RV house batteries are a major power source for your RV living space.
If you have a motorhome, you probably have another set of batteries. They start the engine and run all kinds of chassis related items. And they are usually called the chassis batteries.
But the batteries that power your living space are designed to provide steady 12 volt power for a long time. They are not usually used for cranking an engine.
So what are your choices for RV house batteries? Let’s take a look at them now.
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Lead Acid RV House Batteries
Many RVs come with 12-volt lead acid house batteries when they are new. But RV owners often replace them with golf cart batteries instead. Especially if they plan on doing much boondocking.
Golf cart batteries are designed to provide a lot of power for a long time. So that makes them an ideal choice for RVs as well.
But they usually come in 6 volt versions instead of 12-volts. So it takes two 6-volt golf cart batteries to replace one 12-volt battery.
And they are very heavy because they have much thicker lead plates than 12-volt batteries. So you have to be able accommodate the extra size and weight.
Now let’s talk about the pros and cons of golf cart 6-volt lead acid batteries.
Lead Acid Battery Advantages
- They are usually the lowest cost battery that you can use for your house battery bank.
- They are easy to find. You can get lead acid batteries in lots of places. Auto parts stores, Walmart, Sam’s, Costco, and other stores often carry them.
- The technology is old but it is also very reliable if you care for them. Do the regular maintenance on these batteries and they will reward you for it.
Lead Acid Battery Disadvantages
- They are very heavy. You will need a stout storage area for them. And the weight becomes more of an issue with every battery that you add.
- You can only regularly discharge a lead acid battery safely to about 50%. You may occasionally discharge them to as low as 20%, but don’t do it often. This means that you only have about half the stored power of the battery available to you.
- They require regular monthly attention to replace the water that has evaporated in the charging process. And always use only distilled water in lead acid batteries. This keeps the impurities in tap water from attaching to the lead plates. If they do, they can lower the battery efficiency quite a bit.
- Lead acid batteries produce toxic gasses during the charging process. So this means that they must be well vented. Storing them inside the RV is NOT a good idea.
Absorbed Glass Mat RV House Batteries
Absorbed Glass Mat or AGM batteries solve some of the negative issues with lead acid batteries.
These batteries are not filled with a water and acid solution. Instead, each cell uses a solid glass mat that is absorbed with the proper solution to charge the battery plates.
So let’s start with the pros of AGM batteries when they are used for RV house batteries.
AGM Battery Advantages
- No water in each battery cell means much less maintenance.
- Not nearly as much toxic gassing takes place with an AGM battery. But it’s still enough to prevent them from being used safely inside the RV.
- You can mount them in almost any position because there is no liquid solution to leak out.
- They charge faster than regular lead acid batteries in most cases.
- They can be discharged to 20% of battery capacity more often. I wouldn’t do it on a regular basis, but they can take more deep discharges more easily.
- Low self-discharge rate while in storage and not being used.
AGM Battery Disadvantages
- They can cost nearly twice as much as most lead acid batteries.
- The battery charger used for charging must be able to be used for AGM batteries.
- They are sensitive to being overcharged. So make sure you have a good quality battery charger for AGMs.
- They also must be installed in a vented exterior compartment. Even though off-gassing is lower than with lead acid batteries, it still exists with AGMs.
Lithium RV House Batteries
RV Lithium batteries are getting more popular in RVing circles by the day.
They are especially in favor with RVers who like to dry camp or boondock.
They do have a lot of advantages on their side. And they actually are practically the perfect RV house batteries. But they have just one big disadvantage that we will cover.
So let’s start with the positives about RV lithium batteries.
RV Lithium Battery Advantages
- They are much lighter than any other kind of RV house batteries. Much lighter!
- There is pretty much no maintenance need as they are in use.
- They can be installed in any position. There is no liquid to leak out, so no need to be placed upright.
- No off-gassing. This means that they may be stored inside the RV and many RVers use them that way. Of course, that opens up a lot more options for battery storage.
- They last a very long time. Usually 3 – 5 times as long as other types of batteries, or even more.
- They charge up to four times faster than other types of RV house batteries.
- You can discharge them up to almost 100% repeatedly without damage to the battery. This means that you get the full use of the rated power for each battery.
- Very low self-discharge rate when not in use.
RV Lithium Battery Disadvantages
- There is one big disadvantage of RV lithium batteries at this time. And that is the cost. They often cost 8 – 10 times what a lead acid battery costs to buy. So buying a full bank of lithium batteries is very expensive.
- Usually can’t be charged while the temperature around the battery is below freezing. Of course, if they are stored inside, that’s usually not a problem.
RV House Batteries Comparison Conclusions
So having covered the pros and cons of the three most popular types of RV house batteries, what can we say?
Generally speaking, lead acid RV house batteries are great for RVers that spend most of their time in campgrounds. They also are good choices for those who are RVing on a budget as they are much cheaper than other battery types.
But you have to be willing to do regular maintenance on both them and the battery cables to keep them in shape.
AGM batteries are very good choices for full-time RVers and those who like to boondock a lot. They are a great choice for a solar panel systems too. You just have to be able to afford the extra initial cost.
RV lithium batteries answer almost all of the disadvantages of the other two battery types, but they are very expensive. The good news is that the costs seem to be lowering as they become more accepted. So hopefully, they will eventually become much more affordable for most RVers.
They are very good choices for full-time RVers and boondockers who have a large budget to work with. And they are practically made for use in RV solar systems.
A couple of very important extra points need to be made here.
First, don’t mix and match battery types. That’s a big no-no!
And make sure that you get a high quality multi-stage RV battery charger for charging. Doing so, will reward you with a long and productive battery life.
I hope this information on RV house batteries helps you understand your choices better.
Have safe and happy travels my friends!