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Topics: Products, Vehicle Upfitting

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