If you have recently become the proud owner of an RV or decided to rent a travel trailer for a trip, you may have this preconception that these are standalone vehicles that give you the freedom to roam freely. There will be no strings attached once you get a motorhome, right? Not really. If you visit any campgrounds or state parks, you will see that every motorhome has a connection with the shore power. It might surprise you, and a question is likely to pop-up in your mind: is it bad to leave your RV plugged in all the time?
The answer is not as straightforward as it may seem and it requires some explanation.
Is It Bad to Leave Your RV Plugged in All the Time?
You do not need to keep the RV plugged in all the time. The pros and cons of leaving it plugged on depend on the duration of charging.
Plugging the RV 24/7 is not a problem when you are using the battery for a short time or when it’s off the road. So, you can do this when renting a camper for one or two trips. Many RV rental companies provide modern converters that cut off the power when the battery is fully charged.
However, an old model RV without modern converters will not have such features. In that case, you need to be careful about keeping the RV plugged on. The same statement is correct when you have your camper in storage for a long time.
Issues That Impact on RV Battery Life
Is it bad to leave your RV plugged in all the time? Well, there are certain factors that affect the life of an RV battery. Let’s discuss these points one by one:
Overcharging means the transmission of power inside a battery even when it is completely charged. Whenever it happens, the electrolyte level of the battery cells starts to reduce. If you want to consider whether is it bad to leave your RV plugged in all the time from this angle, the answer is no.
However, if there is an attached battery tender in place or the RV converter comes with a smart charger, you can easily prevent overcharging.
When you plug in the battery for months without a battery tender, battery overcharging will happen. Many of you may have the habit of leaving the motorhome in storage with batteries plugged in during winter. It is a dangerous practice, and you must refrain from it.
In an undercharged battery, a chemical process named sulfation takes place. This process reduces battery life significantly. If an RV battery suffers from a lack of charge for a long time, sulfation happens. It prevents the chemical-electrical conversion and reduces the ability of the battery to hold charge for long.
Batteries can become undercharged due to loss of voltage or excessive use. The only way to prevent sulfation is to charge the battery judiciously. When you are not using the motorhome battery, and it is in storage, try to keep the charge level between 80 and 100 Ah.
A battery tender is the best way to maintain this charge level. However, this can also be maintained with regular upkeep and a battery tester.
Just like the parasites in the real world, some parasitic devices drain the RV battery power. Some common parasitic accessories of a travel trailer are clocks, radio, gas detectors, and more. When your RV is in storage, these electrical devices keep running and draining the battery.
If you do not notice, it will damage the battery as the power gets too low. As a preventive measure, use battery disconnect switches when the trailer is idle or in storage.
When your RV is lying idly in storage, a change in temperature can also harm its battery. If the ambient temperature becomes too high or too low, the battery will lose its voltage capacity over time.
There should be a heater or any other system in the storage for maintaining room temperature. Or, you can remove the battery from the RV and store it somewhere else like in your home to keep it functioning.
Can You Leave an RV Plugged in during Winter?
If you live in an area where winter gets harsh or are adventurous enough to camp in winter, you need to be sure whether is it bad to leave your RV plugged in at the time.
Doing so will overcharge your RV battery, which will ruin it in the long run. Since the battery converters supply a high voltage, it will harm your battery. As a result, the battery will stop working to its full potential.
In extreme cases, the high voltage will burn the electrolytes and damage the battery for good. A replacement battery may cost over $100.
It is also a bad idea if you are planning to keep the battery unplugged for the whole winter. If the battery sits idly for long and gets discharged, you will have a hard time charging it next time. The charging capacity will also get reduced, and it will hold charges for fewer hours than earlier.
The bottom line is, you have to plug in the battery in winter but not all the time. If you want to store the motorhome during the winter season while plugged in, it will be a good idea to remove the battery from the RV.
You can also charge them occasionally throughout the cold season. Contact a technician to get advice on how to maintain the battery charge at an optimal level so that the battery life does not get affected.
Is it bad to leave your RV plugged in all the time? Hope you have got the answer. Both overcharging and undercharging are harmful to the health of the battery. So, you cannot just plug the RV to a power source and forget it.