If you own a campervan, motorhome or caravan, you know that having the right leisure battery is essential to power things like lights, fridges and televisions. Without it your van life experience could start to feel a little less fun.
Batteries can be a minefield, I know when we first got our motorhome we really were unsure of what batteries were best, how many we would need and what size, so hopefully we can make this a little easier for you and talk you through our experience.
Whether you’re looking for more power capabilities or a longer-lasting battery option – understanding which type of leisure battery will work best for you can be confusing. We have put together our top 4 picks with everything from budget-friendly selections to those offering maximum performance so there’s something to suit every need. Read on as we break down all of the features each one offers.
What is a Leisure Battery?
So we have broken down the differences between the 3 main types of batteries that people use in their campervan, motorhome or even caravans.
Leisure batteries are also known as “deep-cycle” batteries, as they discharge a slow and steady amount of energy over a period of time. This is known as a depth of discharge, hence the name, deep-cycle battery.
They are named leisure batteries because this is the battery you use when you are stopped for the day. When it’s time to relax and watch a movie, use the microwave, or just read a book in bed. In other words, “leisure time.”
Leisure batteries generally come in three different types, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.
- Lead Acid / AGM
Lead Acid / AGM batteries are cheap and abundant, which makes them a popular choice. They have a fast charge rate, can last a long while on a charge, and don’t require much in the way of maintenance.
Unfortunately, they can get pretty glitchy in the winter, especially if they’re exposed to cold temperatures for long periods of time. They’re also extremely heavy in comparison to most other batteries.
Lithium batteries are by far the best batteries of the bunch. They have an extremely fast charge rate, last ten times longer than AGM batteries, and are much more efficient in how they release their charge over time.
They’re also lightweight—half that of an AGM battery—along with being half the size of an AGM battery as well. Like the AGM batteries, they don’t require much in the way of maintenance, and, unlike AGM batteries, you can hang Lithium batteries upside down.
The only drawback with lithium batteries is their overall expense. They’re easily the most expensive batteries and it’s largely because the technology and materials are so much better.
Gel batteries are very similar to AGM batteries, but they’re slightly better at just about everything. It’s like upgrading from an iPhone 11 to an iPhone 11 Pro. It’s essentially the same exact phone with a few measurable differences that are slightly better than its predecessor.
However, gel batteries are every bit as heavy as AGM batteries and since they are filled with semi-liquid, you can’t install them upside down as you can with lithium. Normally, that’s not too big of a deal but it does limit your installation options somewhat.
Of course, there are several branches of batteries that are associated with each of the above three, such as sealed lead acid, flooded lead acid, and lead crystal. They each have their pros and cons; however, the lithium batteries stand hands and feet above the rest.
How to Choose a Leisure Battery
When you’re on the market for a leisure battery, there are several things that you should consider before making your purchase.
- How big it is
- How heavy it is
- Temperature range
Lifespan – Lithium batteries can last up to 20 years, with half of that being the typical range. For instance, the Renogy has a lifespan of 4,000 cycles. Cycles are how many times the battery can be charged and discharged before they are reduced to a point where they are no longer viable.
If you discharged and charged the Renogy every single day, all year long, it would take 10.9 years to reach the 4,000-cycle limit. Of course, the battery will keep working after it reached its cycle limit, but it will not be the same.
How big it is – Size is another important factor, mostly because you don’t want to take up any crucial space in your motorhome or caravan that could be used for something else. It’s another reason that lithium batteries have become so popular. They’re half the size of traditional lead acid leisure batteries.
How heavy it is – Weight may be an important factor for anyone. The more weight you can save in your vehicle, the better, and with the batteries being one of the heaviest things you will be putting in, you need to consider how much weight you can spare.
Capacity – Capacity has very little to do with the cycles. It’s how much the leisure battery can hold before it hits the bottom of its cycle. You can judge the capacity by looking at the Ah. A 100Ah battery can supply 1 amp for 1 hour. So, if you are using 1 amp of power, you’ll have 100 hours.
Increase that to 10 amps and you will have ten hours. This is why you will often see people purchasing two batteries, doubling up their amps per hour, and lengthening their overall usage.
One important thing to know is you can only run lead acid & gel batteries down to 50% before they start having issues. They will not run efficiently and can cause damage to the battery and reduce its life span.
You can run lithium batteries down to 80% – 90% without doing any damage at all and even if you do run them down to completely empty, you don’t damage the batteries as much as you would lead acid.
So in full, you are getting a lot more and nearly double the usage out of your lithium batteries.
Price – Price is an obvious and important factor. Despite the quality, longevity, and capacity of lithium batteries, they’re largely set back by their extremely high prices.
These are slowly coming down now due to the technology catching up and being more efficient. We recently upgraded from lead acid to lithium and this has been one of the best choices we have made.
Temperature – Temperature is important only if you are planning on taking your motorhome or campervan into extremely cold conditions. Lead-acid batteries suffer in low temperatures and more so in extremely cold temperatures.
Once again, lithium batteries are largely unaffected by the cold and are the go-to batteries for winter weather.
Hopefully you will now have a better understanding of what battery will be best for you and it really comes down to your needs and how you use your power. By understanding your power you will have a better idea of what batteries will work best for you.
As we have mentioned, we started off with two 100ah lead acid batteries for our first 3-month trip into Europe and while they performed ok, we found that we were running them down to 50% and below a lot.
We were having to drive to charge them which meant that we were wasting fuel, so we knew that we needed to upgrade and we thought the best investment we could do would be lithium batteries.
We were able to save a lot of weight and also position two lithium batteries under our driver seat, this was where we could only get one lead acid in, so we managed to save weight and space! It was a win-win situation for us and since having these in we have never ran out of power!
Best AGM, Gel, and Lithium Leisure Batteries
No matter what battery you decide to go with, there is always a “best of the bunch” that typically packs in the best qualities of the battery type, with superior technology, capacity, and longevity.
What is the difference between a car battery and a leisure battery?
The main difference between a car battery and a leisure battery is the amount of power the two batteries supply. Car batteries are designed to provide short bursts of energy in order to start a car’s engine, while leisure batteries are designed to be able to maintain consistent energy levels over a longer period of time.
Do leisure batteries need a special charger?
Leisure batteries do not need a special charger because they can be charged by an ordinary 12-volt battery charger. Leisure batteries, also known as deep-cycle or marine batteries are heavy duty batteries that are designed to be discharged and recharged many times.
How to charge a motorhome leisure battery
Charging your motorhome leisure battery is an essential part of your camping set-up, and keeping it charged is crucial to making sure you have a great trip. There are a few different ways to charge your leisure battery, and the best method for you will depend on how often you use your motorhome and how long you plan to be away from a power source.
If you use your motorhome regularly, then you can opt for a more permanent charging solution, such as installing solar panels or connecting to mains electricity when you’re at a campsite. However, if you only use your motorhome occasionally or plan to be away from a power source for extended periods of time then a portable charger may be a better option for you.
Let’s take a look at the different ways you can charge your leisure battery, so that you can choose the best method for your needs.
One of the most popular ways to charge a motorhome leisure battery is with solar panels. Solar panels are a great option if you use your motorhome frequently, as they provide a sustainable and eco-friendly way to keep your battery charged.
Solar panels work by harnessing the power of the sun and converting it into electrical energy. This electrical energy is then stored in your leisure battery, so that you can use it to power your appliances when you’re away from a mains electricity supply.
Solar panels are easy to set-up and can be left in place permanently, making them a great option for those who use their motorhome regularly. You can find solar panel kits specifically designed for charging leisure batteries, which come with everything you need to get started.
If you’d like to know more about solar panels, you can check out our more detailed blog post here – Motorhome Solar Panels – Everything You Need To Know
If you’re going to be staying at a campsite with mains electricity, then you can use this to charge your leisure battery. Most campsites will have electrical hook-ups available, which you can use to connect your motorhome to the mains supply.
Charging your leisure battery from the mains is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to do it, as it will charge your battery much faster than other methods. If you’re only going to be using your motorhome for short trips, then this may be the best option for you.
If you’re going to be away from a mains electricity supply for extended periods of time, then a portable charger may be a better option for you. Portable chargers are battery-powered devices that you can use to charge your leisure battery when you’re on the go.
Most portable chargers come with a range of different adapters, so that you can charge multiple types of batteries. This makes them a great option for those who have more than one type of battery to keep charged. Portable chargers are relatively small and lightweight, so they’re easy to transport with you when you’re on the move.
Which Method is Best for You? The best way to charge your leisure battery will depend on how often you use your motorhome and how long you plan to be away from a power source. If you use your motorhome regularly, then a more permanent solution, such as solar panels or mains electricity, may be a better option for you.
However, if you only use your motorhome occasionally or plan to be away from a power source for extended periods of time, then a portable charger may be a better option.
Whichever method you choose, make sure that you follow the instructions carefully to avoid damaging your battery. Leisure batteries are an essential part of any motorhome, so it’s important to keep them in good condition.
How many volts should a leisure battery read?
The amount of volts a leisure battery should read depends on its size and purpose. Generally, the voltage of a leisure battery should be between 12 and 14 volts, although this can vary depending on the type and size of battery.
Higher-capacity batteries will typically have a higher voltage reading than lower-capacity batteries. It is important to note that this range isn’t exact, so it is important to check your specific battery’s manufacturer guidelines for an exact voltage reading.
How long does a leisure battery last in a motorhome?
A battery’s lifespan is determined by several factors, the main one being how it is used. A rule of thumb is that a deep-cycle battery will last for about three to five years if it is used and maintained properly. However, if the battery is abused or not taken care of, its lifespan could be as little as one year.
There are several things you can do to prolong the life of your leisure battery:
-Avoid deep discharge: Deep discharge is when a battery is discharged below 50%. This puts a lot of strain on the battery and can shorten its lifespan. If you regularly discharge your battery below 50%, it’s important to take some steps to change your habits.
-Avoid excessive charging: Overcharging a battery can also shorten its lifespan. When a battery is overcharged, the electrolyte is broken down and the lead plates are corroded. This reduces the capacity of the battery and can eventually cause it to fail.
-Keep it clean: Dirt and grime can build up on the battery terminals and lead to increased resistance. This can cause the battery to overheat, which can shorten its lifespan. It’s important to keep the battery terminals clean and free of corrosion.
-Store it properly: If you’re not using your battery for an extended period of time, it’s important to store it properly. Batteries should be stored in a cool, dry place. They should also be charged to about 50% before being stored. This will help to prolong the life of the battery.
Following these simple tips can help to prolong the life of your leisure battery and keep it working properly for years to come.
All Things Considered
Lithium batteries are generally going to be your best leisure battery in a motorhome or campervan. Unfortunately, they can also be cost-prohibitive. However, AGMs and gel batteries have a lot going for them as well.
Choosing the right leisure battery should be a measured process. Knowing where you’re going and what your daily needs are going to be should point you in the right direction.
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I have always wanted to travel and luckily I always got to travel to some amazing countries while I was growing up with my family and this really encouraged me to continue this and get out into the world on my own when I was older.
My goal growing up was really to see as much of the world as I could, but then I started going to work and really concentrating on my career and travel took a back seat. I still tried to get away a few times a year but I always knew there was an end goal which was to travel as much as possible.
So I got my head down and worked as hard as I could as an e-commerce manager. I have always been techy, I love computers and websites, so that’s where it gave me the idea to start this blog and also have my own web design agency. If you want to check it out or need any help then please take a look rrwebdesign.co.uk (shameless plug there)
But after covid, we both knew this was now the right time to take the leap and go and see the world after being trapped inside our house and working from home for a couple of years. We realised more than ever that you only get one life and you really need to make the most of it and do what you love!