Ever wonder what runs on a battery in a travel trailer? Well, most of the safety features and conveniences you enjoy in your travel trailer run by the battery.
Even when connected to shore power, you will need a 12 volt battery to operate most appliances and features in your RV.
Basic features such as lights, smoke detectors, and even your furnace are all run by the battery. Without your battery, you could be left in the dark, cold, and with reduced safety features.
When thinking about it, it makes sense to have the critical systems function on a battery. Especially when you use your travel trailer for boondocking. It wouldn’t be too peaceful if you always had to be connected to a generator just to use your lights or get some water out of the faucet.
Also, DC power from your camper battery allows for smaller wires and smaller motors. This is a great feature for manufacturers as it allows less weight, less space to hide motors, and easier wiring practices.
Table of Contents
- RV Battery
- What Runs Off the Battery in a Travel Trailer
- Final Thoughts
This post will review all the components and appliances that run off your travel trailer battery. Whether you have regular lead acid battery, AGM battery, or lithium battery, the post below applies as they are all 12V systems used in your RV. Below we will first review the two most common RV battery types.
Deep Cycle Battery
The battery in your travel trailer is a deep cycle battery. These are what we consider flooded batteries. They are an acid battery that are flooded with acid and will have several lead plates. They are also put together in cells or a battery bank. There are 8 cells in each battery at 1.5V. Times that by 8, you get the 12 volt battery power.
Recently, gel batteries or AGM batteries have made their way into the RV world. These batteries are similar in the 12 volt power they provide. But they are better in that they take the bouncing of trailer better than an acid battery and they also have a longer battery life.
What Runs Off the Battery in a Travel Trailer
Below are 16 components and appliances that depend on your battery to provide power. These are found in most modern travel trailers.
Your water pump is just a motor that spins and creates water pressure. This water pressure is what you need to get your water flowing when you get water from your tank (when not hooked up to city water).
You may also notice that sometimes your water pump runs intermittently or is not turning off very quickly. This usually means you have air in the line, and the pump is not getting the set pressure to turn off.
When you notice this unneeded running of the water pump, ensure all the air is out of the lines by turning on all the faucets. Otherwise, you can run your house battery down fairly quickly as your water pump does use some amps and will drain your battery quickly. Not to mention it add heat and stress to your pump and can reduce its life of the pump.
All of your interior lights operate on 12V DC power. Regardless if you have incandescent or new LED bulbs, they all run on 12v.
One thing to watch out for is low battery voltage. When you don’t have enough voltage from your battery, you could have some weird things happen. Incandescent bulbs usually will get dim, while LED bulbs may flicker. For more information, see my post on why RV lights are flickering.
Besides your interior lights, all of your exterior lights are 12V battery power. This is not only the lights you turn on to illuminate the night, but also all of your safety lights, including your brake lights and running lights.
Even when connected to your tow vehicle, you are operating all of these safety features through your travel trailer or tow vehicle battery.
Your slide-out also only operates on battery power. This is a great feature, because if you are like most RVgoers, you usually set up your travel trailer, get the slides out and then connect to shore power.
If this motor relied on AC power alone, you would need to set up and connect to shore power or get the generator running just to set up camp. This is especially handy when boondocking as there is no electricity anyways, yet you can set up camp without finding an ac power source.
For more info on slides and battery power they use, visit my post on how many watts an RV slide uses.
Your awning also runs on your RV battery. The small dc powered motor and smaller wires allow the motor to be tucked away within the awning framing. This gives the awning a nice, low-profile look. If the awning used an ac powered motor, the motor would be bigger and the wires would be larger and need more waterproofing. This would get away from the nice slim appearance of awnings.
There are two kinds of leveling jacks, manual and battery-powered.
Manual leveling jacks are nice for smaller campers as they are simple and dependable. They are gears, and you are the battery by cranking it up or down. Not much to go wrong unless you hurt your arm and can’t crank.
Battery-powered leveling jacks are even better. I must admit, I used to have a manual jack and got by for a while. But once I went to a power jack, it was a game changer. Especially when trying to hitch up and get your sway bar system connected.
Nothing like the sounds at a campground on a Sunday morning when all the travel trailers are using their power jacks. It’s the all-familiar sound of packing up and getting ready to hit the open road again.
Another game changer on newer travel trailers is power stabilizers. It was a great added feature not to need to get down on my knees with a power drill and a 3/4” socket to get my stabilizers set.
The new power stabilizers also run on battery power. And that is a good thing for the quick set-up while boondocking. It would not be a good time to start the generator to stabilize the camper.
Let’s get back in the camper now and look at some more of the interior appliance that runs on 12V battery power. If you have a kitchen, you likely have a hood fan.
A hood fan is great for eliminating all that smoke while cooking. It is also great at getting that excess moisture out of your camper. Especially in such a tight space, a small meal can add a lot of moisture and smoke, which is something you need to get out of your travel trailer as soon as possible.
You also have exhaust fans for your bathroom and shower. This small motor can easily be hidden within the fan itself.
If that exhaust fan were ac power powered, it would be a larger motor with larger wires. It would look more like your exhaust fan in a house bathroom, which are much bigger, heavier, and require more wiring.
Did you know that your furnace needs battery power to run? Although your furnace uses propane as a fuel source, it uses the battery as a power source.
Propane makes the heat, and the battery operates the blower motor that pushes that warm air throughout your travel trailer.
For information on this, visit my post on can I run my RV furnace on 110.
Many new travel trailers come with USB ports. These great power features can power up your phones and tablets.
These USB ports also run on battery power. Your phone and tablet are low-voltage appliances that are battery-powered as well. Having the USB as battery power makes sense, in my opinion.
There are two kinds of RV fridges, those that run on electricity only and ones that run on battery and propane.
It’s true; some fridges run on propane, and many travel trailers come with them standard.
This is a great feature when boondocking, as you can keep your fridge running without using a generator constantly running and ticking off the neighbors.
This reminds me of friends who came camping with us in their new camper. We went to a nice place in the National Forest, but there was no electricity. Once we set up, my buddy came to my site and asked how I plugged in my fridge. I told him I didn’t need to; mine runs on battery and propane.
He then looked at his fridge and realized his was electricity only. We had to run a generator for most of the day to keep his fridge cold. Needless to say, our camping neighbors were not happy. If you plan on boondocking, I highly suggest you consider a battery and propane-powered fridge.
Just like a home, smoke detectors work off of a battery. Instead of the 9V rectangular disposable battery like a house detector, your RV detector is hard-wired to the 12V battery in your camper.
Carbon Monoxide detectors
This is the same for carbon monoxide detectors, which also run on your RV battery.
Have you ever had a low RV battery and heard a beeping? Just like a house battery, when these detectors are low in voltage, they will beep to get your attention.
Your RV radio and sound system run on a 12v battery. These radios are similar to car or truck radios as they run off the battery power system.
You could even replace your RV radio with a car radio if you wanted to. The speakers and power supply would all work just fine. You may need separate harnesses and wiring connectors, but a car’s overall power is the same.
Many new travel trailers come pre-wired, where you can add a backup camera. This is that oval-looking black box at the top back of your travel trailer. That plastic oval is an empty box in most cases and has wires should you buy the camera system.
Should you choose to use the backup camera, the wires provided for easy hook-up are powered by your battery.
The battery operates the control panel with all the light-up switches that manage your water pump, slides, and lights. The light within those switches is 12v power switches. Without your battery, those switches would not light.
Ever look into your breaker box and see both circuit breakers and fuses? A tip to know is that the breakers are all for your 120V ac power appliances. That is for things such as your air conditioner or outlets. These are usually grouped together, one after another.
On the other hand, you will see a group of fuses. These fuses are for all of your battery-supplied appliances. If there ever is an issue with your 12V system and you suspect it is a fuse, go to this area and check out which fuse may need to be replaced. They are usually labeled and easy to track down depending on what is not working. For more info on RV fuses, visit my post on converter fuses.
Here is a tip. Breakers (ac power) can be tripped and put back into the “on” position to regain power. When a 12v fuse is blown, it must be replaced to work again. It is always a good idea to have extra fuses with you in your RV in case this happens. Remember, these fuses have different amp ratings, and it is important to match and replace them with the same.
For more great info on RV batteries and voltage, visit my post on the difference between 6V and 12V RV batteries.
The battery is very important to the overall function of your travel trailer. Most travel trailer creature comforts and safety systems are run by the battery. Your battery powers appliances such as your furnace and lights. And without that power, you could be left in the dark and cold.
Tony is an avid camper and RV traveler. He fell in love with camping on his first RV trip with his wife over 25 years ago. Tony loves sharing lessons learned and tips about RV maintenance and safe traveling.