Types Of RV Batteries Explained
Author: Your RV Good Guide Date Posted: 12 January 2023
Confused about what type of battery is best for an RV? Wondering what's better – an AGM, lithium-ion or gel battery? In this blog, we take a look at the different types of batteries in your RV, along with some of the pros and cons of each.
The types of batteries in your RV
Your RV has two different batteries. One operates just like the battery in a car – it provides power to your engine. The other is known as a deep cycle battery or ‘house battery’. This particular battery provides the power you need to operate everything else in your motorhome.
Find out more about how batteries work.
Deep cycle batteries use internal plates to provide a steady flow of electricity for long periods of time.
Note: A vehicle with a starter plus a house battery is often referred to as a ‘dual battery’ system.
A chassis battery is sometimes called a starter battery. The chassis battery is similar, if not the same, as your car battery. The chassis battery works to start and run your engine, headlights, radio, and minor electrical loads when the alternator isn't running.
Unlike your house battery or deep cycle battery, your chassis battery is designed to use large currents over short bursts.
The best types of deep-cycle batteries for your RV
There are several different options when it comes to deep-cycle batteries. Each comes with its own pros and cons.
Lithium-ion batteries have risen in popularity for RV owners over recent years. While lithium-ion batteries are generally more expensive to buy, they offer a number of benefits, including:
- A battery management system (BMS)
This helps optimise the battery and protects it from overcharging, over-discharging, getting too hot, and short-circuiting. Some battery management systems include Bluetooth capability to allow you to easily monitor battery capacity, voltage, current, state of charge, and more.
You should be able to expect a lithium battery to last 4-6 times longer than an AGM battery. However, this depends on how well you maintain and care for the battery (it is important to keep it at the appropriate conditions as temperature and a higher discharge than recommended could impact performance or shorten battery life).
Lithium batteries can weigh up to 50% less than AGM varieties.
Because they’re often made with new LiFePO4 technology, RV lithium batteries are extremely safe. That means you can travel with the comfort of knowing they’re non-combustible, can withstand harsh cold temperatures, and contain lithium iron phosphate, which is not toxic.
- Great capacity
Another great cost-saving benefit of having a lithium-ion battery for your RV is that it offers considerably more capacity. The recommended maximum discharge of a lithium battery under usual conditions is 80% of its total capacity. This compares with just 50% for standard AGM batteries.
Check out our helpful blog to learn more about lithium batteries.
Flooded lead-acid batteries
Sometimes referred to as cell batteries, flooded lead-acid batteries often have a shorter lifespan than other deep-cycle batteries. This battery uses sulphuric acid and lead. When the lead is combined with the acid, it causes a chemical reaction that produces electricity.
This type of battery is more common in RVs and is cheaper to buy upfront than some other deep-cycle battery options. One of the major downsides is that they release a harmful gas when charging. This means they need to be kept in an exterior storage space. Other downsides include that they’re not as environmentally friendly and require regular maintenance checks.
AGM stands for absorbed glass mat. This type of battery has been used in vehicles for a very long time. The chemistry of AGM batteries is based on lead, sulfuric acid, and water. They tend to last longer than flooded lead-acid batteries, have a high power output, are spill-proof and very durable. Although AGM batteries keep a charge for a longer time than some other batteries, they still gradually reduce their charging capacity over time. They’re also sensitive to overcharging, so care is needed when charging.
Sometimes referred to as gel cell batteries, these are sealed and spill-proof and can withstand vibration better than some other deep cell batteries. A gel battery is similar to a lead-acid battery, with the addition of silica to the electrolyte to create a gel-like substance. This allows them to be installed in a variety of positions and also reduces the emission of fumes.
Although this type of battery is comparatively more expensive than some other deep cycle batteries, gel batteries also offer the benefits of being virtually maintenance-free and spill-proof.
How to know when it’s time to replace your RV battery
- RV batteries typically last between five and seven years depending on usage and maintenance Some of the common indicators that
- your RV battery may need replacing include:
- Parts of the battery look corroded or damaged
- The battery smells bad
- It takes a long time to charge or is discharging faster than normal
- The battery light is showing on your RV dashboard
The best way to keep your battery in tip-top condition and to know when it needs replacing is to have your motorhome regularly serviced. Your local RV Super Centre has a fully equipped on-site service centre and workshop and can check and replace your battery for you.
How to decide which battery is best for your RV
With several different battery options available, each with its pros and cons, it can be tricky to decide which is best for your RV. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you make the best decision for your set up:
How often do you use your RV?
If you use your RV a lot, you may want to choose a deep-cycle battery that is known to have a long life. Although these batteries may potentially cost more upfront, they can save you money in the long run. For example, a lithium battery is best suited to those who travel regularly and are planning to keep their motorhome for a long time. However, in low-use situations or for shorter-term ownership (less than five years), an AGM battery may be more appropriate. This is because it will deliver on your power requirements for less cost.
Where you regularly travel
If you often travel where it’s hot, you may want a battery that is better with heat, such as a lithium variety. Flooded lead-acid batteries require regular water top-ups. So, during extreme heat conditions, it’s important to check water levels more frequently.
Whether you have an inverter
Some RVs include an inverter. An inverter transforms DC power to AC voltage, which is what is used to power your appliances safely. If you have an inverter, this means you have more options. This is in terms of when choosing a deep cycle battery and how the battery can be used.
Speak to the RVSC team
At RV Super Centre, we have a team of experts that are happy to assist you in finding the right battery for your needs. With many years of motorhoming experience, our team of experts know all the ins and outs of RV batteries.
The range of RV batteries at RV Super Centre
Your local RV Super Centre is your one-stop shop for RV batteries, 12V battery chargers and monitors, and all the accessories you need to stay powered up. We can help you choose the best AGM, gel cell, flooded lead-acid, or lithium battery for your RV. We have a range of trusted deep cycle, 12V battery brands, including Enerdrive batteries , Powertech batteries, AA Champion batteries, Artemis batteries, and many more.
How to install a new battery in your RV
Installing a new deep-cycle battery is a job that’s often best left to professionals. This is both for safety reasons and so that it is set up optimally. Your local RV Super Centre has an expert service team who are happy to help with installing your new batteries. Each of our locations in Auckland, Christchurch, and Queenstown is open seven days a week. That way, you can book in on a day that is most convenient for you.
RV battery terminology glossary
Here are some commonly used battery terms that you may come across while shopping.
- AMP hour rating
An Amp Hour (Ah) is the amount of current a battery can provide over a certain period of time. To calculate this, you multiply the current (amperes) by the discharge time (hours).
- Reserve capacity (RC)
Reserve Capacity is the amount of time, in minutes, that a 12V battery can run before dropping to 10.5V. It is used to understand how long you can run your batteries with consistent loads.
This is the amount of electrical potential a battery holds. Electric potential means the difference in charge between the two terminals of the battery.
- Cold-cranking amps (CCA)
This is a rating that defines a battery's ability to start an engine in cold temperatures. The higher the CCA rating, the greater the starting power in the battery.
Want more information on RV batteries?
We hope to have answered your key questions about the different types of batteries you can use in your RV. If you would like to know more or you’d like to book a battery installation, please contact the experts at your local RV Super Centre. Our team members are battery experts and can help you make the right choice for you and your RV.