Caravans and motorhomes have gained much popularity in the last few decades. For some people, these offer a perfect way to spend their vacation camping. For others, these are the best option for mobile accommodation.
What makes these vehicles so comfortable is their ability to run many appliances. However, appliances or electronic devices don’t run on standard car batteries. They require a special type of battery called a leisure battery.
Even though leisure batteries have become common on the market, many people are still unaware of what they are.
Therefore, in this article, we will discuss leisure batteries in-depth. You will learn about the basics of leisure batteries, their different types, how they differ from car batteries, and which one you should choose. Let us get into the topic right away.
What is a Leisure Battery and What Does It Do?
A leisure battery is a fundamental utility that turns your vehicle into a home.
A leisure battery is the power source used to run the appliances inside a caravan or motorhome. All electrical appliances like TVs, ovens, kettles and even lights inside a caravan need a 12V electrical supply provided by a leisure battery.
They are often not provided with a new caravan, so you must buy one yourself. However, many motorhomes nowadays come with a leisure battery included.
What is the difference between a leisure battery and a car battery?
Many people confuse leisure batteries with car batteries. After all, both install in a vehicle and are expensive. However, there are significant differences between leisure batteries and car batteries, and you cannot replace one with the other.
The primary purpose of a car battery is to start a car. This action requires the most amount of current from the battery. Once the car is started, the car’s alternator produces the electricity to run the car and charge the car battery.
A leisure battery needs to provide a constant flow of power to the appliances inside a vehicle for a long period of time. It may or may not be used to start the engine of the vehicle. Either way, starting the engine is not a priority of a leisure battery.
What are the Different Types of Leisure Batteries?
You will find many different leisure battery options available on the market. This often leaves people wondering which is the best leisure battery to buy.
Let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of leisure batteries.
Standard Starter Batteries
This type of battery provides the starting current to a vehicle. The battery is designed to provide a large amount of current for short periods.
It is also known as a calcium battery or cranking battery. Most starter batteries use lead-acid technology.
Standard Leisure Batteries
There are many names used to refer to standard leisure batteries. Some of the popular ones are auxiliary batteries and deep cycling batteries. They are also commonly lead-acid batteries.
Unlike standard starter batteries, these leisure batteries do not need constant charging. You only have to charge it once the battery voltage falls below a specified level.
Semi Traction Batteries and Traction Batteries
Semi traction batteries have thicker lead plates than standard starter batteries. Therefore, these can be used for more robust applications. However, they still cannot provide as intensive usage as standard leisure batteries.
Traction batteries are generally found in electric motor vehicles. They act as an electric power source required to drive the electric vehicle. As such, they are also known as Electric Vehicle Batteries. They are used in jet skis, quad bikes, and similar.
Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries, also known as LiFePO4 or LFP batteries, have become one of the most popular leisure batteries in recent years. They are an advanced version of Lithium batteries but with far superior characteristics.
LFP leisure batteries cost less and have very high performance and safety measures. For instance, Eco Tree Lithium’s leisure batteries are maintenance-free.
These particular batteries come with temperature protection and overcharge protection features that lead to long battery life with optimum capacity. Additionally, the brand provides a six-year warranty, so you know there is nothing that can go wrong.
Unlike lead-acid batteries, Gel acid batteries are liquid-free (the ‘gel’ is in the name). Therefore, you don’t have to be concerned about accidental toxic liquid spills. However, this comes with a tradeoff.
Since gel batteries are totally sealed, overcharging them leads to severe degradation in the battery performance. In fact, the damage caused to a gel battery by overcharging is irreversible.
Also, gel batteries cost more than the wet battery options mentioned above.
Absorbent Glass Mat Batteries
Absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries are another popular choice. These leisure batteries offer high safety and are environmentally friendly. They are also sealed, just like gel batteries.
The nature of AGM batteries means that you can install them on their side or in a tilted manner. However, the sealed nature also brings dangers due to overcharging. Overcharging an AGM battery can cause complete battery failure.
Lead Crystal Batteries
Lead crystal is another relatively new battery technology like Lithium-based batteries. Some of the main characteristics are low maintenance and fast recharging. They come in sealed form, so they are vulnerable to overcharging.
Maintenance Free Batteries
We described some of the batteries above as not requiring maintenance. Now there is an entire battery class known as maintenance-free batteries. But they do need some sort of maintenance.
The maintenance-free term is used because they do not require topping up electrolyte level covers like conventional batteries. In reality, there is no lead-acid battery that doesn’t need some form of maintenance.
What are the Benefits of Using a Leisure Battery?
There are many benefits of using a leisure battery, so much that there is no alternative that even comes close. Here are a few of these benefits:
1. Electrical Hook-Up
A leisure battery can power all the electrical appliances inside your caravan or motorhome. This is especially useful when you are on the road or in an area where electricity is unavailable. If you have gone camping outdoors, you will know what we mean.
2. Vehicle Startup
Some leisure batteries are dual-purpose and can provide the function of starting your vehicle. This makes a good backup for instances when your car battery runs flat, which can often happen for caravan or motorhome users since the vehicle is parked for long periods.
3. Smoothen Out the Current Flow
Some people think of saving money and running their appliances directly on the built-in charger of the caravan or motorhome. However, experienced motorhome owners know this is not a good idea.
The built-in charger has a lot of fluctuations in the current, and the output is not even. This can cause irregularities in the input received by appliances, leading to appliance failure. It will end up costing you more money in repairs than you were trying to save.
4. Sense of Security
Do you frequently take trips in your motorhome or caravan? Having a leisure battery provides a great sense of security. You know that even if your vehicle is parked for a long while, you still have everything inside the caravan up and running.
Do Leisure Batteries Need Maintenance?
To someone new to leisure batteries, an important question that needs answering is ‘Do leisure batteries need maintenance?’ Well, the answer isn’t as simple as you want it to be:
As you read above, there are so many different leisure batteries. The maintenance requirement of a leisure battery solely depends on which battery you choose.
With lead-acid batteries, the maintenance required is high. You need to follow a battery checklist, such as topping up the electrolyte level and cleaning the battery’s terminals every once in a while.
Then come AGM batteries, Gel batteries, and maintenance-free batteries. These come sealed, so you do not have to refill the electrolytes. However, you need to constantly monitor the charge level while charging. This is a task in itself.
If you want to be carefree about maintenance, the right leisure battery for you would be one of the LFP batteries. These require the least maintenance of all leisure batteries. On top of that, with Eco Tree Lithium, there are protection measures for everything, so you won’t even have to do occasional checks.
How Long Do Leisure Batteries Last?
Again, the answer to this question (and every other question about a leisure battery) will depend on the type of leisure battery you buy.
This question is one of the most asked regarding leisure batteries. Therefore, we wrote a whole article on the lifespan of leisure batteries that explains everything you need to know.
Here is a brief overview of the typical lifespan to expect from a leisure battery:
- For lead-acid batteries, you can expect a lifespan of about three years. If you keep your battery in good condition and top it up regularly, you can make it last for about five years.
- For AGM batteries, gel batteries, and other sealed lead-acid batteries, you can use them for six years if you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. However, a single overcharge can permanently damage them even in the first month, resulting in lost battery capacity, so be wary of that.
- With Eco Tree Lithium LiFePO4 batteries, you get a written warranty of 6 years. Therefore, it’s obvious your battery will last that much time at the minimum. Expect an LFP battery to maintain its charging capacity for a prolonged period; in some cases, up to ten years.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Leisure Battery
There are several things you should consider before buying a leisure battery. No, we are not talking about the type of battery here, although that is something you should decide beforehand.
Even among any particular type of leisure battery, there are multiple options to choose from. To make things simple for you, we will list the various things that will make buying a leisure battery simpler:
The National Caravan Council (NCC) in the UK provides a class-verified scheme to make leisure battery buying easier for caravan and motorhome owners. This is a great practice to promote quality standards for sellers and a better buying experience for the customer.
It is important to note that this class segmentation pertains to the capacity of the battery and not the quality or reliability. There are three classes (or categories) of leisure batteries under this scheme:
Class A leisure batteries, also referred to as category A, are leisure batteries for caravans that frequently do not have access to an electrical hook-up.
Class A batteries typically have greater battery capacity than others. So they can power common motorhome equipment for the longest period of time. This class of battery supports a motor mover as well.
Appliances commonly powered by a Class A battery include TVs, heaters, refrigerators, lights, microwaves, and motor movers.
Class B batteries are for caravan or motorhomes connected to an electrical hook-up most of the time but require a large battery for specialized equipment such as motor movers.
While this class of battery can support the high power required for heavy equipment, it can only do so for short periods of time. After that period of time, you will need to recharge the battery.
This is typically a lower capacity battery designed to support equipment for which the power required is low, and only for a short period of time.
Every battery, leisure or otherwise, comes with a watt-hour (Wh) rating. The Wh rating refers to the power the battery can provide when fully charged. The Wh requirement of every person can vary based on the appliances used.
For instance, suppose that you are using three light bulbs of 20 watts each for 5 hours a day, a 60-watt TV for 3 hours a day, and a 1000-watt oven for half an hour a day. Your total watt-hour requirement is:
20 x 5 + 60 x 3 + 1000 x 0.5 = 780 watt-hours (Wh)
Once you calculate this watt-hour requirement, it is a good idea to add a 20% margin to this value. After all, it is better to have some extra charge than to end up with a discharged battery when you still require it.
Your total watt-hour requirement becomes 936 Wh.
You can calculate your own watt-hour requirement by using the same formula.
Many batteries don’t come with a watt-hour rating. Instead, they have an ampere-hour, amp-Hour (Ah) rating. The rating denotes the number of hours for which the battery can supply 1 Ampere of current.
This measurement also refers to the power capacity of the battery. If you have calculated the watt-hour requirement and the battery has an amp-hour rating, there is nothing to worry about. You can convert one into the other with a simple formula:
watt-hours = amp-hours x voltage
What are the Different Leisure Battery Sizes?
Besides the factors mentioned previously, other things can help decide the size of battery that you require. These things include the type of usage, battery tray, cyclic life, charge rate, weight, temperature range, and many other factors.
To know the perfect battery for your needs, you can read this article on how to choose a leisure battery and what size you need.
How to Safely Handle a Leisure Battery?
To safely handle a leisure battery, follow these tips to avoid injury to yourself, others, and your property. Here are all the leisure battery safety tips that you must follow at all times:
- On occasions when you are visually inspecting the battery cells, it is advisable to wear safety clothing.
- Never short circuit the terminals of a battery. It might not cause a fatal execution, but it can easily lead to a fire in your motorhome or caravan.
- When installing a new battery or reinstalling an old one, ensure that the battery’s terminals and all connections are tight. Loosely connected wires can lead to sparks, which can cause a fire. Buy high-quality clamps.
- The corrosive acid present in the lead-acid batteries destroys clothing and flooring in your motorhome or caravan. Make sure that you avoid spillage of acid. Always use wet batteries in an upright position, without any tilting.
- Keep your battery away from naked flames, such as from a gas hob or stove. The gases that build up inside a battery are very explosive and can burst open the case if ignited.
- For lead-acid batteries, you need to fit a gas escape vent so that the built-up gases inside the battery have a way to escape when the charge level is high. A small plastic gas relief tube or a ventilated battery cover can serve this purpose.
How and When to Charge Your Leisure Battery?
The charging instructions for any leisure battery that you buy will come with the user manual provided with the battery. Since there are so many different sizes and types of leisure batteries, the instructions for each can vary.
In general, most manufacturers recommend that your leisure battery be recharged whenever it falls below the 50% charge level.
Some people recharge their battery whenever it is in a fully discharged state. This is a bad practice. You should NEVER let your leisure battery get fully discharged and completely run-flat.
Lead-acid batteries will slowly discharge even when stored. This is attributed to the leakage issues inside the battery. Therefore, batteries in storage should be recharged every three months.
Lithium batteries are resilient to spillage, so they do not have any such maintenance or charging requirements.
How to Charge Your Leisure Battery?
If you are relying on a trickle charger or in-house battery charger fitted in your caravan or motorhome to bring your battery to full charge, you are doing it wrong.
The built-in chargers in your motorhome are designed to run the appliances within. For charging your battery, the right way to do it is by using a proper battery charger.
Therefore, when you need to charge your leisure battery, remove the battery and charge it by connecting it to a battery charger.
A leisure battery is not something you want to experiment with. It costs a significant amount of money. So once you buy a leisure battery, you are stuck with it.
Therefore, we suggest you invest in a good leisure battery such as Eco Tree Lithium’s LFP batteries. They come with the latest technology and are far superior to any lead-acid battery.
1. Can I use a car battery instead of a leisure battery?
No, using a car battery instead of a leisure battery is not recommended. A car battery requires constant charging. Also, a car battery cannot provide power for a prolonged period of time as a leisure battery does.