Battery for camper services: types, operation, and maintenance

The service battery for motorhomes is the real beating heart of your motorhome. Think about how useless it would be to carry a television, mobile phone, PC, etc., on board and not have the electricity to use them.

The service battery is exactly this: an energy tank capable of making all electrical devices on board a vehicle work correctly.

Usually, a camper is equipped with two different types of batteries: one for starting the engine and one for services, which meets the current needs of all electrical devices and accessories in a camper.

Whether charging your mobile phone, keeping the heating on, or powering the kitchen refrigerator, a service battery is the most important accessory and must never be missing on board your vehicle if you want energy independence.

Since this is such an essential energy accumulator to make the best use of a camper, it is also essential to know it well. This article will help you understand which service battery is best suited to your use, giving you all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Batteries for camper services: how many types are there?

The service battery, therefore, allows you to accumulate the energy necessary to use and charge all the accessories and equipment inside a camper, such as a refrigerator, computer, television, air conditioners, water pumps, lights, etc.

There are different types of service batteries on the market:

  • Lead-acid batteries;
  • GEL batteries;
  • AGM batteries;
  • Lithium batteries.

We try to understand in detail the characteristics of each type of battery to understand better which one may be more suitable for the energy needs of your camper.

Lead-acid batteries and lithium service battery: how do they work?

Lead-acid batteries are slow and deep discharge batteries composed of positive and negative plates suspended within an electrolyte, or a solution of sulfuric acid and distilled water, which allows the passage of electric current.

They are the cheapest on the market and represent a good compromise between low cost and charging capacity. On the other hand, however:

  • There is a risk that they emit toxic fumes or have leaks;
  • They require a longer recharge time than Gel and AGM batteries;
  • They require maintenance and have a lower average life cycle than the other types.
  • As far as lithium batteries are concerned, these are the batteries that offer the highest possible performance. They are compact and light batteries in terms of weight which, however, can deliver maximum power up to the last available amp

They are faster to recharge, and their life cycle is very extended compared to other batteries (they can reach up to 2500 cycles). All these advantages, however, translate into a very high cost, which requires a considerable initial investment.

Service battery for AGM vs standard battery: what are the differences? AGM slow discharge batteries are among the most suitable for use on board a camper because:

  • They work well with slow and deep discharges;
  • They recharge quickly;
  • They withstand many charging cycles;
  • The discharge due to inactivity is about 3-4% monthly;
  • They have compact dimensions;
  • They are watertight and withstand vibrations well;
  • They can be installed either standing or sideways;
  • They are not subject to harmful leaks and fumes;
  • They do not require maintenance.

This type of battery does not contain liquid acid inside. Still, it is a kind of absorbent fiberglass fabric that retains acid to optimize the small volume of the battery and, at the same time, obtain more efficient performance.

AGM stands for “Absorbed Glass Mat,” which means “Absorbed Glass Mat.”

On the other hand, the gel battery has a structure very similar to the Lead-acid batteries one. The only difference is in the composition of the electrolyte, which is not in liquid form but is in a gelatinous state thanks to the addition of silicic acid.

Gel batteries have many of the functionality and features of AGM batteries. Performance is also very similar in terms of quality and efficiency. However, gel batteries, in addition to having a lower charge and discharge cycle (about 1800 times), have a higher price and are also more delicate.

They can suffer irreparable damage if you do not use a regulator or a battery charger with a specific voltage.

What is The Best Camper Service Battery Size?

Is a 200 Ah or 100 Ah camper service battery better? When we talk about battery size, we must always refer to two of its most important characteristics, namely:

  • Voltage in volts;
  • Capacity, measured in Ah (amperes for one hour).

The capacity indicates how much electric charge is present inside a battery. The voltage, on the other hand, measures the electrical difference between the poles of any battery, the higher this voltage and the greater the amount of current that can pass.

That said, there is a much better battery size than another. The choice is always related to what are the needs of each.

How to calculate the size of the battery for the camper?

A 12 volt battery usually powers the electrical system on board an average camper. The required battery amperage also depends a lot on the daily electrical loads of the system (i.e., which devices will be used each day and for how long).

To calculate the energy you need, you need to check how much the equipment on board the camper absorbs. You can do this by multiplying the number of Watts indicated on the device label by the number of hours you intend to use it.

By adding up the calculations, you have made for all appliances. You can get an estimate of the energy needed each day. Since the capacity of a battery is measured in Amperes, you can find them starting from this formula: Power (Watt) = Voltage (Volt) x Current (Ampere), from which you will have Ampere = Watt / Volt.

In any case, a 100ah motorhome service battery represents a good compromise, also of the price. This type of battery can deliver an ampere of current for 100 hours or a current of 100 amps for an hour before it is completely discharged.

Let’s take a practical example: if the charger of your smartphone has a data of 1 Ampere, to completely discharge the battery, you should keep the phone charged for 100 hours.

However, it would help if you always remembered that the service battery should never be completely discharged. Otherwise, they will be ruined. So for a slow discharge 100ah camper service battery, you can use a maximum of 60Ah before recharging it.

How to recharge the motorhome service battery?

The RV battery should be slow-discharging, designed to provide constant current for extended periods as the battery discharges.

The energy consumed inside a camper is constant and seldom requires large amounts of amperes in a few minutes.

Like any other battery, the service battery also needs to be recharged. This can take place in three different ways:

  • Using an alternator on your camper;
  • With solar panels;
  • By connecting to the 220V network.

A precaution to avoid damaging the battery and always keeping it efficient is to keep it from completely discharging before starting a new recharging cycle.

Another fundamental rule is to recharge it completely at least every 15 days for 24/36 hours, especially if the vehicle is not used for long periods. Paradoxically, service batteries last longer if used constantly.

If the battery is low and fails to charge in any way, it is most likely time to replace it. In the next paragraph, we will explain how to do this and what maintenance errors you must never commit.

Maintenance and replacement of the battery for motorhome services: the mistakes not to make

Replacing the service battery is very simple, but it must be done by paying particular attention and following the letter of the manual of your camper, as well as the one attached to the new battery you have purchased.

Once the old battery has been removed, which will be disposed of in an authorized disposal center, you will first need to clean the battery compartment and thoroughly check the integrity of the cables.

After inserting the new service battery, you will need to tighten the brackets and fix the terminals correctly without reversing the polarity. Otherwise, the battery will need to be fixed. A good tip is to cover the terminals with grease to protect them from oxidation. At this point, the battery is ready to be used.

But now we come to the frequent maintenance errors that create battery problems. If you don’t want to ruin your holiday irreparably, here’s what you absolutely must do in battery management:

  • The battery should never be left discharged for too long, and you risk not being able to recover it: a charge every 15 days for at least 1 day is sufficient;
  • Check the battery during the charging cycle to prevent any malfunction of the charger or any defect in the battery itself from damaging it;
  • Keep the battery attached to the charger for a short time. Get a timer and set one or two daily charge cycles of one hour each;
  • Check often that the connection terminals are clean. Their oxidation can also damage the service battery;
  • Always test the battery charge before setting off or after turning off the engine (about an hour).

Very useful for checking the state of the battery before each trip is the service units of the camper, which is a sort of control panel in which all the data relating to the voltage of the starter and service battery are reported.

The success of a holiday can depend on the choice of a good service battery and its adequate maintenance.

In this article, we have given you all the information you need to manage your battery properly. Now that you know everything, we are sure you will not have any problems aboard your camper.

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