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All Things RV,  Boondocking,  Newbies,  Preparing to RV,  RV Maintenance

Best RV Battery: Which is Best for You?

Are you looking for the best RV battery for your RV? Not every battery will work in every RV for every application. So let’s break down each battery type and find the best Rv battery for your RV and your wallet.

RV Electrical

Before we get to the batteries you might want to check out our previous blog RV Electrical: What You Need to Know. It will take you through RV power flow and clarify some questions you may have.

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RV Power Diagram

We also walk you step by step through RV Power in this video!


Best RV Battery Types

There are three main types of RV batteries. We are going to go through the pros and cons of each type. But please remember we will be generalizing here. Check with the manufacturer for the specifics for the battery you are researching.

Flooded Batteries (Lead Acid)

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Lead acid batteries have the least expensive upfront cost at about 55 cents an amp hour. We started our full time RV journey with this type of battery and they did a good job.

  • Maximum depth of discharge is 50%
    • Discharge more than 50% will decrease the number of life cycles
  • Average number of life cycles is 500 in perfect conditions
  • Fully charge the battery for maximum life cycles
  • Average cost per amp-hour $0.55
  • Cheapest upfront cost
  • Requires Maintenance: Fluid in the cells requires routine monitoring and replacement
  • These batteries need to be well ventilated due to off-gassing
  • Batteries cannot be indoors

AGM – Absorbed Glass Mat

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These batteries cost a bit more upfront but do not require maintenance.

  • Maximum depth of discharge is 50%
    • Discharge more than 50% will decrease the number of life cycles
  • Average number of life cycles is 1000 in perfect conditions
  • Average cost per amp-hour is $0.59
  • The acid in the battery is completely sealed and will not spill
  • Maintenance is not required
  • Discharge is slower than lead-acid batteries
  • Charges faster than lead-acid because it can handle a higher current during the bulk charging phase
  • Must be stored fully charged
  • Heaviest Battery type so know your weight

Lithium

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Lithium batteries are known for their high upfront cost. But the reality is they only average about 50 cents per amp hour making them cheaper than the other types of batteries. We consider lithium a long term investment and we love the benefits our Battle Born Batteries have provided us. It was one of our best upgrades. But they may not be right for everyone.

  • Maximum depth of discharge is 90-100% depending on the brand. With our Battle Born lithium, we can discharge completely.
  • Average number of life cycles is 3000-5000 depending on the manufacturer
  • The average cost per amp hour is $0.50
  • Lithium charges faster than AGM and lead-acid batteries
  • This battery is maintenance-free
  • Life cycles are not lost if they are not charged to 100%
  • This type of battery provides the most consistent power
  • Does not produce outgassing
    • Venting is not required
    • Can safely be installed inside the RV
  • Highest upfront cost
  • Lithium can not be charged if the battery temperature is below 32 degrees
    • Many have warming blankets keeping them above 32 degrees
    • Installation inside the RV is another way to keep batteries above 32 degrees

Which RV Battery is Best for You

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Now that we have listed the pros and cons of each type of battery lets talk about which battery might work best in each of the following specific situations.

Full Hookups

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Does every RVer need the biggest and the best battery? No way! If you prefer to stay in full hookup campgrounds then lead-acid and AGM batteries would work great for you. The only time the batteries will be used is while traveling from one campground to another.

If you choose lead-acid batteries they will be the least expensive, and the lightest. But these batteries will require routine maintenance.

AGM batteries cost a little more than lead-acid but they do not require maintenance. These batteries also weigh more than lead-acid so if you are over your weight allowance this should be a consideration before purchase.

Weight Allowance

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Worried about your RV being overweight? Have you had it weighed lately? Check out 4 Corner Weigh: To Stay Safe in Your RV for more information on the importance of RV weights. When it comes to battery upgrades weight might be a consideration.

Lithium batteries are the lightest battery available. We saved 30 pounds per battery when we upgraded from lead-acid to our Battle Born lithium. That is 120 pounds that I can use for something a bit more fun!

AGM batteries are the heaviest battery. When upgrading lead-acid batteries to AGM know the weight of your RV.


Cold Weather

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Photo by Rune Haugseng on Unsplash

Are you a fan of cold weather camping? Prefer the ski slope over the sandcastles? Although that does not describe this girl there are many of you out there. There are a few things to consider when upgrading batteries if you are a fan of freezing temperatures!

Cold temperatures are not necessarily bad for your batteries. Batteries will hold a charge longer in colder temperatures. That’s why people put their household batteries in the fridge. This happens because cold weather slows down the chemical reactions inside the battery. The negative side of cold weather camping is lowered battery storage capacity.

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When choosing batteries for cold weather camping lithium is the best
followed by AGM based on battery capacity.
Power Tech Systems

Most batteries are rated and tested at 77°F (25°C) and this is their optimal temperature. So at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, you will get the most from your batteries. Batteries will lose up to 10% of their capacity for every 15-20 degrees below this optimal temperature.


Charging Temperatures

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Photo by Tyler Lillico on Unsplash

If you are a lover of winter camping it is important to know how low the temperature can drop before it is unsafe to charge your batteries.

Lead Acid

Lead acid batteries can charge at temperatures as low as -4 °F or -20 °C (check your battery with your manufacturer). But these batteries also require the most attention in the winter. This battery has the highest risk of freezing at lower temperatures. The production of off-gassing requires this type of battery to be well ventilated making it more difficult to keep then warm.

AGM

AGM batteries also can charge at temperatures as low as -4 °F or -20 °C but produce less off-gassing than lead-acid batteries. This type of battery will be easier to insulate from the cold.

Lithium

Lithium batteries cannot be charged at temperatures below 32 °F or 0 °C. But the advantage to these batteries is they do not produce off-gassing and can even be installed inside the RV which will allow for temperature regulation. Some manufactures of lithium also include warming technology inside the battery or you can wrap them in a warming blanket made specifically for cold climates.


More Power

We choose lithium batteries based on the power we wanted to use while boondocking without turning on the generator. Our Battle Born lithium batteries allow us to use appliances with large energy draws such as the instant pot, toaster, coffee pot, and flat iron without a second thought! Lead-acid and AGM batteries are not able to handle power draw as large as lithium.

Your Best RV Battery

So for us, lithium was the clear choice for our upgrade. Which of these batteries will work best for you? Do you know what type of battery you are using in your RV right now? Are you thinking of upgrading?

Author: Stacy, You, Me & the RV, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2020

3 Comments

  • Avatar

    Pat Pieper

    Battleborn sells a Li-BIM Battery Isolation Manager that was an exact replacement for the one in my coach, almost (I had to flip it over to connect cables properly) that addresses these issues.

  • Avatar

    Jing Li

    Got questions for your lithium setup:

    1. Did you swap the chassis bank to lithium too?
    2. If not for #1, can the alternator charge both when engine is running?
    3. If yes for #2, did you use any dc-dc converter to charge the house bank?
    4. Can you still use the boost start to combine both banks to start engine?
    5. How many spare amps do you have to charge the house bank?

    I got these questions for you because the wet cell/agm is not compatible to lithium (lifepo4 or li-ion) when parallel-charging with the existing separator/isolator for lead-acid ones.

    • Avatar

      Youmerv

      1. No
      2. Yes
      3. NA
      4. Yes, but we have not needed to thankfully
      5. I am not sure exactly but it is not a lot. If we had not upgraded to solar we would have replaced our alternator to increase the charge.

      I hope this helps.

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