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Are you traveling in an RV and are worried if your RV outlets can work on battery alone? And if it does, how many batteries do you need? So…do RV electrical outlets work on batteries?
In general, some, if not all, RV electrical outlets will work on battery. There are 2 separate electrical systems in an RV, one for direct current (battery) and alternating current (AC power). All outlets that are connected DC system will work on battery.
You can either use one 12-volt battery or two 6-volt batteries which will be connected to your RV’s 12-volt direct current (DC) system.
Now that almost everything is reliant on electricity, knowing the basics about your RV’s power system is important for you to enjoy your trip without the worry that your RV’s outlets might not work.
Did you know there are really 3 different electrical systems in an RV? For an in-depth explanation of the RV electrical system read our article explaining the basics of the RV electrical system.
Generally, your RV has three electrical sources to give its needed electric power and it is important to know these three to better understand how your RV’s electric system works.
Electrical Sources in an RV
- Engine Chassis Battery
The engine chassis battery powers the electrical system of the automotive parts systems in a motorhome. The chassis battery provides the power to start the engine and power the dome light. You know the one that kills the battery when you leave a door open..
Your engine chassis battery is what makes your vehicle work. It is also referred to as your 12-volt DC automotive system and is integrated with your rig if you have a motorhome. (With a travel trailer it is found under the hood of the tow vehicle). It controls the vehicle’s dash accessories, lights, and the like.
- Campground (or Shore) Power
Campgrounds usually provide an external 120-volt alternating current (AC) electric source. Also called shore power where you can plug your RV into and give power to it. This is the same as your outlets in your house but the amperage is higher.
- RV Battery Power
RVs have separate battery-powered systems. A battery runs on a chemical reaction that produces direct current. As in the electrons continuously flow in the same direction. A built-in inverter changes the current from DC to SC (alternating current) to power the outlets.
Any outlets that are wired on the system will work with the battery. And you can charge your electronics.
If your campground doesn’t provide external power, or when your RV is moving, your outlets will be powered by your battery. This is why you should remember to check your batteries before going on an RV trip.
How to Charge RV Battery
Your RV batteries can be charged with any electrical production. For example, these sources can charge the battery:
- shore or campground plug in
- vehicle alternator
- solar power
Technically, your RV’s battery usually gets charged through the use of a converter. The converter’s job is to take AC power and convert it to DC power that is then stored on the battery.
Your RV battery is charged whenever your motorhome running or when it is plugged into an external electrical source. Just like how you charge your mobile devices’ batteries, it has to be connected to an external source.
When your RV is connected to shore power in a campground or wherever you are at, you will be able to run your appliances connected to your outlets and charge your battery automatically at the same time.
Another choice is to use a generator. Your RV will be connected to the generator the way it is connected to shore power. And like shore power, using a generator can power your appliances and charge your battery at the same time.
Note: unless you have an older RV or for some reason, the battery is not connected to the electrical system. In my travel trailer, I had to plug in a trickle charger and run it to the outside to hook up the batter.
If you do not have any of the previously mentioned sources available, using a vehicle’s alternator is another option. The alternator works by converting mechanical energy into electric energy that is generated when the engine starts. This is why if the battery is connected to the vehicle it will charge while you are driving.
Another option can be through the use of solar power. You can store solar energy whenever you’re moving or just parked on the campground as long as there’s a solar power source.
What To Do When Your RV Outlets Are Not Working
If your outlet is not working, the first thing you should check is your source. Check if you are connected to an external source or if you’re connected to a battery, check if your battery is charged.
If you are and the outlet is still not working, you can check the outlet itself. Some outlets have ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) which are very sensitive. GFCI outlets have a black button that will restore your outlet when you press it.
You can also check your circuit breakers if any of them are turned off, preventing the current from flowing into a certain line.
Lastly, you can check if you have too many appliances plugged in at the same time. Sometimes, having too many appliances plugged at the same time may cause you to think that the outlet is not working.
It is not really that the outlet is not working. It is just that there are too many things consuming the electric energy at once that the source can no longer supply to all of them. This is most especially true when you are connected to a battery.
If you have already checked all these and your outlet is still not working, it is better to consult an electrical specialist for you may have to replace the outlet.
Power Requirements of Electrical Appliances
The amperage rating of a battery tells the storage capacity of the battery. You can see this rating on your battery label; usually, a 12-volt battery has a 48AH rating or if you are consuming 1 ampere per hour, it can last up to 48 hours.
In order to avoid overloading your RV’s battery, here’s a breakdown of how much energy your appliances consume on average.
|9 – 12 amps
|3 – 5 amps
|8 – 10 amps
|6 – 12 amps
|0.5 – 1.5 amps
With these numbers above, you can calculate the number of times you might need to recharge your battery during a trip or how many batteries you might need if you are not going to be able to charge your batteries during the trip.
As a sample computation, if you are going to use two 12-volt 48AH batteries connected in series and turn on 2 light-bulbs and plug the laptop, refrigerator, window air-conditioner, and television, these three will give you a total consumption of 25.5 amperes. These two 12-volt 48AH batteries will give you 96AH in total.
AH/AMP = No. of Hours
96AH / 25.5amp = 3.76 hours
This means that you can run all these appliances at the same time for 3.76 hours before the stored power on your battery runs out.
And if for example you only have a light bulb connected because you are enjoying the campsite, the 96 AH can last for 64 hours or more than 2 and a half days.
These sample computations show that your battery life will last depending on the amount of energy you consume based on the number of appliances you use.
If you want to prolong your battery life, you can connect more batteries into a series of connections in order to have a larger power source. You can also opt to just bring spare ones to replace the one you are using when it runs out. Or you can also choose to cut down on your consumption.
You can also check the amperage of your own appliances for these may vary from every appliance depending on their specifications and brands.
Battery Health and Maintenance
Since your batteries are very essential to your RV, it is important to take care of them in order for them not to give you problems when you’re out and supposed to be enjoying your trip.
One of the things you can personally check into even if you do not know much about electrical systems is your battery’s electrolyte level. Frequent battery charging may cause this to decrease so adding distilled water is needed whenever necessary. There is a level marking for you to see if your battery is low on electrolytes and it is also important to remember not to overfill your cells.
Cleaning your battery is also important. It is important to properly clean and rinse it with water. You should also run a voltage check every once in a while to check the condition of your battery.
You should also check your battery cables. Clean them and check if there are tears anywhere for this may cause you connection problems on your trips or it may even cause a fire.
Also, remember never to bring your battery near a flame for the battery vapors can ignite and cause big trouble.
Most importantly, bring your RV for a specialized check with a skilled professional specializing in electrical systems. Having your RV and batteries checked by professionals will always be the best option to maintain your RV and battery’s health.
Final Thoughts and Number of Batteries You Need When Going on an RV Trip
So if you are going out on an RV trip, it is important to have healthy and charged batteries to power your outlets and appliances especially when there are no other external sources. Who knows if the campsite you are going to might not have an available shore power to connect to? It’s better safe than sorry.
As for the number of batteries you might need, only you can tell. Consider the number of appliances that you might need to use when you’re on your trip and if you’re going to have other sources besides these batteries.
If there would be an external source, bringing too many spare batteries may not be needed for you can just connect it when you’re parked and charge your batteries before you go and need to rely on them again.
If there would be no other external sources, bringing a generator could be an option aside from bringing spare batteries. Having an alternator would also be great to be able to store energy when you’re on the road again.
To read more about RV resources and questions, start here:
- How Far Can an RV Go on a Tank of Gas
- Can RV AC Run All Day?
- Blinds vs Curtains: What is better for an RV
Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever. We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug! I take the kids by myself because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.
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