Goodbye lead acid hello lithium! The best boondocking RV battery debate for us seems to finally be over. Our Keystone Passport originally came with one 80 amp hour lead acid deep cycle battery. And for Keystones intents and purposes it would have probably been just fine, but for our intents and purposes it in no way was going to cut it. Most travel trailers, and RV’s are manufactured for the masses, the 12 volt battery is just there to power the 12 volt system for short periods of time, and to activate the electric brakes in the event of a towing mishap. While the number of people living in travel trailers, RV’s, vans, etc. are numerous, the reality is most RV’s are just going to sit in storage and be used only a few times a year. Campers massed produced are for the part timer, and full timers have to build on that platform to make it functional beyond what it was intended.
We knew when we bought our Keystone that the factory battery was probably not going to cut it in the long term, and sure enough the first week we were boondocking we replaced it. We had done a lot of research on battery options before hand, lithium was quite expensive so we decided to hold off and just purchased two 100 amp hour lead acid deep cycle batteries to replace the single 80 amp hour. While the 200 amp hours was a great improvement and got us by it was obvious they would not cut it for long term boondocking either.
We finally went with battle born [amazon_link asins=’B06XX197GJ’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ba00d6cf-ad9c-11e7-a275-21db643caf85′] for a few reasons. #1 weight, both of these batteries together weigh less than one of the 100 amp hour lead acid batteries. #2 cost, while the battle born batteries are still pricy, they are the cheapest lithium batteries we found on the market. #3 capacity, with lithium you are supposed to get close to 100% useable capacity, lead acid only gives you 50% of it’s rated capacity. All the online calculators I found said we needed 400 amp hours of battery to meet our needs, that translates into only 200 amp hours of useable battery with lead acid. #4 recharge and discharge rate, the battle born can sustain a 100 amp continuous amp draw, two batteries wired in parallel can sustain 200 amps continuously. Our microwave pulls 148 amps on the DC side of our large inverter[amazon_link asins=’B01EO8VYNA’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’b48efd39-ad9d-11e7-ae6b-5335ea3d8bf0′], since the microwave and the coffee maker [amazon_link asins=’B00EYZVWWW’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’2690a0ae-ad9e-11e7-a727-5ffa0262dc29′] are the two biggest items we would use boondocking, we are under the continuous rating of the batteries.
Installation was fairly simple, remove the old batteries and drop the battle born batteries in their place. A small modification was needed to the factory battery tray, the battle born batteries are equivalent to a group 27 battery is size, our Keystone was only designed to hold two group 24 batteries. We had to cut the two pieces of angle iron off each side so the batteries in storage boxes [amazon_link asins=’B004W5SGBO’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’8c4ddaff-ad9e-11e7-9efc-15f34f6d41a7′] would fit. These were not really needed any longer, the mount we installed for our bicycle rack [amazon_link asins=’B00KQPLJVI’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’d9aa8b8d-ad9e-11e7-946e-a3567d35f8ac’] (Transporting bicycles on a travel trailer) will keep the batteries from sliding out the sides of the battery tray. Battle born batteries have internal circuit protectors built in, we still installed a terminal fuse holder [amazon_link asins=’B0019ZBTV4′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’aec634ec-ad9f-11e7-af47-ed7a13f87a3f’] with a 250 amp fuse. [amazon_link asins=’B0026KY6R0′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’dc4ba60a-ad9f-11e7-967d-77c4907fff35′]
Even though we were in a campground with full hook-ups when we installed the batteries, we unplugged for seven hours and gave the batteries a test. We ran our large inverter the entire seven hours, it was running at 4% load and was pulling 14 DC amps. For that seven hours we had our 32″ TV running, playing through our factory speaker system. We left the dehumidifier [amazon_link asins=’B00MQ7T038′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’1b042ae0-ada0-11e7-95bc-719a0617d8e4′] plugged in, our indoor bug zapper [amazon_link asins=’B06XDMPC28′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’4a6190b6-ada0-11e7-bedc-7717b0dede6e’] (A Great Way to Rid Your RV of Gnats and Small Bugs) we had the air conditioner off, the hot water and fridge were running on propane. We ran the microwave for a total of six minutes (it pulls 148 DC amps while running) and the batteries never dropped below 12.7 volts under load. We were pulling 3 amps for the DC electronics on the fridge, the interior lights, (lights have been upgraded to all LED) fantastic fan [amazon_link asins=’B0027XAN78′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’69509273-ada0-11e7-a820-49d70fc36ea7′] on low, and stereo system. For the entire seven hours we were pulling around 17 amps DC from the batteries continuously, and around 165 amps for the six minutes the microwave was running. When we plugged back into the power pedestal we were still showing 13.1 volts under the 17 amp load, lithium runs at a slightly higher voltage than the 12.7 of a lead acid battery.
We installed these batteries in October 2017, we have not tested them other than the initial seven hours. The initial test is looking very promising, our 200 amp hour lead acid batteries would have been pulled down to almost dead under the same test conditions. We will be in Florida starting November 2017, while we will be in an RV park with hookups the electric will be metered. The plan is to run off our solar [amazon_link asins=’B00BCRG22A’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’southeasternr-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a17c4cfd-ada0-11e7-b246-c1590f8deaaa’] to keep our batteries recharged as much as possible, we will be spending a few weeks with no hookups in February 2018 before returning to North Carolina by March 2018. We will update the post as time passes and keep you posted on how these batteries hold up.
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