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The world of batteries can be a little confusing, and with so many different types available, it can be daunting to choose the optimal solution.

The humble battery has become a cornerstone of modern existence in a world dominated by electrically powered equipment. Without car batteries starting, there would be no transport, and what would happen if cell phones, tablets, and laptops did not have batteries to power them.

There are four battery types recommended for use in an RV:

  1. Lead Acid Battery Used In An RV
  2. AGM Batteries
  3. Gel Cell Batteries.
  4. Lithium-Ion Batteries.

Purchasing the optimal and lowest cost battery to power your RV can be counterintuitive. While a Lithium-Ion battery is more expensive than the other three options, over a twenty-year life expectancy, it works out cheaper, requires less maintenance, and is more efficient.

As someone who has camped for years and whose hobby is setting up off-grid power solutions, I have been down the road choosing which battery is optimal for the various uses they are needed for.

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The Different Batteries Used In RVs

There are four types of batteries recommended for use in your RV. These are

  1. Lead Acid batteries
  2. AGM batteries
  3. Gel Cell Batteries
  4. Lithium-Ion Batteries

Before judging the merits of each RV battery type, it is essential to plan what the RV battery will be used for.

A battery used in an RV  will have several different purposes as follows:

  1. Turning the engine over and start it to power the RVs starter motor.
  2. To power the DC appliances.
  3. To push power to the inverter, converting it from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC).

The use of AC causes the biggest draw on the battery packs and potentially shortens their life expectancy.

The pros and cons of each type.

Lead Acid RV Battery

Lead Acid RV Batteries are the most basic and commonly used battery technology for motoring and camping.

These are heavy batteries because they are tightly packed with lead and lead oxide sheets that are very dense.

The lead sheets and oxide sheets alternate throughout the battery and are placed in an acid pool.

A current flow from the lead oxide sheet (anode)  to the lead sheet (cathode). The lead gives up electrons which the lead oxide accepts. The exchange turns both plates into solid lead sulfate.

Each lead and lead oxide sheet combination produce 2 volts, and 6 pairs laid together will produce 12 volts.

As the battery discharges, lead sulfate cakes each sheet. If the battery is fully discharged a few times, the layer of lead sulfate becomes too thick and won't accept a charge.

A lead-acid car battery is good at producing the burst of current needed to start the RV’s engine, but it can’t run an electric car.

The Pros Of Lead Acid Batteries Are

  1. They cost less than the other battery types.
  2. They can be overcharged.
  3. They can hold a high rate of charge.

The Cons Of Lead Acid Batteries

  1. Because lead sulfate cakes the anodes and cathodes, eventually, they will not accept a charge.
  2. They last the shortest time of any other battery.
  3. They must be maintained.
  4. They can leak acid.
  5. They can’t handle heavy vibration.
  6. They are not efficient in freezing weather.
  7. They must be stored upright.

AGM RV Batteries Are Better Than Lead-acid Batteries

AGM batteries, called Glass mat batteries, work similarly to lead-acid batteries.

The fundamental chemistry which causes lead-acid batteries to produce power is similar to using lead, sulfuric acid, and water.

The special glass mat separates the battery plate. It is designed to absorb the electrolytes between the battery plates.

As power is drawn from the AGM battery, acid molecules transfer to and are accepted by the glass mat, leaving water and lead sulfate behind. Removing the sulfuric acid from the solution creates a chemical reaction, and electrons flow.

This process is reversed when the battery is charged.

AGM RV Batteries Strengths Are

  1. They can be regularly discharged and then charged again in an ongoing cycle.
  2. They charge quicker.
  3. They discharge more slowly than lead-acid batteries.
  4. AGM Batteries can be stored on their sides.
  5. AGM batteries can handle more vibration.
  6. They can work the normal battery used to start the RV.
  7. AGM batteries used in an RV are sealed.
  8. AGM batteries used in an RV are acid-free.
  9. AGM batteries used in an RV are gas-free.
  10. They are maintenance-free.
  11. AGM batteries will last longer than basic Lead batteries and work at optimal capacity at a large range of temperatures
  12. Renewable sources can charge them.

The Weakness Are

  1. They will be compromised if they are overcharged.
  2. They are not the cheapest battery.

The Simplest Batteries To Install Are Gel Cell Batteries

The three batteries that fall into the classification of Valve Regulated Lead-Acid (VRLA) batteries are Lead-Acid, AGM, and Gel batteries.

Gel RV batteries have no liquid inside and are completely closed off and sealed. The cells are separated and held in tight compartments, which prevents movement.

The electrolyte has a silica gel, which makes the electrons move.

Gel Batteries Pros Are

  1. Gel batteries will not leak gel over the RV.
  2. There will be no corrosion of the terminals.
  3. They are tolerant of varying temperatures.
  4. Gel Batteries used in an RV are sealed.
  5. Gel Batteries used in an RV are acid-free.
  6. Gel Batteries used in an RV are gas-free.
  7. They require no maintenance.
  8. You can store a Gel Battery on its side.

The Disadvantages Of Gel Batteries For RVs

  1. They are not good for applications that need a high initial voltage, such as a starter motor.
  2. They cost more than Lead-Acid and AGM technology batteries.
  3. If they are overcharged, irreparable damage will be caused to the gel battery. Most inverters will stop drawing current from a gel battery at 50% discharge.
  4. They do not charge as fast as AGM batteries.
  5. A gel battery must be recharged correctly because it will suffer premature failure if it isn't. Incorrect charging will cause a "scar” inside the material that will cause premature corrosion of the plates.
  6. They won't last as long as AGM batteries.

The Optimal Battery Technology Is Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium batteries are superior to the other three battery types on almost every metric.

A Lithium-Ion Battery consists of.

  1. An anode.
  2. A cathode.
  3. A separator.
  4. Electrolyte.
  5. Positive and negative collectors.

A cathode and an anode store the electrical current. The electrolyte carries the positively charged lithium ions from the anode to the cathode through the partition. As the ions move, electrons are created at the positive collector, used to power the device.

During recharging, the process is reversed.

They have numerous pros over all the other battery technologies.

The Pros Of Lithium-Ion Battery technology Are

  1. Lithium-ion batteries weigh less than all of the other batteries.
  2. Lithium-ion units have a deeper depth of discharge of  +-15%.
  3. Although they cost more, the cost per watt-hour is less because they last longer.
  4. Lithium-ion batteries generally exceed their rated capacity at all discharge rates.
  5. Lithium-Ion batteries charge more efficiently than the others.
  6. Lithium-Ion batteries will last for 10 - 20 years.
  7. Lithium-Ion batteries can be used in spaces with less ventilation than other batteries.
  8. Lithium-Ion batteries work more efficiently over a wider temperature band.
  9. Lithium-Ion batteries require no maintenance.

The Cons Of Lithium-Ion Batteries

  1. Lithium-Ion technology costs more when purchased.
  2. Lithium-Ion batteries are installed with a management system, which will stop the charging when it reaches 100%.