Can you plug in an RV without a battery?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Can you plug in an RV without a battery? We will explain how an RV battery works, how to choose the right one for your motorhome and whether it is possible to plug in an RV without a battery.

Can you plug in an RV without a battery?

Technically yes, you can plug in an RV without a battery, but don’t expect everything to work properly for a long time! Almost any RV model on the market can now be plugged into a house or into a power source at a regular campsite. 

However, this doesn’t mean that your RV will work as batteries! When there is no power source, your water pump, heater, light or electrical devices will not work if you do not have a converter. 

What is an RV converter?

A converter’s main function is to convert 120-volt AC power into 12-volt DC power (which is what your RV needs to function properly). Thus, you can take out the batteries but make sure your converter is in working order!

And here’s where the big answer lies, whether you can or not plug in the RV without a battery, will depend on what type of converter you have. Some models do not require a battery to act as a buffer, while others cannot function otherwise. 

  • Convertors that require a charged battery: Magnetek/Parallax 6300 series
  • Convertors that do not require a battery: Magnetek/Parallax 7300 series.

Check your owner’s manual for more information on the type of converter that you have.

Understand how an RV battery works

Both normal cars and motorhomes need electrical power. That’s why they use batteries. And if you have good energy-generating elements but bad batteries or not the right ones, it will be of little use to you.

For those who do not know, in cars, with the battery we can move the vehicle; but in motorhomes (AC) it is necessary to have two batteries:

  • The first battery, which is the “engine battery” which provides the energy needed to start the engine.
  • And a second battery, called “extra/auxiliary battery” or “mobile battery” that serves to power all that is not the “vehicle itself”, but appliances, TV, lights, chargers, household appliances, and so on.

How do I choose the battery for my RV?

The first thing when talking about batteries is to know where they are in your AC because it depends on their location. We must take into account if there may be a danger due to gas leakage or not and at the same time that it is sensitive to shocks or temperatures.

Other important factors: are the amperage of the battery, the cycles of life and the percentage of discharge that they allow.

As we said, it is recommended to install an auxiliary battery to supply electricity to the devices that we carry in our AC without discharging the main battery.

But what types of batteries are there and how do I choose the one my AC needs?

You have to choose the auxiliary battery based on the engine battery (main battery). The difference in capacity between the two batteries must not exceed 20%.

If you are to plug in a lot of things and have the devices turned on or connected, you must have a battery with a lot of capacity and that usually goes hand in hand with a higher price. But we summarize the pros and cons of batteries for motorhomes.

There are 4 types of batteries: Open lead, AGM, Gel and Lithium-Ion.

  1. Open lead batteries: They are cheap, provide a lot of power at startup but are not very powerful for a vehicle like an AC. They do not store much energy and need maintenance and distilled water from time to time.
  1. AGM batteries: These types of batteries charge fast and self-discharge slowly (1-3% per month). And in addition, they are waterproof and do not need maintenance. Finally, they resist shocks and vibrations well.

But, they are more expensive than the previous ones. Have a short lifetime for one cycle, short battery life (between charges).

The ideal thing for the maintenance of the batteries, although later we will see it better, is that they do not get completely discharged. They cannot be fully downloaded on these models. It is not a bit of the battery itself, but it must be taken into account if you are to plug in a lot of things and have them turned on.

  1. Gel batteries: They support a full charge and the battery lasts a long time (very good durability of each cycle) and like AGMs, they also have good resistance to shocks and vibrations.

In addition, they are waterproof and do not require maintenance.

But … here are the drawbacks:

  • Its price is higher compared to AGM.
  • Slow loading.
  • They require an adapted charger or charge controller.
  1. Lithium batteries: They are more compact and lighter, provide plenty of power, and do not lose capacity due to charge and discharge usage. Less than 10% are downloaded per year. They have better resistance to deep discharges. To make matters worse, they charge fast, are more environmentally friendly and require no maintenance.

But…

  • They are more expensive than other batteries. For a 12v and 110Ah battery, prepare about € 1000. It must be considered an ideal investment for those caravans with high usual expected consumption.
  • They accept charge currents limited by charging and discharging.
  • They do not withstand high temperatures.

How do you recharge the battery of an RV? Is it necessary to plug it into 220v?

Batteries are recharged automatically thanks to the energy generated by the motor. First, the main battery is charged and when it is fully charged, it sends current to the auxiliary battery.

Another way to charge the battery, although in this case it only affects the auxiliary, is by connecting the motorhome to 220V. Most car parks, motorhome service areas and motorhome-enabled campsites have 220v power outlets to connect the cable.

In addition, there is also the possibility of installing solar panels or gasoline generators that will help charge the batteries and allow us to have extra energy.

Although gasoline generators are very useful, we only recommend them for charging equipment that requires a lot of energy, since, for everyday objects and the equipment of the motorhome, the extra contribution of a generator is not normally needed. These, in addition, emit a fuel smell and a lot of noise, depending on the type of generator, and it can be unpleasant.

Solar panels, however, generate cleaner energy that does not require extensive maintenance. It is enough to place it on the roof of the motorhome and perform a simple installation of the wiring. They charge the batteries but you must always take into account the installation of the charge regulator.

The bottom line

If you are not using your RV as a moving house, you can of course plug it in without a battery. Still, 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 have any questions or comments about the content, please let us know!

FAQ on Can you plug in an RV 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.

References

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