Let us help you tackle the motorhome leisure battery minefield . . .

This article on motorhome leisure battery with all of its content has an overall aim of keeping it really simple for you. We really needed simple when we were looking for information on what to do. Layman’s terms is where it needs to be when talking about volts, amps and charge levels.

Firstly, lets look at the difference between a motorhome leisure battery and a car battery. The key difference (other than size and weight) is that a leisure battery will trickle charge items to provide power to charge items over a period of time. Where as a car battery gives a good boost of power in order to start the car. I am talking petrol or diesel cars here and not electric cars.

12v vs 24v circuits

Leisure batteries run a 12v circuit where as in a house, everything runs on a 24v circuit. So in the UK, all your electric goods run from a 3 pin plug made for a 24v system. You plug this into your plug socket and it gets its electricity through that connection. In a motorhome – you can only use your 3 pin plug in the motorhome sockets if you are hooked up to an EHU point or if you are miming an EHU point i.e running a generator. 

If you are off grid or wild camping – you would need an invertor to operate 3 pin plug appliances.  

We do have an invertor – but we don’t use it very often – we treat it as a luxury rather than an essential. 

INTERESTING FACT –  A kettle is the absolute highest electrical usage appliance that you can use in a motorhome. If you are looking to conserve your electric – ditch the kettle and get a stove top one. 

The different types of motorhome leisure battery that you can buy . . .

Oh boy – when looking at battery and battery types there is literally so much to get your head round. Being an engineer will help no end – especially if you are an electrical engineer. It has taken us absolutely ages to understand about leisure batteries – especially as we spend so much time off-grid.

In the UK in winter – and other countries that are in the north of the northern hemisphere, having enough juice in your battery can be a never ending battle. If you are not on EHU – then this is a really key element of your fulltime life – or a week wild camping/off grid. 

Overview and price points of the different battery types

So – here we go. There are 4 main types of leisure battery that you can buy for your motorhome:

'Wet' Lead Acid Battery

The most basic battery option that you can have in your motorhome or campervan is the wet acid lead battery.  There are two main types – ‘open’ and ‘sealed’.

The key  difference between the two is that the open one needs to be topped up with electrolyte liquid and the other one doesn’t. 

Both battery types are suitable for those who require to go on electric hook ups (EHU) 

It can be discharged to 50% before impacting the life of the battery – and is the best budget option battery choice that is available. The ‘sealed’ one is the zero maintenance option. 

LIFE CYCLE: 200 charges

PRICE POINT: £90

AGM Battery

Do not require ‘topping up’ and can be discharged to 50% before damage is done to the battery itself. 

They are lower maintenance than the lead acid battery option.  The price of the spill proof AGM battery is higher than that of the basic acid battery option. These batteries can also be discharged to just below 50% – but you don’t want to be making a habit of it.

The better you treat your batteries, the better they will treat you . . . 

LIFE CYCLE: 200 charges

PRICE POINT: £125

Gel Battery

A gel battery is ‘leak proof’ and can discharge to a much lower level than an acid battery without doing damage. 

A gel can discharge up to 80% compared to the 50% of an acid or AGM battery, which makes them favourites for  ‘wild campers’ due to the discharge levels – but are about 3 times the price of the lead acid or AGM option. 

This is our current option. We have 2 x 110 AH batteries which supply us with our electrical needs to power our motorhome, although we do need to supplement this in winter.

LIFE CYCLE: 500 charges

PRICE POINT: £280

 

Lithium Battery

There are two types of lithium battery – Lithium Ion and Lithium Phosphate..

It is key to make the distinction between the two types as the second one – Lithium Phosphate can stand 4 – 7 more charge cycles than the other (and a lead acid or gel battery).

The most common used lithium battery is the LiFePO4 battery. It is the king of kings – the leader in the pack – all the other glorious winning terms that one might use in a battery comparison chart which any full-timer aspires to have. BUT – they ARE expensive. 

LIFE CYCLE: 2000 charges

PRICE POINT: £750

 

The different types of leisure battery that you can buy . . .

Oh boy – when looking at battery and battery types there is literally so much to get your head round. Being an engineer will help no end – especially if you are an electrical engineer. It has taken us absolutely ages to understand about leisure batteries – especially as we spend so much time off-grid.

In the UK in winter – and other countries that are in the north of the northern hemisphere, having enough juice in your battery can be a never ending battle. If you are not on EHU – then this is a really key element of your fulltime life – or even a week wild camping/off grid. 

I am writing this article with the aim of keeping it really simple for you – because we really needed simple when we were looking for information on what to do. For me – layman’s terms is where it needs to be when talking about volts, amps and charge levels.

So – here we go. There are 4 main types of leisure battery that you can buy for your motorhome:

'Wet' Lead Acid Battery

The most basic battery option that you can have in your motorhome or campervan is the wet acid lead battery.  There are two main types – ‘open’ and ‘sealed’.

The key  difference between the two is that the open one needs to be topped up with electrolyte liquid and the other one doesn’t. 

Both battery types are suitable for those who require to go on electric hook ups (EHU) 

It can be discharged to 50% before impacting the life of the battery – and is the best budget option battery choice that is available. The ‘sealed’ one is the zero maintenance option. 

LIFE CYCLE: 200 charges

PRICE POINT: £90

AGM Battery

Do not require ‘topping up’ and can be discharged to 50% before damage is done to the battery itself. 

They are lower maintenance than the lead acid battery option.  The price of the spill proof AGM battery is higher than that of the basic acid battery option. These batteries can also be discharged to just below 50% – but you don’t want to be making a habit of it.

The better you treat your batteries, the better they will treat you . . . 

LIFE CYCLE: 200 charges

PRICE POINT: £125

Gel Battery

A gel battery is ‘leak proof’ and can discharge to a much lower level than an acid battery without doing damage. 

A gel can discharge up to 80% compared to the 50% of an acid or AGM battery, which makes them favourites for  ‘wild campers’ due to the discharge levels – but are about 3 times the price of the lead acid or AGM option. 

This is our current option. We have 2 x 110 AH batteries which supply us with our electrical needs to power our motorhome, although we do need to supplement this in winter.

LIFE CYCLE: 500 charges

PRICE POINT: £280

 

Lithium Battery

There are two types of lithium battery – Lithium Ion and Lithium Phosphate..

It is key to make the distinction between the two types as the second one – Lithium Phosphate can stand 4 – 7 more charge cycles than the other (and a lead acid or gel battery).

The most common used lithium battery is the LiFePO4 battery. It is the king of kings – the leader in the pack – all the other glorious winning terms that one might use in a battery comparison chart which any full-timer aspires to have. BUT – they ARE expensive. 

LIFE CYCLE: 2000 charges

PRICE POINT: £750

 

How do you know how much electricity is in your motorhome or campervan leisure battery?

Now – this is a helluva question! How do you know if your battery is fully charged, at 75% , 50% or a damagingly low 30%?

Well – this is a question that we sought the answer to for months. 

And I am afraid the answer is for gadgets to be plugged into your motorhome leisure battery to see what is going on. You can Bluetooth your phone to your gadget via an app to see what is happening.

There is an article on how to manage the power coming from your solar panels into your batteries via MPPT or PWM devices. From this you are able to attach ‘gadgets’ that tell you how much you have in your battery. To understand how much you use is another article. 

MPPT & PWM battery flow devices

We have a Victron MPPT device, which we upgraded from a PWM because we also upgraded our 150w solar panel to 550w of solar. This meant that we had to upgrade our power modulator – or the batteries could fry. And as part of that, a Bluetooth device that is fitted can tell what is in our batteries at any given time. 

During the winter time, checking our battery about 20 times a day is perfectly normal for us – hahaha. We smile with glee at the 8w coming in from the gloomy mid-winter low sun. But mostly we have to decide to put the generator on to charge the batteries.  Of course, we only put the generator on if parked somewhere that the noise does not disturb others. 

Battery basics summerised for you . . .

So that pretty much wraps up our simplified low-down on which motorhome leisure battery you need in your motorhome or campervan.  

Remember – the battery is your ‘electric storage’ device.

  • The more Amps (AH) you have in your battery – the more electricity you can store.
  • The better quality the battery, the more electricity you can use, without doing any damage to the battery (the discharge).
  • And the king of king batteries – the Lithium Ion Phosphate recharges the quickest as well as allows discharge to the lowest volume. 

Happy motorhoming!

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