Traveling in comfort is one of the most lucrative perks of the modern-day RV trailer. Thanks to technological advances, you can now have a battery onboard, allowing you to enjoy almost all the electricity comforts of home.
Suddenly running out of power can be a concern for some. In fact, one of the most common questions we get asked is, “Does the RV battery charge when plugged-in?“
To answer this question we’ll look at the various factors that contribute to the RV’s electrical system. Alongside different battery options and their charging processes.
The RV Battery
Your RV battery is the powerhouse for your camper or trailer. It powers most of your devices even if your RV is turned off.
You’ll find that most RVs operate on 12-volt batteries. This can be achieved through either one 12-volt battery or two 6-volt batteries.
Using two 6-volt batteries requires more space, yet it has its advantages. Two 6-volt batteries weigh less than a single 12-volt battery and have a longer life-span.
Types of RV Batteries
There are various types of RV batteries. Depending on your camper size and the amount of electricity it needs, you can decide which batteries to use.
Any battery will most likely charge when plugged in. However, its behavior varies according to its type.
Deep Cycle Batteries
Deep cycle batteries are acid-based and are one of the most common types of batteries that you’ll find in RVs.
What makes these popular with RVs is that you can use them down to 20% of their charging capacity without risking any damage to the battery itself. So, you can safely run them longer than other batteries.
There are two types of lead-acid batteries, flooded and sealed. Flooded lead-acid batteries shouldn’t be used in RVs, as they aren’t designed to safely withstand movement. They pose a hazard if they’re used in a moving vehicle.
Sealed lead-acid batteries are the better option for RVs. Some may favor this type for its relatively affordable cost and low discharge rate.
However, they’re heavier and less efficient than newer batteries. They also require good-ventilation, which can be restricted in an RV
Lithium-ion batteries are the most advanced in terms of technology. They may be a bit of an investment to buy, however, they charge faster, are lighter, and have a considerably longer life span.
The disadvantage of these batteries is that they’re reported to be a fire risk, as they’re more prone to combustion than the other battery types.
What Happens to the Battery When You Plug-In Your RV
When you plug-in your RV, you’re essentially powering it, but that’s not just it. The RV battery is a rechargeable one, meaning it’ll charge when you have the RV plugged-in to a power source.
To get the battery fully-charged is a three-stage process. But, what if it’s already charged?
In that case, the battery will begin to trickle charge. This means whatever energy gets discharged, the power source will replenish it without overcharging.
There are some factors that affect the charging process of the battery including how many amps the RV supports and the nature of the power source.
50-amp vs 30-amp RVs
The majority of RVs have electrical systems that are either 30-amp or 50-amp, depending on their size. A smaller sized RV would probably be 30-amp, while a large one would be 50-amps.
This affects the RV’s response to a power source, however, with the readily available converters you can use a 50-amp power source to charge a 30-amp RV and vice versa.
Alternatively, there are some instances where you’ll find yourself with a 15-amp or 20-amp power source. You can plug your 30-amp RV into that, but if you have a 50-amp RV, you’ll first need to convert it to 30-amp and go from there.
Power Source Types
You’ll find most readily available power sources, such as those in campsites, are 120-volt. This means you can use that to power the appliances and the amenities in your RV, as some of the power gets converted to feed the 12-volt battery.
You should note, though, that you may get different results from different power sources. There are five main ways you can charge your RV:
- Shore Power
- Tow Vehicles
- Standalone Battery Charger
- Solar or Wind Power
Shore power, generators, and tow vehicles are considered to be fast-charging sources. Alternatively, a stand-alone battery charger has a medium-speed charging, while natural power sources such as solar and wind power are considered slow chargers.
What Does Your RV Battery Power
When your battery is plugged-in, you can use devices such as the fridge, microwave, AC, and some of the power outlets.
If it isn’t plugged-in, and your battery is charged, you can still use some of the amenities including the overhead light and bathroom fan. It can also power your fridge if it’s in low-power mode.
Taking Care of Your Battery
There are some important precautions to ensure the best performance from your RV battery.
Taking a break from your RV adventures? If you’re planning on keeping your unused RV plugged in for a long period of time, then we recommend that you disconnect the battery.
Otherwise, it may lead to overcharging, which depletes the battery.
Watch the Battery Percentage
Ideally, you should charge your battery once it hits 80%. However, if you find yourself not able to do that constantly, make sure to not let the battery charge fall below 45%.
Beware, if it falls down to 20%, it may lose some of its performance capacity.
Charge the Battery Without Interruption
The RV battery will perform best when fully-charged, so it’s recommended not to interrupt its charging till it reaches 100%.
Watch the Battery Temperature
Keep your battery away from direct heat and high temperatures. This may not always be doable, so in this case, you should ensure the battery is properly ventilated. In an unsealed battery, you can also use distilled water to balance the electrolyte levels.
How to Check if Your RV Battery is Charging and What to Do If It Isn’t
Sometimes, even if you’re taking proper care of the RV battery, it may not charge when plugged-in. So, how do you know if your RV battery has gone bad?
Check the Battery
Check for any visible disruptions to the battery’s physical appearance and color. Is anything bulging, cracked, or broken? Is it leaking?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then it’s time for a new battery.
Read the Voltage
If the battery reads 0 volts, then it probably has a short circuit. If the battery reads as fully charged but has less than 12.4 volts reading, then it’s probably sulfated. If your battery voltage doesn’t get higher than 10.5 volts when charging, this may indicate a dead cell.
In all cases, this means the battery is shot and you need to change it.
Test the Battery
When performing the test, if the voltage drops immediately or after just a few seconds of the test, this means it’s time for a new battery.
Safety always comes first, so here are a few tips to help you keep yourself and your RV safe when you plug it in.
Your RV battery is designed to charge while your RV is plugged-in. In most situations, it’s actually a good thing to have, as it gives your battery a better performance and an improved lifespan.
Keep in mind that the actual performance of the battery charging will depend on various factors including the power source and the battery type.
Always remember to keep your RV battery above the 45% charged mark to enjoy all the comforts your RV offers!