RV battery trickle charger

The 5 Best RV Battery Trickle Chargers For Optimal Battery Lifespan

Many RV travelers have made the huge mistake of putting their rig into storage in the off season without using an RV battery trickle charger, only to come back a few months later to a dead battery. This is due to every deep cycle battery’s self-discharge, and is detrimental to both the performance and longevity of your house battery.

While premature battery replacement is extremely expensive, simply using the best trickle charger for RV battery will maintain your battery at full charge, thus keeping it in tip top condition for longer and potentially save you a lot of money. 

To save you time, here’s an in-depth review of the five best RV battery trickle charger models for topping off your battery when you put your RV into storage. These can be left plugged in the entire time to safely keep your battery at full charge without overcharging or overheating the battery, thus maximizing your battery life and performance. The novice will also learn about important buying considerations and find clear cut answers to common questions. 

RV Battery Trickle Chargers: Quick Recommendations

Why You Need To Trickle Charge Your RV Battery

All types of deep cycle house batteries are prone to an unavoidable problem called natural discharge or self-discharge. This irreversible process of internal chemical reactions reduces the amount of charge stored in the battery without any connection between the electrodes or any external circuit. 

This is why even if you did charge the battery to full capacity before putting your RV into storage, if you leave it alone for too long without regularly checking its state of charge and charging it when needed, you might come back to a severely depleted or completely dead battery. 

Such negligence will kill your expensive battery bank off prematurely. Remember the rule for any type of deep cycle batteries: although deep cycle batteries are technically designed to withstand a 80% depth of discharge, they should be recharged when they are depleted down to about 50% capacity to ensure a long life.

To make up for such self discharging, you will need to use a trickle charger for RV battery during the whole time your RV is in storage. These chargers will slowly and steadily top up your battery pack at a rate just sufficiently to make up for the battery’s self discharge rate, thus keeping the battery at full capacity and maximizing its longevity. The best camper battery trickle charger models these days can be plugged in 24/7 without the risk of overheating and overcharging your precious house battery bank. 

Another reason you should not leave your lead-acid batteries without charging for an extended period is that they run the risk of rapid sulfation if left uncharged for too long. Sulfation is a natural process that happens with every lead-acid battery over time, where lead sulfate crystals build up on a battery cell. However, rapid sulfation is undesirable, as the battery will accept far less current than normal. 

The battery will usually start to accept increasing amounts of current until a certain current level is reached, but up to a point it will not respond even to higher charge voltages than recommended levels. If this happens, the battery won’t ever recover and thus needs to be replaced.

How to trickle charge RV batteries? Generally, you just clamp on the positive and negative clamps, plug the trickle charger into an outlet, and let it run. The best trickle charger for RV battery are automatic, that is they can adjust accordingly to the battery for optimal charging, while some others might require you to do some additional settings beforehand depending on the type and specifications of your house battery.

best trickle charger for RV battery
Photo: 2016 CC7 / Shutterstock

RV Battery Trickle Charger vs Regular Chargers

It’s important to know the difference between an RV battery trickle charger and a regular deep cycle battery charger, so that you will strictly use a trickle charger only during storage and use a regular deep cycle battery charger while you’re traveling.

Most regular deep cycle battery chargers these days charge the battery in three or four distinct stages at four different current levels for the shortest charging time. This stepped model also ensures that a deep cycle battery will better maintain its charge as well as maximize battery lifespan in the long run. In the first stage, the charger will deliver more current to the battery when it is deeply discharged to quickly restore it and then in the later stages, slowly tapers off the charging speed as the battery reaches full capacity. Once the battery reaches 100%  capacity, the charger will supply a constant low current level that’s just sufficient to offset the battery’s self-discharge. 

A regular battery charger is thus used when you’re traveling and the battery is depleted due to the power draw from those electronics in your rig. These smart chargers will supply your battery with the suitable amount of current depending on how deeply discharged the battery is at any given time, which is both efficient and healthy for the battery.

Meanwhile, an RV battery trickle charger will deliver a slow, steady and constant charge of only 1 or 2 amps of power in most cases, which is just enough to tackle most battery’s self discharge rate. This means that it’s most suitable for maintaining a fully charged battery at full charge over an extended period. If you use a battery trickle charger to charge a depleted battery in place of a regular charger, it will take forever for the battery to reach full capacity. 

Trickle Charger vs Battery Tenders

A trickle charger for RV battery is not the same as a battery tender, although they are quite often thought of as one. They are indeed quite similar, but they still work a bit differently and thus are used for different purposes.

An RV battery trickle charger supplies a constant low charge current at a steady rate, which is just enough to offset the battery’s self discharge rate. Once you power the trickle charger, it will charge the battery at this constant rate regardless of whether there’s an active draw on the battery or not. This makes a battery trickle charger a straightforward solution for topping off a deep cycle battery bank when you put your RV into storage and strictly does not use anything inside that would demand electricity. 

Meanwhile, a battery tender can detect how depleted your battery is and charge it at an optimal current until it is full. Once the battery is full, it then goes into float mode to keep the battery at full capacity. In float mode, it delivers a constant low current to sufficiently offset the battery’s self discharge rate, just like what a trickle charger does. In short, a battery tender is a bit smarter, and allows for more versatile use in different applications and camping settings.

5 Best RV Battery Trickle Chargers: In-Depth Review

Selecting the best trickle chargers for your budget is not the most complicated business ever, but it’s not very straightforward either.

But worry not, as here’s an in-depth review and comparison of the 5 most functional, easy to use and reasonably priced trickle chargers for a variety of applications.

There’s something for every camper, whether you’re an economical first time RV owner or a full-time traveler who doesn’t compromise on quality.

1. Best Overall: NOCO GENIUS1, Automatic 1A Trickle Charger For 6V and 12V Battery

NOCO GENIUS1 1A Automatic Smart Trickle Charger

At a glance:

  • Capacity: 1 amp
  • Voltage: 6-volt and 12-volt 
  • Battery type: flooded lead-acid, gel, AGM, lithium-ion 
  • Special features: digital thermal sensor, desulfator technology
  • Operating temperature: -4°F to 104°F

The NOCO GENIUS1 is an all-in-one universal charging solution for most camping applications, as it functions as a battery charger, battery maintainer, trickle charger, and battery desulfator. This all-around charger works with any 6-volt and 12-volt deep-cycle battery, including flooded lead-acid, gel, AGM, and lithium-ion batteries. Such universal compatibility is one of the many reasons why this charger is a long standing bestseller on the market, with some 40,000 happy buyers on Amazon alone. 

With a capacity of 1 amp, this trickle charger can be plugged in 24/7 to safely maintain your house battery at full charge without you having to worry about undercharging, overcharging or overheating. For the most efficient precision charging, this smart trickle charger boasts an integrated digital thermal sensor that detects the ambient temperature and alters the charge to eliminate over-charging in hot climates and under-charging in cold climates. Thanks to this feature, this battery trickle charger will maintain optimal charging even in extreme temperatures down to -4°F and up to 104°F. 

Not only that, but this innovative charger can also tackle battery sulfation. Its advanced battery repair mode uses slow pulse reconditioner technology to detect battery sulfation and acid stratification to restore lost battery performance for stronger engine starts and extended battery life. 

All in all, this trickle charger is extremely intuitive to use. Its X-Connect battery connectors allow for quick-connect permanent connection or connecting directly to the battery terminals. A digital display provides the charging status and tests diagnostics for multiple conditions such as a dead battery, bad battery, reverse polarity, and more. For only $40, you can now put your RV into storage for months on end without having to worry about your battery suffering any damage. 


2. Best Solar Trickle Charger: ECO-WORTHY 12 Volt 10 Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger

ECO-WORTHY 12 Volt 10 Watt Solar Panel Trickle Charger

At a glance:

  • Capacity: 0.28 amp
  • Voltage: 12 volts
  • Wattage: 10 watts
  • Temperature range: -40°F to +176°F

If you live somewhere with plenty of direct sunlight, using a solar powered trickle charger is a green way to top off your house battery during the long months in storage.

This trickle charger by ECO-WORTHY comes with the cigarette lighter adapter, a pair of battery clips and four PVC suckers. You can simply plug the charger into your cigarette lighter, or you can connect directly to the battery using alligator battery clamps in the case that the cigarette lighter does not operate when the ignition is turned off in some RVs. This model boasts unique design high quality clips to prevent short circuit and built-in blocking diodes to prevent reverse discharge. 

This charger works with most 12 volt deep cycle batteries. Do note that it has an amp rating of 0.28 amp, which is lower than the more common 1-amp and 2-amp trickle chargers on the market, but this is still sufficient to maintain a fully charged battery at 100% capacity. Again, it’s better to not significantly deplete your house battery before putting your RV into storage. 

Overall, this charger is one easy to use, durable and sustainable charging solution. Only note that since a solar powered trickle charger depends on the availability of sunlight to function, you will need to check up on it more often during those times when there’s less sun to make sure it’s sufficiently charging your battery. 


3. Best High Capacity Trickle Charger: ADPOW 5A 12V 7-Stages Battery Trickle Charger

ADPOW 5A 12V Automatic 7-Stages Trickle Charger for Deep Cycle Battery

At a glance:

  • Capacity: 5 amp
  • Voltage: 12 volts
  • Battery type: flooded lead-acid, gel, AGM
  • Automatic 7 stage charing
  • Short circuit, overvoltage, overcurrent, overload, reversed polarity protection
  • DC adapters included
  • Lifetime warranty

If you have a higher amp hours battery pack, you might want an RV battery trickle charger with a high amp rating to quickly revive your battery in case it is depleted as well as trickle charging it while in storage. While most trickle chargers on the market max out at 2 amps of power output, the ADPOW 7-state trickle charger will be your best option with a rare 5 amps capacity. It can restore fully depleted flooded lead-acid, gel, AGM deep cycle batteries of up to 120AH back to full capacity and maintain this charge over an extended period.

You might be worrying that at such a high amp output, this trickle charger might overcharge and overheat your battery if plugged in for too long, but this trickle charger is perfectly safe for months long storage. This is partly thanks to its smart and efficient 7-state charging process, Desulfation – SoftStart – BulkCharge – Absorption – TestMode – Recondition – Float, that delivers the optimal level of current to a depleted battery in each stage based on its current level of discharge. This means it will not overcharge your battery, and also conditions as well as preventing sulfation  to maximize battery life and performance. 

The ADPOW trickle charger also packs various safety features, including short circuit, overvoltage, overcurrent, overload, and reversed polarity protection. With any charger though, you should check up on your battery and charger every once in a while to make sure everything’s in working order. 

This is a truly powerful and reliable trickle charger for RV battery for many camping applications that will serve you for many years to come. As an expression of the manufacturer’s confidence in this battery charger, it comes with a lifetime warranty, which is pretty rare for this type of product. 


4. MOTOPOWER MP00205A 12V 800mA Battery Trickle Charger and Desulfator

MOTOPOWER MP00205A 12V 800mA Automatic Trickle Charger

At a glance:

  • Capacity: 0.8 amp
  • Voltage: 12 volts
  • Battery type: flooded lead-acid, gel, AGM
  • Overcharge, short circuit and reverse polarity protection
  • 24 hour timer
  • 2 year warranty

Here’s another excellent and reasonably priced battery trickle charger for charging and maintaining 12 volts flooded lead-acid, gel and AGM batteries during storage. What I particularly love about this model is its convenient 24-hour timer, which you can set up in the program to terminate the charge when you’re not around, giving you more versatility in numerous charging situations. 

This trickle charger not only charges the battery but also automatically detects battery sulfation problems and accordingly applies pulse current technology to desulfate the batteries effectively. 

Furthermore, it is designed to charge the battery up to 14.4 volts and maintain the battery at 13.6 volts, which provides for efficient charging and avoids overcharging. Thanks to this optimal level of charging voltage and such desulfation capability, you will notice tip top performance from your house battery as well as a longer battery life.

Another huge plus is that this charger can be left on 24/7 with no battery drain when connecting with the battery. Safety features include spark proof protection during lead connection, overcharge, short circuit and reverse polarity protection.


5. FOVAL 2-Pack 12V 1A Battery Trickle Charger

FOVAL 1000mA Battery Charger, 12V Automatic Smart Trickle Charger For RVs

At a glance:

  • Capacity: 1 amp
  • Voltage: 12 volts
  • Battery type: flooded lead-acid, gel, AGM
  • 4 stage charging: Initialization, Bulk Charge, Absorption Mode, Float Mode
  • Spark proof and reverse polarity protection
  • 2 year warranty

If in addition to charging your RV house battery, you also have another motorcycle or boat or a lawn mower that you need to charge, then look no further than this FOVAL trickle charger, which comes as a pack of two at the price of one. 

This charger is compatible with all types of 12 volt flooded lead-acid, gel, AGM batteries, so you can use one to maintain your RV battery during storage and use the other one to charge your equipment. This is a standard deep cycle battery charger with the safest and most efficient 4 stage charging process, which ensures optimal charging currents at different levels of discharge and optimal battery health. 

You can plug this trickle charger in 24/7, worry free. It won’t overcharge or overheat your battery, and it comes with spark proof and reverse polarity protection for safety. I also love the intuitive LED indicators that provide visual state-of-charge feedback and diagnostic information, even when in maintenance mode. This affordable FOVAL trickle charger pack for Rv battery comes with a two year warranty, but with proper handling, it will last you at least three years. For two chargers, this is such a steal. 


How To Pick The Best Trickle Charger For Your RV Battery

Buying the best RV battery trickle charger might not be the most complicated business, but there are still important specifications and considerations that you need to be aware of in order to make the most worthwhile purchase.

Keep in mind the following criteria to select the most suitable trickle charger for your particular battery and application:

Battery Type

The best selling trickle charger for RV battery models these days typically are compatible with many battery types.

While some cheaper models can only charge flooded lead acid batteries, most trickle chargers can commonly charge flooded lead acid batteries, gel and AGM batteries. Many can charge these three types as well as the most advanced lithium ion batteries, but these units are the minority.

Before purchasing a certain trickle charger, the first thing you need to make sure is to get a charger that’s made for your battery type. 

Voltage

The first thing to keep in mind when buying a trickle charger for your motorhome is that you must match the voltage of the charger with the voltage of your battery, or the charger won’t work.

While most RV house batteries are 12 volts, 6 volt deep cycle batteries are also common, and it’s always important to double-check.

how to trickle charge RV batteries
Photo: virojt / Getty Images

Size or Capacity

The rule of thumb is that your RV battery trickle charger should be at least 10% and at most 20% of the Ah rating of your battery bank.

For instance, a 100Ah battery pack requires a 10 amp trickle charger as a minimum. In any case, you should not get a trickle charger that exceeds 30% of your battery’s Ah rating, or you risk overcharging the battery, which is detrimental to the battery’s life and performance.

Safety Features

The best trickle charger for RV deep cycle batteries these days should come with protection against overcharging, overheating, reverse polarity, spark and short circuits.

Some models are specifically designed to withstand freezing temperatures with a smart cold-weather mode to charge your battery more efficiently, as deep cycle batteries might discharge faster in extreme cold.

In addition, the most hard wearing trickle chargers that’s made to last typically are waterproof and have a wide operating temperature range to handle all four seasons. 

Solar Powered Charger

A relatively new type of trickle charger is solar powered models for use somewhere with a lot of direct sunlight. These come with solar panels that absorb sunlight and convert them into energy that can be used by your RV house battery. They have gained popularity as a sustainable charging solution for those who live or camp in sunny climates.  

RV Battery Trickle Charger: FAQs

Can I keep my RV battery trickle charger on at all times?

The best trickle charger models these days can be plugged in 24/7 without the risk of overheating and overcharging your precious house battery bank. They also often come with extra safety features like protection against battery reverse polarity and other common issues.

That said, you should always check in on your battery and trickle charger regularly just to make sure everything is in working order. In addition, if you have flooded lead acid batteries, you must check the electrolytes level monthly anyway and refill with distilled water if needed. 

Is an RV battery trickle charger the same as a battery tender?

No, they work a bit differently, although both are solutions for keeping your house battery at full capacity during storage. A trickle charger for RV battery supplies a constant low charge current at a steady rate, which is just enough to offset the battery’s self discharge rate. Once you power the trickle charger, it will charge the battery at this constant rate regardless of whether there’s an active draw on the battery or not.

This makes a camper battery trickle charger a straightforward solution for topping off a deep cycle battery bank when you put your RV into storage and strictly does not use anything inside that would demand electricity. 

Meanwhile, a battery tender can detect how depleted your battery is and charge it at an optimal current until it is full. Once the battery is full, it then goes into float mode to keep the battery at full capacity. In float mode, it delivers a constant low current to sufficiently offset the battery’s self discharge rate, just like what a trickle charger does. In short, a battery tender is a bit smarter, and allows for more versatile use in different applications and camping settings. 

What size of RV battery trickle charger do I need?

The rule of thumb is that your trickle charger should be at least 10% and at most 20% of the Ah rating of your battery bank. For instance, a 100Ah battery pack requires a 10 amp trickle charger as a minimum. In any case, you should not get a camper trickle charger that exceeds 30% of your battery’s Ah rating, or you risk overcharging the battery, which is detrimental to the battery’s life and performance. 

How much does an RV battery trickle charger cost?

Most RV battery trickle charger devices on the market fall between $20 and $50. You can already expect full functionality, durability and ease of use with something around $50 and under, although there are some models that cost a bit more.

How long does it take to charge an RV battery using a trickle charger?

A regular deep cycle battery charger with a high capacity, say up to 30 amps, can fully charge a deeply depleted battery in a few hours. Meanwhile, since most battery trickle chargers these days can only push 1 to 2 amps at most, with a few offering as much as 5 amps, they will take much longer to bring a deeply discharged battery back to 100 percent. In most cases, if you use a trickle charger that’s meant for maintaining the battery in storage, it can take up to 10 hours.

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