Can I use my caravan without a battery?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can I use my caravan without a battery? We will discuss electricity onboard the caravans of power supply, operation, and most importantly how to calculate – but also to optimize – its power consumption.

Can I use my caravan without a battery?

Yes, you can use your caravan without a battery. Your caravan is equipped with a transformer that converts 230V to 12V so that everything inside the caravan works properly when you plug it in, even without a battery connected. 

The caravan battery provides 12 volts, it is generally located under a seat and it supplies on-board equipment such as:

  • the lighting
  • the water pump
  • television
  • the refrigerator (in the case of a compression model).

Generally, there are four types of caravan batteries:

  • lead-acid battery
  • AGM battery
  • gel battery
  • lithium battery / battery

This caravan battery is “slow discharge”. You, therefore, have a certain autonomy, the duration of which is relatively long but not infinite! This is why it needs to be recharged regularly.

How to recharge the battery of a caravan?

You can recharge the battery of your caravan:

  1. While driving (thanks to the engine alternator)
  2. By plugging the motorhome into a 220-volt outlet (in a service area for example)
  3. By alternative means such as solar panels, a fuel cell, or even a wind turbine.

Note that ideally, the caravan battery should be recharged from the mains once a month minimum, for 24 to 48 hours to optimize the life of the battery charge.

What autonomy do you have on a caravan battery?

This is a question that is difficult to answer because the electric autonomy is estimated according to the consumption and the equipment on board.

It is clear that if you have a van or a small motorhome with the basic amenities, without a TV, your heater and refrigerator run on gas, and you drive every day, you are very likely to fall over. never out of power!

How to calculate its consumption?

You need to assess your electricity consumption, depending on your type of equipment, your lifestyle (duration of electricity consumption) and the means you have to cover these needs (capacity of the living area battery). It also depends on whether your gas cylinders supply some of your devices.

The electrical consumption of the equipment is generally indicated in the instructions for use.

• general electronics: 0.4 Amps -> 24 hours = 9.6 amps / hour

• water pump: 0.3 A -> 0.5 h = 0.15 Ah

• 60 watt lighting: 5 A -> 5 h = 25 Ah

• 12-volt outlet: 0.5 A -> 4 h (charging time for a mobile phone for example) = 2 Ah

For 24 hours the daily consumption is 36.75 Ah. Knowing that our battery has a capacity of 100 Ah, we, therefore, have a little less than 72 hours of autonomy, so between 3 and 4 days.

How to make your caravan battery last longer?

If the capacity of your battery rises to 100Ah, and your energy consumption is higher (this is the case if you have additional energy-intensive equipment such as a TV, air conditioning, etc.), you will have to review your consumption at lowering or increasing the energy capacity of your motorhome.

Tip: If you want to make your battery last, it is best not to use more than half of its capacity and to fully charge it between two discharge cycles.

Example of electricity consumption with additional equipment:

• A television: 4 Amps -> 4 hours: 16Ah

• Its demodulator: 1.5 A -> 4 he: 6 Ah

• Electric heating in winter: 1.2 A -> 12 h: 14.4 Ah

• A 50-liter compression fridge: 1.4 A -> 24 h: 25.4 Ah

By adding the standard and additional equipment, the daily consumption this time amounts to 100.15 Ah. Or with a 100 Ah battery, one day of autonomy.

And that’s without counting the recharging of computers (like us via a converter)!

How to increase the electric autonomy of your caravan?

It is common practice to seek solutions to have greater autonomy in order to reduce one’s dependence on service areas and campsites. There are various ways to do this.

  • Install LED bulbs: You can reduce your consumption by replacing all of your interior lighting in your motorhome with LED bulbs: in the living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, toilets …
  • Install solar panels: Adding a solar panel to the roof of a recreational vehicle (motorhome, van, campervan) is also a good solution. A 110 Watt panel (like ours for less than 150 euros) delivers between 10 and 40 Ah depending on the level of sunshine.

Obviously, the problem is that in winter or in bad weather, the performance of your panel decreases.

  • Buy an additional battery: You can also install an additional battery with the same technology and the same capacity that you will connect in parallel.
  • Invest in a lithium battery or a fuel cell: This is a significant initial investment because it takes around $1,000 for a Lithium battery and around $1,300 for a fuel cell, but these types of battery have many advantages: they recharge very quickly and the number of cycles is higher. 
  • Equip yourself with a generator: This is the cheapest backup, but make sure you have enough space to store it.

The bottom line

We advise you to frequently check the condition of the batteries. If you spend a certain time without taking the motorhome, it is recommended to disconnect the terminals so that there is practically no consumption.

 If you do not want to disconnect the terminals, you have to start the engine occasionally and it is important to check that the entire passenger compartment electrical system is switched off.

If you need personalized advice on equipping your caravan, van or converted van with a battery, converter, generator or even a solar panel kit, please feel free to contact us! 

FAQ on Can I use my caravan without a battery?

How long does it take to recharge a trailer battery?

Recharging a battery to its full capacity can take up to 40 hours. Of course, this cooldown assumes it’s completely empty. It will also vary depending on its capacity and use. The best way to recharge the battery is via AC power.

What is a smart battery charger?

Smart battery chargers are based on the latest developments in technology and aim to simplify the task of users. Also, this type of charger analyzes the type of battery and its condition throughout the charging process.

What charge for a 12V battery?

A battery must always be charged, the charge must be stopped between 2.25 V and 2.4 V per cell. Either: Between 6.75 V and 7.2 V for a 6 V battery, and between 13.5 V and 14.4 V for a 12 V battery.

The engine (for starting) and an auxiliary battery (for the passenger compartment). Although it is increasingly common to equip the motorhome with a third additional battery.


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