A Guide To Leisure Batteries
November 26, 2019 at 11:15 AM
Firstly, a little about why you have these batteries in your campervan. Leisure batteries are 12v batteries that power the equipment in your campervan, such as your lights, heating, fridge etc. These devices have all been designed to run off of 12v DC and so can run straight off of the leisure battery.
The battery can be charged via the mains at home or if there is a hook up at your choice of campsite, or can charge off of your vans alternator during trips (though this typically won’t see you reach a good level of charge if the battery is low) and can hold a lot of charge so long as you are sensible with what you try to use in your campervan.
If you wish to use mains appliances from your home, then you will need to install an inverter which transforms your 12v DC into 230v AC mains power (these are commonly fitted in campervan conversions).
So, how do leisure batteries work?
Your vehicle battery is designed specifically to provide a big burst of power when asked, upon starting the car/van, which heavily drains the battery. This is why it is connected to your cars alternator which quickly refills the batteries charge when the motor is running, so the battery is ready for the next time the car needs to be started.
Due to their purpose and design, they are not good at powering devices or equipment for any length of time and if they are fully discharged, they typically need to be replaced.
In contrast, Leisure Batteries are designed to provide steady power for longer periods of time and to slowly discharge as they offer a steady supply. They can handle being constantly discharged and charged much better, which is a is called deep cycling and it is why the battery is ideal for campervan leisure use.
Charging a leisure battery.
There are a few ways to charge your battery, when at home and when on your travels. Most manufacturers suggest that a battery should be put to charge once it is reduced to around 50% capacity. Or, if you are monitoring the batteries voltage, once it reduces to around 12.4V that is typically 50%.
When at home, it is a good idea, especially if you aren’t planning on regular trips, to use a fully automatic charger that will charge and then maintain charge whilst the battery is in storage (most modern campervans have these on board now). The longer a battery sits in a discharged state, the higher the risk of it degrading.
Some onboard chargers will be capable of 100% charging when the camper is in hook-up, these are called intelligent chargers and can be used full time when the van is in hook up. But many older models will only reach around 80% charge. If this is true in your campervan, then we suggest periodic removal of the battery and using a fully auto charger to bring the battery back-up to full capacity.
Your battery will also be topped up when you are driving via your engines alternator which can cover the gap if you have an older, lesser powered onboard charger.
Another option that is becoming more and more popular is solar power. Due to its increased popularity it has become very affordable, and easy to fit as flexible panels are now available which can be stuck and wrapped to the shape of your roof.
Prolonging your batteries lifespan.
Batteries will rarely last for many years but there are things you can do to keep it in better shape for longer. By following some best practice you can add years to a good battery (use dependant).
- Start by ensuring all appliances are off or disconnected from your battery when not in use and monitor for any systems slowly leaching power.
- If you don’t have an intelligent charger, remove it and store it in a cool place with a full charge and give it occasional top ups.
- Try to never let your battery drop below 50% capacity as this will reduce its charging capacity.
- Try to use a charger designed specifically for leisure batteries.
- Do not over charge your battery (if your charger is a multi-stage) as this is very bad for the battery health.
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