No matter how much you like to rough it when you go RVing, there really is no denying the importance of your RV battery. It’s a vital part of your vehicle’s internal operation. Your RV battery powers everything you find inside your rig. This is why it’s important to keep it charged and properly maintained.
We’re often asked, “Do RV batteries charge when plugged into shore power?” The quick answer is “Yes, they do”. By switching on your battery when connecting it to shore power, it can safely charge. Charging your RV battery via a shore power is a great way to keep your battery ready and prepped.
Yet there are several things you have to consider before connecting your battery to shore power. Read ahead to learn all there is to know about your RV battery.
Understanding Your RV Battery
All RV batteries are made up of two different systems. There’s the 12-volt direct current (DC) system. Then, there’s the 120-volt alternating current (AC) system. That’s not taking into consideration the actual engine battery that drives the RV itself.
12-Volt DC Power System
The DC system runs on the battery system in your RV. It’s capable of powering the water pump, fans, the TV, and even your RV lights. Yet its power is limited by the amount of energy that can be generated by your RV batteries.
The great thing about this power system is that it’s easy to work with. It recharges when it’s hooked up to an external power source. It also charges when you run a generator or when you’re driving your RV.
Another handy tip is that the DC battery system can be used even if the RV isn’t hooked up to any power source. Just keep an eye on the charging level of the battery to prevent overheating.
Also, try not to let it die completely before recharging it. This can compromise the integrity of the electrical system.
120-Volt AC Power System
This is the more powerful system of the two. It’s used to operate the large appliances in your RV, such as the fridge, microwave, and air conditioning. The AC power system also operates the power outlets in your RV.
In order for this battery to run, you have to be connected to an external power source. There are two types: a generator and shore power.
Using an electricity RV generator is a great way to operate a heavy electrical load. The best part is that there’s minimum to zero risk. Your battery stays safe and your electrical system isn’t being overloaded.
Then there’s shore power. RV shore power is when you connect your RV battery into an AC electrical grid. You can usually find these at most developed campgrounds.
It’s a convenient way to recharge your batteries. You can also use shore power to directly run the RV’s electrical system.
How Does the RV Battery Charge When It’s Plugged into Shore Power?
Before you hook up your RV to shore power, there are several things you have to do first to ensure the safety of your RV.
You have to be careful not to overload your RV’s electrical system. Running too much power into your AC system can blow a fuse, or, worst-case scenario, blow the entire electrical system.
The best way to ensure you’re letting in the best amount of power is to use a surge protector. Some RVs have surge protectors already built-in, some don’t.
If your RV doesn’t feature a surge protector, it’s best if you buy an external surge protector. It’s portable and easy to use.
A surge protector determines whether the RV shore power is clean and steady before letting it pass through to your RV. While they’re not required, they help safeguard the integrity of your RV’s electrical system.
It’s worth mentioning that when you use a surge protector, you’ll notice a delay in the power reaching your RV. This can last anywhere between 20 and 60 seconds. This is the time needed by the surge protector to assess the safety level of the power going into the RV.
After you’ve taken all the precautionary safety measures, it’s time to let your battery charge. To do this, you have to turn on your battery.
Charger vs. Converter
When you’re hooked up to shore power to charge your battery, you can opt for a battery charger or a converter.
A battery charger allows your battery to automatically start recharging once it’s connected to an external power source. During this time, your appliances won’t receive any power.
You can still power any appliance that requires minimum power. However, it’s recommended that you turn off appliances that require the most amount of power.
Battery chargers are designed this way to prolong battery life.
A converter can convert 120-volt shore power into 12-volt DC power. This gives your battery a chance to rest while it’s plugged in.
In other words, all your appliances that are powered by the DC power system will work via shore power. During this time, your battery can get some rest and relaxation before you power it back up when it’s time to get back on the road.
Dangers of Overcharging/Undercharging Your RV Batteries
Just like any type of battery, you can run the risk of not charging your RV battery enough or charging it too much. In both cases, you’re liable to run into difficulties in the future if you’re not careful.
Leaving your RV battery plugged in for long periods can be dangerous. even after it’s fully charged can be dangerous.
It can deplete the battery cells’ electrolyte levels. This harms your battery’s performance and leads to a reduction in its overall product life.
When you undercharge your battery, you risk getting stranded with no power source to bail you out. It could also lead to difficulties in starting your engine.
It’s better to recharge your battery often rather than leaving it until it’s completely depleted. A good rule to follow is to use 50% of your battery charge, then recharge it each day.
This way, your battery can last twice as long as if you regularly discharge it to 30% or lower.
RV Battery Monitors
An RV battery monitor can help determine the charge state of your battery. It measures the energy that’s going in and out of your battery. It also gauges the battery’s state of charge and discharge.
Most of the modern RV batteries feature an LCD display. It reads out all the important data regarding your RV battery.
There are simple, yet reliable, types of battery monitors, such as the AiLi battery monitor. It makes checking your battery’s data easy to read with a quick glance at the LCD display.
Some upgraded monitors show other readings as well. For example, the Victron BMV-712 battery monitor includes a temperature sensor. It’s Bluetooth compatible, which makes it easy to track via your smartphone.
Now that we understand how RV batteries charge when plugged into shore power, it’s time to head out on an RV adventure!
But before you go, remember to take proper care of your RV battery. Never let it undercharge or overcharge. Both scenarios can end up damaging your battery. You also risk damaging your entire electrical system.