Sterling Power BB1260 Battery to Battery (B2B) Charger – Review

Sterling-B2B-Charger-BB1260-Review-Van

Sterling Power BB1260 Battery to Battery (B2B) Charger – Review

The Sterling Power BB1260 Battery to Battery (B2B) Charger play a major role in keeping our camper van electrical system balanced and healthy. How’s that? The B2B charger uses the van alternator power to charge our house (auxiliary) battery while we drive. It’s an install-and-forget device: it turns itself ON/OFF automatically when driving the van, doing its things without user intervention. Neat! It means that we don’t have to worry about running out of power AND that the house battery lifespan is maximized. Sounds too good? Keep reading this review as we get into more details…

 

Sterling Power B2B in Van
Vanlife Essentials!

 

How does it work?

The Sterling Power Battery to Battery charger is installed “between” the van battery and the house battery (more installation details further in this article). There is no switch or button to initiate the charge! You see, when you start your vehicle the alternator kicks-in and raise the voltage of the van battery in order to charge it. The B2B senses the higher voltage and turns itself ON automatically. Now when you turn your vehicle OFF, the alternator stops and the voltage of the van battery drops; the B2B senses the dropped voltage and turns itself OFF. All of that happens without user intervention (well, except the part where you drive your vehicle!).

 

Why is it beneficial to the house battery lifespan?

Each type of battery (Gel, AGM, Lithium, etc.) has a specific charge voltage; with an isolator or an ACR (instead of a B2B), the house battery receive a “random” voltage (same as the van battery). You probably heard of battery’s memory effect, right? It’s real! If a battery doesn’t get a proper multi-stage charge (bulk, absorption, float), it looses its total capacity and that’s non-reversible (knowledge is power: we recommend reading the Charging Profile section of our Electrical System page to really understand what that means). Bad charge = wasted money (the battery has to be replaced more often), so we think the B2B charger pretty much pays for itself in the long run.

 

Are solar power AND alternator power (B2B) both needed?

Solar Panels Installation

Here’s what we think about that:

  • If you live full time in your van, we say a B2B charger is a must. Energy is a basic need, it’s not cool worrying about running out of it…
  • If you take your van for adventures in summer only, you can probably live without it as solar can provide the bulk + absorption charge on its own.
  • For fall and spring adventures, we highly recommend it as the solar days get shorter and weaker. Alternator power is a good way to quickly go through the bulk charge, then solar power can complete the absorption stage.
  • For winter there’s no question about it, our opinion is that you want it. Sun angle is too low, solar day is too short and overcast weather is more common (for USA and Canada at least).

 

What we Like…

  • Surprisingly easy to install (scroll down for installation write-up)
  • Install-and-Forget!
  • Fast Charge (up to 60A during the bulk charge)
  • Provides a nice multi-stage charge that keeps the battery (Gel, AGM, Lithium, etc.) healthy in the long run

 

What we Don’t Like …

  • The internal cooling fan is quite noisy; think of a tiny hair dryer. If possible, install the Sterling charger further back away from driver / passenger seats to minimize the noise.

 

Models & Where to Buy

There are a few variants of the Sterling Power Battery to Battery charger, so make sure to select the appropriate one according to:

  1. Input voltage (most likely 12V…)
  2. Output voltage (most likely 12V…)
  3. Input current (30A, 60A or 120A).

It basically comes down to either BB1230 (Input: 12V, 30A. Output: 12V, 22A), BB1260 (Input: 12V, 60A. Output: 12V, 45A) or BBW12120 (Input: 12V, 120A. Output: 12V, 90A). We highly recommend the BB1260 for a faster charge (so a short drive goes a long way 🙂 ), unless of course 60A is over the maximum current recommended for your battery.

Sterling B2B 1230
Sterling Power BB1230 B2B Charger. Buy from Amazon.
Sterling B2B 1260
Sterling Power BB1260 B2B Charger. Buy from Amazon.
Sterling Power BBW12120 B2B
Sterling Power BBW12120* B2B Charger. Buy from Amazon.

*But before selecting the BBw12120, please consider the following:

  1. Batteries generally have recommended and maximum charge current. Going overboard is a waste of space (this charger is bigger) and money.
    • Check your battery manual or data sheet to find out.
  2. Make sure your alternator can handle that much current so that you’re not draining your van battery.
    • For example there are two alternator options on the Ford Transit: basic (150A) and Heavy-Duty (230A). It is believed (not official info) the Transit needs roughly 70A for itself (lights, radio, etc.), so we’re left with 80A extra current with the basic alternator and 160A extra current with the Heavy-Duty alternator. If you have the basic 150A alternator (80A extra current) and you’re charging your house battery at 120A, it probably means your are “borrowing” that extra power from the van battery…
  3. Overworking an alternator might reduce its lifespan.
  4. The BBW12120 has, according to Sterling Power, reduced cooling capacities due to the fact that it’s waterproof. Therefore it’s not ideal to install that in a van. Instead, they recommend to install two BB1260 in parallel to get a higher output.

 

Installing the Sterling BB1260 B2B Charger

First of all, as always, make sure to read the manual (choose the latest version). The manufacturer knows his product better than anyone else.

 

Location

Make sure to install the B2B charger into a well vented space and do not obstruct the hot air exhaust:

Sterling-Power-BB1260-Ventilation-Hot-Air

 

Wiring and Electrical

It’s honestly quite simple. Here are the required connections:

  1. Positive Input (From vehicle battery)
  2. Positive Output (To house battery)
  3. Negative (Common to vehicle and house battery)
  4. Temperature sensor (To house battery negative post. Optional, but recommended. This is to correct the voltage according to temperature change)

Sterling-Power-BB1260-Wiring

 

For safety sake, remember to add fuses (or breakers) on the positive wires and to select the right wire diameter according to length / fuses. Not sure why or how? In this case, make sure to read our electrical system guide! We first start with the theory (so you understand what’s going on), then YOU do the work using our Interactive Diagram and our Tutorial:

DIY Van Electrical Guide: Build Your Knowledge

Here is a sneak peak of what you will find inside the article:

Wiring Diagram
From-Blank-to-Wiring-Diagram-Animated-GIF (V2, rev A)
Tutorial

 

Ford Transit Connection:

POSITIVE:

This official Ford SVE Bulletin shows how to connect to POSITIVE for the SINGLE or DOUBLE battery variant: SVE Bulletin Q-226 (.pdf):

Ford Transit Accessing Battery Power
Ford SVE Bulletin Q-226 (pdf file)

NEGATIVE:

Connect to one of the recommended ground point provided in the BEMM (we personally used the ground point between the driver & passenger seat):Ground-Point-Ford-Transit-Passenger-Driver-seat

 

 

 

Mercedes Sprinter Connection:

Please check the Mercedes Sprinter “Body And Equipement Guideline” on how to use the battery power (alternator):

Sprinter Power Tapping Option 2 (page 1)

 

Default Options

Here are the factory options for the Sterling BB1260 Charger:

  • MODE: 1
    • (Mode 2 is identical to mode 1, except it needs a live signal on the ignition feed input in order to charge)
  • ACTIVATION VOLTAGE: vehicle battery above 13.2v (for 5 seconds)
  • TURN-OFF VOLTAGE: vehicle battery below 13.2V
  • TURN-OFF TIMER: 240 seconds
    • (A timer is required to complement the regenerative braking aspect of modern Euro 5 / 6 + engines – where the alternator’s voltage can drop below 13V for a short period of time)
    • Because our Ford Transit 2016 does not have regenerative braking, we changed the turn-off timer to 30 seconds (procedure in manual). This is the prevent draining the van battery, especially when running errands (multiple short drives).

 

First Time Use

The unit will enter “config” mode at first startup; this is your opportunity to change the charging profile according to your battery type.

  • The configuration can be changed later, check the manual.
  • To find out which charging profile to select, check your battery manual.

 

First Time Use Configuration Sequence:

  1. To initiate the first startup, turn on the vehicle and wait a few seconds. To indicate the B2B has turned ON, LEDs will light up, a beep will sound and the fan will run for 5 seconds. If none of that happens, try to “force-start” the unit: simply press and hold SETUP/ENTER for 5-9 seconds.
  2. At this point, a LED is flashing to indicate the battery type (default = lead acid).
  3. To change the battery type, press and hold SETUP/ENTER buttons for 10-12 seconds (up to 20 seconds); all LEDs are now flashing.
  4. Scroll down (SELECT button) or up (ENTER button) to select your battery type; Press and hold SETUP/ENTER buttons for 2-3 seconds to confirm the selection.
  5. At this point, the B2B charger will restart.
  6. If you have a battery monitor, such as the Victron (faroutride.com/victron-review), you can observe that the B2B is charging the house battery…
  7. That’s it! Go for a ride!

 

To change the configuration later or for advanced options, check the manual.

 

Operation

Once the installation and initial setup completed, just drive and let the Sterling Power B2B charger do its thing!

 

Reliability

We installed the Sterling Power BB1260 B2B Charger in October 2018; so far so good! We will keep you updated if anything happens! Subscribe to our Mailing List to be notified.

 

Resources

 

Runner-Up

New for 2019, Renogy is now offering a DC to DC charger (B2B). We haven’t tested it ourselves, but Renogy is known for their good, reasonably priced products so it’s most likely a safe buy. That being said, READ THIS BEFORE BUYING:

  • The Renogy B2B starts the charge when the ignition is set to “ON”, even if the engine is not running. Consequently, you could drain your starter battery (when listening to music, for example). For this reason, we would personally stay away from it.
  • The Renogy B2B requires a connection to the ignition signal of the vehicle, making the installation a bit more complicated than with the Sterling Power.
Renogy 40A DC to DC Battery Charger 20A
Renogy DC to DC Battery Charger 20A. Buy on Amazon.
Renogy 40A DC to DC Battery Charger 40A
Renogy DC to DC Battery Charger 40A. Buy on Amazon.
Renogy DC to DC 60A Alternator Charger
Renogy DC to DC Battery Charger 60A. Buy on Amazon.

 

Renogy also released the DCC50S which combines a DC to DC charger & Solar (MPPT) charger. As opposed to the Renogy B2B charger above, this model starts the charge based on the starter battery voltage (so it won’t drain your battery when your engine is not running, that’s better). Looks like a sweet product, but be aware of the limitations:

  • Maximum alternator charging current: 25A
  • Maximum solar charging current: 25A
  • Maximum solar voltage: 25V (so if using multiple panels, series connection is not possible)
Renogy DCC50S Alternator and MPPT Charger
Renogy DCC50S Alternator & Solar Charger. Buy on Amazon.

 

You Might Be Interested In:

 

 


DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc), we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

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74 thoughts on “Sterling Power BB1260 Battery to Battery (B2B) Charger – Review”

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NOTE: We can't possibly read/answer all the comments anymore, due to high volume (wow!) and the built-in SPAM filter. If you wish to contact us directly, please use the contact form available in "My Account" (faroutride.com/account).
Thanks for your comprehension and your support, you're awesome! See you on the road.

- Your hosts, Isabelle and Antoine.
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  1. Hey Guys, I have the Sterling BB1260, Victron 100/30 and 2×100 BattleBorn. First stage of my build, I connected my solar and all was good, solar charged my batteries great and used for a few trips. Secondly, I disconnected the solar hookup when I connect up the BB1260 and it has worked good for a few trips. Right now Im running only BB1260 for charging and have not connected solar and BB1260 at same time. My question is, are there any conflicting issues when connecting both units at same time?

    Reply
  2. Hello Antoine,
    Thank you for the great content!

    I am installing a BB1230 and following the recommend cable size for the current required for the 30A model. As recommended I am running the ground back to the house battery terminal creating a total length of 27ft of wire (Positive, Negative and Ground at 9ft each).

    Was this your thought process for sizing your wire’s gauge?

    Thanks,
    Brian

    Reply
  3. Hello:
    When you installed your Sterling B2B battery charger you say you reduced the after engine shut off B2B timer to 30 seconds to avoid discharge of the engine battery.
    I wish to do the same.
    Question: Why did you choose 30 seconds rather than 15 sec or some other low number? Was there a specific reason to pick 30 seconds?
    Thanks so much. Stay well & happy.

    Reply
  4. Hi, excuse my ignorance about things electrical, but is it possible with this to use the house batteries to “jump” the vehicle starter battery if necessary?

    Reply
  5. A piece of feedback about the Renogy B2B units, since you mention them and this website has significant readership:

    The Renogy units are NOT activated by voltage sensing. In other words, they do not automatically turn on or off based on the voltage from the alternator. They have an input that turns them on and off instead. So, you need to connect 1 additional wire to something like the ignition switch, to tell it when to turn on. And, because they are not voltage detecting, they will charge your house battery off the starter battery if this input is high, even if the engine isn’t running. So you need to be extra careful, and you could drain your starter battery if you did something like leave the ignition switch on to listen to the radio. You also could have a charging load on your starter battery when trying to start the vehicle, which is not ideal.

    In my opinion, these downsides make the Renogy unit a significantly less appealing option than Sterling, Ctek, or Victron.

    Reply
    • Good info, Kyle.
      I’ve updated the page to reflect that. “The Renogy B2B starts the charge when the ignition is set to “ON”, even if the engine is not running. Consequently, you could drain your starter battery (when listening to music, for example). For this reason, we would personally stay away from it.”

      Thanks for your input!
      antoine

      Reply
  6. Hi Antoine,

    FYI, I have 2 x 100Ah Battleborn and the higher output BBW12120 (120 Amp) charger.

    You mention concerns about overcharging your battery bank, and you are right that folks think about that.

    But if you buy the remote with this device, you can define the “Current Limit” from 100% down to 30%, which gives you a scalable solution, even if you are starting with 1 x 100Ah battery.

    For the record, I leave mine at 100%, and have never seen more than 92 Amps going into the sytem, which is in line with the recommended charging rate (0.5c = 100Amps on a 200Amp bank). For the recored, 92 amps occurred when I was at about 50% DOD. I never really get below that. I might get more amps from the 12120, if my DOD was below 50%, or if — as you suggest – I chained two BB1260s.

    Note: I have the HD alternator (230Amps) and similar daily amp usage as you.

    Just thought I’d share.

    Cheers,
    Dave

    Reply
    • Pour le Transit (et la plupart des van similaires), la (les) batteries sont sous le siège conducteur. De plus, il serait mieux de l’installer à l’intérieur ca c’est pour ça qu’il est conçu (pas 100% waterproof).

      Au plaisir.

      Reply
  7. Thank you for all your information on one site.
    I like the Sterling setup other than the noise of the fan (have not made purchase yet).
    So I am researching for alternative and have found Victron’s Orion TR Smart DC-DC 12/12/30.
    Realize this is only 30 amp but my system is simple.
    Any thoughts on the Orion vs Sterling.?
    Mark

    Reply
    • I haven’t tried/tested the Victron myself, but I’d trust Victron. As you mentioned, they only downside I see with the Victron (looking at the specs) is it’s only 30 amps. But if you can live with it, it’s all good!

      Reply
    • Mark, you can parallel the Orions to get 30 or 60 or 90 etc. charge amps. They say an unlimited amount. Of course that makes the cost a major consideration but it can be done.

      Reply
  8. I’ve liked using the Sterling B2B charger with Lithium Batteries in a truck camper and travel trailer. As a result, I have delayed indefinitely the install of roof mounted solar. I can go 3 to 5 days on my battery without a charge and that’s about as long as I’m going to be in a spot before driving again. Normally, I’m driving more frequently and because the B2B tops the battery off quickly, it’s be a great solution.

    Reply
    • If you have the dual batteries, there’s an auxiliary terminal available; it’s easier than wiring 2 CCP connections in parallel (each CCP is 60A, i’d be worried of using only one). But both solutions work, so feel free to use the one you like better!

      Reply
  9. Hello faroutride/Antoine,

    Thank you for your wonderful writeup and we’re glad our unit has impressed you and worked to your needs perfectly.

    I should note, however, that we typically aren’t comfortable recommending people to fit a BBW12120 inside vans as it is a waterproof product. Waterproof products are obviously very sealed and thus the cooling can be more difficult. Inside of a van where there is, I believe it is fair to say, normally not perfect ventilation or cooling the fact that it is waterproof ends up being a detriment as it may be prone to overheating or losing efficiency. Only fit waterproof products in areas where you do need the unit to be waterproof. It’s not a cool extra feature, it’s a product to fulfil a purpose.

    If you do need to reach closer to 120A rather than just 60, running two BBs, either a BB1230 and a BB1260 or two BB1260s, in parallel will give you the higher A output.

    Thank you again,

    Reply
  10. Thanks for taking the time in sharing your product review

    I understand an alternator on its own will only charge to 80%, is this the same for the VSR?

    I understand the B2B will charge to 100%. Is that correct? Thats the selling point right there. Making use of a potential 20% loss. I mean in terms as a generic summary, using a run of the mill leisure battery and start battery you only ever get to use between a range of 50%-80%. So with multiple batteries, thats a loss of 20% per battery within your power bank.

    I do however, acknowledge with newer technology allows us to use 100%, but comes at a premium.

    So if my R&D serves me well, then this would be the best solution above the rest.

    I have a calcium 5000 Yuasa 100ah battery as starter, and two Banner 100ah leisure batteries.

    I plan to live in it full time, and am a gamer an a bit of a film buff. Of course this is when I am not driving, travelling and taking my family away and enjoying the beautiful world around us.

    I wish you well in your endeavours.

    Thanks

    Jason

    Reply
    • A B2B charger is programmable to deliver the appropriate charge profile (bulk, absorption, float: current VS voltage) according to your specific battery chemistry (Lead Acid, AGM, Lithium, etc). While a relay doesn’t have the ability to do charge profiles.

      At the end of the day, the result seems identical: your battery is charged. But with the B2B charger you’re taking care of your battery and it’ll last much longer. More info here: https://faroutride.com/electrical-system/

      Hope that makes sense!

      Reply
  11. I purchased your wiring diagram and have found it to be very helpful. Two quick questions regarding the sterling B2B charger- your diagram called for common wire running to the negative terminal on the starting battery- the fitting on that battery does not accommodate additional cables so can I run that cable to a factory installed ground point on the vehicle instead? Also, the sterling manual called for 100 amp fuses on either side of the charger, but the diagram that you guys provided calls for 70 amp (I bought the 60 amp sterling charger you specified). Please let me know. Thank you!

    Reply
    • 1- Yep, we used the ground point between the driver/passenger seat.
      2- The manual was recently updated to a 100A fuse (it used to be 70A); so yeah go for 100A (but we personally don’t have a 100A and it works fine).

      Cheers!

      Reply
  12. When you connected to the starter battery did you go through the CCP and if so did you only need one since they are rated with a 60A fuse themselves, also I see your using 4AWG wire which seems a bit large for the small CCP terminals. Or did you go straight to the battery positive post. I only have a single starter battery and the 150A alt so as per the bulletin you posted if i go to the pos post I would need another terminal but there is no part number only for additional CCPs. Unfortunately my local Ford dealer technicians won’t answer my questions.
    One last thing, I have 3 100ah BattleBorn batts with 600w of panels all in my 2018 Transit. Would you suggest the 60a or 30a B2B?

    Reply

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