An RVs electrical system can be a little different from what you are used to. While most residential homes only have a electrical box that provides power from a company, RVs have some options.
RVs also have batteries that both help the engine start and provide electrical to your appliances. The differences between using a battery and knowing that your electricity comes from the power company might be a little confusing. You might wonder if you need to use your battery if the RV is plugged in.
While you don’t need a battery when the RV is plugged in, you’ll probably want one. There are many advantages to leaving your battery connected while your RV Is plugged in. Your RV trips will also have scenarios in which you might not need your battery to be charged or running.
Why would I keep my battery connected while my RV is plugged in?
The easy answer to this is that connecting to “shore power” or power at an RV park can help charge your battery. While you could disconnect your RV battery while stationary, you would lose one of the benefits or using outside power.
RV batteries are a bit different from regular car batteries. Since they have the ability to send more electricity throughout your motor home, they need charging more frequently. An RV should generally be put on a charger or plugged in at least every three months with regular use.
When should I use my battery disconnect?
The battery disconnect can be useful in certain situations, even when plugged in. The first reason is that your battery is already full or near full, and the RV is parked.
In this situation, you don’t need to add more electricity. Charging a battery over it’s limit can be harmful long term, and it’s generally a waste of electricity.
In order to avoid this situation, use your build in battery meter. If you don’t have one, consider getting one so you can measure how full your battery is before plugging in.
You may also want to disconnect your battery if you are having the RV idle and you are not plugged in. This prevents the battery from draining.
What is a battery tender and how do I use it?
A battery tender can help bridge the gap between using your battery and letting it charge.
A battery tender does what is called “trickle charging.” Trickle charging makes slower charging into a feature. While most battery chargers will claim that they charge your vehicle quickly, trickle charging intentionally slows the charging so you can control it.
These are often found at hardware stores or RV supply locations. More often than not, they also have the ability to charge quickly on some level.
If you are not sure if your battery needs a full charge, consider a battery tender. These are often used for regular vehicles during the winter as well, when you don’t need a full blast of electricity. You just want to make sure the batter is properly working when you do use it.
Using a smart battery tender can help you worry less about the question of using the battery. A smart battery tender that stops the flow once the battery is full is invaluable. This will ensure that you are ready regardless of the situation.
When used with an easy battery disconnect, you’ll be prepared for whatever you need.
So, when should I disconnect?
You’ve pulled up to an RV park and have shore power. You should first check your RVs gauges to see if your battery is running under 50% charge or low. If your battery is well stocked with power, you can consider disconnecting it.
If you are idling your RV for a while and don’t plan to use anything electrical, and the weather is warm, you can consider disconnecting for a while.
Check again in the days before you leave to see if you need to recharge the battery.
Also, some RVs have a built in battery disconnect that literally lifts the cables off the terminal. This can often be done from the inside too, so you won’t need to make your way to the battery itself.
Does electricity run differently on just shore power or battery?
Batteries are more prone to dips or surges in electrical output. You probably won’t notice this unless you are running a larger load. This could include running your air conditioner, fridge, and other appliances at the same time.
Running directly on plug in or shore power should provide you very consistent electricity. The power is being provided by a power company and many have very solid power grids, even when you feel remote.
Noticing a difference in battery power when provided by just the battery is also a sign that your battery life is waning. You should probably check on the health of your battery in a situation where any appliances act weird while not on shore power.
While we covered a few scenarios here, there are a couple of things you can do right away to ensure that you are safe regardless. Consider a battery tender and a battery disconnect. These pieces of equipment combined can help you remain prepared for most any situation.
They also generally make it easier for your battery to start and provide consistent power. While shore power is great, it’s not always available in every place you want to go. Your battery is more sensitive then a power company source, so treating it well is important.
There really are a variety of ways to keep your battery and electrical safe depending on how you use it.