You are probably wondering what is an RV battery box disconnect switch, and why does your RV need it?
Not many RV owners realize this, but even when turned off, your appliances will still consume small amounts of power. The RV battery disconnect switch helps RV owners preserve power. In other words, it prevents you from ending up with a dead battery in the middle of nowhere.
Now that you probably have a brief idea of why it is so important, let's dive in and learn everything an RV owner needs to know about this particular topic.
What is an RV Battery Box Disconnect Switch?
A battery disconnect switch cuts off the power from your RV’s batteries. Not only does this prevent electrical fires, but it also protects batteries from draining when your RV isn’t in use. Plus, it extends the useful life of your batteries.
Therefore, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a replacement RV battery each year. The best way to understand a battery disconnect switch is to imagine your mobile phone. Even if your phone is fully charged, it won’t stay at 100% charge forever, even if you don’t use it.
You will notice that its battery level will slowly decrease, going from 100% to 96% in less than an hour. The only way to keep the battery percentage at 100% would be to turn off the phone immediately after it reaches a full charge.
What Does an RV Battery Box Disconnect Switch Look Like?
If you built your RV or trailer from scratch, then you’re probably familiar with the RV battery box disconnect switch. However, if you’ve never seen it before, the battery disconnect switch looks similar to a plunger switch (you can learn more about it here). Manufacturers typically place the battery disconnect switch near the propane tank or the battery box. Some manufacturers make it extremely obvious by labeling it with the words “battery disconnect”.
RV battery box disconnect switches have different security features, with some requiring keys to engage the switch. The advantage of this type of battery disconnect switch is that you aren’t prone to accidental activation and deactivation. Turning the battery on or off always has to be on purpose.
Do All RVs Have a Disconnect Switch?
Most battery box disconnect switches have indicators that tell you if it’s turned on or off. Some models can be activated by the push of a button. There are also RVs that have no RV battery box disconnect switch at all. Owners of these RVs will have to buy and install a ready-made battery disconnect switch to enjoy the benefits of having one. If you are one of them as well, then have a look at this one on Amazon:
Why Do You Need to Have One?
The main purpose of a battery disconnect switch is to cut the electrical connection between your battery and trailer unit. This prevents any part of your RV, including electronics and appliances, from consuming power. In fact, did you know it does more than just preserve power? If the answer is no then just keep reading to find out what else it does.
Benefit 1: Prevents Excessive Draining
Electrical appliances inside your trailer still use a tiny amount of electricity even when they’re not in use. For instance, even if you’re not taking a hot shower, your water heater will still drain your batteries little by little. The only way to ensure that appliances don’t consume power is to unplug them completely. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll remember to unplug your appliances every time you use them.
Keep your electric bill at a minimum by installing an RV battery box disconnect switch. This way, your RV will be 100% disconnected from power.
Benefit 2: Longer Battery Life
Remember that RV batteries typically last six years - only if they are well-maintained. If battery replacements aren’t in your budget, a battery disconnect switch can save you a lot of money. In case, your battery box is already at the end of its lifespan, then have a look at our other blog post that reviews the best battery boxes available on the market. You can find it here.
Benefit 2: It Prevents Battery Sulfation
Every RV battery is prone to sulfation. So, what is sulfation? This is when sulfate crystals emerge after the RV battery is left discharged. The lead sulfate turns into stable crystalline, which then hardens on the battery’s negative lead plates.
The formation of large crystals prevents the battery from functioning as intended. Additionally, repeated charging and discharging of your RV battery can result in hardened sulfuric acid. This residue prevents electron transfer from occurring within your batteries. If you allow your RV’s battery level to constantly dip below 80%, eventually, you may have to buy a brand-new battery.
When Should You Turn On the RV Battery Box Disconnect Switch?
Let's debunk one myth - activating the battery disconnect switch doesn’t mean you have to live in the dark. Here are all the situations, you should use the RV battery box disconnect switch:
1. You’re Doing Maintenance
Whenever you’re conducting repairs on your RV, make sure to engage the disconnect switch. It’s more convenient than removing the entire battery - all you have to do is flick the switch.
2. You’re Storing the RV
Not using your RV for the season? Don’t forget to switch on the RV battery box disconnect switch. This prevents your battery from draining while the RV is in storage.
3. You’re Linked to an Electrical Outlet
When you arrive at your destination, whether it’s a trailer park or campsite, find an outlet to charge your battery. Chances are, your battery will need to be recharged after hours of driving. Find a station to recharge your battery, and then activate the disconnect switch. This allows your RV to run only on the main power supply instead of its battery. If you still don't have a battery box or yours is not working properly, you can also build one on your own. Here is our guide.
How to Install an RV Battery Box Disconnect Switch
While some RVs come equipped with a battery box disconnect switch, this isn’t always the case. You may have to install the battery disconnect switch manually, or with the help of an RV technician. Installing a battery disconnect switch is a fairly simple procedure.
You just need to keep in mind that the switch’s positive cable must connect with the battery’s negative cable. The switch’s negative cable must then attach to a circuit breaker. This prevents electrical surges that can damage your electrical appliances. If you’re unsure about how to install an RV battery box disconnect switch on your own, it’s a good idea to call a technician. Or just have a look at the following video:
A well-maintained RV battery will save you from unexpected expenses, canceled road trips, and much more. Switching on the RV battery box disconnect switch can extend your battery’s lifespan and keep you safe from electrical disasters. Keep in mind that if you take care of your RV batteries, they will be around for six years or even more!