Whether you’re living full-time in your RV or just traveling a few months of the year, the most important item you’ll need is power. Although lead-acid batteries have long been the standard for supplying that power, lithium batteries are slowly becoming the new popular choice.
Many boondockers are choosing lithium batteries because they provide consistent power, charge faster, and don’t require any maintenance. And these are just a few of the benefits you’ll receive if you decide to make the switch. When it comes to batteries that can power your RV, lithium batteries last the longest by far.
So, how long do these batteries actually last? As with any type of battery, this measurement can vary based on your setup and usage. However, let’s talk about the factors that affect your battery life and what kind of longevity you can expect from lithium batteries.
Lithium Batteries: Cycle Life
Knowing and understanding your battery’s' cycle life will help you determine how long you can expect it to last. The cycle life is the number of times you can discharge and recharge your battery before losing some of its performance capabilities.
A complete cycle is when you charge your battery to 100% and then deplete it down to 0%. Any other amount of charging or discharging is considered a partial cycle. Most people don’t completely deplete their batteries, no matter the type, so partial cycles are the most commonly used. However, this does affect the total number of cycles you’ll get out of your battery.
Manufacturers test their batteries to come up with the cycle numbers, running partial cycles during these tests rather than complete cycles. Let’s take a quick look at an example. If a battery is rated at 500 cycles, when the company tested it they likely charged the battery 625 times to 80%. With this data, they calculated that their battery could get 500 complete cycles (80% of 625 = 500).
You’re probably wondering what this means for you and your batteries. Well, lead-acid batteries typically get 500 to 1,000 life cycles, depending on the brand, usage, and some other factors. Basically, you’ll be able to recharge your battery that many times before you’ll need to replace it.
For lithium batteries, it’s most common to see life cycles in the 2,000 to 5,000 range. In fact, some of the best lithium batteries can get up to 7,000 life cycles. That’s a huge difference from lead-acids, effectively providing you with power for at least four times longer than lead-acid batteries.
Lithium Batteries: Lifespan
Now that you understand the cycle life of lithium batteries, there are a few other factors that can affect how long your batteries last.
Peukert’s law causes lead-acid batteries to lose their voltage output as they’re discharged. On top of that, these batteries can only be depleted down to 50% without risking damage, and they need to be recharged to 100%. While partial cycles can sometimes extend the battery life, you’re only getting half the power for each charge.
You don’t have to worry about any of that with lithium batteries. They provide consistent voltage output at any level of charge. They also don’t have to be charged to 100%. Charging your batteries to 80% results in much faster charge times and also reduces the number of charge cycles, lengthening your battery’s lifespan.
Lead-acid batteries require regular maintenance to keep them in top condition so you can get the most life out of them. This usually includes adding water, checking acid levels, and cleaning corrosion. If you’re not maintaining your lead-acid batteries, you’ll shorten their lifespan.
Lithium batteries don’t require any type of maintenance. Not only does this make them much easier to use overall, but it also means there’s no risk of decreasing their lifespan due to improper care.
If you’re living in your RV full time, your usage won’t have as big of an effect as it would if you’re an occasional or seasonal traveler. However, if you’re taking months at a time off, you may be losing more of your batteries’ lifespan than you think.
Lead-acid batteries typically lose 33% of their charge a month any time they’re left sitting unused. If you park your RV for the winter, you’ll likely come back to a dead battery. Instead of letting your batteries die, you can charge them once a month to make sure they’re ready to go at the end of your break. However, this means using up a couple more of your charge cycles.
If you make the switch to lithium batteries, this is one more problem that you won’t have to deal with. These batteries only lose 2-3% of their charge a month, which means you could leave them alone for an entire year and still come back to batteries with over 60 to 70% of their charge left. You won’t be wasting any cycles, prolonging the lifespan of your batteries.
Are Lithium Batteries Worth It?
Most RV owners get about five or so years out of their lead-acid batteries before they need to be replaced. Lithium batteries can potentially last for 20 years in an RV, making them a lifetime asset. Although they do have a higher upfront cost, the benefits make them more than worth it, especially since you’ll end up saving money in the long run.If you’re ready to take your RV experience to the next level, convert your house bank over to lithium batteries. You’ll be happy you did. If you have any other questions or concerns, you can check out the 5 Most Common Questions about RV Batteries or contact Patriot Power Source. We’re more than happy to help you get your rig set up with the best batteries on the market.