Most travel trailers ship from the manufacturer without batteries. It's left to the dealer to add them, so they will install 12-volt batteries and not the best quality. Is upgrading the batteries worth it?
Types Of Batteries For RVs and Travel Trailers
RVs and travel trailers need 12 volts of power. They usually come with 12-volt batteries like those in your car. 6-volt batteries, also called deep-cycle batteries, power golf carts, and other electrical machines. Because of their larger capacity, 6-volt batteries can supply power for extended periods.
Do You Need 6-Volt Batteries For Your RV?
Whether you need 6-volt batteries depends upon the demand you put on the batteries.
The average RV owner takes 2 or 3 week-long trips each year.
The good news is that a pair of 12-volt batteries will do the job for average campers. The bad news is that 12-volt batteries will discharge within 4 or 5 days at best. And the more you use lights, water pump, heater blower, etc, the faster they run out of power.
Part-Time And Full-Time RVer
Living part-time or full-time in a travel trailer puts a lot of demand on the batteries when dry camping. The occasional camper can live on minimal power for a week.
Living in an RV means you'll use lights and appliances more than someone who wants to get away for a weekend.
Are 6-Volt Batteries Better Than 12-Volt Batteries?
6-volt batteries and 12-volt batteries produce 12 volts of power. That's what you need to run your trailer when dry camping. But when it comes to providing power over a longer period of time, the 6-volt batteries are the clear winner.
The reason is capacity. It takes two 6-volt batteries to create 12 volts of power. And the 6-volt batteries are bigger and heavier. And they run equipment longer before the batteries get discharged.
What Does It Mean To Discharge A Battery?
A discharged battery doesn't mean it's dead. It's at a level where it needs charging. It's never a good idea to fully discharge batteries.
A charged 12-volt battery is 12.9 volts and a discharged battery is 11.4 volts. So a discharged battery does not mean the battery goes to zero volts. As a general rule, you don't want your 12-volt batteries to go below 11 volts.
With 6-volt batteries, the same rules apply. But you can discharge 6-volt batteries up to 80% of a full charge without harming them.
What Can You Expect From Having 6 Volt Batteries?
For the occasional camper who spends a week dry camping, a set of 6-volt batteries may last a week or more. But how long the batteries last will depend upon how much power you use.
One of the appliances that draw a lot of power is the refrigerator. RV refrigerators work on electricity from either shore power or a generator. Or they will operate on propane. When you are dry camping, your refrigerator switches to propane. So it doesn't draw power from the batteries.
If you want to run plugin appliances, you'll need an inverter so that you can use things like a coffee maker. The drawback appliances using an inverter will drain batteries fast.
Will 6 Volt Batteries Power Everything In The RV?
When you are camping on battery power, your outlets won't work. The microwave, television, and air conditioner will not work. But the lights, water pump, and heater blower all pull power from the batteries.
Upgrading To 6-volt Batteries
- You'll need a rack that will hold two 6-volt batteries.
- 6-volt batteries are taller than 12-volt batteries. You'll need larger battery cases.
- 6-volt batteries are wired in series, so you will also need an extra battery cable.
Will Solar Panels Charge 6-Volt Batteries?
Most solar panel controllers will charge 12-volt or 6-volt batteries.
Not all RVs and travel trailers are pre-wired for solar. You can still charge your batteries using solar panels. But you'll need a few items:
- A solar panel controller. Your solar panels may have a built-in controller or you may have to buy one
- Connectors to connect your panels to your batteries.
When you buy your solar panels, talk to the salesperson about using them with a pair of 6-volt batteries. You'll want to know if there is a setting for charging 6-volt batteries so you don't harm them.
Being able to dry camp for a week, a month, or a year without the constant worry of running out of power makes camping fun.
For people who camp for a few days and conserve their power, a 12-volt battery works fine. And if the battery needs charging to get through the last day of camping, a generator or solar panel will work.
But if you want to camp longer without constantly charging the batteries, you need to upgrade to 6-volt batteries.