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What is the Best Leisure Battery for a Motorhome or Campervan?

If you want to enjoy some of the comforts of home in your motorhome or caravan, a good battery is essential. Without one your home on wheels will be lacking all the extras that use electricity.

You need the best leisure battery if you want to have lights on after dark, watch TV, listen to music, and power all your electronic gadgets, fridges, laptops, washing machine, and more.

A leisure battery is the main power course for all the electrical equipment inside your motorhome and ensures there is a steady source of power over long periods.

There are many different batteries to choose from, but which is the best one for a caravan or motorhome?

What Makes a Good Leisure Battery?

What Makes a Good Leisure Battery

A leisure battery is very different from the starter battery in your motorhome. The starter battery provides a big surge of power to get the engine running. While a leisure battery, on the other hand, is designed to release energy slowly, over a long period.

Leisure batteries are also a type of deep cycle battery. Their design means they can be discharged to a certain amount (depth of discharge: DOD) hundreds of times in their lifetime.

How much you can safely discharge a deep cycle battery depends on the type of battery, but in general, it is around 80% for lithium batteries and 50% for lead acid batteries.

You can charge a leisure battery in several ways: via your engine while driving (using an alternator), from an electric hookup, or solar power.

Several factors determine whether a leisure battery is good. These include its construction, capacity, and voltage. Warranty is also important because it’s an indication that the leisure battery you’re purchasing should last at least a few years.

Check out more features to consider further down the post.

What Are The Different Types Of Leisure Batteries You Can Choose From?

What Are The Different Types Of Leisure Batteries You Can Choose From?

There is a range of leisure batteries available to purchase. It’s vital that you select the right one for your motorhome or campervan. It should also suit your needs.

Let’s take a quick look at the options.

Lead-Acid Leisure Batteries

Lead acid batteries are the oldest leisure battery type still used today. They are also very popular because they work very well, are easy to maintain, affordable, and simple to install. There are two types:

Open

Open lead-acid batteries are also called flooded batteries. Inside the lead acid battery, a lead plate sits in a solution of liquid sulphuric acid and water. During charging and discharging, a chemical reaction takes place. The gases produced are vented from the leisure battery.

Open lead-acid batteries are very heavy and have a removable cap that you remove to top the leisure battery with the electrolyte, which is typically distilled water. This is required to keep the battery performing efficiently.

How much you have to refill depends on usage. The electrolyte must cover the lead plate otherwise the plate is exposed and becomes damaged.

Another important maintenance factor is that you must avoid discharging the leisure battery below 50% of its capacity. If this happens the lead-acid battery is irreparably damaged.

Sealed Lead-Acid Batteries

Sealed lead-acid batteries (also known as VRLA -valve-regulated lead-acid – batteries) require less maintenance. If a sealed lead acid battery is discharged below 50% it will cause permanent damage and they tend to cost more than an open lead-acid battery.

Sealed lead acid batteries let gases escape during the charging cycle, but there is no way for you to refill them which means an open lead-acid battery can have a longer life.

AGM (Absorbed Glass Matt) Leisure Batteries

AGM Batteries are another type of VRLA battery but in this case, the construction of an AGM battery is slightly different. The batteries contain an electrolyte and lead, but the electrolyte is contained within a fibreglass mat. This mat stops a build-up of pressure within the leisure battery.

There are benefits to using an AGM battery. For example, they can handle vibration, which makes them perfect for vehicles that may have to travel over bumpy roads. They are almost leak-proof and you can mount them on their side. This is a good feature because it means you could install two batteries in your motorhome or campervan.

Another positive feature of AFM batteries is that you can discharge them below 50% without causing damage. However, two significant disadvantages are that they can be expensive and their lifespan tends to be shorter than other batteries.

Gel Leisure Batteries

Gel batteries are similar to AGM batteries, but they are maintenance and leak-free. VRLA is used to control the pressure, but in this case, the electrolyte in gel batteries is a thick pasty gel.

The main benefit of gel leisure batteries is that the discharge level can be as little as 80%. Their service life is also longer when used over 25 degrees celsius.

Downsides include the high price and the fact that they don’t handle high discharge or recharge rates particularly well.

Nevertheless, a gel leisure option is worth considering, especially if you plan to travel to warmer climates.

Lead Crystal Leisure Batteries

Lead crystal batteries are also similar to AGM batteries, however, there are some crucial differences. The most significant is the mat and electrolyte construction.

Sulfation is not an issue with a lead crystal battery, so there is no worry of permanent damage when you use the leisure battery. You can discharge it completely and charge it up fully which is much less hassle and maintenance.

Another advantage of lead crystal leisure batteries is that they can be left at a partial charge rate without damage. In addition, their life span is three times that of other batteries and they perform well in all temperatures.

The downside is the cost which can be around twice the cost of an open lead-acid leisure battery. You might also struggle to find one to purchase for your caravan or motorhome.

Lithium (LiFePO4) Leisure Batteries

We’re used to using lithium batteries in electronic devices such as laptops and phones, and they’re being increasingly common in the car industry for electric and hybrid cars.

For your campervan or motorhome, you’ll need a LiFeP04 battery. Lithium batteries have twice the energy density and weigh half as much as lead-acid batteries. In addition, a lithium battery will last up to 10 times longer and cope with frequent discharges at around 80% capacity without any issues.

While you won’t have to worry about the issues that surround lead-acid batteries, you’ll still have to be careful with a lithium battery. You can still damage li-ion leisure batteries when fully discharged. However, many modern lithium leisure batteries have an electronic controller fitted that stops full discharge, thereby protecting your leisure battery.

One of the biggest downsides of using li-ion leisure batteries in a caravan or motorhome is that they are very expensive. The hope is that the cost of lithium batteries will drop as sales of electric vehicles rise.

What are the Different Leisure Battery Categories?

What are the Different Leisure Battery Categories?

In the UK, the National Caravan Council (NCC) introduced a Leisure Battery Verification Scheme to help caravan or motorhome owners select the best quality leisure battery and increase buyer confidence that it is fit for purpose and will perform as promised. There are three categories:

Category A

Leisure batteries in this category are for people looking for a higher storage capacity because they regularly use their motorhome or campervan away from any electrical hook-up.

Category B

Leisure batteries in this category are for people who tend to find themselves at sites with hook-up facilities. Nevertheless, a higher leisure battery capacity is required to operate devices that consume large amounts of energy such as motor movers.

Category C

If you require a low-capacity leisure battery for your campervan or motorhome this is the category to look for. It should be enough to cover the basic operation of your electronic equipment for short periods away from a power hook-up.

What is the Best Type of Leisure Battery for Motorhomes and Campers?

What is the Best Type of Leisure Battery for Motorhomes and Campers

For leisure activities, motorhomes, and campervans, lithium LiFePO4 are the best leisure battery. They cost considerably more than lead-acid leisure batteries but come with so many advantages that it’s worth the investment for a caravan or motorhome, if your budget allows.

They are:

  • 30% lighter
  • Have a usable capacity of 80% – 100%
  • Provide constant voltage at any rate of discharge
  • Have the quickest recharge rate
  • The lifespan of around 2000-5000 charge cycles
  • Maintenance-free

Eco Tree Lithium has an excellent range of leisure batteries you can use in your motorhome. Their range of lithium leisure batteries has a charging life that’s twelve times longer. In addition, they come with a 6-year warranty and only weigh 13kg, which makes them so much easier to carry around than other types of leisure batteries.

Their range of specifications is as follows:

Specifications

Range

Nominal voltage

12.8V

Nominal capacity

110 Ah – 320 Ah

Energy

1280Wh – 3955Wh

Charging voltage

14.4 – 14.6

Max. charging current

54 Amp – 100 Amp

Max. discharge current

110 Amp – 200 Amp

Approx. weight

13.7kg – 36.1kg

Another popular brand model is:

  • Renogy 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 Smart Lithium Iron Phosphate Leisure Battery: This model is lightweight, and is able to deliver 4,000 cycles at an 80% Depth of Discharge. There is also an onboard battery management system along with high-performance dual-processors. This means the battery can protect itself from overcharging, overheating, and shorting out.

Other popular brands for lithium leisure batteries include Leoch, Valence, and Relion.

To help you understand what to look for in your leisure batteries, let’s look at the different factors to bear in mind.

How To Decide What Type & Size Of Leisure Battery You Need?

If you’re just starting your motorhome journey you’re probably wondering what to look for in a leisure battery. That being said, you might also be a seasoned traveller that is looking to swap out your current leisure battery for something that’s much better.

Here are a few things you should consider when choosing the right leisure batteries for your motorhome or campervan.

Consider What You’ll Use The Battery For and How Much Power You’ll Need

People use their motorhomes in various ways. How you use yours is going to be a big determining factor when it comes to the type and size of leisure battery you’ll need.

Occasional Usage

If you only use your motorhome infrequently, a dual-purpose leisure battery should be the best option. It will be good for those who use their motorhome for the occasional weekend away in locations where there is access to fixed power points.

Regular Usage

If you use your motorhome more frequently, you’ll need to invest more in your leisure batteries. Look for a 110Ah leisure battery or larger. Almost always, for prolonged or frequent breaks in your motorhome, you’ll need a semi-traction leisure battery.

Ah (Amperage hours) – Power Capacity

Ah (Amperage hours) - Power Capacity

Ah, of ampere-hours, is the power capacity of leisure batteries. In other words, it’s how long you can expect the leisure battery to supply power for your motorhome appliances. The bigger the battery, the more Ah it will provide.

This is another factor that depends on the usage you require from your leisure battery. If you’ve got lots of electrical appliances and will be camping off-grid for long periods, you need leisure batteries with higher Ah.

Let’s give you an example of how it works:

  • A 120Ah battery used for 20 hours will produce 6 amps for those 20 hours (120/20) = 6).

A good way to work out what amperage hours are going to be sufficient for your needs is to add all the amps up for every appliance or device you’ll be using at the same time. If you need some help working out the figures, you’ll find several helpful leisure battery usage calculators online.

Watt-Hours (Wh) – Energy

Watt-hours is another way of expressing the level of power of a leisure battery. If you need large amounts of energy to run all the electrical appliances and devices on your motorhome, you’ll need to be looking at leisure batteries with high levels of Wh.

Voltage

The voltage of a leisure battery is the process that moves the current around.

Commonly, leisure batteries used on motorhomes are a 12-volt, deep-cycle battery. This type produces a steady level of power. If you have a lot of appliances, you could purchase a couple of 12V leisure batteries and connect and wire them in parallel.

You do have to be careful which voltage type you choose because some motorhome systems are set up for 24V batteries. You must purchase the correct voltage battery.

Battery Tray

The battery in a motorhome sits in a battery tray. This is what keeps them secure and stops them from moving around. Make sure you measure the battery tray before you purchase your new or replacement leisure battery because you want one that will fit.

Battery Size

There are more than one factors to consider when you’re looking at the size of a battery. We’ve already looked at the power, energy, and voltage of a leisure battery.

Size also refers to the dimensions of the leisure battery. Eco Tree Lithium sells leisure batteries that vary in size from 328 x 172 x 220mm to 522 x 238 x 220mm.

Cycle Life

Cycle Life

Cycle life is a term used for the number of times you can discharge a leisure battery and fully recharge it. The bigger the number, the more you’ll get out of your leisure battery.

As a general rule of thumb, look for a leisure battery that can achieve over 360 recharge cycles at 50% DoD.

Charge Rate

There are limits on the rate at which a leisure battery can be recharged, depending on the chemistry of the battery. Knowing what these limits are is important because if you provide too high a rate of charge, it can damage the battery and shorten its lifespan.

Lead-based leisure batteries have very slow charge rates which lead to a build-up of sulphur on the lead plates and reduce the battery’s ability to hold a charge.

Depth Of Discharge

Depth of Discharge is how much you can discharge the battery safely before you must recharge it using a battery charger or some other means. It’s one of several things that the lifespan of your battery depends upon.

Battery manufacturers specify a certain DoD for their products. This figure represents the maximum amount of discharge possible without sacrificing the future performance of the battery.

For lead-acid leisure batteries, the DoD is around 50%. This means you should not discharge more than half of the available battery capacity if you want to avoid damaging the system or degrading it prematurely.

Most modern lithium-ion batteries have DoDs that range from 80% to 95%

Price

You can expect to pay around three times for a lithium battery, compared to AGM batteries. They also require a battery management system that can push the total price higher. That being said, some newer Li-ion leisure batteries have this built-in as part of the battery.

Lead-acid batteries are much cheaper and still bring several important benefits to the table, making them more suitable if your budget is limited.

However, it should be pointed out that lithium batteries are newer technology which means there is a possibility that prices will decrease in the future and become more affordable.

Lifespan

Lifespan

Of course you want your battery to last as long as possible. Flooded lead-acid leisure batteries have the shortest life span compared to other types.

It’s important to note that the lifespan of a leisure battery is very much dependent on the other factors mentioned above. For example, a leisure battery’s lifespan is going to increase the more cycles it’s able to perform.

Weight

Leisure batteries come in a range of sizes and capacities and this also affects the overall weight of the battery. If you don’t want the battery to affect the handling of your motorhome, look for a battery that is lightweight.

A small motorhome could weigh around 300 kilos. Include a 110Ah battery inside and you could be adding 20 kilos or more to the overall weight of your mobile home. If you’ve got two batteries, you can double that. In addition, you might also require a charger controller and other accessories which will also add to the overall weight.

If the battery you choose represents a significant percentage of your vehicle’s overall weight, you should get a professional to mount it. An experienced battery installer will be able to determine the optimum placement for the battery so that it doesn’t damage the vehicle frame.

Temperature Range Required

Batteries you use in your motorhome tend to perform poorly during the cold winter months. Manufacturers tend to measure Ah at a standard temperature of 25 ℃ (77 ℉). A drop in temperature will lead to a decrease in performance.

When temperatures are freezing, battery capacity could be reduced by as much as 20%. If the temperature is above  50℃ (122 ℉), the capacity of the battery will be 12% higher.

If you plan to use your motorhome in locations where the temperatures drop regularly, a LiFePO4 battery will be the best option.

Required Maintenance

It would be great if you could purchase a leisure battery, install it and then just forget about it until the time comes to replace it. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Whatever type you purchase, it will require a certain amount of maintenance.

Certain types are marketed as maintenance-free, but they still require a regular check-up. If you leave your battery unchecked, there is a risk of deterioration.

In the manufacturer’s instructions that come with all batteries, you’ll find the recommended maintenance requirements and tips on how to ensure your battery lasts as long as possible.

Security Trackers

Motorhome manufacturers tend to include a security tracker in their vehicles. They are very small and you wouldn’t know it was there unless you knew to ask about one.

The tracker pulls power from the leisure battery, so make sure the battery you purchase has enough power to cover the use of the tracker during the months when your campervan is in storage.

If there’s not enough power, you’ll find a flat battery in your motorhome when you want to use it in the spring.

Conclusion

With all the important information in one place you can be better informed when it comes to choosing the best battery for your motorhome or campervan.

There are many factors to consider, but taking each one, in turn, will ensure you get the right fit for your vehicle and also for your needs.

FAQs

How long does a leisure battery last in a motorhome?

In general, you can expect your battery to last between four and five years. However, this figure could change depending on several factors.

For example, if you regularly discharge the battery fully, it could reduce the life expectancy to less than one year.

If you properly take care of your battery when it’s being used and not in use, you could increase the lifespan to more than five years.

How do I know if my leisure battery needs replacing?

You should check the health and voltage of your battery regularly. If the battery is not holding a charge for as long as you expect or not reaching the optimum voltage, it could be time to replace it.

Are lithium batteries worth it in a motorhome?

Talk to any number of motorhome owners who have invested in lithium batteries and the majority will say that it’s totally worth it.

They provide more power, are more efficient, charge faster, relatively maintenance free, last longer, and are half the weight. However, before you run off to purchase yours, think about how you use your motorhome. If you regularly camp off-grid, the investment will pay off over time. However, if you prefer the luxuries of a motorhome park and tend to hook up to the power, you’ll not be able to recoup the high cost.

Can I replace my AGM battery with a lithium leisure battery?

Absolutely, yes you can. However, remember to take all the points mentioned above into account before making your purchase.

7 thoughts on “What is the Best Leisure Battery for a Motorhome or Campervan?

  1. I want to use an air fryer in my camper van. This is rated at 1500w and I would like to use it say for half an hour every day and use the engine to recharge it every day. My question is has anybody tried such and if so what lead acid battery have they used. Many thanks

    1. You are going to struggle running anything that big on a lead acid battery unless the bank is big enough. With a decent inverter (not a sub £100 unbranded unit which claim 2000w) you could run the airfryer but I would recommend to have at least 300 amp hours of lead acid. With a 300Ah bank of acid batteries you will likely still see severe voltage drop when running such a large load. Recharging lead acid will be slow as the resistance is very high, running you engine to charge woefully inefficient batteries wouldn’t be very economical.

  2. Hi.
    I am in the process of replacing my caravan 100aH AGM battery with a lithium of similar capacity. The supplier states that 3 stage chargers ( mine is a Sargent sx 300) might damage the lithium if allowed to trickle charge long term. I have recently installed 200 watts of solar ( additional to the 40 watt standard) via an mpg charge controller. Should I merely switch the charger circuit off when on mains? Finally, will the lithium battery influence the towcar ecu when towing?

    1. Oaktree Motorhomes has a lithium battery company called EcoTree Lithium. I suggest you look at these before buying any other brand. What brand are you considering? I think your battery supplier needs to provide specific advice about their product.

  3. Hi, I’m looking to convert a small van (daihatsu hi jet probably) for trips away. I will cook with gas but I watch movies when parked up for the night. What size battery should I be looking to fit to power a led tv/dvd for a few nights? Maybe 8hrs.
    Thanks

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