The Backbone of RV Life
If you’re an RVer, you understand that a reliable power source is more than a convenience—it’s the backbone of your mobile lifestyle. Whether you’re boondocking off-grid or enjoying the amenities of a full-hookup campground, your RV’s battery system is the silent workhorse that keeps your journey on track.
The Old Guard: Lead-Acid Batteries
For years, I’ve counted on lead-acid batteries, and they’ve served me well. However, I was intrigued when Goldenmate, a frontrunner in lithium battery technology, offered to send me two of their 200 amp-hour LFP12200 Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries to review for RV LIFE. These units aim to offer more power in a lighter, maintenance-free package. It’s akin to upgrading your tech—not because your old device isn’t functional, but because the new one is just that much better.
In this in-depth review, we’ll explore everything from the initial unboxing to the intricacies of lithium battery installation. I’ll also stack up Goldenmate’s offerings against other lithium battery options out there. So if you’re considering leveling up your RV’s power source, stick around. Goldenmate has also offered a discount to RV LIFE readers, so don’t miss those details below.
Why Lithium? The Pros and the Caveats
The Skeptic’s Corner: When to Stick with Lead-Acid
Before we dive into the lithium, let’s acknowledge that lead-acid batteries have their place. If your RV lifestyle consists mainly of one or two weekend getaways or you’re the type who’s perpetually hooked up to shore power, the higher upfront cost of lithium might not be justified. Lead-acid batteries, especially AGM types, are sealed, reliable, and can certainly get the job done for casual RVing.
The Maintenance-Free Advantage
Now, for those of you looking to level up, one of the most compelling reasons to switch to lithium batteries like Goldenmate’s LFP12200 is the lack of required maintenance. Unlike FLA batteries, which need periodic water refills, lithium batteries are virtually maintenance-free.
Let’s talk about energy density. Lithium batteries pack a lot more power into a lighter package compared to lead-acid batteries if you’re weight-conscious about your RV—especially when dry camping or boondocking—this is a significant advantage.
To put this into perspective, my rig was running on deep-cycle lead-acid batteries that weighed a whopping 62 lbs each for just 100 amp hours per battery. In contrast, the Goldenmate lithium batteries offer 200 amp-hours per battery at a more back-friendly 57.32 lbs. That’s twice the capacity for less than the same weight. Once installed I literally doubled my battery capacity and the total battery weight was less than what I started with.
Ideal for Off-Grid Adventures
For off-grid enthusiasts, lithium batteries discharge more efficiently than lead acid, providing a consistent voltage level. This ensures that your RV’s appliances and gadgets run optimally, even when you’re miles away from the nearest electrical hookup.
Goldenmate vs. The Competition: A Balanced Perspective
Before I even got my hands on these batteries, I wanted to see how they measured up in the spec department. I’m not one to be easily swayed by marketing jargon; I needed to see the numbers. So, I did a deep dive, comparing Goldenmate’s stats with those of other lithium batteries in the RV game.
In the lithium battery world Goldenmate’s prices are considered more on the budget side. Like anything that’s less expensive, the question becomes, is it cheaply made? I dug into the the specifications listed on their site and found what appears to be a robust and well suited battery.
- Nominal Voltage: 12.8V
- Nominal Capacity: 200Ah (0.2C, 25°C)
- Energy: 2560Wh
- Resistance: ≤30mh
- Cell Type: LiFePO₄
Charge & Discharge Specifications
- Charge Voltage: 14.4V
- Standard Charge Current: 40A
- Maximum Charge Current: 100A
- Max Continuous Discharge Current: 120A
- Discharge Cut-Off Voltage: About 10V
- Dimensions: 20.55”L9.45”W8.58”H
- Weight: 57.32LBS
- Case Materials: ABS
- Charge Temperature: 32 ℉ – 122 ℉
- Discharge Temperature: -4 ℉ – 140 ℉
- Storage Temperature: 32 ℉ – 112 ℉
The battery features a built-in battery management system (BMS), with overcharge, over-discharge, overcurrent, short circuit protection, built-in high temperature, and low a temperature cut-off. I was particularly happy that it included a low temp protection as I sometimes stay in some pretty cold locations.
GoldenMate comes in at $619.99, which is a pretty competitive price point, especially when you compare it to the average competitor’s price of around $700-$800.
Cycle Life and Efficiency
Goldenmate boasts a cycle life of 6,000 cycles at 80%DOD. That means that the battery will still contain 80% of it’s original capacity after 6,000 charges. This equates to an estimated 10 year service life. That’s a lot of road trips without having to worry about battery replacement. The internal resistance is also lower than most of the competition, which in layman’s terms, means better efficiency and less heat generation.
Weight: Middle of the Road
The Goldenmate battery weighs 57.32LBS, which is pretty standard for lithium batteries. It’s not going to win any lightweight championships, but it’s also not going to turn your RV into a sluggish beast. Interestingly, this middle-of-the-road weight might actually be indicative of a robust build. Compared to AGM and Flooded Lead Acid (FLA) batteries of the same capacity, you’re looking at about a third of the weight, which is a win in my book.
My First Impressions: Unboxing the Goldenmate LFP12200
The batteries themselves come with easy-to-carry handles, making the usually cumbersome task of installation a breeze. The terminals are straightforward. No Ph.D. in electrical engineering is required.
A Minor Quibble: Wiring Diagrams
The only nitpick? The wiring diagrams included were a bit on the sparse side. They show you how to wire the batteries in parallel or series but don’t explain the benefits or drawbacks of each setup. However, if you’re thirsty for that knowledge, Goldenmate’s website does offer more detailed explanations.
Installation Prep: Don’t Skip the Homework
The Converter Conundrum
Before you even think about hooking up your shiny new lithium batteries, let’s talk converters. These bad boys are responsible for charging your batteries when you are plugged in, and not all converters are created equal. Lithium batteries have a different charging profile compared to lead-acid, so you need to make sure your converter is up to the task. If it’s not, you’re looking at inefficiency at best and a potential fire hazard at worst.
My WFCO Power Center Upgrade
In my case, my rig was rocking an older WFCO power center that wasn’t lithium-compatible. But here’s the good news: WFCO offers an upgrade kit that’s compatible with many power centers and can auto-detect whether you’re using lithium or lead-acid batteries. So, I ordered that bad boy and got to work.
Installing the new converter wasn’t rocket science, but it’s not for the faint of heart either. If you’re not comfortable messing with 120V electricity, get a pro to do it. For the DIYers, I found the IRV2 forums, YouTube, and the converter’s manual to be invaluable resources. The new converter hooked up to the same spots as the old one, making the swap relatively straightforward.
Choosing the Location: Real Estate Matters
First off, let’s be clear: these Goldenmate 200 amp-hour batteries are bigger than your typical 12V deep cycle battery. My 2011 Itasca Sunstar’s battery bay wasn’t large enough to fit both batteries, but I knew that going in.
The beauty of lithium batteries like these is that they don’t off-gas. This means you’re not restricted to putting them in a ventilated compartment. You can place them wherever they fit, giving you more flexibility in your RV layout. So they didn’t need to fit in my battery compartment, they just needed to fit somewhere.
After some scouting, I zeroed in on a side compartment just outside my door. It’s spacious enough for both batteries and leaves room for future electrical upgrades, like an enhanced inverter or solar panels. Plus, it’s conveniently close to my existing inverter setup, making the wiring part of the equation a bit easier.
Note: If you’re working with less space but still want the lithium advantage, Goldenmate offers a more compact 100 amp-hour option that is about the size of a typical 12V battery. These measure a trim 12.91”L x 6.77”W x 8.35”H. Interested? Check them out here.
The Installation Saga: A Journey in Voltage and Velcro
Placing the Batteries: Securing the Powerhouses
Once the converter was up and running, it was time to place the batteries. I used eye hooks screwed into a particle board as the base, creating a secure platform. To keep the batteries from jostling around, I crisscrossed bungee cords over them which were connected to the eye hooks.
Vibration Absorption: It’s the Little Things
For the finishing touch, I used foam rubber square pads—originally designed as shock absorbers for washing machines—to minimize vibration. These pads create a buffer between the batteries and the compartment floor, ensuring a smoother ride. Was this necessary or overkill? The world may never know, but it felt right.
Quick Note: The Easier Route with 100Ah Versions
If you’re considering the 100Ah versions of Goldenmate batteries, and your converter is already lithium-compatible, the swap is even simpler. It’s pretty much a plug-and-play operation akin to swapping out regular batteries.
And there you have it—the ins and outs of swapping out old lead-acid batteries for new, more efficient lithium ones.
Performance: The Proof is in the Power
The Stress Test: Pushing the Limits
To really put these Goldenmate batteries to the test, I decided on a stress test that would make even the most robust lead-acid battery sweat. I hooked up a 4000-watt inverter and connected two 1500-watt heaters to it, pulling a little over 3000 watts from the batteries.
For those who love the math, here’s how it breaks down: I connected the batteries in parallel, giving me a total of 400 amp-hours. To keep things safe and prolong battery life, I planned to drain them only down to 80%, leaving me with 320 amp-hours to play with. To figure out the amps being used, you take the watts and divide by the voltage. In this case, I was pulling around 3100 watts from the 12V batteries, which translates to roughly 258 amps.
Note: I was really pushing the output limit of the batteries here. Wired in paralell the two batteries are rated to output 240amps max, so my 258amp draw for over an hour was really redlining that. I realized that after the fact when I was actually putting the math together for this article.
The Results: Beyond Expectations
The heaters ran for 1.43 hours before my over cautious inverter started sending low-battery warnings. At this point, the batteries still read 12V, well above Goldenmate’s 10V discharge cut-off voltage, and above the 11.5 volt cutoff I have for my battery monitor. I stopped the test to keep things on the safe side, but the heaters were still going strong when I did so.
The Takeaway: Reliability and Efficiency
Based on this stress test, I drained roughly 370ah from the battery and I’m confident that these batteries can deliver at least the 400 amp-hours they promise, and likely even more if I had kept going. The power efficiency and reliability have been nothing short of impressive.
Conclusion: The Golden Ticket to Battery Bliss
After putting the Goldenmate lithium batteries through their paces, I can confidently say they’re a game-changer for any RVer looking to upgrade their power source. From the initial unboxing to the stress test, these batteries have proven to be reliable and efficient. They offer a compelling mix of long cycle life, efficient power delivery, and a price point that’s hard to beat. If you’re still clinging to your lead-acid batteries, it might be time to make the switch and experience the lithium life.
🌟 Special Offer: Exclusive Discount for Our Readers 🌟
Great news! GoldenMate is offering our readers an exclusive 15% discount. Use the code RVLIFE at checkout to take advantage of this special offer. Don’t miss out on upgrading your RV’s power game!
Levi Henley and his wife, Natalie, workamp around the country in their
26-foot motorhome. Along with writing for RV magazines, they recently
published their first book together, Seasonal Workamping for a Living: How
We Did It. They share their experiences and RV-related tips on their own
blog henleyshappytrails.com as well as videos on their YouTube Channel,
also called Henley’s Happy Trails.