You can’t possibly want to go camping with your motorhome or caravan without getting a leisure battery? That’ll be a mistake!. Leisure batteries upgrade your caravan or motorhome from just a vehicle to a comfortable habitation.
However, we understand that you might be asking yourself, “what size of leisure battery do I need?” “Isn’t a leisure battery the same as a car battery?”. Slow down, and we’ll answer all of your questions in this guide to choosing the leisure battery size that’s best for you.
What Is A Leisure Battery?
Leisure batteries are batteries designed to emit low currents for a prolonged period. Due to their long periods of energy emission, they are called “deep cycle batteries.” Without a leisure battery, your caravan or motorhome won’t have enough power to function effectively.
Of course, the uses of leisure batteries are diverse but mostly utilized to provide a stable level of power to appliances like a TV, kettles, LED lights, laptops, kitchen appliances, and other devices.
Leisure batteries rarely get recharged until you notice their voltage level has dropped considerably low. When left in a discharged state for days, it can cause permanent damage to the battery, and it’ll be difficult to bring it back to its previous condition.
What Are The Different Types Of Leisure Batteries You Can Choose From?
Your choice of leisure batteries depends on the intended purpose and occasional use, and yes, your budget. They are four types of leisure batteries typically used for caravans and motorhomes. However, the most common type among folks in the UK is sealed lead-acid batteries and open lead-acid batteries. Most leisure batteries are lead-acid, but each performs differently.
Open Lead-Acid Battery
Open lead-acid batteries are the least expensive, and just like the name suggests, they consist of open battery cells. These batteries are popular because of their proven, straightforward technology. Installing an open lead-acid battery might be complicated because you need to fix it in an upright position so it doesn’t leak. However, it’s easy to maintain.
A lead-acid battery is the best option for those who seldom use their caravan or motorhome. Plus, the battery discharges to 50%. This type of battery is ideal for camping and weekend getaways because you can choose to connect it to a battery charger and recharge it when you feel it’s necessary. Open lead-acid batteries operate via lead plates positioned in a mix of sulphuric acid and require a topping of electrolyte for optimum performance.
Sealed Lead-Acid Battery
Unlike the open lead-acid, this doesn’t come with removable caps, so there isn’t any need for the addition of electrolyte solution for it to be in top condition. Because of this, it’s considered maintenance-free and recommended for those who aren’t on a tight budget.
Sealed lead-acid batteries can safely discharge to 50% while remaining in good condition. Generally, sealed lead-acid batteries are a more popular option for caravans and motorhomes, plus they can be plugged in and recharged at will.
Other types of lead-acid batteries include:
Standard starter batteries
This starter battery is a calcium battery, and it’s the most common type of lead-acid battery. It has six in-built cells made up of negative and positive electrodes. This type of battery is capable of producing a high current enough to turn an engine over. A high current is essential for controlling the mechanical and thermal resistance of the engine.
Standard leisure batteries
These batteries are also known as deep cycling batteries or auxiliary batteries. Many people consider them the best motorhome leisure batteries because they provide a steady, fixed power supply over long periods.
The term “dual-purpose” can be used for various batteries because a leisure battery and deep cycle battery have a degree of cranking ability. Dual-purpose batteries offer good and moderate cycle life plus an adequate level of cranking.
Semi traction batteries
This type of lead-acid battery is a higher alternative to deep cycle batteries because it provides a higher amount of recharge cycles. More charging cycles are ideal if you need a leisure battery for your boat, caravan, or motorhome. The semi traction battery technology helps provide high energy density, making it suitable for deep discharge.
AGM (Absorbed Glass Matt)
AGM batteries are similar to open and sealed lead-acid batteries, but with their electrolyte embedded in a fibreglass mat. These batteries are spill-proof and maintenance-free, making them ideal for people who do not need to spend much on maintenance.
AGM batteries can discharge to a safe level of 50%, plus they are also a form of valve regulated (VRL) lead-acid battery. One of the key benefits of choosing an AGM battery is its ability to withstand road vibrations. You’ll appreciate this when you go camping using your caravan or motorhome. You might spend a bit more if you choose this leisure battery, but it’s worth it.
The construction of gel leisure batteries and AGM batteries is similar; they are spill-proof, maintenance-free, and a form of valve-regulated lead-acid battery. The significant difference is that gel batteries consist of a thick paste gel, unlike AGM batteries.
Gel batteries can discharge to 80% without causing any damage, unlike other types of leisure batteries. A gel battery has an extended service life above 25 ℃, making it suitable for off-grid camping. However, the performance of a gel battery is poor for recharge rates and high discharge compared to an AGM battery.
A lead crystal battery has a unique construction of mat and electrolyte, which is different from that of an AGM battery. One advantage of this leisure battery is that it doesn’t get affected by sulfation, which means that you can discharge it down to zero volts and get it fully charged without shortening its service life.
Typically, lead crystal leisure batteries offer a greater number of charge cycles and a longer lifespan than other different types of batteries. However, the downside of this leisure battery is its cost. When choosing this option, keep in mind that you’ll need to spend double the price of an AGM leisure battery.
You might be aware of lithium batteries used in your phone, laptop, or even electric car. A LiFePO4 lithium battery provides double the energy density for half the weight of a regular battery. That’s why they are popular choices for caravans and motorhomes
These batteries can last roughly ten times longer than lead-acid batteries. Also, unlike lead-acid batteries that discharge to 50%, a lithium battery fares better with frequent discharges to 80% of its capacity. Lithium batteries come with electronic controllers that prevent them from being overcharged. The major downside of LiFePO4 battery technology is its costs. But the growing popularity of electric cars might bring a price drop, resulting in lithium leisure batteries being the go-to for caravans and motorhomes.
At Eco Tree Lithium, we have quality LifePO4 leisure batteries with a much higher energy density and consistent performance that’ll last for years. Our batteries are designed to do a much better job maintaining the quality of your caravan or motorhome. They operate perfectly in cold temperatures, so they won’t need replacing anytime soon.
If you want to read more technical information, check our guide on what is a leisure battery and how it works.
How To Decide What Type Of Leisure Battery You Need?
Choosing the correct leisure battery is fundamental for the proper functionality of your caravan or motorhome. Certain factors need consideration and benefits as well before making a choice. For example, the physical size of your vehicle can play a role in your decision. Let’s go over more technical factors that’ll influence your decision when buying a new leisure battery.
Consider What You Will Use The Battery For
If you own a motorhome and not a motor mover that only uses electric hook ups, then using a leisure battery of 70AH will suffice. But in the future, if you decide to give your caravan or motorhome an upgrade with a motor mover, you’ll need to upgrade your battery. Your choice of battery also depends on whether you plan on doing just short road trips or off-grid camping with your caravan.
For those who only want a current battery for light usage, like occasional weekend holidays where you have access to fixed power points, it’s best to consider a dual-purpose leisure battery. But for motor movers, you’ll need to use a leisure battery of 110AH or even higher.
When getting your next leisure battery, if you plan to use it more frequently, it’s advisable to opt for a semi-traction battery. It might be an expensive option, but in the interest of your motorhome, it’s worth it.
Check Your Existing Battery
Take note of your existing battery type to give you an idea of what leisure battery to buy. There’s no guarantee that the old battery model is best suited for your vehicle, but it’s a starting point for figuring out the best leisure battery.
Measure Battery Tray
Measuring your battery tray is important, so you can buy a leisure battery that fits like a glove. It’s not always the best option to choose your battery based on the previous one. After all, replacing it allows you to get a new one better suited to your caravan and needs.
Cyclic life is the number of cycles a leisure battery makes before its capacity drops to 50% of its initial specified capacity. A higher cyclic life means a longer lifespan. Ideally, a quality leisure battery should achieve more than 360 recharge cycles at 50% DoD.
The size of battery you’ll need for your motorhome depends on how much space you have in your motorhome locker. Leisure battery sizes vary, and selecting a caravan battery bigger than your space will only waste money.
The total wattage is the level of power a leisure battery can supply in its fully charged state, and this is a factor to consider when you want to invest in a leisure battery. You can quickly calculate the watt-hours of a leisure battery by measuring the consumption of the accessories the battery needs to power and the duration (hours). The battery capacity can be affected if you’re using a motor mover or similar equipment or appliances that consume a large amount of power.
The majority of the leisure batteries in the market can only charge and discharge a certain amount. Almost all manufacturers include how to care for your leisure battery in the owner’s manual. We advise you to check it out so that you don’t overcharge it.
Checking a battery’s capacity is essential when you want to buy one. Battery capacity refers to how long a leisure battery can run when not connected to a battery charger. Having a high-capacity battery is advisable, especially if you intend on using your motorhome in locations where there isn’t any fixed power supply.
Your budget plays a vital role in the type of leisure battery you choose. After all, you cannot pay for a product if you don’t have the money. Prices change based on functionality such as charging and discharging rate, cyclic life and battery life. So, your selection is dependent on your spending capability and requirements.
Everyone wants a motorhome or caravan battery with long battery life. You can do some quick research and read previous reviews from other users before you place an order. Remember that it’s always better to go for leisure batteries with a warranty. You can always revert to the manufacturer in case of any problem.
It’s best to buy a leisure battery with a lower weight so that it doesn’t affect the form of your motorhome. The average size of a caravan or motorhome is about 300kg, and a 110AH leisure battery weighs about 20kg. If your motorhome has a double set up, that’s 40kg, plus probably an extra 5kg for charger controller and other accessories. Assuming that your motorhome has a double set-up and weighs 300kg; the battery and accessories could represent about 15% of your motorhome’s weight, which is a lot. So the battery must be mounted by a professional for them to deduce the correct placement to avoid ruining the frame of your vehicle.
Temperature Range Required
Generally, leisure batteries tend to have a poorer performance during winter. The ampere-hours are usually measured at a temperature of 25 ℃ (77 ℉), and a degree drop will ultimately result in a decrease in performance. At a freezing temperature, the battery capacity will reduce by 20%, and at 122℉, it will be 12% higher. If you plan on using your motorhome in places with cold temperatures, you should consider getting a LiFePO4 from Eco Tree Lithium.
You can’t just buy leisure batteries and forget about them. They need to be maintained. Yes, certain types of leisure batteries, such as gel batteries, are maintenance-free, but that’s not an excuse to leave them in your motorhome for months without a proper check-up. When you leave your leisure battery unattended, it can deteriorate permanently, no matter how strong you think it is. We recommend going over the maintenance terms written in the manufacturer’s manual as you would any other product to ensure your battery lasts longer.
Leisure Battery Categories
Due to the technology used in today’s world, the NCC decided to launch a scheme that’ll serve as a solution in helping people who purchase new leisure batteries for their motorhomes or caravans.
The board of the National Caravan Council provide system logos that identify how suitable a model of leisure battery is, and if it’s been approved by the NCC and fit for your motorhome. The scheme was introduced in 2016 due to the confusion surrounding leisure batteries. Some suppliers sold leisure batteries in place of starter batteries. The NCC aims to ease your worry and provide confidence that your leisure battery is fit for purpose.
Let’s look at the three categories mentioned by the National Caravan Council and where your vehicle fits in.
Category A is the highest battery grade in the market due to its unbeatable performance off-grid. This category is recommended for motorhome owners who use leisure batteries with high capacity and operate without an electrical hook up. It’s for users who rely on their leisure battery to provide all the power they’ll need whilst in their caravan or motorhome.
A category B battery is for those who usually use an electrical hook up during most of their trip but still want a large battery capacity for heavy equipment, for example, a motor mover. These batteries are commonly for medium usage.
This category is for those who require low battery capacity that securely covers the basics for a limited time. They can easily connect to a 240V supply for a short period when electrical hook up isn’t available. These batteries are fitted for occasional use and for running basic home appliances.
Remember that you’ll clearly see all scheme logos for each category.
The use of electrical products in motorhomes and caravans isn’t about to decline soon. Getting the best leisure battery will have a massive impact on how you enjoy your motorhome. You can check out our collection of leisure batteries to find the best size battery that’ll suit you and have your needs covered.