You’ve probably heard chatter around the campfire about lithium versus the standard lead-acid batteries for powering your RV. But you might still have questions. So, is it worth switch to an RV lithium battery? We tell you here!
Batteries are an essential part of any RV. Besides being used to start the engine (in your motorhome), batteries are also used to run certain features in your RV. Typically, your 12-volt battery will power your 12-volt lights, furnace ignition, and various other “essential” components. For most rigs, your shore power connection will run your standard plugs.
The most common type of battery found inside RVs (and most vehicles) is the lead-acid battery. These batteries consist of lead plates submerged in an electrolyte solution of water and sulfuric acid, which allow it to store and output electricity. You might think this technology is fairly modern, but in fact, the earliest lead-acid battery dates all the way back to 1859!
Of course, the design has seen many updates and improvements over time, and these days there’s a variety of different kinds of lead-acid batteries available. While they often require some maintenance, lead-acid batteries have long remained the standard in RVs because they’re relatively inexpensive and simple.
However, in the last handful of years, a competing technology has appeared: the RV lithium battery.
What Is A Lithium Battery And How Is It Different?
Lithium RV batteries use metal lithium instead of lead. You’re probably already familiar with lithium battery technology, as it has been the standard type of battery in most consumer electronics for some time now. In fact, the device you’re reading this probably has a lithium battery inside of it!
RV lithium batteries have several advantages over traditional lead-acid batteries
- They can store and output more power, which translates to more electricity for longer periods of time.
- They have a higher energy density than lead-acid batteries as well. This means they can pack the same amount of power into a smaller and lighter package.
- Lithium RV batteries also maintain a higher voltage as they discharge. While a lead-acid battery’s voltage will steadily decrease as it discharges, lithium batteries will output the same voltage until they’re about 80% discharged.
- When an RV lithium battery discharges, it recharges much quicker. In fact, lithium RV batteries charge four times faster than lead-acid batteries!
- RV lithium batteries need less maintenance than many lead-acid batteries, which can require you to add fluid or clean battery terminals.
- The biggest advantage of lithium-ion RV batteries is how long their lifespan is. While a lead-acid battery needs replacing every few years, lithium RV batteries can last 10 years or more!
For one, they’re much more expensive than traditional batteries. A traditional battery will cost around $100 to $300, while lithium RV batteries are generally over a thousand dollars each.
However, because of the much longer lifespan of lithium RV batteries, they can save money in the long run. Over the course of a lithium battery’s lifespan, you would have to replace lead-acid batteries many times over. Depending on the batteries you’re buying, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in replacement costs over time!
There are a couple of other downsides to lithium batteries. For one, these batteries can be more dangerous than other types of batteries. Many have heard the stories about cell phones exploding in pockets or electric car batteries going up in flames.
Thankfully, not all lithium batteries are created equal, and in fact, the technology used in RV lithium batteries is very safe. They use a type of lithium battery known as a “lithium iron phosphate battery“. Or more commonly referred to as a LiFePO4 battery. These batteries are more stable than other types of lithium battery and don’t explode or catch on fire in response to hazardous events such as a collision.
To make them even safer, an RV lithium battery will also have a battery management system, or BMS. This system monitors the battery’s condition and manages the current going in and out of the battery. This not only extends the lifespan of the battery but also helps better prevent fires and other hazards.
One final downside of lithium RV batteries is that they do not function as well in cold temperatures. Charging lithium batteries in below-freezing temperatures can cause permanent damage to them. However, there is technology that makes lithium batteries safely usable in freezing temperatures.
Should You Switch Your RV To Lithium Batteries?
Lithium batteries have tons of advantages and they’re a great option for many RVers. Although you’ll have to take on the upfront costs, it can save you money in the long run while delivering tons of benefits. As long as you can afford the costs, switching to lithium RV batteries is highly recommended.
However, there are a few considerations when switching to RV lithium batteries. The first thing to consider is the battery management system. Most batteries will come with a BMS already installed, but some lithium battery options won’t have them and you’ll need to acquire one.
When switching to an RV lithium battery system you might also have to make some changes to your electrical systems. You’ll need to reconfigure your battery charger to work with lithium batteries. If you can’t configure your battery charger for lithium batteries, it may need to be replaced. Solar chargers may also need adjustment or replacement.
Overall, the specifics of switching to RV lithium batteries will depend on your setup. For some, it may be as easy as “dropping in” the battery and doing little to nothing else. Others may need to completely reprogram or replace other components. If you’re worried about doing the installation yourself, you can always have a professional install your new RV lithium battery.
Bottom Line: RV Lithium Batteries Are Completely Worth It
Lithium batteries are the way of the future. They’re already in our phones, computers, and tons of other devices. And more and more, they’re in our RVs!
An RV lithium battery provides tons of power much more efficiently than a traditional battery. They also charge faster, last longer, and weigh less. And while they have a few drawbacks, these can be easily worked around.
It’s not hard to see why more and more people are making the switch to RV lithium batteries. Maybe soon, you’ll make the switch too!