All About RV Batteries – 101

Last Updated on February 13, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • RV Battery Basics: There are two main types of RV batteries: starter batteries for engine ignition and house batteries for onboard electronics.
  • Types of RV Batteries: Common types include flooded lead-acid, AGM, gel, and lithium-ion batteries, each with varying performance and maintenance needs.
  • Lithium-Ion Batteries: Offer high performance and longevity but come at a higher upfront cost.
  • Price Range: Prices vary based on type, with flooded lead-acid being more affordable upfront but requiring more maintenance, while lithium-ion batteries offer long-term cost savings.
  • Maintenance Tips: Regular recharging, monitoring water levels (for flooded lead-acid), and inspecting for damage help prolong battery life and ensure reliable performance.

Recreational vehicles (RV) are one of the most efficient ways to get around. Not only do you have your home with you, but this also helps you travel around in style and comfort, giving you more flexibility than ever before.

With RVs traveling long distances, having reliable and powerful RV batteries is certainly a must. After all, you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with a dead battery.

Owning an RV is a huge responsibility and one of the main parts of becoming an owner of this type of vehicle is knowing about RV batteries. Understanding how these work, the different types available, and how these can be maintained will help you lengthen the overall lifespan of the battery. Read on to find out more about RV batteries.

What are RV Batteries and How Do These Work?

RV batteries are simply a kind of battery designed to be used in a recreational vehicle. RVs normally use deep-cycle batteries to provide the vehicle with a reliable power source, enough to keep the appliances and electronic devices to keep going, including lights, fans, and the like.

The RV battery is an integral part of the overall electrical system within the vehicle. This works with the other components of the electrical system of your RV and RVs usually have two batteries in them.

These work primarily by getting and storing electricity from the type of power source that you have. Their power source varies from chassis alternators, solar panels, RV generators, or shore powers.

The batteries essentially keep the power stored within them until the appliances and other electrical equipment in your RV are plugged into the battery or require its use.

Types of RV Batteries

There are two common types of RV batteries on the market, namely starter batteries and house batteries. It might be surprising to find out that there are two types of batteries within RVs and motorhomes.

Starter Battery

Also called the starting or chassis battery, this is named as such primarily because this is used to jumpstart your vehicle and get the engine running. Besides starting the engine, these only provide enough power for the lights.

Starter batteries work by using high-cranking amps for a shorter period. After being used for the said period, these are charged again by the engine. Most starting RV batteries make use of lead-acid batteries that run on 12 volts.

House Battery

On the other hand, house batteries, otherwise called deep-cycle batteries or coach batteries, are called such because they support the various electrical accessories and devices within the RV, such as refrigerators, lights, and the like. As such, they require more power since much is also required of them.

Deep-cycle batteries are now more common in RVs these days. Deep-cycle batteries provide more longevity in terms of the power they provide. Due to their make, deep-cycle batteries are not only able to supply power longer but also can withstand constant depletions and charges.

Deep-Cycle Batteries

Deep-cycle batteries come in different forms and sizes. As the main battery type is used to power RVs, getting to know the common house battery types and what they have to offer is essential.

Lithium-Ion Battery

One of the relative newcomers in the industry, lithium-ion batteries provide more power compared to other battery types on the market. These have a higher energy density and relatively high charge rates as well. What’s impressive is that these can last for up to 2,000 to 5,000 cycles.

Although lithium-ion batteries have lots to offer, these are quite on the expensive end since it also costs a lot to make. However, these virtually require no maintenance and these are much lighter. Moreover, these are equipped with their own internal management system to prevent overheating.

Flooded Lead-Acid Battery

Also called wet-celled batteries, these come in two types, namely serviceable batteries and value-regulated lead-acid batteries. These are called wet-celled batteries because they are immersed in fluid electrolytes.

This type of battery tends to use more power, although they are a reliable source of power for RVs. The catch with these batteries is that it requires frequent maintenance, such as filling them up with more water and even getting terminal cleaning from time to time.

Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) Battery

Another sealed lead-acid type of battery that’s commonly used in RVs is an absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery. Although this makes use of liquid as well, it makes use of liquid electrolytes that have been absorbed into the fiberglass mats instead, making it relatively low maintenance and spill-proof.

Gel Battery

Gel batteries, on the other hand, bear similar qualities to that AGM batteries. The fluid inside, however, turns into a gel and thus, has the capacity to withstand temperatures, making this an ideal choice for those who live in or who plan to travel to places with colder temperatures.

The Price of an RV Battery

The price of these RV batteries varies greatly from one another. These depend mainly on the type of battery you choose. Regular wet-cell lead acid batteries can fetch you hundreds of dollars, but lithium-ion batteries can cost you in the thousands range.

Flooded lead-acid batteries are on the lower end of the spectrum and can be found in various parts of the world. As a matter of fact, these require the lowest up-front costs, giving RV users a run for their money, especially since this can be used for different things.

On the other hand, while lithium-ion batteries can cost higher, these might come out as the more cost-effective option in the long run, especially when they can last longer compared to other RV batteries.

Care and Maintenance of RV Batteries

The cost of RV batteries isn’t exactly cheap, which is why taking care of these will keep them running smoothly. With proper care and maintenance, RV batteries can last you for years, giving you your money’s worth and more.

It’s important to note that a complete discharge from 100 percent to around 50 percent, as well as charging it back to 100 percent, are all considered one battery cycle. Below are some steps you can do to help prolong the life of your RV batteries, regardless of their maintenance needs.

  • Take the time to charge the batteries right after using them. This prevents damage by not overworking your RV batteries.
  • While you can charge the RV battery once it hits 50 percent, recharging it while it is still at 80 percent helps give the battery a longer lifespan.
  • When charging your RV batteries, use the built-in battery charger only when the RV is plugged into your chosen power source.
  • Some RV batteries, such as flooded lead-acid batteries, require more care and maintenance than others. You may want to check the water level every week or every month, as well as refill these cells with water as needed.
  • Another way you can care for your RV battery is to check for any cracks or leaks, most of which can be caused by vibrations when you travel. While you’re at it, closely examine the wirings, clamps, and straps to see if these are still in good condition, especially when you’re planning to travel long distances.

The Bottom Line

RV batteries come in different shapes and sizes. Now that you know more about them, you can now choose what works best for your needs, as well as how you can better take care of your RV battery.

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