Energy is probably one of the few things that we cannot live without in our day and age. Quite oddly enough, this rings true even when we are out camping. While a lot of people can get away with (or even enjoy) a primitive style of camping without any electricity, most of us prefer our time outdoors to not be completely without electricity.
This is where the RV, trailer, or motorhome has come into play. It has allowed people the ability to be closer to nature and the outdoors, without having to sacrifice all the comforts of a home – you know, things like a full-functioning toilet, maybe a shower, a heater, a conditioner, a functioning kitchen, and maybe even a TV.
But RVs don’t run on magic as most of us would hope. Truth is, your RV is only going to be as good as the source where it derives all its power and energy – the battery! Without a good battery, your RV will be completely useless and you’ll find yourself reaching for those sticks and rocks to build a fire to keep you warm throughout the night or running to and from other campers asking for a jumper cable just so you can get home.
So the question remains – what is the best deep cycle battery for RVs? What even is a “deep cycle” battery? How do you choose? What are all those terms and letters attached to batteries?
Well, lucky for you, I’ll be answering some of those questions right now as well as give you my “six picks” of RV batteries and some tips for care, storage, and maintenance.
Are you ready?
RV BATTERIES 101
So what’s the deal anyway? Are there different types of RV batteries or are there certain types that will run better with RVs? The quick answer is yes – deep cycle batteries.
DEEP CYCLE BATTERIES
Deep cycle batteries are a type of heavy-duty battery that is designed for RVs. This is because they can be discharged and recharged more often than your regular engine-starting batteries. In other words, starting batteries are great at giving you short, high-powered boosts to start your engine, while deep cycle batteries can power your RV for a longer period of time because they last much longer.
Deep cycle batteries are rechargeable through plugging into a shoreline power or sometimes even solar panels if it has the right configuration so they don’t need to be replaced all the time – simply recharged.
TYPES OF DEEP CYCLE BATTERIES
Generally, there are three basic internal design types for deep cycle batteries: conventional flooded electrolyte, gel type, and absorbed glass mat (AGM).
Conventional Flooded-type batteries have been around the longest and are usually supplied as originals – meaning those are the batteries that come when you purchase your RV. They offer a good capacity while costing less than other types of batteries, which is why they are often a popular choice.
Some of these types of batteries will require checking and refilling with water in order to maintain the level of electrolytes or else the battery may be ruined if electrolyte levels drop below the top of the internal plates.
These types of batteries also need more cleaning and maintenance to avoid corrosion. However, there are some flooded-cell batteries categorized as “maintenance-free”, which uses calcium mixed with lead in order to reduce how much water is used.
Gel type and AGM batteries on the other hand cost more but last longer than conventional flooded-type batteries. The best part about them is that they don’t need maintenance. In terms of fast charging, gel type batteries don’t tolerate fast charging well, while AGM batteries can.
6V AND 12V CONFIGURATIONS
Typically, deep-cycle batteries come in 6V or 12V configurations (with most being 12V). If you are using 6V batteries, it needs to be installed in pairs and wired in series (connect a + terminal to a – on the other side) so that their combined voltage will yield 12V.
You can also use 12V batteries in pairs, however, they must be configured and wired as parallel (connect a + to + and – to -), so their combined output will stay at 12V.
AH AND RC RATINGS
When searching for batteries, you will more often than not find the terms “AH” or “RC”. These are simply the two main power ratings for batteries. In general, the higher the number, the more capacity the battery has and therefore, will power your RV for a longer period of time.
AH stands for Amp-Hours and it measures how many amps the battery can deliver in a 20-hour period of time. This means, for example, a battery rated 240AH can supply about 12 amperes continuously for 20 hours.
RC on the other hand stands for Reserve Capacity, which is the length of time (measured in minutes) that the battery can sustain 25 amps. So for example, a battery rated 125RC can supply 25 amperes for 125 minutes before the voltage will begin to drop.
COLD CRANKING AMPERES (CCA)
Another term you will often hear in relation to batteries are the “cold cranking amperes”. This is the amperes that the battery will supply when the starting motor is drawing power from the battery at a temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit.
This is especially important if you like to use your RV during the wintertime because battery performance decreases at lower temperatures. A higher CCA rating means that the battery will supply enough power to start your engines even during those cold, snowy, months.
Another term that may come up every once in awhile is “marine batteries”. These types of batteries are a combination of the characteristics of a starting battery and a deep cycle battery, and they are less expensive than a true deep-cycle battery.
The trade-off of these types of batteries, however, is a lower CCA rating for a relatively better deep cycle performance, so if you’re travelling in colder places more often than warmer places, this may not be the best choice for you. They are often popular due to the fact that they are somewhat “hybrid” while being low-cost.
STORAGE, CARE, AND SAFETY
Batteries need some tender, love, and care, and this isn’t always easy to do. Here are some tips for you when it comes to the storage, maintenance, and safety precautions for your batteries so that they not only last longer but won’t cause any harm or damage to you or your RV.
It’s no secret that over time, your batteries are going to lose their charge. However, you can prolong the life of your battery by simply disconnecting them during storage – especially if you won’t be traveing for a long period of time. What you can do is use a small, multistage maintenance charger when you store it.
Remember to never store a battery when it is discharged. This will cause the battery plates to crystalize and make them hard, which in turn will no longer be able to supply power. If you are storing your battery for a long period of time, charge it every three months or depending on what the manufacturing instructions state.
If you want to read more about storage, especially in relation to temperatures, you can check out this short article from Trailer Life.
As much as possible, don’t let the battery run if it is less than 50% charged. Once it reaches this point, recharge it immediately, because if it goes below 20%, the chances of it getting damaged are a lot higher. If you are diligent about this, your battery can last you a good couple of years.
If you have a conventional flooded-type battery, be sure to check your water levels before you depart on your travels and before you store your RV away. Keep the water level where it’s supposed to be to avoid damage in the future.
Remember that when working with batteries to always use rubber gloves and eye protection. Working with batteries can not only be toxic and hazardous, but they can potentially be dangerous as well, so exercise caution at all times.
Note that the battery acid can damage anything it comes in contact with, such as paint, chrome, and metal – so be careful or your RVs paint/detailing might end up corroded with even just a drop of battery acid.
While a battery is in operation, it may explode if exposed to a spark nearby. This is because it produces hydrogen while running, which is combustible. When disconnecting your battery, loosen the bolt/nut on the negative terminal first. This way, it won’t spark when your wrench comes in contact with the metal. When reconnecting, connect the negative terminal last.
If you’re looking for a video on how to replace deep cycle batteries, you can check out this video from RVgeeks to guide you through the process.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING RV BATTERIES
Batteries for your RV are not usually something you think about needing to buy. More often than not, we trust our original equipment batteries to last for years, but then reality strikes and you find yourself needing to replace them after your nth trip.
If you find yourself needing to replace those batteries now, there are some things you need to consider before making your purchase. Here are some pointers:
THE “SIX PICKS” OF RV BATTERIES
Now that you hopefully have a basic understanding about RV batteries/deep cycle batteries and know what to look for or how to select the right battery for you, here are my “six picks” of RV batteries that you can check out and try on your next camping trip.
Last update on 2017-09-22 PST - Details
Optima Batteries 8016-103 D34M BlueTop Starting and Deep Cycle Marine Battery
First on our list is the BlueTop Starting and Deep Cycle Marine Battery from Optima Batteries. It works as both a starting battery and a deep cycle battery. It has 12 volts and 750 cold cranking amps, along with a dual SAE and 5/16 inch stainless steel stud posts.
It’s a strong battery with 55 AH C20 capacity. It measures 10 inches x 6 ⅞ inches x 7 13/16 inches and weighs about 43.5 pounds.
What’s great about this battery is that it can start even during bad weather and it is mountable in any position. It is also very durable due to its resistance to vibrations. To top it all off, it has a reserve capacity of 120 minutes for constant and optimal performance.
Universal UB121000-45978 12v 100AH Deep Cycle AGM Battery
Next on our top picks is the deep cycle AGM Battery from Universal Power Group. It is a valve regulated, float and cycle use battery with an AGM design, allowing for great deep cycle service and a high-performance rating. Its float voltage is 13.6 to 13.8 V while its charge voltage is 14.5 to 14.9 V.
The Universal Battery measures 12.17” x 6.61” x 8.30” and weighs almost 64 pounds.
What I like about this battery is its 1-year warranty along with its less than 3% per month standing self-discharge and the fact that it is maintenance free. It makes using this battery pretty convenient and worry-free.
VMAXTANKS Vmax857 Tm AGM 12V 35AH Group U1 Marine Deep Cycle Hi Battery
Next on our list, we have a pretty small sized battery that can still pack a pretty big punch. The Vmax857 measures only 7.7” x 5” x 6.1” making it great for smaller vehicles.
The Vmax has a unique physical and chemical structure of its plates along with special treatment during the manufacturing process, allowing for high-performance, strength, and durability.
This battery is also resistant to shocks and vibrations and is classified as non-hazardous and non-spillable. It has an estimated 4-9 hours of running time and has a maintenance free operation. It also has a 20-hour capacity of 35AH with a Reserve Capacity of 75 minutes.
YUASA YTX14-BS Maintenance Free Battery and Automatic Charger Bundle
Next, we have the YUASA YTX14-BS battery. What’s great about this product right off the bat is that it comes as a bundle. Included in the set is the YUASA YTX14-BS battery along with the YUA1201000 1Amp automatic battery charger and maintainer.
The battery itself is a 12 Volt with 12 amp hour, 200 cold cranking amps. It is completely sealed and spill-proof. The acids are absorbed in special plates and absorbed glass mat separators. You don’t need to add water to it as well, making a great, maintenance-free battery.
It makes use of lead-calcium technology that can hold its specific gravity for more than 3 times longer than conventional batteries.
The charger that it comes with is easy to use and simple to attach and can maintain your battery with a 3 stage charge cycle reaching a 14.4 volt peak which will then automatically switch into maintenance mode. It is designed to prevent overcharging.
Optima Batteries 8006-006 34M BlueTop Marine Starting Battery
Now we have a starting battery from Optima Batteries once more. The BlueTop Marine Starting Battery has 12-Volt, 800 Cold Cranking amps and dual SAE, and stainless steel stud posts.
This battery measures 10 inches x 6 ⅞ inches x 7 13/16 inches and weighs about 38.4 pounds, while its stainless steel stud posts measures 5/16 inches.
The BlueTop Marine Starting Battery has a reserve capacity of 100 minutes giving it constant performance while working. Like it’s Optima brother, it can start even during bad weather conditions and is vibration resistant for durability.
Mighty Max 12V 55AH Power Boat Pontoon Electric Trolling Motor Deep Cycle Battery
Last but not the least, we have the Power Boat Pontoon Electric Trolling Motor Deep Cycle Battery from Mighty Max. This battery is a 12V, 55AH sealed lead acid, rechargeable and maintenance-free battery.
It measures 9.02” x 5.43” x 9.13” and weighs approximately 38.5 pounds. It comes with a 1-year warranty and 30-day refund policy so you won’t have to worry.
The Mighty Max battery is an SLA/AGM spill proof battery with a high discharge rate, wide operating temperatures, long service life, and deep discharge recover making it a decent all-around battery.
Like the previous batteries, it is also shock and vibration resistant for durability and can perform continuously during high or low temperatures.
AND THE WINNER IS…
…honestly? It’s hard to pick the best since the “best” battery will vary depending on your specific needs. However, if you choose one of these six, you won’t have much of a problem as they are the best ones out there that you can find!
Just remember to think about the features you need your battery to have and the conditions you will be subjecting it to. Take the time to further research about RV batteries so once you make your final purchase, you will be 100% satisfied!
If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it. I would also love to hear from you in the comments below. Which one is your favorite? Do let me know!