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Selecting RV batteries

by Tom Jones

Selecting batteries for RV use requires consideration of the use to which they're put. This article will attempt to explain the basics of choosing the right battery.

Motorized RVs (motorhomes and vans) typically have two distinctly different kinds of batteries. They will have 'chassis batteries', sometimes called 'starting battery' or 'automotive battery', which crank the engine and power the dash, external lights and other chassis-related items. They will also have 'house batteries', sometimes called 'coach batteries'. The demands placed on house batteries are quite different from those placed on chassis batteries, requiring different criteria and specifications when selecting a battery.

The primary requirement for a chassis or starting battery is to crank the engine of the vehicle. Engine cranking requires a large amount of current for a short duration, and therefore the main characteristic will be 'cold cranking amps'. A secondary characteristic will be 'reserve capacity'.

House batteries are required to produce much less current for extended durations. Therefore the main charactertic will be 'amp hours' or 'ampere hours', abbreviated to 'AH'.

Deep cycle batteries come in a variety of flavors, including:

  • 12 volts or 6 volts (if using 6 volt batteries, two need to be wired in series to produce 12 volts).
  • Flooded wet cell batteries.
  • AGM batteries.
  • Gel cell batteries.

Golf cart batteries are excellent for house battery use. They are designed as true deep cycle batteries, repeatedly delivering loads for extended periods of time and repeated recharging. As with other use flooded wet cell batteries, the fluid level will need to be checked regularly and topped up with distilled water when needed.

If you prefer limited maintenance or the batteries are tough to reach, AGM batteries would be a better choice as they do not need water added.