How to Charge RV Batteries 4 Different Ways (Fastest Way Revealed)

One of the major advantages of camping in an RV is the ability to bring those comforts of home with you – electrical appliances, lights, gadgets, and so on.

And one of the main ways to power these electrical devices are with your RV’s house batteries.

This is why it’s essential to keep them charged and in good working condition.

So, let’s learn how to charge RV batteries using four different methods to ensure you never run out of power in your RV.

How Do I Charge My RV Battery?

An RV’s battery is charged when connected to a 120v electrical outlet (like a shore power pedestal at a campground), by an onboard or external generator, the motorhome or tow vehicles alternator, or solar power.

Let’s break these down in more detail and learn how to use each method to charge your RV’s batteries.

Power Converter/Charger

Arguably, the most common way to charge RV batteries is through its onboard power converter or a battery charger when hooked up to a 120v electrical outlet, like on a shore power pedestal at a campground, for example.

Related: Does an RV Battery Charge When Plugged Into Shore Power?

Charging RV batteries with shore power is an automatic process. Simply plug the RVs power cord into a 120v AC electrical outlet, and the batteries will start charging, if needed, through your RV’s power converter/charger. This converter converts the AC power to DC power so your batteries can charge properly.

You can also charge your RV’s 12-volt batteries with an external “smart” battery charger, which depending on the charger model, can shorten the amount of time it takes to charge your RV batteries on shore power. In fact, a high-amperage battery charger plugged into a 120v outlet is arguably the fastest way to charge an RV battery.

And don’t worry if your camper has 6v batteries, as they will be wired together in pairs to create 12 volts.

Important: We are talking about charging your RVs deep-cycle house batteries. Depending on the make and model of your motorhome, your RV battery system may (or may not) be designed to charge your chassis battery.

This method is also used to trickle charge your lead-acid battery while your RV is in storage for the winter. It’s crucial to trickle charge these types of batteries as it helps to avoid sulfation and extend their service life.

Because it’s a critical step to winterize your camper, let’s quickly look at how to trickle charge RV batteries in storage step-by-step:

Important: When working on or near lead-acid batteries, be sure to wear safety goggles and protective gloves.

  1. Remove the battery from your recreational vehicle
  2. Fully charge the battery
  3. Depending on the battery type, you may need to check the water levels and fill if needed (do not fill AGM batteries with water)
  4. Store the battery in a warm location, preferably indoors
  5. Attach a battery maintainer or battery tender to keep it charged during storage
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Generator

Another fast way to charge your RV batteries is with an RV generator, whether that be an onboard generator or a portable generator.

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Simply connect the RV power cable to the generator’s 30 amp/120-volt power outlet, just as you would a shore power pedestal, and your RV batteries will start recharging. Keep in mind, if your generator features a 220-volt outlet, you’ll need an adapter.

Of course, that’s just a high-level overview. Check out our guide on how to charge an RV battery with a generator for the full step-by-step process, complete with important safety precautions.

Vehicle Alternator

Another option is to charge your RV batteries while driving using the alternator on your truck, or any tow vehicle, with a 7 pin travel trailer plug.

If you have a motorhome, the alternator should automatically charge both your house and vehicle batteries while the engine is running (in most models).

With that in mind, don’t expect your vehicle’s alternator to provide a fast charge to your RV batteries while on the road.

So, how long does it take to charge RV batteries?

A long time, as your standard, out-of-the-box setup, is more of a trickle charge than anything.

But, you can drastically speed up the charging process by adding a DC to DC battery charger to your vehicle’s charging system. Essentially, this boosts the charging amps from around 5 amps to 20 amps, providing a quicker charge from your alternator to your house batteries.

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Check out our guide on how to charge an RV battery while driving with a DC to DC charger for instructions and tips to install this fast-charging system.

Solar Power

The sun is a free and convenient energy source, allowing you to charge your RV batteries and operate electrical devices without needing a generator or anywhere where shore power isn’t accessible.

Essentially, a solar-power charging system will look like this diagram.

How to Connect a Solar Panel to a Battery and Inverter Diagram
How to Connect a Solar Panel to a Battery and Inverter Diagram

Most RV’s don’t come with a solar charging setup, so there is a bit of up-front investment to get the necessary supplies for a complete solar system (solar panels, solar charge controller to regulate voltage, wires, etc.). And there can be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to the installation process of solar panels on your RV.

However, we covered in detail how to install a solar-power system using the Renogy Complete RV Solar System Kit. This kit comes with everything you need to get your solar system up and running in no time.

So, check out our guide on How to Hook up Solar Panels to RV Batteries for the exact step-by-step process, along with an instructional video to help you get everything set up correctly.

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What Is the Best Way to Charge RV Batteries?

The best way to charge RV batteries will depend on what’s available to you at that moment, how fast you need your batteries recharged, and a host of other factors. Typically, the best way to charge your RV batteries from a campsite or at home is to use your shore power cord plugged into a 120-volt outlet (like the shore power pedestal or wall outlet).

If you’re boondocking with no access to electricity, a generator or RV solar charger will be the best way to charge your batteries.

Related: Best RV Battery for Boondocking & Dry Camping

Lastly, if none of the above are an option, then you can rely on your vehicle’s alternator to recharge your camper’s batteries.

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