How Many Amp-hours do you need for Boondocking

Boondocking is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to travel the country. The biggest issue for the typical RVer when considering to go Boondocking is whether you have enough power to run the house systems. This is a common worry by many campers that have never been Boondocking before. 

There are two ways to power your RV when you’re boondocking. First, there’s using your generator, and second, using your battery bank. With generators, the wattage and the gallons of gas will tell you how long you can run your appliances. One of their biggest concerns is if batteries have enough power to run everything in a rig. 

We look at this plus more in this article. 

How Many Amp-Hours Does an RV Need 

Running an RV is much like running a home. However, even with hookups, it is almost impossible to run all the appliances at once. To run all your RV appliances could require as much as 3000 watts. But you are rarely running all your appliances at the same time. 

For some devices like electric heaters or coffee makers, you will only be using them for a couple of minutes in a day. Appliances like your refrigerator can run for hours while you can run a Tv for two hours a night for the occasional movie or sitcom. 

Battery capacity is indicated using Ah. Amp-hours is a measure of the charge stored in a battery and is a measurement of the number of Amps a battery can provide over a period of time (an hour). 

In order to get the number of Amp-hour required you’ll first need to get the power requirements of your appliances and convert them to Ah. 

How many Amp-hours does a Refrigerator use?

Depending on its RV size a fridge uses about 150 to 300 watts of power per hour.  The compressor is the biggest consumer of electricity in a refrigerator and runs at least 4 hours a day. That’s why the maximum power consumption of the refrigerator runs. 

So a 200-watt refrigerator with good energy management can consume less than 2000 watts-hours in a day. This is because the 200-watts is the starting requirement however the running watts will be quite lower.  

A watt-hour is a unit of measurement of energy. It is equivalent to 1-watt of power over an hour. Some batteries will have an indication of watt-hours as well which can things straightforward. 

But in our case, we need to convert the Watt-hours to Amp-hours. To convert watt-hours to amps you divide the watt-hours by the voltage of the battery. RV batteries are typically 12v

So in order to run our refrigerator, we’ll need;

1500 Wh/ 12v =  125 Ah

If you were to consider a freezer you will need half of that. A typical freezer will use about 100 watts per hour, and you would need 100 AH of storage capacity if it were one cubic. 

How Many Amp-Hours for Boondocking

This is a list of essential appliances when boondocking with the Wattage and Daily Watt-hour requirements.

Appliance Wattage Daily Watt-Hour Requirements
Refrigerator 200 3200
Lights 40 160
Mini Fan 40 400
Electric Water Heater 1200 300
Laptop 60 300
TV 30 150
Water Pump 60 300

The total wattage requirement for our example above is 2330 watts and the total watt-hour requirement is 4810 Watt-hours.  To calculate watt-hours you simply multiply the wattage by the number of hours you are running the device. 

Again to get the Amp-hours we will divide the total watt-hours by the voltage. 

4810 Watt-Hours/12v =  400 Ah

So to run all your appliances in a day you’ll need 400 Amp-hours of battery capacity which is a lot in terms of space, price, and weight on your RV. 

Deep cycle battery amp-hours 

An RV uses a deep-cycle battery. This type of battery is designed to be discharged and recharged many times. A deep cycle battery is characterized by thicker and fewer plates. There is less surface to react with the electrolyte so the current release is slower therefore ideal for a steady draw.

This applies to lead-acid batteries. The major drawback of using lead acid is that you can only discharge them up 50% of its capacity. So our 400 amp-hour requirement actually becomes 800 amp-hours. This is almost 7 AGM batteries. 

This is why the best battery for boondocking is lithium-ion batteries in this case Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries. 

A LiFePO4 battery is a lithium-iron-phosphate battery, which is a type of rechargeable battery that has come to replace AGM deep cycle batteries. This is because it has a number of advantages over other types of batteries. 

One advantage is that it has a higher power density, meaning that it can store more energy in a given space than other types of batteries. Another advantage is that it is more stable and safer than other types of batteries. Finally, LiFePO4 batteries can be charged and discharged more times than other types of batteries, making them more durable. 

How Many Lithium Batteries do I need for my RV

Because lithium batteries can be discharged up to 90% of their capacity you can match with the 400 Ah requirement and get two 200 Ah batteries. 

You can also get away with using one 200 Ah lithium-ion battery. This is because lithium-ion batteries are really efficient at charging and can take up to 50% of the capacity when charging and fully recharging the battery in two to three hours. 

This means that you can use your high wattage appliances early in the morning or afternoon when the sun is out and using solar panels can fully recharge the battery in a few hours.

Other Components You’ll Need for RV Battery Bank Set up

The battery does not work alone and you’ll need a number of components to keep the system running. 

Inverter

An inverter is a device that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). The input voltage, output voltage and frequency, and overall power handling depend on the design of the specific device or circuitry.

The inverter wattage rating is the maximum amount of power that an inverter can supply. The inverter must be able to handle the wattage of the devices being powered. If the inverter is not rated for the devices being powered, it can overheat and damage the devices. 

Also, make sure the inverter can to handle the surge wattage of the devices being powered.

Charge Controller 

A charge controller is a device that regulates the flow of electricity from a solar panel to a battery. It prevents the battery from being overloaded and damaged by the solar panel.

Solar Generator for Boondocking

A better solution to upgrading to lithium would be going for a Lithium Power station or Solar generator. To run smoothly on your RV included with the lithium battery is the charge controller, a display meter, 12v plugs, and fuses all in one box. You won’t need to do any wiring and everything will be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. It will also include the input plugs that can be used for onshore power, regular power, or solar panels. 

Some solar generators will have a 30 amp power shore plug that can connect your cord directly and power all your RV appliances. You can also be still running off your AGM battery bank to run your other appliances and use your power station to run high-demand appliances like Microwaves, coffee makers, and AC. But this will be dependent on the size of the solar generator.

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