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Are you looking to replace your batteries in your RV, Camper or Van? Building a new van? Or considering an upgrade to lithium? Here’s a simple guide to what type of battery you need, how to choose the right size battery bank, and how much solar power you would need to be self sufficient and go fully off grid.
What type of battery do I need for my RV?
RVs, Campers, and Vans have two types of batteries. One is a automotive/starter battery that is used to start the engine. The other is a deep cycle battery, also called a house battery, that is used to power your electronics. Your solar panels, if you have them, re-charge your deep cycle / house batteries but do not directly power your electronics. The house batteries are your power source, the rest of your electrical system either gets power to your batteries (charging) or pulls power out (discharging) to run your fridge, lights, etc.
Most RV and Vanlife electronics will operate with any deep cycle 12-volt marine battery. Most stock RVs come with lead acid batteries because they are cheap, and if you are doing a Van build or an RV build it might be tempting to buy a lead acid battery (also called AGM or SLA) because they are cheap. But for the longest run time, most efficient use of solar power, longest lifespan, and best piece of mind we recommend lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries. Here’s 8 reasons why:
- Dakota Lithium LiFePO4 batteries will provide double to triple the run time of lead acid. More run time means more time on the road without having to plug in at night. Allows for boondocking or camping off grid with the confidence that your batteries will get your through the night (or with solar panels near indefinitely).
- Dakota Lithium batteries last longer and will need to be replaced less often. Providing piece of mind and greater lifetime value.
- Dakota Lithium weighs 60% less than deep cycle lead acid batteries. Less weight means more maneuverability and speed and less wear and tear on your rig. And the batteries are light enough that you can easily install and service them yourself.
- Dakota’s lithium iron phosphate works down to negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius) meaning you can travel in all seasons.
- The self discharge rate of a Dakota Lithium battery (i.e. how much power is lost each month the battery is not being used), is 1/4 that of a lead acid battery, only 1-2% a month. That means if you take a break between adventures your batteries will still have plenty of power the next time you hit the road.
- Dakota Lithium iron phosphate is optimized for solar energy with 50% more efficiency than a lead acid battery.
- You need less batteries when you use a Dakota Lithium. Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) has a flat voltage curve. That means that the voltage does not drop as you use the battery. You get all the juice down to the last drop. Historically if you power your house electronics with a deep cycle lead acid battery you would only be able to use half of the capacity of the battery before the voltage is too low to run anything. That’s why your lights dim when your lead batteries are low. With Dakota Lithium you can use all of the power of the battery, meaning that a 100 Ah battery from Dakota Lithium is equal to 200 Ah in lead acid batteries.
- Dakota Lithium has an 11 year warranty. That means you can install your batteries once, instead of replacing heavy lead acid batteries every few years.
What Size Battery Do I Need?
The drop in replacement battery for most RV house batteries (deep cycle marine) is the Dakota Lithium 100Ah battery [See specs and buy here].
Here’s a simple guide to battery recommendations. These recommendations assume you are either re-charging your battery bank every few days by connecting to shore power, or charging via your alternator in your engine when you drive, or with solar panels (our personal favorite – with the low cost of adding solar panels it is both the most affordable, and the highest performance charging solution).
Size of RV / Van | What Your Looking to Power | Recommended Battery
- 10′-14 ft | Lights, radio, electronics (laptop, cell phones, etc.), small fan | DL 54 Ah x 1
- 10′-14 ft | Lights, radio, sm. electric cooler, tools, fans, electronics | DL 100 Ah x 1
- 15′-20 ft | Lights, radio, stove, med. electric cooler/small fridge, electronics, fans | 1-2x DL 100 Ah or 1x DL 170 Ah
- 21′-30 ft | Lights, radio, stove, lg. electric cooler/small fridge, small tv, electronics, fans| 2x DL 100 Ah or 1x DL 170 Ah
- 31′-40 ft | Lights, radio, stove, medium fridge, large TV, electronics, large fans | 2-4x DL 100 Ah or 2x DL 170 Ah
- 40’+ ft | Lights, radio, stove & oven, fridge, TV, electronics, air conditioning* | 4-8x DL 100 Ah or 2-5x DL 170 Ah
*Please note, air conditioning appliances draws a lot of amps (power) and requires a very large battery bank (400Ah+). Not recommended for small RVs or vans. Use of air conditioners is not covered under the warranty of many battery companies, including Dakota Lithium, since it is possible for air conditioning units to pull more power at one time than a single battery is capable of giving. Air conditioning is fine to use when connected to shore power and not pulling power from the house batteries.
The Dakota Lithium 100Ah battery is the drop in replacement battery for most RV house batteries (deep cycle marine)
What Size Solar Panels Do I Need?
Dakota Lithium batteries are the best choice if you are considering adding solar panels to your RV, Van, or trailer because they have the highest efficiency rating for solar power. That means you get more power from each solar panel, and can use more of the power you collect. A deep dive on solar power efficiency is here.
Here’s a size chart for what solar panels you need by size of RV & how many Dakota Lithium batteries you have.
Size of RV | # of Batteries | Recommended Solar Panel Capacity
- 10′-14′ | 1-2x DL 100 Ah | 100-115-Watt Rooftop
- 15′-20′ | 1-2x DL 100 Ah | 150-170-Watt Rooftop
- 21′-30′ | 2x DL 100 Ah | 300 watt rooftop
- 31′-40′ | 2-4x DL 100 Ah | 500-600 watt rooftop
- 40’+ | 4-8x DL 100 Ah | 700-1100 watt rooftop