Picture this: You turn the key in your Recreational Vehicle (RV), but the engine simply kicks and rolls over. Your headlights don't seem to be working either, and so do your TV, microwave oven, and pretty much everything in your RV. When this happens, there is only one thing we can suspect: your RV battery is low or even dead.
Your RV’s battery is the lifeblood of your house on wheels. When the battery gets too low to power your vehicle or anything inside, recharging it is the only right thing to do. But how exactly do you get started? How to charge RV batteries? More importantly, how do you ensure you charge your RV battery safely?
Charging your RV’s battery is essential to the functionality of your vehicle. In this guide, we will explore the different kinds of RV batteries and the best ways to charge them to ensure your mobile home remains functional.
The Different Kinds of RV Batteries
The first step to knowing how to charge your RV battery is determining the kind of battery your vehicle uses. Although there are different kinds of RV batteries, the three most common types include:
Lead-acid batteries are rechargeable batteries that use lead and sulphuric acid. With lead submerged in sulphuric acid, the battery can create a controlled chemical reaction and produce electricity. This electricity is, in turn, used in all areas of your vehicle. Lead-acid batteries are inexpensive and reliable. However, they usually have limited cycle life and inefficient energy use.
AGM or Absorbent Glass Mat batteries are an advanced form of traditional lead-acid batteries. These batteries are sealed, spill-free, and maintenance-free, making them numerous steps ahead of regular lead-free batteries. They deliver powerful bursts of electricity, are more efficient than regular batteries, last longer, have a longer lifespan, and can sit in storage for longer. However, they are more expensive and typically sensitive to overcharging, so you shouldn’t leave them plugged in for a long time.
Also popularly known as Li-Ion batteries, Lithium-Ion batteries are advanced battery technologies. The newest battery technology at the moment, Li-Ions function through the movement of lithium ions that ultimately result in the generation of electrical currents. As expected, Li-Ions have great long-term performance, long life spans, top-performing power density, and fast charge times. They are lightweight, tolerant to temperature, and very safe to use. However, they are the most expensive option of all three and require specialized charging equipment.
How to Charge RV Batteries
Charging an RV battery effectively requires adequate knowledge and the necessary equipment. This will protect yourself and your vehicle, ensuring that your battery’s health is not compromised during the process.
There are several ways to charge your RV batteries. This includes:
Shore power is a popular term for external sources like those found in campsites and RV parks. It usually features an AC (alternating current) power source that can be used to run the AC devices onboard your RV. Additionally, Shore power can also charge your RV battery by transforming the AC power to DC (direct current) through an inverter.
Before using shore power, it is essential to test the outlet first to prevent the risk of damage to your appliances in case the shore power outlet is wired wrongly. To do this, you can use an outlet tester.
There are two common ways to use shore power to charge your RV battery. The first method is pretty straightforward and is done by plugging your RV’s power cable into a 120V AC shore power outlet. To do this, you should ensure your RV has a converter that will AC to DC suitable for charging your battery.
When you charge your RV battery using the vehicle’s power cable, the shore power powers your vehicle and charges your battery simultaneously. However, since not all RVs are built the same way, the location of your converter- also known as an inverter in some RVs- may differ. Regardless, the converter is typically a part of the power center where the 120V AC breakers and the 12V DC fuses/breakers are placed.
The second way to charge your RV battery using shore power is to purchase a 12V battery charger designed for your battery type. Purchasing a charger compatible with your RV battery is important to ensure there is no damage to the battery.
Gas generators are the most common option for charging RV batteries. This might be because they are used anywhere and not just in RV parks, and they are typically inexpensive. While this is great, they are a very noisy option to choose.
Gas generators may be effective for charging RV batteries, but they’re equally notorious for the noise they make. In fact, many camp and RV grounds ban using generators or enforce that generators can only be used at certain times during the day.
Aside from the noise level, another disadvantage of using generators is the trouble of toxic carbon monoxide emissions. Gas generators run on fossil fuels whose combustion results in the production of fumes that are not only unpleasant but can be potentially dangerous.
More importantly, with the rising costs of gas and fuels, using a gas generator can quickly become a costly option. Couple this with the need for your gas generator to be constantly maintained, and you will easily see that gas generators can be costly over time.
Regardless, gas generators are a great option for charging your RV battery. Having a generator with a 120V outlet means you can plug your RV’s power cable directly to charge the battery. However, if it has a 220V outlet, you may need a converter/inverter.
To use a gas generator, simply start your generator as the manufacturer advises, allow it to warm up, and plug in your RV power cord. Some safety tips you need to keep in mind include:
- Check the oil and fuel levels
- Operate your generator at least 3 feet away from doors, open windows, or air vents
- Place your generator on a firm and level floor
- Never use damaged cords
- Read the generator’s manual.
Solar panels are a more eco-friendly option for recharging RV batteries. Since they make use of sunlight, you can enjoy a noiseless source of energy without unpleasant and toxic fumes.
All you need to do is purchase and set up your panels. The number of panels you need varies with your RV’s battery. However, in most cases, you need approximately 300 watts of solar panel power for every 100 Amp Hours of your RV’s battery storage capacity. Generally, a 200 to 400-watt solar panel setup will be everything you need to charge your RV battery.
Besides the panels, you will need a DC/AC Inverter to power AC appliances and charge controllers to adjust amperage to protect your battery. Most importantly, invest in high-quality panels and ensure they are exposed to sunlight. When it comes to a highly efficient and low-maintenance way to charge your RV batteries using solar energy, the Growatt 200W portable solar panel is the best option for you.
With a lightweight design and high conversion efficiency, the Growatt 200W portable solar panel is the perfect option for charging your RV battery on the ho. It comes with an MC4 Connector compatible with most devices, an adjustable kickstand to get a better surface area of sunlight, and a waterproof design to survive harsh outdoor conditions. By providing premium performance, the Growatt 200W solar panel helps you stay powered up anywhere.
Solar generators are another solar-based option for charging RV batteries. They combine the working principles of generators and solar energy to generate clean, noiseless, and non-toxic energy for your RV.
Solar generators are portable devices designed with solar panels to capture and convert sunlight to electricity, along with a portable power station to store the electricity. They do not require fuel to run and are easily a cheap energy source if you overlook the one-time installation fee. Because they do not require constant maintenance like gas generators, Solar generators are not as pricey an investment.
Using a solar generator is quite straightforward; you may plug your vehicle’s batteries directly into the generator or charge the RV battery using the 12V car outlet in the RV’s dashboard. The best part is the generator not only charges your battery but can also be used to power appliances in the RV.
Since Solar generators are emission-free, they can be used indoors. However, for the best results, opt for a solar generator whose power output and battery capacity accommodates your RV’s needs. One such option is the Growatt INFINITY 1300.
The INFINITY 1300 portable solar generator offers an astounding 1382Wh Capacity & 1800W Output. A reliable option for all your power needs, the INFINITY 1300 has high performance, durability, and versatility. It features:
- Up to 14 outlets, including AC outlets, DC outlets, USB A ports, USB C ports, and a wireless charging pad
- ALiFePO4 battery with 3,000+ Life Cycles for a long lifespan
- Easy control using a mobile application
- Reliable Emergency Power Supply (EPS) feature to ensure you’re never out of power for too long
- Full charging time of 1.8 hours via the wall socket
Does the RV battery charge when plugged in?
Yes, your RV’s battery should charge even when plugged in. This is possible if your charger and other necessary components are in great shape.
Do I need to trickle-charge my RV battery?
Yes, you should trickle-charge your RV battery. Trickle-charging means regulating the charging rate of your RV battery to prevent overcharging. This keeps your battery healthy and strong while maintaining its life cycle.
RV Battery Charging Safety Tips
Although charging an RV’s battery is easy with the right equipment, there are some safety tips you must remember. These include:
- Always choose a battery charger that is compatible with your Lead-acid, AGM, or Li-Ion battery
- Clean build-up off your lead-acid battery before charging it
- Invest in a quality charge controller when using solar generators or panels
- Disconnect and store your batteries safely when your RV is not in use
- Don't change your battery when it's too hot (over 50 degrees Celcius)
- Be cautious and never compromise your safety.
Get an "RV battery" That Moves Freely
It is inevitable that your RV battery will run out of capacity and die. Before this happens, it is important to find the best and safest charging method for your battery.
From solar panels to gas generators and solar generators, there are undoubtedly numerous ways to ensure you have a constant power source to keep your batteries full of juice. Among all options, solar energy offers the most efficient and effective way to charge your RV battery.
To enjoy a noise-free, environment-friendly, emission-free, and versatile power source to keep your RV powered and battery charged, invest in a Growatt solar generator. With our high-quality generator, you have an RV battery that moves freely and is one less thing to worry about in your motorhome.