RVers who enjoy staying off the grid are always looking for ways to get more from their auxiliary power source. Appliances and systems have to be closely monitored and amp-hours budgeted to not end up powerless. Therefore, many are discovering the usefulness of RV lithium batteries.
At first look, their attributes are exciting. Access to their full amp hour capabilities sounds great, especially when comparing that usage to a lead-acid or AGM battery that can only be discharged to 50% before needing a recharge.
But a quick shopping tour of lithium-ion batteries could be a rude awakening, with prices for even the smallest starting at $800! Is a major investment like that worth it? Let’s take a look at both sides of the lithium quandary.
What Are RV Lithium Batteries?
When looking for long-lasting energy, an RV lithium battery is the number one contender. These rechargeable 12-volt batteries use newer technology and are labeled as Lithium Iron Phosphate or LiFePO4 batteries.
They’re a great replacement for the typical lead-acid batteries that can discharge to 50%, as the lithium-ion energy can go almost down to 0% before they require recharging.
A LiFePO4 battery has 12 volts, double the voltage of a deep cell lead-acid 6-volt. Usually, an RVer will wire two 6-volt batteries together in series to provide energy for a 12-volt electrical system.
However, they’ll still only get half the amp hours because they can only discharge those batteries to 50%. With one lithium battery, they can use all the amp hours because they can discharge the battery down to 0% before recharging.
What Are the Disadvantages of Lithium-Ion Batteries?
Most lithium batteries are not fond of cold temperatures. At 32 degrees or lower, the batteries have a harder time accepting a charge because the chemical reactions slow down.
To avoid this problem, many RVs who utilize LiFePO4 batteries have tank heaters in place, allowing them to utilize the many benefits even in frigid temperatures. Some campers also mount their LiFePO4 batteries inside the cabin of their coach, where they can benefit from the warmth of a heater.
One of the most noticeable disadvantages of a lithium battery is its price. These batteries can often cost five to eight times more than a comparable lead-acid or AGM deep cycle battery, with prices ranging from $800 to $1,000 for 100 amp-hours.
But when considering the longer battery life and the ability to use all 100 amp-hours before recharging, the cost might be worth it. Only you can decide what your budget can withstand.
What Are the Benefits of RV Lithium Batteries?
There are numerous reasons to consider adding RV lithium batteries to any motorhome or travel trailer, especially if you also have solar. These power storage centers are unbeatable when used in tandem with energy collected through solar panels. LiFePO4 batteries are efficient in collecting and distributing power, and the ability to discharge down to almost 0% makes them doubly useful.
If you worry about your coach’s weight, a lithium battery may provide a helpful solution. A typical lead-acid battery weighs about 60 lbs, yet a comparable lithium-ion one will weigh just half of that.
And an added bonus is the fact that lithium batteries are maintenance-free. There will be no more adding distilled water to a lead-acid battery if you switch to lithium. And many LiFePO4 batteries have their own built-in monitoring systems, so overcharging or leakage will not be a problem.
Do Lithium Batteries Really Last Longer?
Lithium-ion batteries can last a great deal longer than their lead-acid counterparts, mainly because they don’t recharge as frequently. This is due to their ability to discharge completely before needing that recharge.
Lead-acid batteries can only discharge to 50% of their capacity. So, in essence, they have to recharge twice as frequently as lithium ones.
Another reason lithium batteries have good staying power is that many of them have internal battery management systems. These systems monitor the flow of electrons in and out of the batteries, avoiding leakage, overcharging, and voltage imbalances. This management makes a lithium battery more efficient and lengthens its useful life.
How Much Do Lithium Batteries for RVs Cost?
When comparing a 100 amp-hour LiFePO4 to a 100 amp-hour lead-acid battery, the cost might take your breath away. Good, dependable lithium-ion 12-volt batteries can easily run from $800 to $1,000 apiece.
In contrast, the normal lead-acid 6-volt battery may cost between $90 to $170. But keep in mind that it will take two 6-volt lead-acid batteries to equal the output of one 12-volt lithium.
Are Lithium Batteries Worth the Extra Cost?
With prices getting into the astronomical range and the added temperature considerations for RV lithium battery usage, camping enthusiasts may think twice about jumping on the LiFePO4 bandwagon.
Unless extensive boondocking trips are on your calendar, an investment like this may be unnecessary for your particular camping setup. It certainly won’t save you money in the long run.
Do you boondock enough to make lithium batteries worth it?
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