Perhaps you have travel trailer set up at a permanent site with an allocated power outlet, or maybe you’re the current battery is nearing the end of its life, you might have wondered if you really need a battery. You’re not going to be going anywhere with your trailer, so maybe it’s an expense you could do without?
So, do I need a battery for my travel trailer? The answer is no, with a couple of caveats. Most modern power converters will work just fine without a battery present, but, some don’t, so it’s worth testing before you chuck your RV battery.
Additionally, without a battery, you’re not going to have a backup power supply in case of a power cut. It’s worth bearing this fact in mind, your appliances won’t work in a power cut, including your furnace.
If you’re undecided as to whether removing the battery from your travel trailer is a good idea or not, then we’ll weight up your options as well as looking at modern battery technology and its reliability.
The 12-volt System
All of your appliances on your RV run of a 12-volt system. If you don’t have another source of power then everything will work of your RVs batteries. RV batteries are what are called deep cycle batteries, they are specifically designed to hold plenty of power over a long period.
The Lifetime of an RV Battery
A well maintained deep cycle battery can easily last in excess of 5 years.
The time to drain and discharge a battery can be significantly less than the time it takes to charge a battery, so bear this in mind when you’re charging them.
Pro Tip: if you’re not using your travel trailer, then disconnect the ground wire to avoid draining the battery.
What The Heck Is A Battery Anyway?
It’s one of those things that you don’t notice until it no longer works, have you ever left your headlights on and wondered why your car won’t start in the morning?
A battery is at its core a device used to store electrical power. This is an important distinction to make, a battery does not generate power, it’s only a vessel for storing power.
If you find yourself going through RV batteries at a rate of one a year, then there’s something definitely wrong. You should only need to install an RV battery a couple of times each decade, and it only takes a little bit of effort and know how to maximize your batteries lifespan.
As a rule of thumb, avoid letting your RV battery from going beneath 50% charge. If they do, make every effort to recharge them as soon as you can. Never let your battery dip beneath 20% charge, doing so can irrevocably damage them and they are unlikely to function at 100% efficiency again. A modern gel battery can last upwards of 7 years.
A fully charged battery will produce 12-volts, while a battery that has begun to discharge will give off less voltage, this can impact the ability of your appliances. A furnace, for example, may not function correctly unless 12-volts is supplied.
You can also use this fact to monitor the health of your battery. If you fully charge your battery and then use a volt meter to test the number of volts being delivered, you can get a good idea if your RV battery is on the decline.
Should I Have An RV Battery Bank?
Despite the name, this has nothing to do with financial institutions or money. A battery bank is a way of adding multiple batteries together, doing so either increases the available voltage or the available amps.
RV Batteries in Series
Creating batteries in series will keep the amps the same, but will multiply the voltage. As a way of an example, if we take two 12v RV batteries and join them together in series, then we’ll have a total of 24 volts available but there will be no change to the amps.
To create a series connection, the negative terminal from on battery is joined to the positive terminal on another battery. Another connection is made from the remaining positive and neutral connections and then connected to whatever we’re trying to power. All batteries in the same series should be rated the same, i.e. the same voltage and amps.
RV Batteries in Parallel
As you might have guessed already, joining batteries in parallel will keep the voltage the same but will increase the amps. For example, adding two 12 volt RV batteries together will still net you 12 volts, but the current (amps) will increase.
A parallel connection is created by connecting the positive terminal to the positive terminal, and the negative terminal to the negative terminal. This bank is then connected to whatever we’re trying to power as normal and both batteries will drain at the same rate.
RV Batteries in Series and Parallel
It’s also possible to create a hybrid bank which has batteries in parallel as well as series. This configuration requires a minimum of four batteries to carry out and will increase both the volts and amps. It’s a bit tricky to describe, but the illustration below should give you a good idea of how it would work.
Maximizing RV Battery Life Expectancy
If one of the reasons you’re considering doing away with your battery is due to the life expectancy, then consider these simple tips for maximizing the lifespan of your RV Battery.
Most RVs will come with a single 12 volt RV battery, most likely a marine model. Use this until its no longer viable and then replace it with a much better deep cycle battery.
There are a ton of RV Deep Cycle batteries available, coming in varying physical sizes. Understand how room your RV has for batteries and then get the biggest one possible.
When it comes to replacing the battery, you should first remove the negative terminal and then positive. When fitting you’ll want to do this in reverse, affix the positive first and then the negative. While you’re replacing your battery it’s a good time to check for corrosion or wear and tear on the connecting cables.
Regularly check the level of electrolyte in your batteries, as this is one of most common causes of failure. Batteries can easily be topped up, just make you don’t overfill them.
RVs are often stored for months at a time with little to no use once the temperatures drop. It’s completely normal for your RV battery to discharge during this idle time, especially if you’re not looking after it.
If you allow your battery to discharge then you’re damaging the life expectancy of the battery. If your RV battery discharges and is then allowed to freeze, serious irrevocable damage will occur.
Some battery types resist freezing better than others, but it’s best to avoid the circumstance in the first place.
If you can, remove your battery from your RV over winter. Give it an overnight charge once every couple of months to keep it in tip-top condition.
If you can’t remove your battery then you should take a few precautions. The first step is to disconnect the battery, this will ensure those seemingly idle appliances such as radios and smoke alarms are not slowly discharging the battery.
Once a month full charge your RV battery.
Disconnect any unregulated solar panels as these may cause more harm than good.
Make sure the RV is not left plugged into an outlet, it may seem counterintuitive, but this can kill the life expectancy of your RV battery.
Periodically check the voltage given by your battery, if it begins to drop even after a full charge, then you may need to consider replacing at the start of the next season.
Correct RV Battery Charging
When you’ve connected your RV to a power outlet, the battery will be charging. The RVs converter will take the mains supplied power and convert it into a 12 volt supply that is suitable for charging your battery.
Unfortunately, the standard charger fitted in most RVs is not great. If you have the budget to do so, buy a 3 stage charger, like this one.
3 stage chargers have many advantages over a standard charger and best of all they can be used for long term charging without fear of damaging your battery.
With a 3 stage charger, the battery charges in 3 distinct phases. In the first stage, a bulk charge is applied, this will get your RV battery up to around 80% capacity.
In the second stage, a tapering charge is used, this tapers off the charge until the battery is near to full.
During the last stage of charging, a very small amount of power is used to top off the battery to 100%. This trickle will continue as the long as the battery remains plugged in keeping the battery at 100% without causing damage to the battery.
So, there you have it. You may not need a battery for your travel trailer, but we think the benefits outweigh the negatives, especially if you care for your battery correctly. Simply investing in a 3 stage charger can significantly increase the lifespan of your RV battery with very little effort, they are well worth the expense.