12V Battery Types: Which One Is For You?
When it comes to 12v battery types, the choice can seem a little daunting to those unfamiliar with battery technology. All 12-volt battery types are similar in that they provide power for your 12V electrical system. However, there are significant differences in how they’re designed, their capacity, the amount of maintenance required, and the cost to buy and install.
Join us as we take a closer look and find the right battery type for you!
What is a 12V Battery?
Twelve-volt batteries are commonly used in RV, boat, and other automobile systems. From a technical perspective, a battery uses one or more cells to allow a chemical reaction creating the flow of electrons in a circuit. Batteries do not create energy or power on their own. Batteries simply store energy for you to use when you need it.
The power you get from a battery is direct current (DC) power and is different than the alternating current (AC) power you get from the wall outlets in your home. If needed, DC power can be converted to AC power using an inverter.
You can connect multiple 12-volt batteries in series or in parallel to get either a higher voltage or more storage capacity. For example, if you connect two 12 volt batteries in series, you will have a 24-volt system. If you connect these same 12-volt batteries in parallel, you will still have a 12-volt system, but it will be able to power the same device for twice as long as a single 12-volt battery.
Your 12V battery system will power most of your basic systems like your lights and some appliances in your RV. You’ll charge this battery system while plugged into shore power and draw from it while traveling or boondocking.
Gel 12 Volt Batteries
The next step up in lead-acid 12V battery types is the gel battery. Gel batteries suspend their lead plates inside a thicker gel instead of a liquid and are considered a type of VRLA battery. Gel 12V batteries generally last 2-5 years and cost anywhere from $100 up to $800-900. The cost typically goes up as the capacity of the battery increases.
Gel batteries don’t require any regular maintenance, and you don’t have to worry about fluid leaking out as with flooded batteries. Because of this, they do not need to be installed upright. They also work well in high temperatures, unlike other types of lead-acid batteries. This makes them commonly used in special use cases or as high-temperature starting batteries for engines.
Gel batteries need more care when charging to make sure they’re not damaged. They require a particular type of charge controller and need slower charging cycles at lower voltages. All of this means an increased cost to the overall system beyond just the price of your batteries. Like other lead-acid types, deep discharges and fast recharge are not great for these batteries.
AGM 12 Volt Batteries
What is an AGM Battery? It is an Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) technology that is a sealed lead-acid battery type.
In AGM 12V battery types, the lead plates sit between fiberglass saturated electrolyte mats. This allows increased efficiency in discharging and recharging. AGM batteries usually last 4-7 years and start in the $200 range.
AGM batteries don’t require any regular maintenance, are leak-free, and work well in most temperatures. They also don’t require the special charging equipment and care needed with Gel batteries and tend to have a longer lifespan.
These additional benefits come at a cost. AGM batteries can be significantly more expensive than lead-acid or gel batteries with similar capacities.