Do RV Batteries Charge When Plugged into Shore Power?

Finally! Although you got lost twice, you’ve now arrived at a campsite. You’re excited to take a break from driving, but more so, you can’t wait to plug your RV into a source of shore power. Can you charge your ailing RV battery on shore power, or do you need another electricity source?

RV batteries will charge when plugged into shore power. If you’re using a basic stock converter, then it could be upwards of eight hours before the battery is fully charged. A four-stage smart converter can charge your RV battery in as little as two hours.

There’s still lots more to discuss ahead, such as how often to charge your RV batteries and whether you can keep your RV plugged into shore power even when you’re not using it. Make sure you keep reading!  

What Is Shore Power?

When you connect your RV to shore power, exactly what kind of power source are you using? 

Shore power, sometimes spelled as shorepower, was originally created to power ships when they had to turn off their auxiliary and main engines. Over time, other vehicles began utilizing shore power as well, including private boats, trucks, buses, trains, aircraft, and RVs and trailers.

You’re likeliest to find shore power at a campsite or park. There’s a receptacle for your RV to connect to. Think of the receptacle as your phone charger and your RV as the phone. Once you’re plugged in, your vehicle gets power.

Shore power uses alternating current or AC power that’s sourced from the nearby electrical grid. AC power is different than the 12-volt power your RV batteries provide. Once your RV is plugged into the receptacle via a power cord, the stock converter will transform the 110 volts of AC current into 12 volts of direct current or DC power.

You can usually select from three levels of shore power: 20 amps for smaller trailers and RVs (such as class Bs), 30 amps for medium-sized trailers and RVs, and 50 amps for class A RVs and hefty travel trailers. 

If you have only one air conditioning unit onboard your RV, then 30 amps suffice. For those RVers with two ACs, you need 50 amps of power. You must know your power requirements ahead of time, as depending on the amperage, the plugs are different.

For 30 amps, the RV plug will be triple-pronged. A 50-amp plug has four prongs. The receptacle at your park or campsite could have outlets for all three types of amperage plugs, hence why you need to know which is which. 

Outside of a converter, many RVers who know they’ll use shore power usually bring three other accessories: an adapter, a surge protector or surge guard, and a voltmeter.

The adapter is for situations where you need more power than what your amperage plug allows. If your RV runs on 50 amps of power but you want 30 amps, you can use the adapter for your power needs. These adapters are called dog-bone adapters. 

Surge protectors are like those you have back at home for your computer or other valuable electronics. The surge guard protects your RV from sudden power surges that can cause outages.  

Voltmeters determine how much power is being delivered to your RV at any one time. The rule of thumb is to use your voltmeter every time you plug into a source of shore power, even if you’ve used that shore power before. You can never be too careful! 

Does Shore Power Charge RV Batteries?

Now that you’re clearer on what shore power is and how it works, let’s get back to our main question. When your RV is plugged into an external power source, like shore power, will your RV batteries charge? 

They will indeed!

That’s true whether yours are lithium batteries or deep-cycle batteries. We talked a bit about the difference between the RV battery types in a recent post, so let’s recap now.

Lithium RV batteries require less maintenance between the two types. They’re also tinier and weigh less. You can get up to 5,000 charges on a lithium battery before you have to replace it, but the cost to do so is often quite high.

Deep-cycle batteries are lead-acid RV batteries that keep the power going reliably and consistently, albeit not in large bursts. Instead, you get less power over the long term. This causes deep-cycle batteries to be good for about 400 charges on average. 

To reiterate what we said before, RV batteries use 12-volt DC power whereas shore power is 110 volts of AC power. A stock converter will make the AC power into DC power so your batteries can charge. 

How Long Do RV Batteries Take to Charge on Shore Power? 

You’re all plugged into your shore power at the campground. For the sake of planning your itinerary, you need to know how long it will take for your batteries to reach a full charge. Are you going to be waiting around only for an hour or will it be a lot longer?

That depends on the strength of your converter. Stock converters don’t charge RV batteries quickly. If anything, the stock converter allows the shore power to recharge the RV battery in little more than a trickle. 

As you can probably guess, this is not a quick means of charging your RV battery in the slightest. 

How long your battery will take to fully recharge depends on how much you depleted it in the first place. If half of your battery is drained or more, then a stock converter could require at least eight hours to recharge your battery to 100 percent or thereabouts. 

If you’re staying at a campsite for a weekend or longer, then it’s not such a big deal to have to keep your RV tethered to one place for at least eight hours. For those RVers who need to be on the road again before sunrise, then you need a faster means of charging.

We recommend a four-stage smart charger like the Go Power! GPC-75-MAX. The 75-amp converter and battery charger can charge eight batteries at a time in a bank. Its male plug, which is 20 amperes, allows for quick and easy setup every time.

With a four-stage smart charger such as the Go Power!, you could reduce your RV battery charging time by about six hours.  

Is Shore Power Free?

One of the appeals of RVing, at least to you, is saving money. You seek out inexpensive campsites and park grounds whenever you can find them. You certainly want to use shore power to recharge your RV battery and enjoy some electricity while you’re camping, but you worry about the cost. 

What will you pay to plug into shore power, or is it free? 

No, shore power usually isn’t free. When you pay to stay at a park or a campsite, part of your fee goes towards electricity. After paying, you can then use shore power as needed, at least to an extent. Campgrounds might have limitations on how long you can plug your RV in or how much power you can use. 

If you’re not sure of the shore power rules at your campsite or park, we recommend visiting their website or picking up the phone to inquire. You don’t want to be the person who sucks up too much power that everyone else needs! 

How Often Should You Recharge RV Batteries?

Woohoo! Thanks to shore power, you just got your RV batteries charged close to 100 percent. How long will it be until you have to charge them again? 

That depends. How often do you use your RV batteries? More than likely, the answer is every day you’re camping. For how many hours of the day though? Do you keep the power running all night so you can charge your phone or run a white noise machine that helps you sleep?

The more important question is what are you using the batteries for? A white noise machine doesn’t demand that much wattage compared to keeping your fridge plugged in all day. Running an air conditioner is the biggest power suck of all. 

Another question you should ask yourself is how much juice does the RV battery have? You wouldn’t charge your smartphone at 60 percent, and you shouldn’t do the same with your RV battery either. Instead, allow the batteries to drop down between 45 and 50 percent and then charge them. 

Keep in mind that your RV batteries will always discharge, which is much the same as your smartphone battery. This means your battery will slowly yet surely deplete on its own even if you’re not using it. That too should go into your decision about when to charge the battery. 

How to Prevent Your Battery from Dying When Winterized?

Unless you live in or travel to consistently warm climates, then the time will inevitably come every year when you have to give your camper a break. The winterization process preserves much of your vehicle until the spring comes, but you worry about your batteries. How do you prevent coming back to dead batteries in your camper?

When winterizing your camper, be sure to take the battery out. Bring it home, store it in a warm environment, charge it when necessary, and then check the battery levels about weekly until spring arrives.

To read more click here.

What about Generators and Solar Panels?

Just as the battery will charge when hooked up to shore power, it will charge if using a generator or solar panels.

Using both solar panels and generators as a power source for an RV or camper have their pros and cons, but solar power is a cleaner energy. You’re not releasing emissions into the environment, and you’re enjoying power in a much quieter and more sustainable way.

To read the pros and cons of both, click here.

Should You Keep Your RV Plugged in When Not in Use?

You’ve found the goldmine, a campsite with affordable shore power and long-term rates. You’ll stay for the next several weeks and you couldn’t be more thrilled. 

If you’ve been boondocking or dry camping for a long time, the sight of a shore power receptacle is like spotting a mirage of water in the middle of a dry desert. You’re not going to want to unplug from the shore power unless you absolutely have to.

Maybe you get a little carried away and keep your RV plugged into the shore power outlet with electricity running even when you’re not inside. Is this wasteful or is it okay to do?

We don’t recommend it for several reasons.

You’re Wasting Electricity 

First, let’s be clear, it is wasteful. When you’re at home, do you leave the lights on in rooms that you’re not in? Do you turn the TV on in an empty room? Of course not. You’re wasting electricity, and for your punishment, you’d have a higher utility bill.

Since there are no utility bills mailed to your RV, it’s easy to think of it differently. However, being wasteful is being wasteful whether you’re at home or in the cozy, quiet comfort of your RV. 

You’re Unnecessarily Straining Devices

Another reason why you wouldn’t leave your TV on at home when you’re in another room is that these electronics are only rated to last for so many hours. For most televisions, it’s 30,000 to 60,000 hours, which is supposed to get you upwards of seven years out of your TV.

When you wastefully run electronics and appliances, you chew into their lifespan. If you’re okay with doing that, then more power to you, but it will cost you more money later down the line. 

You Could Overcharge the Battery

If you’re still not totally convinced that you shouldn’t leave your RV plugged into shore power when you’re out enjoying nature, we think this will change your mind. Depending on your RV, this can overcharge your batteries.

You know how you’re not supposed to leave your smartphone plugged in overnight past when it reaches 100 percent? There’s a reason for that. Overcharging begins to age the battery, which means it will fail you sooner.

Of course, smartphones use lithium-ion batteries, whereas for RVs, you already know it’s a lithium or deep-cycle battery. Even still, the logic isn’t all that different.

Overcharging an RV battery can affect the electrolytes within. Their levels start to drop, which means the battery doesn’t last as long as a fresh one would. Although you can pour in more water to renew the electrolytes, the damage you’ve caused to the battery is permanent. That battery will never quite charge as well again.

Outside of avoiding overcharging from shore power, make sure that you remove your battery before you winterize your RV for the offseason. The months of overcharging could also destroy your battery’s capacity. 

If your RV comes with a charging system that can safely trickle charge the battery, then you can safely leave your battery hooked up, even over long periods of time.

Final Thoughts 

RV batteries will charge when plugged into shore power, so use this opportunity to power them back up after a period of dry camping. We’d recommend a four-stage smart converter for faster charging. 

Whether you’re boondocking or you have a power source, taking care of your RV batteries is integral. We hope the tips in this article help!

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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