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Are Lithium RV Batteries for you?
“What is the best type of battery for my RV?” This is a very common question in fulltime RVer communities. On a regular basis we see questions not just on our Facebook Groups, but all over the place regarding what battery works best.
The answer isn’t just that easy though. The answer depends on how you travel.
Let’s get into the details.
Essentially, you have three main options for RV battery types:
- 12V flooded lead acid battery
- 6V AGM (often referred to as “golf cart batteries”)
- 12V lithium
12V Flooded Lead Acid RV Battery
The 12-volt flooded lead acid battery is the least expensive and most common option. In fact, a lot of RVs come with this type of battery already installed, including my 5th wheel.
These batteries are an effective source of power and are likely all you need if you spend a majority of your time at RV parks connected to power. If you are only using your batteries on travel days in between parks, these work great!
You will generally find flooded lead acid batteries in the range of $75–$200 per battery. 12V batteries range from 70–100a/h (amp hours) and you never want to drain this kind of battery below 50%, meaning each battery will actually give you 35–50 usable amp hours. This is a relatively small number, which is why many RVs come with two of this type of battery.
Flooded lead acid batteries do require some maintenance in addition to making sure they don’t dip below a 50% charge. For starters, you want to make sure they are vented properly, because they do let off some gasses. They often come in boxes when in your RV from the factory for this reason. Additionally, you want to make sure the water level inside is maintained, as a dry battery will suffer damage and the water levels do get lower over time.
The total lifespan of these batteries—assuming you keep them above 50% charge and maintain them well—is about two to three years for a typical full-timer.
If you would like to get these batteries, click here.
6V AGM RV Batteries (“Golf Cart” Batteries)
This solution is mid-range as far as up-front cost goes, and they do come in some RVs from the manufacturers.
Since these are 6-volt batteries and all the systems in your RV run on 12-volt, you will always see these in pairs—meaning, you’ll need an even number of them, and you’ll need to budget for more than just one. Typically you’ll see four or more AGM batteries in a given setup.
These batteries definitely have their market: They will work great with a solar setup, and will get you off-grid or boondocking.
The price range for 6V AGM batteries is roughly $500–$700/pair (remember, you need them in pairs) and they usually offer something like 175–300a/h per pair. This means that with a typical setup of four, you will have a total of 350–600 amp hours. However, these are also a type of lead acid battery, meaning they should never go below 50% charge, giving you a usable 175–300a/h.
Many AGM batteries are sealed, which means you do not need to add water to them for maintenance, and not all of them need to be vented. They also allow for more “cycles” than the 12V flooded lead acid batteries, meaning they can be discharged and recharged more times before needing replacement.
That said, one big drawback is that they are very heavy, and in an RV, weight management is critical.
Assuming proper use, the average life of these batteries will be three to five years for a typical full-timer.
If you would like to get these batteries, click here.
12V Lithium RV Batteries
The reason you probably decided to read this article is because you have heard about these somewhere. Maybe you heard from a friend or watched a YouTube video (or five).
While these batteries are very talked about in the RV world, there is still some confusion around them. They are the highest initial investment of the battery options you have. However, they are loaded with advantages.
The price range for 12-volt lithium batteries is typically $700–$1000 per battery, but they often come with 100–200a/h each. On top of that, one of the biggest advantages of these batteries is that they can be safely drained much lower, giving you 90–100% usable amp hours. And, they do this while still keeping over 12 volts.
For comparison, lead acid will usually drop below 12 volts around 60%. Because of this, 12V lithium batteries are a great solution for boondocking!
Some other key benefits of lithium batteries include:
- They charge faster.
- They rarely drop below 12 volts.
- They last much longer (Battle Born gives a 10-year warranty).
- They’re half the weight of lead acid batteries.
- They require no maintenance.
- They can usually be mounted in any direction.
The only real drawbacks to lithium batteries are their up-front cost and adverse reaction to extreme cold temperatures.
One other important thing to know about lithium batteries is that there are different types of lithium, and you want to make sure you get lithium batteries that are designed for RV use. Most RV lithium batteries are LiFePO4, and there are some key differences between the different manufacturers as well.
Battle Born is the brand you have probably heard the most about. One reason for this is they have a battery management system built into the battery that makes it difficult to ruin or fail.
The total lifespan of these batteries is 10–15 years, making them the cheapest long-term option.
If you would like to get a quote for these batteries, simply fill out this form.
Keep Tabs with a Battery Monitor
Regardless of which battery you go with, you’ll want to make sure you can track your usage. Battery monitors are the perfect solution. They’re very easy to install and pretty inexpensive. These monitors can save you from exceeding your minimum charge, something that is especially important when it comes to the lead acid options.
One battery monitor that is commonly used in the RV community is the Victron 712 Battery Monitor because it comes with built-in Bluetooth, allowing you to see where your battery is via your smartphone.
Our partner Connected RV is offering Fulltime Families members a discount on Battle Born Batteries and/or the Victron 712 Battery Monitor! Simply fill out this form to get a quote.
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