How to charge a leisure battery in a motorhome?

Planning a trip in a motorhome with your family or friends is a fun thing to do and offers a great sense of adventure to all the outdoor junkies and travel enthusiasts out there.

But as with most things, not everything always goes according to the plan, which is why it is important to prepare yourself for all kinds of situations.

Therefore, you should know a few basics, such as how to charge a leisure battery in a motorhome.

In this article, we will explain what different options you have to do so, why it is important to have a leisure battery in your home on four wheels, and what else you need to keep in mind when preparing for your trip.

How to Charge a Leisure Battery in a Motorhome

There are many ways to charge your leisure battery. In this article, we are going to explain how to get the job done through the following three options:

  1. Split Charge Relay
  2. 240V Hookup Charging
  3. Solar Power

Split Charge Relay

This is one of the most widely used leisure battery charging methods and is fitted to almost every van.

A split charge relay is a switch. If it is closed, it connects the vehicle with a leisure battery. Once fully charged, it enables the battery of the vehicle.

The split Charge relay method is further subdivided into three denominations:

Ignition triggered relay - In this method, the switch is closed due to an electric signal. Normally, a 12V DC signal does the job easier when the ignition is switched on.

Voltage-sensitive relay - This is one of the most widely and popular options. When the relay "senses" that the vehicle battery voltage has reached 13.7vDC, the switch is closed. 

Battery to battery Smart Relay  - Vehicle manufacturers are usually under duress to make vehicles with carbon emission rules, in a bid to make their vehicles more environmentally friendly. Considering this, they came up with one solution to use smart alternators that have their voltage output regulated by the ECU.

A voltage relay doesn't work with a smart alternator which is why a battery to battery (or DC-DC) charger takes the highly variable voltage and stabilizes it just so that it could provide a safe, controlled and fast charge for your leisure battery. 

240V Hookup Charging

This option works best if the better part of your time is going to be spent on campsites with power points.

You can simply connect to the campsite and then proceed to make the most out of your electronics.

The 240V power source from the outside is transferred into your van via your mains hook-up lead. Just plug it into the van with the inlet socket.

These sockets are usually fitted to the side of your camper van. They can also be found underneath.

From the inside of the van, the power is dispersed to two main places: The 24pv sockets which can be used to power any 240 V appliances and the leisure battery charger.

The latter monitors input and output levels, and at makes sure your leisure battery is charged.

Solar Power

Solar power is the most environmentally-friendly option available at the moment.

Although it is probably a less popular way to charge your motorhome battery, you simply cannot deny the fact that it has benefits the other options don’t offer.

The popularity of solar panels has increased over time due to the fact that they are not only eco-friendly, but also affordable and practical.

The panel size which you will require is contingent on how much energy you will consume, rather than the size of your battery. A solar panel of 80 watts will do the job easily if the only things running on your campervan are simple electronics.

If you own a larger vehicle with a lot of electronics to run, you will require a much larger solar panel.

Having said all that, charging your battery with solar panels is the most convenient, sustainable and budget-friendly option.

Why is it Important to have a Leisure Battery on a Motorhome?

There is no second opinion about the fact that charged batteries are a must if you are to enjoy your trip without any inconvenience.

Many people do not understand or often underestimate the importance of a charged battery.

Almost every motorhome should have at least one leisure battery.

Almost all of the amenities and essential needs, such as habitation lights, water pump, blown-air heating and every other piece of electric equipment relies on a battery.

That all being said, you can’t use your vehicle’s battery to charge your leisure battery.

A vehicle battery is primarily designed to start the engine.

What this means is that it utilizes a lot of its power at once, just to kickstart the van.

Therefore, the battery fitted in the vehicle is not strong enough to also provide power for lights and fridge over a weekend.

Are you ready to start your campervan adventure?

Here are some of the things to prepare before setting out on a motorhome trip:

Find Yourself a Campsite

Finding a campsite before you travel has its perks.

Make sure to find yourself a place where all the necessary amenities are available.

Also, if you are traveling with your kids, make sure that the campsite has a recreational area attached to it. This way, your kids can stretch their legs and won't get bored. 

Be Smart About Packing

A lot of people pack motorhomes like they are heading to the amazon for a month-long camping spree.

Doing so, they end up being overweight. This is why you should be clever about your storage and pack accordingly.

Don't bring stuff you won't use on a daily basis - you will thank your future self for this.

Bring Essentials

Before you leave on your adventure, make sure that you are travelling with all the essentials. 

Always carry a first aid kit, even if it's just a basic one.

Also, don’t forget toilet rolls, as not all sites supply it and you may wish to have a choice between using the motorhome toilet and the ones which are on site.

If you have quick-drying towels at home, make sure you take them instead of taking the heavy, fluffier ones, and remember a washing line to dry them on.

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