Campervan Battery: The Ultimate Guide
It can be difficult to choose the best camper van battery There is no one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person may not work for another.
There are many different types of batteries. You need to find a battery that can meet your needs for your campervan. It is also important to consider the cost of the battery.
The electrical system is one of the most important sections of any camper van builds.
If you get it right, you will have enough juice to run your lights, fridge freezer, heater, camper shower, and charge your laptop and phone. If you make a mistake, you will be in the dark.
If you don’t have a battery bank that is big enough, you will run out of energy. This means that you will not have light or cold drinks.
Here is what you need to know about finding the best camper battery for your needs. This includes how to navigate through the specifics.
- What are The Different Types of Leisure Batteries?
- What Kind of Camper Van Battery Should I Get?
- What Kind of Battery Should I Get for My Camper Van?
- Battery Performances
- How many batteries do you need for a camper van?
- Battery Charging
- How long can my Battery last in years
- How Many Battery Cycles to Expect
- How to Monitor Camper Van Batteries
- What is The Most Suitable Camper Van Battery Setup For Me?
- How to Install Camper Van Batteries
What are The Different Types of Leisure Batteries?
The first decision in picking the correct battery for your camper is understanding what type of batteries they are.
Not all types can be used with every application, so it’s essential to know which kind best suits yours!
A starter battery is an essential component of your car’s engine. It supplies energy to start the vehicle and needs more power than other types because it has very little storage time before use.
It can use up to 20% of the total capacity in one crank.
Starter batteries sacrifice some capacity per charge to get that much-needed burst.
The car’s alternator job is to recharge the battery after the engine has started up, so it’s go to go for the next time you need it.
Starter batteries are not the correct kind of batteries that you want to use with your campervan’s accessories, appliances, or lights while you need a starter battery for the engine.
Deep cycle batteries (lead acid batteries)
Deep cycle batteries are also called leisure batteries. They can hold more energy than a regular battery. This makes them perfect for use on motorhomes.
However, they also discharge at a slower rate which means you’ll be able to use your device for a longer period of time before needing to recharge it again!
A deep cycle battery is designed to give out energy slowly over a long period of time.
They can discharge a lot of their electricity in a longer, more significant energy drain, which would rapidly deplete a starting battery.
A deep cycle battery can last for hundreds or even thousands of charging and discharging cycles, making it perfect for storing energy for your camper van’s electrical needs.
What Kind of Camper Van Battery Should I Get?
The evolution of batteries has been an exciting journey for many years, but in the past few decades, it’s come so far that we can now watch movies on our phones.
For van lifers who camp or travel while working on the road, this means you’re never without entertainment when exploring!
There are four kinds of leisure batteries available:
- Flooded lead-acid (FLA)
- Gel batteries
- Absorbed glass mat (AGM batteries)
- Lithium iron phosphate batteries
Each has its own different set of chemical components, so their operation and performance are also unique.
Flooded lead-acid (FLA)
Flooded Lead-Acid batteries are one of the oldest battery technologies. They work by using a chemical reaction between lead and sulphuric acid to create electricity.
The battery container has liquid acid in it. When the battery is being charged, hydrogen and oxygen gases are produced. The gases escape from the container through vents.
The acid will evaporate over time, so you need to keep putting more acid in it to keep it full.
Flooded lead-acid batteries have been used for a long time in high-tech campervans. However, newer batteries like gel, AGM, and lithium batteries have since replaced them because they have more benefits.
Gel cell batteries
Gel cell batteries work in a similar way to FLA, but they use organic material. This gives them many advantages over their counterparts like lighter weight and higher energy density.
It allowed manufacturers to make smaller device dimensions while still providing significant power qualities thanks mainly due to its unique design with fewer risk factors concerning short circuits or explosions when compared against other types on the current market today.
AGM batteries are now the standard for auto manufacturers and campervans. This type of lead-acid battery has been around since the 1980s, but they’ve only just begun to catch on in recent years.
Unlike other types that use liquid electrolytes or flooded cells with absorbent material coating them. AGM batteries utilize a fibreglass-reinforced plastic case surrounded by an outer glass enclosure which keeps away moisture better than any metal can do. This means these things last much longer!
The advantage is that these batteries are dry, sealed, and don’t require a vent. So even if the casing is severely damaged, there’s no risk of gases because they’re enclosed and dry.
Lithium batteries may be at the top end of battery technology, but they have only been around for a while. In recent years prices have fallen because popularity has grown, making them much more affordable.
This is the choice we went for in our van. They have excellent performance and a high tolerance for overcharging and discharging, meaning they can be charged at different rates and discharged to varying degrees.
But choosing the best campervan batteries isn’t only about upfront costs and installation. It’s essential to understand what capacity you need, how long a battery will last while on your trip (their lifespan), as well running cost too- all these factors are dependent upon how they’ll be used during your travels, so we’ll take a look at each of those now!
What Kind of Battery Should I Get for My Camper Van?
Lithium batteries are the best choice for powering your campervan. They are designed to provide steady power over a long period of time and to handle repeated deep discharges without a problem.
Some low-cost, low-quality batteries use composite rather than solid lead plates to speed charging, but these batteries will die faster.
It is best not to fully discharge a Lithium battery because it will reduce the battery’s life. However, using up to 95% of the battery’s capacity is okay compared to a car battery.
To put it another way, you should recharge a Lithium battery as soon as possible after using up most of its capacity and a car battery only once every five to six weeks.
Compared to conventional lead-acid batteries, Lithium batteries offer several advantages, including:
- This battery has a long life and can be used for up to 2,000 deep discharge-charge cycles.
- They don’t release harmful fumes when you charge them, making them perfect for use in areas without good ventilation.
- Acid spills are practically impossible.
- Compared to normal lead-acid batteries, Lithium batteries have a much lower self-discharge rate of one percent.
Batteries aren’t 100% efficient; therefore, they don’t give 100% of their amp-hours. Flooded lead-acid batteries have an efficiency of around 50%. Gel and AGM batteries are more efficient, with efficiencies of about 80%.
Lithium-ion batteries are incredibly efficient, with rates of 90% or more of their stored energy.
We all know that the battery provides us with a certain amount of power, but it must travel via wires, junctions and switches before reaching our appliances.
This can be inefficient, especially when you have many devices in your van, so we need to make allowances for further losses because those circuits are inherently less efficient too!
How many batteries do you need for a camper van?
When shopping for the best RV batteries, looking at more than just amp hours is essential. You should also consider what type of charging system your specific model needs and how many appliances will be using that battery during your travel.
That being said, if all else fails, go big! Bigger means a longer life span between charges so that you won’t have as much worry about dead spots on long trips.
To begin, figure out how many amp-hours you’ll need to power your RV’s appliances. For example, if an appliance requires 2 amp of current for 1 hour, it will consume 2 amp hour. So, if that equipment ran continuously for 24 hours, it would use a total of 48 amps of electricity.
Solar4rvs is a great calculator that we used when converting our van. You use their basic one, or if you would like to get more in-depth, they have a more advanced calculator solar4rvs.com.au
If you have lead-acid batteries, aim to maintain at least 100% charge two times each week to get the most out of them. It’s even better if you can reach 100% charge once a day.
However, storing lithium batteries below 100% charge has little impact on their lifespan.
Tip: The charge settings required by each battery chemistry are different. We recommend reading the documentation for your specific battery instead of categorizing them. The majority of businesses inform you what voltage settings to use, and most decent charge controllers allow you to customize the parameters or at least pick AGM, FLA, GEL, or even Lithium charging choices.
Because of this, lead-acid batteries must be fully charged and then maintained at full charge for the chemical to establish.
A complete charge for lead-acid batteries requires numerous phases:
- Bulk: When batteries are discharged to a certain level, their internal resistance is reduced. This implies they may absorb a substantial amount of amps. The charger uses all the amps it can push into the battery up to a specific limit to achieve this.
- Absorb: When a battery is nearing full charge, the voltage is set to a high level that keeps it charging without damaging it. The higher the voltage, the slower the amps flow into it as the battery becomes fuller.
- Float: After the batteries have finished charging, they must be kept topped up as the chemistry regains balance. The float voltage of lead-acid batteries is typically about 13.8V.
- Equalize. A fifteen-minute burst of 14.4 volts every day or two may be given to FLA batteries to prevent stratification by some smart chargers.
On the other hand, the Li-ion cells simply require one charge cycle. Their internal resistance does not rise much when they are charged, and they do not lose power when inactive, so a simple bulk voltage is all that is required to charge them. Lead-acid charging can harm them.
How long can my Battery last in years
The average lifetime of each campervan battery is as follows:
- Flooded lead-acid – 4 – 8 years with regular maintenance
- AGM batteries – 4-7 years
- Gel batteries – 2-4 years some are up to 15 years if used moderately
- Lithium-ion – 7 – 21 years (though not tested in campervans for this length of time)
This will vary depending on the manufacturer and battery, so check the requirements before buying.
How Many Battery Cycles to Expect
A battery’s lifespan is also determined by how many times it is discharged to a certain depth of discharge or DoD. This cycle is known as a charge cycle.
Manufacturers evaluate batteries in a controlled setting to determine their performance.
One battery cycle is defined as using 100% of the battery.
When you charge from numerous outlets, keeping track of how many cycles have been utilized might be difficult. Batteries’ expected cycles differ by manufacturer, as well as how heavily they’re used.
When a battery’s total capacity is used every day, it is said to be in heavy use. If you only have enough battery bank to meet your demands and keep it charged, for example.
The battery’s overall capacity is utilized every few days or so, resulting in a low usage level. For example, if you add twice as much battery capacity to meet your demands and keep it charged.
In general, you may anticipate a greater number of cycles from lesser usage.
How to Monitor Camper Van Batteries
The most crucial element of life in a van is the battery system, which provides all of the electricity for lights, cameras, refrigerators, and other campervan equipment.
The use of a quilty battery monitor for your electric system is a must.
Useful information includes:
- Battery capacity
- How full is the battery?
- Temperature of batteries
- Confirming they are charging
- Identify problems.
Showing how much charge is coming from:
- solar panels
- What is the current usage level?
If you’re looking for a battery monitor, there are many on the market. Some can be pricey depending on what features and equipment they include in their product offers!
You may also discover specific details from your solar panel controller and battery chargers
What is The Most Suitable Camper Van Battery Setup For Me?
With all of this newfound information, how do we integrate it to help you choose the ideal campervan battery?
Choosing the ideal campervan batteries for your conversion entails considering several variables.
Your choice will be determined by your lifestyle, benefits and drawbacks of each variety of battery, as well as your personal preference.
In an effort to assist, we’ve attempted to summarize what we believe below.
- For anyone who has lived in a van for more than a few years, gel cell batteries are the best option.
- Gel batteries are the way to go if you believe your batteries will be placed in a location where the temperature might drop below 0°C. They’re the only ones that can be charged in low temperatures.
- AGM batteries are a fantastic alternative if you want to keep the van for less than two years or restrict your conversion budget.
- Lithium-ion batteries are not the best choice if you’re going to areas with little selection or wish to visit developing countries where it may be tough to get resources. They have been seen to fail, leaving you stranded without a spare. AGMs and gel are more readily accessible.
- Lithium-ion batteries, in particular, are ideal for builders who need to save room and weight. However, if you’re travelling in chilly weather, make sure the batteries are kept somewhere warm.
- The lithium battery is the most suitable battery for off-grid living. You can increase the number of batteries with the same capacity and less weight, allowing you to stay off the grid for longer if you have the money!
How to Install Camper Van Batteries
You may need to buy several batteries to have the amp-hour capacity you require.
If you need a 400Ah battery bank, you may buy two 200Ah or four 100Ah batteries.
We’ve heard some people advise against wiring in parallel, but we disagree.
The goal of connecting your batteries in parallel is to increase capacity without purchasing batteries the size of your van.
Make sure the bank’s batteries are all the same size and brand.
You must maintain balance if you want your system to run smoothly. To minimize efficiency losses, all of the batteries in the bank should be charged and discharged equally.
Here’s a diagram of how we’ve wired our 2 x 200ah lithium batteries in parallel to achieve our battery bank.
Here’s the wiring diagram for battery banks with more than two batteries wired in parallel.
You may also connect the batteries in series if you want a 24v electrical system, but double-check with the manufacturer first.
Wiring for a campervan is complex in any van conversion project.
If you’re not sure what to do about your campervan’s electrical systems, get an expert to handle it for you.
Wade & Dani
Hi! We’re Wade and Dani, We’re currently travelling around Australia in our 2017 Mercedes Sprinter Camper van and sharing our best experiences, stories, reviews and adventures as we go along. Make sure you follow long on our Instagram