Engel has introduced their newest aerator this May. The biggest difference between it versus other portable aerators is the new Engel Aerator is the first to have a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Along with that, the new aerator has a new air pump design to remove moving parts. The seal quality of the new aerator is also higher due to the body not having to open to put D-batteries in it.
My personal experience with aerators has been rocky at best. It feels like every spring I’d go to Walmart and buy a new aerator, a pack of D batteries, and then use that aerator for a couple of trips to Florida and maybe some trips to the lake. Then, by the end of the year when packing away gear for the winter, I’d see the aerator was rusted out: motor shot, wires, and contacts corroded with the batteries leaking everywhere. So, that’d get tossed into the trash and then I’d spend another $20 the following spring on a new one.
The biggest problem with those battery-operated aerators was that you have to open them to put the batteries in. This means the internal components can get exposed to the elements easily. Even though the aerators have a gasket around the rim to keep water out. I would keep seeing traces of saltwater intrusion inside them after my trips. Another issue is the batteries you have to use. D-batteries kind of suck. They’re big, bulky, and aren’t cheap either.
A few years back I had a 10-day collection trip down to Uruguay to collect aquarium fish. To keep the fish alive while we traveled between locations, we needed to take a couple of aerators and a bunch of D-batteries. You had to bring them with you from the US because they were cost-prohibitive to buy down in Uruguay. As a group, we probably went through over 100 D batteries on that trip. That’s a lot of weight and trash we could have saved if we had rechargeable aerators.
So, the initial assessment of the new Engel Rechargeable Aerator is that there aren’t many places for water to intrude into the unit. The only ports on the aerator is the air inlet on the back, the charging port on the side, and the air outlet on the bottom of the unit. The charging port on the side has a rubber seal that covers the USB-C charging port when not in use. On all the other portable aerators I’ve had the outlet port was on the top of the unit. This new aerator has the outlet port on the bottom. I’m assuming this is to reduce the chance of water flowing in through the port. The port is also inletted into the body of the aerator which again might be to reduce the chance of damaging the port.
I do find one issue with the outlet port placement though. With the length of the silicone hose they provide with the aerator, it is too short. Using their 30qt Drybox/Live Bait Cooler, the hose is just too short. The air-stone doesn’t reach the bottom of the livewell, and it pinches at the bottom of the aerator as well as the top of the cooler. While this isn’t a big issue, and might not be an issue at all for their other smaller Drybox/Live Bait Coolers, silicone tubing isn’t expensive and adding even 6″ of tubing would fix this problem.
So, initial testing of the aerator showed it definitely wasn’t the strongest air pump. Compared to other units I’ve used before I would say it was middle of the pack. The photo below does show a good amount of surface disruption on the surface of the water. Which is more important than the actual bubbles. The bubbles have less than one second of contact with the water so they really don’t cause any gas exchange. The current and surface disruption makes more surface area for gas exchange. This is why a little more length of hose provided would be nicer for the aerator. It would have the stone all the way at the bottom of the live well and cause more water to be pushed to the surface and have a better gas exchange rate.
So, while not first place in pushing air into the livewell, it definitely is the quietest unit I’ve used. If there is any ambient noise in the room you can’t really hear the aerator buzzing. The nice rubber legs and lack of moving parts keep it very quiet. During the battery testing, there were multiple times that I had to double-check to make sure the aerator was still running. It was quiet enough that I could not tell until I was holding the aerator and able to feel it vibrating.
The big thing for this Engel Rechargeable Aerator is the battery life. In all the advertisements they claim it can last up to 36 hours of continuous use. So, I wanted to put that claim to the test. I filled up my livewell with tap water and plugged in a fully charged aerator. The first test was done on the highest of the four speed settings, I got 18 hours of run time before it shut off. You can turn it on again, but I didn’t in case it might damage the lithium-ion battery. That result was kind of disappointing, but to be fair to Engel they never specified which setting the aerator was at for 36 hours of run time.
With the aerator battery being drained, using the provided USB-C charger it took 4 hours to charge completely. Which matches the stated charge time in the quick start booklet. So, now setting the aerator on the lowest setting, I left it running on the livewell till it shut off again. This time I did get the 36 hours of run time like they claimed. Yes, it’s the lowest setting, but at least it did meet Engel’s claims. There is another mode to extend the run time for the aerator on a single charge.
There’s an intermittent mode that runs for 10 seconds, then shuts off for ten seconds. While I can’t say how well it keeps the water oxygenated, but it definitely almost doubles the run time for the unit. So, besides the short airline hose, I would say I’m happy with this aerator. That is an easy fix, too. Go to any local pet shop and you can grab some hose for cheap. The upfront cost is a bit high at $50 a unit, but if you think about it you pay anywhere from $18 – $25 for battery-powered aerators. Then, you have to buy batteries separately as well. If the new Engel Rechargeable Aerator holds up well for the next few years. It definitely will be the better value in the long run.