What Is The Best RV Battery For Boondocking?
RV boondocking demands 12 volt, 100 amp hour deep cycle RV batteries that charge up quickly from solar panels and are able to handle discharge rates of 80-100% of their capacity.
Boondockers frequently require more power than a single battery can provide, especially if they use AC appliances such as coffee pots, blenders, TVs, or AC power outlets in addition to DC power (lights, pump, furnace).
If you plan to boondock for a number of days, or even weeks using solar panels to recharge your batteries, you’ll probably want more than two batteries to store power and keep you powered even on cloudy days. Here are some quick facts to help you find the right RV battery for your boondocking needs.
Why Lead Acid Is Not The Best RV Battery For Boondockers
Lead-acid batteries are not the best batteries for RV boondockers for four reasons:
- They don’t meet the discharge and recharge requirements of many boondockers.
- Flooded and AGM lead-acid batteries require ventilation.
- Some lead-acid batteries require maintenance.
- Lead-acid batteries are about 70 lbs each. Multiple lead-acid RV batteries compose significant weight. This additional weight will be reflected in a significant decrease in fuel economy.
Flooded Lead Acid Batteries
Flooded lead-acid batteries contain lead plates that must remain covered in sulfuric acid. This requires them to be topped up with distilled water at least every 2-6 weeks. Carrying distilled water to top up batteries is a necessity if you use flooded cell lead acid RV batteries.
Flooded lead-acid batteries will be permanently damaged if they are discharged by more than 50% of their capacity. Even at just 50% capacity, It takes a flooded cell battery about 8 hours to recharge. Flooded cell batteries weigh a hefty 70 lbs, so they add significant weight to the RV.
AGM Lead Acid Batteries
Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) Lead Acid Batteries are lead-acid batteries. Instead of having acid sloshing around inside the battery (as with flooded lead-acid batteries), the acid is contained by absorbent glass mats. These absorbent glass mats are held between the lead plates inside the battery. This design gives sealed AGM batteries the ability to be stored upright or on their sides without the worry that they will spill.
AGM batteries are better than flooded cell lead-acid batteries for RV applications as they can be discharged up to 80% of their capacity. These lead-acid batteries recharge up to 5 times faster than flooded lead-acid batteries. AGM batteries have a lifespan of about 300-800 charge-discharge cycles, depending on how much they are discharged each time. AGM batteries are very low maintenance because they are sealed. You should still check terminals for corrosion periodically and clean them as necessary to keep them charging properly.
AGM batteries weigh a whopping 70 lbs each, so adding 4 of them to your RV will add 280 lbs of weight.
Why Lithium Is The Best RV Battery For Boondocking
Lithium LifePO4 Batteries are by far the best RV battery for boondockers. Lithium iron phosphate batteries can handle 3000-5000 cycles of charging and discharging before they start to lose capacity. By comparison, a lead-acid battery will lose about 25% of it’s capacity after just 200-500 charge/discharge cycles.
Lithium RV batteries can be discharged 100% over and over again with no decrease in battery capacity. There is nothing inside LifePO4 lithium batteries to leak out or vaporize, so they can be stored anywhere. Lithium batteries can even be stacked on their sides to meet storage needs.
It’s worth mentioning that lithium LifePO4 batteries are the safest battery for RVs. Lithium batteries avoid the safety hazards that lead-acid batteries have. Lithium batteries have no sulfuric acid to leak out and don’t evaporate noxious, explosive gasses that must be ventilated because they use lithium iron phosphate instead of sulfuric acid and lead plates.
Lithium RV batteries are the lightest battery option for RV boondockers. A lithium battery weighs just 26 lbs. A bank of 4 lithium batteries weighs less than 110 lbs.
The Downside of Lithium Batteries
The biggest drawback of lithium batteries for RV boondockers has been their relatively high price. However, as with any new technology, the price of lithium RV batteries has been dropping as they become more popular with RV consumers. Research shows that the price of lithium batteries has been dropping steadily by about 6.5% per year and will continue to do so.
How Can Lithium Batteries Be The Most Economical?
The thing to keep in mind is that over the long run, lithium batteries are a much more economical option than lead-acid batteries. Over 10 years, you’ll probably go through at least 2 lead-acid batteries while a lithium battery will still have years of use left in it.
Your RV or tow vehicle will use more fuel just to carry the significant additional weight of the batteries. If you travel very far, you’ll be spending hundreds of dollars just to pack around your lead-acid batteries.
Comparison Chart for 12 Volt 100 AH Lead Acid vs 12V 100 AH Lithium Batteries
RVers looking for valuable how-to information have learned to go to the experts. Forums such as iRV2.com and blog sites like RV LIFE, Do It Yourself RV, and Camper Report provide all the information you need to enjoy your RV. You’ll also find brand-specific information on additional forums like Air Forums, Forest River Forums, and Jayco Owners Forum.