Understanding what kind of power you need to drive your motorhome and to operate all its features can be confusing. Here, we break it down into simplified way, so you know how ensure you stay charged up throughout your holiday.
WHICH MOTORHOME BATTERY IS WHICH?
Most motorhomes will have two batteries. One is in the engine and powers the starter motor so you can efficiently get going each day. The other is a 12V deep cycle house battery. This is the source of power for a number of features in your motorhome, although some will vary from larger to smaller models. The 12V house battery supplies power to the fridge, house lights, stove top ignition for electric stoves, and the water pump. In some vehicles it also supplies power to the LCD screen, DVD player, rangehood in the kitchen, electric outdoor step, automatic awning, and toilet flush system. The 12V battery isolator switch must be on at all times to allow 12V appliances to operate. This is a squareish looking switch which has a large knob that you can easily turn to the ‘on’ position. This is usually located next to the fridge.The house battery is separate to the engine battery. So if the former is completely flat, your motorhome will still be able to start.
HOW DOES 12V STAY 'PUMPED UP'?
Powering all those items, especially the fridge, will drain the 12V battery. You can check the levels of charge in the house battery through a DC Volts Battery Monitor that will have been included with your motorhome. This is usually located with panels of switches for electrical appliances. Although the house battery receives a top-up charge whilst you are driving your motorhome, it is not sufficient to completely charge it up. So, you need to boost it regularly with 240V power. RV Sales Centre recommends you plug into 240V power at a campsite overnight every one to two days to avoid the house battery being completely drained.
WHAT DOES 240V DO THAT 12V CAN'T?
Let’s just say that 240V is the big brother of the two - it offers much more power and feeds other appliances and features that need more juice than a 12V battery can offer considering the power drain from the fridge, lights and other appliances.
In most vehicles, the 240V supplies power to the microwave, power outlets and the reverse cycle air-conditioner as well as the house battery charger.
HOW DO I CONNECT TO THE 240V TO CHARGE MY HOUSE BATTERY?
To connect to the 240V power, check that the main campsite power supply is turned off. This is a switch found on the underside of the holiday park’s permanent power units set up on each site. These are within reach of your motorhome’s 240V exterior plug connection. Insert the power cord into the motorhome’s connection, and then insert the other end of the cord into the campsite’s power. Then turn the power on. To unhook the cord, turn the power off first to be safe.
DON'T BE A POWER DRAINER
While on the road, you may free camp for a few nights where there is no mains power available. While this can save you money and offer a different type of experience than a holiday park, it pays to be power-conscious during those stays. Keep an eye on your battery levels and remember that plugging any appliance such as a mobile phone, camera or tablet in to the 12V socket in the cab while not driving will drain the engine battery.
Of course there is one other way to keep your batteries in good condition and fully charged - solar!