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Father's Day-CA

What Will The RV Battery Run?

How Does An RV Use Electricity From A Battery?

An RV uses electricity from a battery by using 12 volt appliances and electronics. Not every appliance in an RV is 12 volt, so not everything will work when you’re not plugged into shore power.

For instance, the air conditioner, wall outlets, microwave, and TV won’t work. Unless it’s a 12 volt TV. If your RV has one of those it should be able to run off the battery.

It’s important to know how everything in an RV gets power so you can plan for camping without power, also called boondocking or dry camping.

Related Product: Use a portable power station like the Jackery 1000 Plus (click to view on Amazon) to get 120 volt power when camping!

In this article I’ll go over all the appliances and electronics that can be powered using a 12 volt power source that will come from a 12 volt battery or 2 6 volt batteries connected in series.

I’ll also talk about how we plug our RV into shore power when boondocking using an inverter generator or a portable power station.

See Also: Best Portable Power Station/Solar Generator For Camping

What Will The RV Battery Run?

Lights

The first and most noticeable thing the RV battery will run is the lights.

Light is a necessity when camping. RV lights will work whether you are plugged into power or not.

Most camper lights fixtures are small. So you’d think they wouldn’t use much power or drain the RV battery fast, but in a lot of cases that isn’t true.

Unless your RV is only a few years old, it probably uses traditional incandescent light bulbs like these ones made by Camco (click to view on Amazon).

The problem with this kind of 12V light bulb is they aren’t very bright, and they use a lot of power for their size.

An incandescent camper light bulb uses 10-12 watts of power per bulb. It doesn’t sound like much until you have a bunch of them on to light your RV at night.

The light bulbs alone could be drawing around 120 watts an hour just by being on.

If you got your batteries from an RV dealer or haven’t bought high capacity ones you may only have around 600 usable watt hours or even less.

That means the RV lights will drain your batteries in just 5 hours.

See Also: Best Deep Cycle RV Batteries (AGM, SLA, 12V, 6V)

LED RV lights save power, are safer, brighter, and last longer.
How LED RV light bulbs look vs traditional incandescent ones.

One way you can greatly reduce the power draw of your RV’s light bulbs is to replace them with LEDs.

LED lights are not only brighter, longer lasting, and safer for RV use, they also use only 1/3 of the power. The average LED RV light bulb will only use around 3-4 watts of power.

In a lot of cases, you may only need to use one to replace two incandescent RV light bulbs because they are so much brighter.

We use AOICANKI RV LED Lights (click to view on Amazon) in our travel trailer and after 2 years of full-timing they are still going strong and none have needed replacement.

To compare them with the older kind of RV light bulb, 10 incandescent will use around 120 watts an hour, 10 LED bulbs will use at the most 40 watts an hour.

That’s 1/3 the power usage and an easy way to make your RV batteries last longer when dry camping.

Water Pump

The second most important thing you need to use in your RV is water.

The RV water pump is only going to use power when it’s running. Even if you shower, the power usage isn’t going to be very high.

The power usage difference between 12V RV water pumps is very low. Changing one out for a smaller or more energy-efficient one isn’t going to save you very much power.

See Also: How We Store & Transfer Extra Water To Our RV When Camping

The Shurflo 12V RV Fresh Water Pump (click to view on Amazon) is one of the most powerful water pumps you can get for an RV.

It has a flow of 3 gallons per minute and uses 7.5 max amps. If you ran it for an hour straight without stopping, it would only use a maximum of 90 watt hours.

Chances are your RV is using an even smaller pump than this one which means even less of a power draw.

If battery power is low, you can save a little electricity by limiting your water usage.

For instance, don’t take as many showers when dry camping/boondocking. Use a jug for drinking water so you don’t have to run the water pump every time you’re thirsty. Fill the sink to wash your dishes, simple things like that.

Range Hood

The stove in any RV has a vent hood with a light and fan that need power.

The light bulb is going to be a source of power draw as most RV 12V hoods usually have a high wattage incandescent light bulb in them.

The good news is you can usually replace these with the same LED light bulb that goes in the standard light fixtures in the RV.

6 Volt vs 12 Volt RV Batteries: The Pros & Cons Of Each

The fan uses about 20 watts an hour, which is pretty efficient.

Bathroom Fan

RVs have a wide range of bathroom fan sizes.

If you have the kind of vent with a small fan that takes up about 1/4 of the vent space, it will draw anywhere from 12-24 watts an hour when in use.

If your RV has a large bathroom fan like the Maxxair MaxxFan (click to view on Amazon) or a Fan-Tastic Vent RV Fan (click to view on Amazon) you can expect a power draw of anywhere between 20-60 watts depending on fan speed settings.

If you use the RV fan to keep air moving and cool the RV, remember power is being used and the fan is slowly draining the RV battery.

RV Fridge

One amazing thing about RV refrigerators is they can run on LP gas (propane) when not connected to electricity.

There’s usually two power buttons, gas and auto.

Gas means it will only run using propane, even when plugged into shore power.

Auto will switch the fridge to electrical whenever it’s plugged into a 120 volt power source.

The reason you might only want to use gas, even when connected to electricity is in case you are using a smaller power source like generator or portable power station.

The electrical part of an RV fridge has a fairly high power draw. It can overpower a generator or drain a portable power station really fast.

See Also: Best Portable Foldable Solar Panel Chargers For Camping

Even when switched to gas the RV fridge is going to use some 12V electricity to run the thermometer and electrical starter.

On average an RV fridge will use around 240 watts a day when on the gas setting.

That’s only 10 watts an hour but since the fridge has to run 24/7 there will be some drain to your RV batteries and there’s not much you can do about it.

RV Water Heater

All RV water heaters with a tank have an electrical and a propane option to heat the water.

When running on propane expect the water heater to use a tiny bit of electricity to run the thermometer and electric starter.

Much like the fridge, a water heater’s 120 volt electrical part uses a lot of power. Take the same precautions when plugging your RV inot a generator or portable power station.

See Also: Best Propane RV Tankless Water Heater Reviews

Furnace

The furnace in an RV uses propane to create heat but there is also a fan that blows that heat into the RV.

There are different sizes of RV furnaces that draw different amounts of power from the RV battery.

No matter what size of furnace you have, it can drain an RV battery really fast.

That’s why you can only run the furnace for a few hours when dry camping/boondocking. Keep an eye on your batteries so they don’t go below a safe discharge level whenever you’ve been using the furnace.

See Also: 6 Best Diesel Heaters For Campers, RVs & Vans

RV furnace and air conditioner thermostat that is run using the RV battery
The RV furnace will run on 12V power but not the air conditioner.

For more information on how long you can run the furnace with RV batteries check out this article here.

RV Propane Alarm

Every RV has to have a propane alarm in case there is a gas leak.

Gas leaks are extremely dangerous and you should check your propane alarm regularly to make sure it’s working.

Most RV propane alarms are wired to the RV batteries and use 12V power.

You should never let your RV batteries go completely dead because you want the gas alarm to be working at all times.

The RV Propane Gas Detector being run via the RV battery in a travel trailer
The RV Propane Gas Detector is usually located low to the ground. Be sure to check it often.

A modern RV propane alarm should only be using around 1-2 amps of power a day, that’s a max of 24 watts which is around 1 watt an hour.

It’s not much of a power draw but it’s still something that will slowly drain an RV battery over time.

That’s why you should remove your RV batteries when winterizing your RV because there are things like that RV propane alarm that will kill the batteries over the winter.

Radio

The RV radio and speakers use power from the RV batteries as well.

The amount of power draw is going to depend on how many speakers your RV has and how many you are using.

Many RVs have the option to use outside speakers, inside speakers, or all the speakers at the same time.

See Also: Best Outdoor Bluetooth Speakers Compared & Reviewed

The speaker’s quality, size, and kind will change the amount of power used.

Some larger outdoor RV speakers will use as much as 100 watts each. Smaller inside speakers will use only 50 watts each.

Either way, the power usage adds up. It’s something to think about when dry camping with limited battery power.

TV Antenna Booster

A lot of times the RV TV antenna can be boosted using electricity.

This is normally something you can turn on and off as needed. When turned on a red light will be shining.

A traditional RV antenna will use around 12 watts an hour. That adds up if it’s on all the time. It could take as much as 288 watts a day.

RV antenna booster located under the TV. Notice the red light is shining which means it's on.
RV antenna booster located under the TV. Notice the red light is shining which means it’s on.

If you accidentally leave the booster on that’s power being drawn from the RV batteries all the time.

Make sure you only use it when you need it and make sure it’s off after.

Slide & Jacks

RV slide-outs can take power from a few place. The tow vehicle if it’s plugged in, 12 volt battery, or 120 volt shore power.

It’s hard to say exactly how much power the slide-out motor uses because there are so many different sizes of slide-outs that use various motors.

To give you a basic idea, a slide-out motor is usually between 30-40 amps which means the watts drawn from the 12V battery will be anywhere from 360-480 watts.

Even if the slide motor only runs for a few minutes, it’s a high power draw from the RV battery.

RVs can have electric trailer stabilizer and tongue jack to think about too.

See Also: Best Electric Tongue Jack For Trailers (RV & A-Frame)

One way you can save power when using the slide-out or electric jacks is to use a vehicle. Do this by leaving the engine on if you’re in a motorhome. If it’s a trailer it needs to be plugged into a running vehicle.

The vehicle will power the slides and not rob power from the RV batteries.

If the RV battery dies while you’re out camping you can always use the engine to take in the slides so you can get home.

Using this same concept you can also charge your RV batteries in an emergency using your vehicle by plugging it in while the engine is running.

Electric Awning

If your RV has an electric awning this will also be run by the 12V RV battery. The motors are small and usually only draw about 2 amps or 24 watts.

12 Volt Television

Some RV’s will have a 12V plug near the television so you have the option to run a 12V TV if you want.

This is more common in class A or C RVs and 5th-wheels than it is in travel trailers.

If your RV does have a 12V television you can expect it to use around 2 amps/24 watts an hour if it’s a 19 inch TV.

More power will be used the larger the TV screen is.

See Also: Best Camper Wall Mount Stereo With RV DVD Player Review

What Won’t RV Batteries Run?

When heading out to go dry camping or boondocking expect your RV batteries to only run the appliances listed above.

You won’t be able to use the AC, microwave, electric water heater, electric fridge option, wall outlets, or TV in most cases.

If your RV has an electric fireplace this is usually is run on 120V power because they are normally plugged in using a wall outlet and not connected to the 12 volt system.

See Also: 12 Volt Air Conditioners That Can Be Powered With Batteries

How To Power An RV When Boondocking

You can use generators or portable power stations (solar generators) to plug in your RV to 120 volt power. This will charge the batteries and let you use the wall outlets.

Most campers go with the generator option which works well but they’re noisy, need to be maintained, and you have to bring fuel.

Large portable power stations than can output at least 500 watts (perferably 1000 watts) can also be used to plug an RV into 120 volt power.

It seems crazy to be able to plug an entire RV into a small power station, but it actually works really well.

We’ve been full time RV living for years using large 1000 watt portable power station charged with solar panels as our main power source.

We use a simple adapter to turn the 30 amp RV plug into a 20 amp plug. Then we just plug it directly into the power station.

See Also: Best Portable Power Station/Solar Generator For Camping

The larger 1000 watt and above power stations can run the microwave and sometimes even the RV AC.

I don’t recommend using them to power the fridge or electric water heater, but luckily they can be powered by propane.

You need to be aware of the power usage of the appliances and things plugged into the wall outlets, but it’s a fantastic way to get 120 volt power without having to use a noisy generator.

In our travel trailer we found where the 30 amp RV plug went into the RV. In our case it was under one of the bunk beds.

We split the cable and added a 30 amp outlet and a 30 amp plug so we could access the cable from inside.

Whenever we want to plug in the RV to our power station we can do it from inside using an extension cord.

We also charge the power station using solar panels on the roof.

Related: How To Install Solar Panel On RV Roof & Connect To Battery

The entire system can be used with almost zero set up. We can use the wall outlets and microwave by just turning on the power station.

Have any questions about 12V RV appliances and what your RV can run using the batteries? Leave a comment below.

by Jenni
Jenni grew up in a small town in Idaho. With a family that loves camping, she has been towing trailers since a very young age.

21 thoughts on “What Will The RV Battery Run?”

  1. Hi, thanks for the informative article. If I was to plug my 30 amp cord from the RV into a Jackery battery (with 30 to 20 amp adapter), would I be able to run small appliances through my RV’s interior outlets?

    Reply
    • Absolutely, the Jackery power stations have 15A outlets and how much you’ll be able to draw depends on which Jackery power station you have. If you plug it in and it doesn’t work it will be because the initial draw is too high for the Jackery inverter (since the converter/charger starts charging your house batteries) so you would need a larger model.

      I have used my Explorer 1000 this way with a Camco 15A to 30A adapter to power everything in my camper except the microwave and AC.

      Reply
  2. Question. Can I use my EGO power station with four 56volt 7.5 amp batteries as shore power for my 30amp RV? Meaning simply plug with an adapter the power station into the RV. When I asked the dealer his eyes glazed over.

    Reply
  3. Well first of all I’m as dum as a rock as to RV electronics. But if you are not running your fridge, AC, or water heater off the Goal Zero ( AC) why do you need shore power AC ( Goal Zero) other than your oven? Is not most every thing else DC? I replaced the single cheap Interstate battery with two very high end deep cycle batteries that are tied into the solar panels that came with my No Boundaries 19.2. The assumption is that would cover all my DC needs . Pending the sun.
    The Ego is 3000watt surge and 2000watt continues. And I’m asking the feasibility of using it for shore power. I would simply go from the 30amp trailer connection to the external EMS smart surge protector^ to the EGO…or in your case goal zero. Apparently our use of high end batteries to place generators is a New thing. EGO has about 2240 watt HOURS. But since you can hot swap batteries you are only limited by your budget, sun shine, and ability to haul them around.
    ^ call me paranoid

    Reply
    • We live in our camper full-time and work online, so we need to be able to power laptops, our Instant pot, coffee maker, George Foreman grill, TV, computer monitor, etc. We could plug it all into the Goal Zero directly, but it’s much nicer to plug the camper into the Yeti so all of the outlets are powered, and our camper batteries are charged at the same time.

      Sometimes we do run our fridge and water heater on electricity, but they quickly use so much of the 1045Wh in the Yeti that we don’t consider it worth it or feasible with our camper and limits.

      Yes, you’re only limited by those things. It’s definitely not impossible with enough solar panels and batteries, especially if you switch to propane on cloudy days.

      Reply
  4. That’s what I wanted to know. There didn’t seem to be much chatter on using your battery power station ( regardless of brand) as shore power. The only option for shore power offered was a generator. But if you conserve, take advantage of the sun, propane, shade, and have a enough battery capability I should be able to dry camp for short periods and still have limited AC power.
    Our area, a few months back went through a mandatory evacuation. But the government was fairly clueless just where to go. Or how to get there. Like the fairgrounds with no water, electricity, or sanitation. And gasoline lines were super clogged.
    Best always to keep your fuel tanks full. And be prepared to go dry camping for months with no exterior support, little warning ,and pandemonium all around.
    How pleasant it is depends on the 7 “P” rule. Combined with Murph’s law.

    Reply
  5. Jenn . I have a business idea. Boon docking 20’ travel trailers on my property for college football games. I live 1 mile from a major university. 15 travel trailers would be the maximum number i could have room for. Local rules and regulations would never allow me to run Even temperary electric to the trailers. What type of rv trailerS should i purchase to bring on and off my property each weekend with no electric hook up available. 2 full days of use would be the longest anyone will stay.

    Reply
    • Hi Dean,

      Sounds like an innovative idea. I think the size of the batteries would actually matter more than the type of trailers.

      You can check out this article here (click to go to) to read more about RV batteries and see some good options.

      Another idea just to get you started could be to allow people with campers to park on your property during game weekends. That way you don’t have to supply the trailers and the Rvers will take care of their own power needs.

      You could also become a host on a website called Boondockers Welcome (click to go to site) to make it easier for campers to find you.

      Just some suggestions. Good luck with the business idea!

      Reply
  6. My class A coach has the House batteries and the Chassis wired together, 4 total, i have a on/off switch for both. When i am hooked to my shoreline i always leave the batteries on. If i am dry camping should i turn off the Chassis batteries and just run off the House batteries?

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin,

      I would say yes because you don’t want to risk draining both your house and chassis batteries.

      Also, the chassis batteries are a different type of battery that isn’t made to be slowly discharged over time like a deep cycle RV house battery. You can still use the chassis batteries if you really need to, but you will end up having to replace them sooner than normal.

      Reply
  7. My question is why does my water pump (when its running) cause other 12v items to not have enough juice to run. Like my tv for example. And even the lights get dim. Mind you, this is even with 2 fully charged marine 12v batteries.

    Reply
    • Hi Robert,

      It sounds like you might have an overloaded 12 volt circuit if even the TV isn’t getting enough power when the pump is running.

      You could try cleaning the terminals on the batteries to make sure the connection is solid. I would also check the ground wire for the 12 volt system, sometimes it can come loose and cause the whole thing to act up.

      Some RVers will run dedicated 12 volt wires from the 12V relay or battery to the water pump so it’s not connected to the other 12 volt appliances in the RV. You can use this controller to do that (click to view on Amazon).

      Reply
  8. Got new battery, plugged in to electricity but I still have no electricity in some of my camper. Like slide frig lights outlets ect still won’t work. What is my problem?

    Reply
    • Very likely a GFCI plug needs to be reset. Sometimes there are several, sometimes even in the storage compartments. Check all plugs and reset all GFCIs.

      Reply
    • I think Jerry is right, sounds like a GFCI outlet has been tripped. Or a fuse could have blown.

      Check out this article for more information on resetting GFCI outlets.

      To check your fuses look inside the breaker fuse panel inside the RV. There should be a red light illuminated if one of the fuses isn’t working.

      Reply
  9. I have a small RV with a mini-frig. It runs on propane, but only at 5500 feet or below. I live at 7200 feet and want to camp in the summer at higher elevations. The frig won’t light with propane even at my home at 7200 feet. Have been researching online to see if a solar powered battery backup would allow me to plug in the trailer and run the frig on battery. Is this even possible? Any suggestions to solve this dilemma? In the summer I want to camp at higher elevations than where I live not at 5500 feet where it is hotter than you know what. Lived for many years in 1000 feet elevation in the AZ desert cities. Don’t want to go back in the summer. Thank you for any suggestions.

    Reply
    • A portable power station would work, but you would need a pretty big one with some solar panels to keep the fridge running 24/7.

      It mostly depends on how much power the mini fridge uses.

      One thing you could do is get a portable power station, solar panels, and a smaller 12 volt fridge.

      The 12 volt fridge should use less power than the camper mini fridge, and it can be powered by either a portable power station or the 12 volt RV battery.

      Reply

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