RVs and campers are wonderful things. Spending time with the family in the great outdoors. But, RV owners say that the batteries need to be replaced every year. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you perform proper battery maintenance and the system is properly sized, you should get 3-5 years from the batteries. Look at some things to keep in mind and see if we can’t get more seasons out of your bank. Spend more time camping and less time and money purchasing batteries.
Properly Size Your System
Properly sizing the battery bank depends on a few factors:
- Is your RV plugged in most of the time?
- Do you mostly dry camp?
- Are you using an external charging source such as solar panels or a generator?
The answers to these questions should help you decide how many batteries you need. If you have enough capacity, you won’t be stranded in the woods without power. Capacity refers to Reserve Capacity (expressed in minutes) and A/H capacity. The higher these numbers are, the more time you will be able to use power in your RV. Make sure you pick a battery that is a true Deep Cycle (DC) battery; not all batteries are created equally. Pick one that is made with a thick plate/thick grid, like Crown Battery – you can’t go wrong.
Most RV owners choose the largest battery that will fit in the compartment. Or they replace the battery with the same size that was in the RV when it was purchased. The best way to choose the correct size is to determine the daily usage of power and then we can give you options to fill that need. But, most of the decisions will be based on whether you plan to be plugged in or dry camp and whether you have another source of power or charging capability. Come into American Battery and we can help you make that decision.
Battery Maintenance Tips
Fully Charge Your Batteries Before Leaving
Fully charging your batteries will ensure you start your trip with the most capacity possible. A night or two before you leave, while you are getting your RV ready for the trip, plug it into A/C power to give your batteries a chance to charge. If you aren’t sure that they are fully charged, bring them in to American Battery and we will tell you the state of charge of your battery bank. We can also advise you about the over-all condition of the batteries and give you an idea as to what you can expect in the future.
Check the State of Charge During Your Stay
This information is important for those that are dry camping. The best way to check the state of charge in the field is with a hydrometer. This is an inexpensive device that measures the specific gravity of the acid to determine the state of charge. A fully charged battery will read 1.265 or higher. A battery that is 50% charged will read 1.185-1.190. Optimally, keep the state of charge at 50% or higher to get a good number of years out of your bank.
State of charge information is important because it lets you know when you need to run your generator, whether your solar panels are keeping up with usage or when you need to plug in. An alternate test is with a voltmeter. On a 12 volt battery, 12.60 or greater is fully charged, 12.10 is 50% charged. In order to get accurate readings, make sure the battery has been off charge and out of use for a couple of hours. This makes the test harder to do – so your best, most accurate test is with the hydrometer.
Fully Charge Your Batteries After You Return
Fully charging your batteries after you return home is probably the most important thing you can do to get the most out of your battery bank. The longer you let a battery remain discharged, the more harm you do to the battery. It will begin to sulfate and drastically shorten its life and capacity. So, after you return from your trip, make sure you fully charge them, especially before storing them for the off season. If you have questions about the state of charge, bring them to us and we will advise you.
Many RV owners mistakenly believe that the drive back from a trip will fully charge the batteries. Typically, this is not true. After a 3,5 or 7 day dry camping trip, the batteries will probably be 50% or less charged and your alternator will not be able to bring them back to 100% state of charge. It will probably take 2-3 days plugged in to bring them back to 100%, depending on the size of your inverter, the capacity of bank and the state of charge. After you store your fully charged batteries, it is a good idea to put them on an overnight charge every 3 to 4 months to keep them charged.
Follow these simple battery maintenance procedures and you will get 3 to 5 years out of your battery bank. Have fun and come in for more information if you need it. Remember, at American Battery, knowledge is always free!