Being on the road can be one of the most exciting experiences in your life. You never can predict what’s going to happen. However, this unpredictability can turn rather inconvenient, especially if you don’t know how to charge an RV battery.
This is why you must be adequately prepared before setting out on the road. It’s not a Herculean feat. Charging your RV battery is actually quite easy.
Today, we’re going to discuss how to charge an RV battery from a vehicle. We’re also going to be getting knee-deep in some other interesting info. Hop in!
How Do I Charge My RV Battery
There are various ways to charge your RV battery. For instance, you could use a converter that converts AC power to DC power. Another way is to use your tow vehicle’s alternator.
You can even charge your RV by utilizing solar power and wind power. All you have to do is to use the right equipment.
Method #1: Converter
There’s a wide range of ways you can charge a battery using the converter. For instance, you could hook up your RV to an electrical grid at a national park. There, you can hook it up through a 30 or 50 amp outlet.
You could also charge your RV batteries at home, by connecting them through a 15 or 20 amp power outlet.
Hooking Your RV Up Through a 30 & 50 Amp Outlet
Are you familiar with something called “shore power”? It’s the available power your RV draws on when it’s plugged into an AC electrical grid.
If your RV has a 30 or 50 amp hook-up that lets it get powered by the electric grid, then that’s its shore power.
When you connect the camper to shore electricity, it’ll start charging the battery right away.
Hooking Your RV Up Through a 15 & 20 Amp Outlet
What about charging your RV battery at home? Well, it’s not rocket science. Using a home extension cord, you can hook up your battery to shore power—just like you would with a 30 and 50 amp outlet.Another way to charge your battery is by using a 12-volt battery charger inside your house. You could take out the battery then and there and easily charge it.
You could also charge your RV battery using generators. You do this by hooking your generator into your camper.
A generator charges your RV battery while running your AC appliances. While charging, a generator will also power your DC lights.
Method #2: DC Power
There are other ways to charge your RV battery that don’t involve using a converter. One of them is DC power.
Another way to charge RV batteries is by using your vehicle’s alternator. This is how motorhome owners charge their 12-volt batteries.
It’s quite simple: an alternator converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. When the engine starts, it generates mechanical energy, which is then turned into electrical.
If you go on long road trips, you might want to consider using an alternator to charge your batteries.
However, this method of charging isn’t ideal for those who aren’t on the move: if you’re going to stay in one place for a long period of time, then you might want to look into another way of charging.
It might seem a little inaccessible and foreign to some, but using solar energy to charge is only becoming more and more popular. At this point, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that you’ve probably heard of a motorhome-owner using solar energy to charge his batteries before.
Unlike what you might think, it isn’t complicated. To charge your RV battery, you need a solar power system: a solar panel going into an amp controller going to the battery.
The amp controller is a critical piece of equipment, as it keeps the battery from overcharging. There are two types of amp controllers: a pulse width modulation (PWM) amp controller, and a maximum power point tracking (MPPT) amp controller.
What’s the difference between them? Well, for one, an MPPT controller would definitely be more efficient than a PWM controller. However, it can also be more expensive.
You also have to know that these controllers are available in various power levels. These power levels are calculated in amps. To successfully charge your RV battery using solar power, your amp controller needs to have more amps than your battery and solar panels put together.
Calculating this is pretty easy. Say that you have 600 watts of solar panels and two 12-volt batteries. So:
600/(12*2) = 25
By looking at this number, you now know that you need to use an amp controller that has more than 25 amps. However, we’d recommend going with an amp controller that’s higher in charge, just in case you decide to add another solar panel.
Keep in mind that when you add more solar panels to a line of solar panels, the new panel will only work to the wattage of the old panels. For example, if you have two 300 watt panels and you add a 500 watt panel, the 500 watt panel will only output 300 watts.
Yes, you’ve heard that right. In some isolated cases, some people have successfully utilized wind power to charge their RV batteries. They did this by using wind turbines, which are ideal for those who live in windy areas.
How does it work? Well, the same way that solar panels work: the wind turbine goes into an amp controller and then goes into the battery.
However, using wind power to charge your battery is recommended only for stationary RVs. If you try to use wind turbines while driving, you’ll create drag and other problems. Plus, it’s not even legal or safe.
There are many ways to charge your RV battery. The key to picking the right one is finding out which charging method is most suitable for your camper. For example, an alternator is a good choice for those who are constantly on the move.
Whichever method you choose, the most important thing is to use the appropriate equipment. If you don’t, you could overcharge your battery, which can be dangerous.