An RV battery ideally has a lifespan of about 5 years, but sadly most only make it for about 2-3 years. Why, you ask. Batteries require proper care and maintenance to live a long, healthy life, and if they aren’t maintained properly, they won’t last nearly as long as they should. Your RV’s battery keeps a lot of things ticking on your unit, such as the A/C unit, furnace, refrigerator, and water heater. They run on 110V once they’re turned on, but they are started by the rig’s 12-volt house battery. If you find yourself with a drained RV battery, then you’ll also find yourself without a lot of necessities that you probably don’t want to live without. This post should help you make the most of your battery.
Deep Cycle Batteries are designed to discharge power at a slow pace over an extended period of time. They come in all different sizes. Typically, the larger the battery, the more amp hours you get. This type of design is perfect for RV usage.
Flooded Lead-Acid Batteries are the most common type of battery. They are designed with a liquid electrolyte and vent caps for maintenance purposes. On this type of battery, you must check the fluid levels and add distilled water when the level falls to a ½ inch above the plates. This type of battery is only best to use when access to the battery bank is easy to reach.
Sealed Lead-Acid Batteries are typically referred to as “maintenance free” batteries due to the fact that they’re completely sealed (minus a tiny vent hole) and there aren’t any levels to check. For an electrolyte, this type of battery uses gel-cell or absorbed glass-mat (AGM) technology. Instead of expelling gases during recharging, they are combined earlier. This type of battery is perfect for use where the battery bank is hard to get to.
The life of a battery can be severely undermined by two main factors: undercharging and overcharging.
Undercharging is the act of repeatedly discharging a battery and not fully recharging it. The sooner you recharge a battery the better. When a battery is not recharged, the sulfate material that is attached to the discharged portions of the plates starts to harden and crystallize. After a while, this material can’t be restored into active plate material and the battery is ruined. This is called sulfation, and it’s the number one cause of RV battery failure.
Overcharging is the other leading cause of loss of battery life. Overcharging a battery results in excessive water loss and plate corrosion. Many RV converters provide a constant 13.5V charge on a battery when it’s not in use. This is too high and it causes the electrolyte to be boiled off. Once again, the battery is ruined.
In addition to the above-mentioned battery misuses, there are other things you should be aware of that can both help and hurt the life of your RV battery. Read on!
Tips for Prolonging the Life of Your RV Battery
Do not let the consistent discharge level fall below 50%. If a battery is discharged to 50% daily (meaning 50% of its life is remaining), it will last longer than a battery that is discharged to 80% (meaning that 20% of its life is remaining).
If your RV battery is consistently exposed to hot temperatures, check its fluid levels often and add distilled water when needed.
Determine the battery’s depth of discharge (which is opposite of its state of charge). If a battery has a depth of discharge of 40%, then its state of charge is 60%. On a flooded lead-acid battery with removable vent caps, use a hydrometer to check its state of charge. On a maintenance-free battery, use a digital voltmeter.
Charge your battery properly. Make sure your charger is specifically designed for your battery or battery pack, including whether or not its compatible for a flooded or sealed battery.
Never overcharge your battery. Don’t leave a charging battery unattended because it can become hot. Disconnect it immediately if it’s hot to the touch.
Use a trickle charger to regularly give your battery a little juice. This comes in especially handy when your RV is not being used (during the off season).
Recharge your battery as soon as you’re done using it so that it doesn’t sit for too long with a low charge.
For the first 5-20 cycles of your battery, do a shallow (<10%) or moderate discharge (10-40%).
Do not expose your battery to a prolonged time in either extreme hot or cold temperatures. Both reduce performance of the battery and shorten its lifespan.