Disclosure: I received free sample units from Amperor for this review. I did received no payment and was not required to write a positive review.
It’s not often you find a piece of motorhome equipment that seems both useful and unique, but the Amperor Power Integrator might just fall into that category.
The Power Integrator has three functions:
- Battery to battery charger to charge your motorhome’s leisure battery from the alternator
- Solar / wind power MPPT charge controller
- Start battery top-up charger when engine is not running
All of these devices already exist, of course – but as far as I know, the Power Integrator is the only one that combines all three of these functions into one piece of equipment. It also has an extremely attractive price tag – Amperor UK is currently selling it for £189.95.
For anyone seeking to make their motorhome as independent of mains hookup as possible without too much complication, the Power Integrator seems ideal. Let’s take a look at all three functions in a little more detail.
Battery To Battery Charger
The Amperor Power Integrator’s battery to battery charging function has a maximum charging rate of 25A and uses a multi-stage charging cycle to ensure that leisure batteries are more fully charged than they would be with conventional alternator charging. The Power Integrator can cope with flooded, gel and AGM batteries – there are two small switches that you set to indicate what type of leisure battery you are using.
The Power Integrator requires an ignition feed (alternator D+) to detect when the engine is running, as do the split charge relays that are fitted to most motorhomes. Each battery connects directly to the Power Integrator and I assume it raises the load on the starter battery and uses the surplus current thus generated by the alternator to charge the leisure battery.
A maximum charging current of 25A will be ample for most motorhomes and compares well with many mains chargers. The only people who might want a higher charging rate are those with very large battery banks and very heavy power demands.
By way of comparison, the best known battery to battery charger on the UK market is probably Sterling Power’s Battery To Battery Charger. This comes in a number of configurations, of which the 12V/12V 50A model (current RRP £329.90) is usually the most suitable for motorhomes. The main advantages of the Sterling charger are its higher charge rate (if you need it) and the fact that it uses a voltage-sensing circuitry to initiate charging and does not require an ignition connection, only a connection to each battery. On the other hand, it is much more expensive than the Power Integrator and does not include a solar charge controller as standard.
Solar / Wind Power MPPT Charger Controller
Solar panels are increasingly popular with motorhomers who are seeking to reduce their dependence on mains hookup. To make the most efficient use of the output of a solar panel and to ensure your battery is correctly and safely charged, a charge controller or regulator is required. This connects between the solar panel and the battery and regulates the voltage and current that are fed to the battery.
The latest and best type of charge controller is the MPPT type. One of the challenges with using solar power to charge a 12V battery is that the output voltage of a solar panel can rise to around 17V-20V – much higher than the safe charging voltage for a 12V battery. The paradox is that a solar panel may only produce its maximum power output at this level.
Conventional charge controllers work by simply regulating the voltage output from the solar panel. The problem with this is that a lot of power is wasted, as solar panels tend to generate maximum current at maximum voltage (Power = Current x Voltage).
MPPT charge controllers are basically DC-DC converters that solve this problem by converting the extra voltage from the solar panel into increased current at a lower, more suitable, charging voltage. If you don’t understand this, don’t worry – the theory is sound and they do work well.
The Power Integrator has two input channels that are designed for solar or wind turbine connections. Each channel can handle a maximum of 100W and the wind channel can be used to connect a second solar panel – so the Power Integrator can support up to 200W of solar panels, which is a fair amount for most purposes.
The Power Integrator will automatically switch to solar/wind charging mode when it detects that the vehicle’s engine is off, ensuring that your motorhome’s leisure batteries continue to be charged as much as weather conditions allow.
Vehicle Starter Battery Top-Up Charger
One problem faced by many motorhomers is the need to keep their motorhome’s starter (engine) battery charged when the vehicle is not in use for long periods. There are standalone devices on the market that solve this problem (such as Battery Master), but this functionality is built into the Power Integrator.
When the engine is not running, but a solar/wind charging supply is present, the Power Integrator will supply a small charging current (maximum 1A) to the starter battery, which should be enough to ensure it does not go flat over time.
This is not enough to charge a flat starter battery, but assuming your starter battery is in good shape when you park up, it should stay that way.
Installing the Amperor Power Integrator
Installing the Power Integrator is pretty straightforward and I found the manual to be well written and easy to follow. The illustrations are clear and accurate, too which is useful.
Some understanding of 12V automotive electrics is required to fit this device, but recommended fuses and wire gauges are provided in the manual. To be honest, if you cannot understand what is required from the manual plus your own knowledge, you should probably consider getting assistance from someone more knowledgeable. Wiring this up wrongly could cause problems, especially for more modern motorhomes with CAN Bus wiring systems.
Independent thought and understanding will also be required if you are integrating this device into an existing motorhome electrical system – see here for an example of what I mean.
Overall, the Power Integrator seems to be a smart and well-conceived piece of equipment. It is new to the market so it is too early to say how reliable and well-made it is, but it does seem very promising and I would be very tempted to buy one if I needed a combined battery/solar charging system.
The Power Integrator cost £189.95 at the time of writing. You can find more information about the Power Integrator on Amperor’s website.