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Everything You Needed To Know About Your RV Electrical System

Do You Really Need To Install Dual Batteries?

Installing Dual Batteries Into Your RV

One of the questions our RV customers often ask us is about battery power.  Many new (and some more experienced RV’ers) want to know if they are going to need to install dual (or possibly more) batteries into their RV be it a travel trailer or a motorhome.  Most Class A, B and C motorhomes already have dual battery systems in place, some even have larger battery banks consisting of 2-6 batteries!  So this article is going to focus on those of you who currently only have one battery and might be considering an upgrade.

If you want to extend the life of your RV batteries and have the electricity available to meet all of your needs then you need to have a very basic understanding of how your RV batteries worked.  The type of batteries mostly used in RV’s are lead acid batteries.  It’s important to understand these batteries don’t make electricty, they simply store it.  The size of the lead plates within the battery and the amount of electrolyte within determines the amount of energy a typical battery can store.

When it comes to RV’s it’s very important to use the right battery for your type of RV.  The battery needs of an RV’er with a travel trailer are different then the needs of an RV’er with a motorhome.  Why?  Because a motorhome has an engine that requires a starting battery or “chassis” battery to start the engine and a deep cycle battery that runs everything else.  A travel trailer does not require the starting battery but still requires the deep cycle battery(ies) to store electricity.

Do You Really Need Dual Batteries In Your RV?

It really boils down to your intended use of the RV.  Do you plan on camping off-the-beaten path and well away from RV parks?  Or do you plan on utilizing RV parks with full service (water/sewer/power) hookups everywhere you go?

If it’s the latter then a dual or more battery system in your RV doesn’t make much sense.  When you are plugged into shore power with your RV the charge controller will keep your single battery topped up and your inverter will power up your electrical outlets and run all of your appliances providing it’s at least a 30AMP connection, 15AMP will power everything but your Air Conditioning.

If you plan on camping away from services also known as “dry camping” or “boondocking” then a dual battery system could make complete sense.  With dual batteries lasting an entire long-weekend or even a week is a possibility.  Every RV’er will have different needs when it comes to electricity in their rig so it’s important to take into account all of the electrical loads (appliances/devices) you plan to run from your RV electrical system.  Televisions, laptops, music, medical devices, coffee makers, toasters and more will all draw varying amounts of electricity that can deplete your batteries charge.

Also, if you plan on installing a solar charging system at some point, so you can totally go off-the-grid in your RV adventures you’re going to need at least a dual battery bank and some RV’ers even prefer 4 or 6 batteries for their battery bank to allow them to run all their devices.  Again, it’s going to depend on how much electricity you intend to use.

One important thing to remember when you install dual batteries into your travel trailer is that you’re going to be directly increasing your trailer tonque weight by 70-80lbs as most travel trailer batteries are mounted on the front of the frame.

RV Battery Power Is Measured In Amp Hours

RV battery power is measured in amp hours.  This is how long the battery or battery bank will be able to run your electrical devices.  The more amp hours your setup has the longer you can run your appliances and electrical devices without recharging.  Typically most travel trailers will come with a single group 24 battery upon purchase.  Depending on how you use the RV and your energy conservation practices that single battery could last you an entire long weekend or it could be dead in a matter of a few hours if you have a steady draw through your inverter.

What Is An Amp Hour?

This is the meaurement of how many amps the battery can deliver for how many hours before you’ll need to recharge your dead battery.  So in simple terms if a battery can deliver 10 amps for 12 hours before it was completely discharged it would have a 120 amp hour rating (10amps x 12 hours = 120 Amp Hours).  The more amp hours you have the longer you can power your electrical devices/appliances without recharging the batteries.

Turning Battery Power Into Useable Power

The 12V battery power available from your RV electrical system on it’s own isn’t going to run all of the electronics you may want to operate.  The electrical system in your RV is really only meant to run the power jacks/stabilizers, lights, water pump and your heater while under battery power.  These devices are all wired for the 12V power your battery offers.  If you want to run other items like a coffee maker, microwave, TV, blender and other high powered devices you’re going to need to be plugged into shore power OR have an “Inverter” installed into your RV.

What Is an Inverter and What Does It Do?

An inverter takes the 12V power your battery makes available and converts it into usable electricity that can power your 120V devices.  There are small inverters that can be plugged into your 12V outlets that provide a single 120 outlet and they are usually sufficient enough for charging phones/tablets and devices with a very small draw.  For running coffee makers, blenders, microwaves and larger TV’s/Entertainment systems then you need a larger inverter that is actually “hardwired” into your RV electrical system.

There Are Several Ways To Wire an Inverter Into Your RV

Most inverters have the 120V plugs built right into the unit itself and then you simply connect the (+) positive and (-) negative terminals to the corresponding terminals on your battery bank.  Ideally you want the inverter to be as close to your battery bank as possible, it can however be much further away from the appliance/electronic device you wish to power in your RV.  The inverter will operate much more efficiently the shorter the run of cable to the batteries.

#1.  The inverter can be connected to the battery and then some RV owners opt to run an extension cord or two from the inverter location into the RV and they plug their 120V devices directly into that.

#2.  Depending on your RV electrical system the inverter can be hooked up to a transfer switch that will allow to switch the inverter power on/off and power specific appliances or outlets in your RV.  This installation can be a little more complex if your RV didn’t come with it factory installed but it’s something we CAN do for you here at Big Boy’s Toys.

Do You Want Someone To Install Your Dual Battery Setup in Your RV?

Big Boy’s Toys is a Jayco RV dealer located on Vancouver Island.  While we are a Jayco dealer exclusively we also provide service and maintenance work for all makes of RV’s.  If you have a travel trailer or a motorhome that you’d like to upgrade to a dual battery setup or even a solar charging system we’d be happy to help.  We stock several types of RV batteries, inverters, solar panels, and solar charge controllers so we can help our customers build the perfect electrical system for their RV, tailored to their specific uses.

When you bring your RV to Big Boy’s Toys to have dual batteries (or more) installed into your RV you can have the peace of mind knowing the work was performed by RV professionals and will be safe for you and your family to enjoy.

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