Hacks on Extending The Life of RV Batteries


Similar to cars, RV or Recreational Vehicles used batteries for them to work. Lead-acid batteries are used in RVs, which contain several cells connected in series. It is known as the house battery, also called a 12-volt battery that requires a deep cycle to supply a steady amount currently for a more extended period suitable for dry camping and boondocking. With how RVers are reliant on batteries, it is necessary to know how to extend your RV batteries’ lives. 

RV batteries in the market have the lowest price of $48.25 and expensively cost $699.88. These batteries are essential because most of the things found inside the RV rely on batteries. Without batteries, the RV and its contents can’t function, which is such a pain if you live full time in your RV. In this article, I collated tips from RV users to get that extended life for your batteries that will surely make you worry less in your camping adventures. 

Getting To Know RV Batteries

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Batteries are a critical component of any vehicle. In RVs, it serves another purpose aside from ensuring the car runs and powers up all its contents. 

A Quick Glimpse On How RV Batteries Works

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Lead-acid batteries are used in RVs, which contain several cells connected in series. These batteries do not create electricity yet store electricity and are made of plates, leading, and lead oxide soaked in electrolytes of 36% sulfuric acid and 64% water. The plates in batteries and the number of electrolytes decide the quantity of charge a battery can store. RV used a specific battery known as the house battery or 12-volt battery used to supply electricity inside for lightning, cooling, heating, fridge, water pump, and other operating appliances/ machines. 

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House batteries are used to supply 12-volt to the RV, and it requires a deep cycle so that it can provide a steady amount of current for a more extended period suitable for dry camping and boondocking. A chassis battery or starting battery is also used to start the engine, which needs “large starting currents for short periods.” The chassis battery also helps you control tail lights, brake lights, marker lights, and electrical wheel brakes. In most cases, RVs used one or two batteries to provide power and electricity. 

RV batteries work by providing a large amount of current out from the large number of thin plates exposed to its electrolyte. The RV Direct Current house batteries are a 12-volt standard, yet most RVers nowadays use two 6-volt batteries wired together in either parallel or series because they last longer and weigh lighter at about 45 pounds. ‘Batteries work when it is fully recharged from the external power source like the electricity generator and solar panel. If you use the Alternating Current electric system from the shore power, it will charge the RV battery because these two systems are connected with the aid of a converter.

RV Batteries Lifespan

RV batteries usually last for five or more years. But good conditioned ones can even last long. 

If you are a full-time RVer, it might be a good idea to check on your battery regularly, but it is unnecessary to purchase a new one every year. Additionally, these batteries can last at an average of four to five years, or they may be dead by one to two years. RV batteries manufacturer covers your battery cost on the road but makes sure to check on this. 

Simple Reasons To Keep RV Batteries In Good Condition

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Since RV batteries power up your RV, it is with no doubt that it is vital to keep them in good shape. If you have a fast-draining battery, it will surely kill the fun and hinder your activities.

It will also cost so much in maintenance if you do not take care of it. A good battery condition will give you a worry-free ride. RVer needs batteries to use a water pump, lights, fans in the absence of AC shore power.

You can still access essential things needed for dry camping and boondocking through the battery, which will last for a few days before recharging. A longer lifespan of the battery is necessary for an RVer, especially those who love dry camping, for this will help them use power for laptops, smartphones, lights, etc.

Battery plus generator or solar panel is an excellent tool for RVing to different beautiful places, and keeping the battery last longer helps you save both money and the environment. You can save the money allotted for the new and expensive battery. Considering that dead batteries are difficult to dispose of, it is harmful either to your health or the environment. Therefore, make sure to keep your batteries last longer.

Recharge after Discharged As Soon As Possible 

Recharging is necessary, most especially lead-acid batteries, for them to achieve their lifespan and continue the supply of energy needed by the RV. Recharge also plays a significant role in RV batteries to last longer. Therefore, learn when to recharge batteries and why to do it promptly. 

When To Recharge

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Recharging simply means restoring electric charge from another device. Never undercharge the battery, and always recharge your battery right after discharge. For lead-acid batteries, never drop below 2.05 volts. Recharge right away to avoid draining your battery power.

Why Recharge ASAP

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Recharge asap to avoid sulfation on lead plates in the battery. Sulfation is the main reason for different dead batteries. It happens when the battery remains in a low-state-of charge below 80% or 12.4. So, recharge right away to extend the life of your battery.

Keep Your Battery Alive: Never Overcharge

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Overcharging always kills batteries gradually. This does not apply to the RV batteries alone but to the rest of the types of batteries. This is why an RV user needs to know why overcharging is not suitable for batteries. 

Why Not Overcharge

Overcharging happens when the battery is still plugged into the power source device when it is already fully charged. It will reduce the battery’s lifespan by depleting the cell’s electrolyte levels, except if you have an RV converter or a battery tender. 

Overcharging can also mean the high temperature for it will also kill the battery, especially when it is too hot that it may lead to an explosion. During high temperatures, the battery may lose water and corrode, which also refers to overcharging.

What You Need To Know

You may attach a tender or a converter with a 3-4 stage charging process to the RV. Check the electrolyte levels on the battery if the plates are exposed or almost showing up or if the electrolyte levels are not equal to each other. You may add distilled water, especially during hot weather, to help your lead-acid battery. Never use regular tap water because it can cause calcium sulfidation. 

Discharging Over Time: Avoid Parasitic Loads 

Parasitic loads refer to the electronic devices connected to your RV to draw power even when you do not need it. Many devices will slowly drain your battery which is why you should learn how to avoid parasitic loads to make your battery last longer. 

Examples of Parasitic Loads 

  • Clocks 
  • Stereos 
  • LP gas leak detectors
  • TV antenna booster
  • Electronic appliance circuit boards
  • Leaving the 12-volt light on

Avoiding Parasitic Loads 

Make sure to switch off the battery disconnect switch when RV is not used. Turn off the button when the battery is in storage since switching off avoids discharging the parasitic loads. This is a simple tip but is very important for the battery’s longevity.

Increase the Lifespan: Reduced the Batteries Depth of Discharge

Another way to increase the life of your battery is to reduce the depth of discharge. In this section, we will get to know the depth of discharge in the RV batteries.

What is Depths of Discharge

Depths of Discharge or DoD is the battery percentage discharged relative to the battery’s overall capacity. It is the discharged capacity from a fully charged battery divided by its nominal capacity. It is also the energy cycled into and out of the battery expressed as the total capacity. Batteries have a maximum depth of discharge because emptying their stored energy may eventually cause the death of your batteries. Reducing the depth of discharge will help extend the life of your batteries.

DoD of Batteries 

RV batteries that generally used lead-acid batteries have a maximum depth of discharge at or below 50%. Lithium-ion batteries, which are also used in RV, have a typical depth of discharge of 80%. It is compared that “a battery discharged to 50% every day will last twice as long as a battery cycled down to 20% every day.” This is why consider reducing the indicated maximum depth of discharge in your battery.

Know the Proper Maintenance of Your RV Battery 

For your RV batteries to last for years, you need to have maintenance. Different batteries require different care. For instance, lithium-ion batteries require low maintenance than other batteries. 

What To Maintain

Make sure that the battery is fully charged before doing any maintenance. Do check your batteries at least once every month and maintain the electrolyte levels in the flooded-cell batteries. Bear in mind to recharge your batteries often and clean your battery regularly.

Also, clean the battery terminal connections and the clamps that connect them. Apply petroleum jelly to the battery terminals and cables after it is cleaned for it slows down the formation of corrosion. Importantly, regularly check your battery after recharging and look over the water levels. 

Why Maintain Properly

Okay, let us say that you regularly maintain your battery, but you must do the maintenance properly. A flooded-cell battery may lose water in every charge cycle, refilling water (always a distilled water to avoid sulfation). Nobody wants a corroded battery; hence clean it before corrosion builds up. 

You can clean the batteries using commercial battery contact cleaning products paired with a used toothbrush for scrubbing. You may use warm water to neutralize corrosion if it has already occurred. An alternative way to clean batteries is the mixture of one cup of baking soda and a gallon of water. Of course, never forget the scrubbing tools like the utilized toothbrush.

Cleaning the battery also includes personal protective equipment like the face mask, safety goggles, safety hand gloves because a drop of battery acid may cause severe damage. 

Having a regular check on the water levels on the battery as one of your routine maintenance helps its lifespan to extend.

Constantly Monitor The RV Battery Status

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Monitoring the battery is another factor in making them last longer. This is because of the monitors that will inform you of the various activities of the batteries. Through monitors, you will know when to recharge, one of the reasons for the longer lifespan of the battery. This is why installing monitors is recommended for RV users. 

The Importance of Monitors

Without a monitor, it is difficult to determine the status of your battery because monitors make it easy to measure the energy stored in your RV battery. Monitoring helps you maintain your RV batteries so that it provides information for you to take different tasks from recharging to discharging. It will display the digital information needed to follow the depth of discharge for a more extended battery. Of course, a monitor device is essential for this will provide you an updated health status of your battery.

Best Monitors For RV

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Here are some of the best monitors that you can check out for your RV battery health monitoring. Victron BMV 712 Battery Monitor displays the current, voltage, used amp hours, the time to go, and is easily assembled. This monitor is built with Bluetooth so that you can connect and check the battery on the smartphone. 

AiLI Battery Monitor checks your battery status but has no built-in Bluetooth like Victron. This battery monitor will tell you the state of charge in percent, the remaining battery capacity, the charge & discharge current, and the battery voltage.

Renogy 500A Battery Monitor is another best monitor for RV batteries that displays voltage, consumed power, battery capacity, voltage. It has large backlit LCDs and comes with a battery shunt holder to quickly be mounted.

Innova 3721 Battery Monitor has an LCD available for voltage reading. This battery monitor has a little setup and can plug into your RV 12v outlet. Another best feature of this monitor is the color-coded LED lights that indicate the battery’s charge level.

Bayite DC Digital Voltmeter & Ammeter. Like the other battery monitors, Bayite displays current, voltage, energy, and active power, this comes with no wires or any accessories and is perfect for those RV users on a budget.

Proper Deep-Cycle Battery Recharging All The Way 

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The proper way to recharge RV batteries may not be as commonly understood by many RV users or those who want to own one. Knowing the appropriate method of charging your RV battery, especially deep cycle ones, will indeed make it last longer than expected.

How Deep Cycle Batteries Are Charged

Deep cycle 12-volt batteries used in RV, mainly providing the inside electricity, are charged by connecting to the power source having a voltage higher than the 12 volts. The power source where 12-volts batteries recharge usually has 120 or 240 volts. To store energy in the deep cycle battery, the power source drives a powerful current through the wet cell then polarizes the lead plates inside. 

Step-by-Step Deep Cycle Battery Recharging

The following steps are the proper way to recharge batteries to make them last longer. Start by parking your RV on level ground and set the parking brake. Be sure that you have turn off all the engine and other internal appliances. Find the batteries, and in most cases for motorhomes, the batteries are connected in series or connected in parallel, which should be charged separately.

Remove the cables of the battery leads with the use of a wrench tool. Start to remove the black line from the negative terminal. Next is the red cable from the positive terminal. If you notice sulfation on the terminals, you should scrub them with a clean wire brush with a paste from baking soda and water. 

Refill with distilled water if it is needed right after checking its water level. Now, attach the converter or the battery charger cables to your battery in reverse order. The order is red or the positive, followed by the black or the negative one.  The attached battery charger is required because it converts the 120-volt AC or Alternating Current power source into a 12-volt Dc or Direct Current.  Finally, you can now plug the power charger into the power source, turn it on from the switch panel or turn it on from the circuit breaker.

Also, observe the indicator light on the converter or charger, which means the battery is fully charged. When the battery is fully charged, turn off the power and disconnect the battery immediately because overcharging reduces the lifespan of your battery. These steps are also applicable when recharging your battery from the generator, shore power, and solar panels. 

Conclusion 

Keeping your RV’s core healthy is indeed a must for all RVers out there. These are simple tips but are especially useful in extending the life of your batteries. Buying new batteries in a year or two is kind of a hassle given the high price and labor cost of putting in a new one. Therefore, take good care of your batteries for a longer lifespan, and you will be happier on the road.

Ash

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