Is It Safe To Leave Your RV Plugged In All The Time?
There are a number of reasons to leave your RV plugged in constantly, but there are also some drawbacks to doing this. What works well for you may not be ideal for the next person, so it’s best to look at the pros and cons and decide for yourself whether you can leave your RV plugged in all the time.
What happens if I leave my RV plugged in?
There are many reasons a person might wish to leave their RV plugged in all the time. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Living in the RV full-time
- Wanting to leave the fridge running between camping trips
- Keeping batteries topped off for impromptu boondocking trips
- Running the heat between camping trips in fall or winter to keep pipes from freezing
Will leaving my RV plugged in damage the batteries?
Now that you understand why somebody might want to leave their RV plugged in all the time, you might be wondering what the drawbacks are. One downside that many people bring up is damage to the RV house batteries. Is this a legitimate concern? The answer is an unsatisfactory, “It depends.”
Most new RVs come equipped with a smart charger, a converter that can detect when your batteries are nearly fully charged and automatically switch to a slow charge mode in order to avoid overcharging. Therefore, if you have a newer rig and want to keep your RV plugged in all the time, you can probably do that without causing damage to your batteries. That said, you will still need to check battery fluid levels while the RV is in storage and top them up as necessary, as well as ensure the temperature of the RV is safe for your batteries.
Those with older RVs likely do not have such a converter. In this case, we recommend unplugging your RV while it’s in storage. If you must keep it plugged in all the time, consider switching to a more modern converter that can help keep your batteries healthy.
Other drawbacks to keeping an RV plugged in
If damaging your batteries isn’t necessarily a problem when it comes to leaving your RV plugged in all the time, what other drawbacks might there be?
Unfortunately, there are some other issues that you might run into if you choose to leave the rig plugged in. These drawbacks include:
- Cost. Keeping your RV plugged in while it’s sitting in storage will come with a price tag. The total monthly cost will depend on the cost of electricity in your area and what you’re running in the RV.
- Wear and tear. If you leave things running in your RV, they will give out a lot sooner. Keep in mind that RV appliances aren’t meant to be used full-time when you’re deciding whether to leave your fridge and vent fans running for long periods of time.
- Cold weather damage to batteries. While your RV batteries won’t be subject to overcharging when using a smart charger, they can be damaged by cold weather over time, even if they are plugged in. This means storing the batteries in the rig for winter may not be ideal.
- Danger of electrical fires. Where there is electricity, there is danger of electrical fires. Unfortunately, if you aren’t in the RV when a fire starts, there is not a lot you can do to prevent it from spreading, meaning leaving your RV plugged in and the batteries hooked up while storing it could be a very expensive mistake.
Alternatives to keeping a stored RV plugged in
Don’t want to deal with the drawbacks of leaving your RV plugged in? Not to worry! There are other ways to ensure your RV is ready for camping at the drop of a hat. Here are alternative solutions to staying plugged in 24/7.
Keep batteries charged
Want to keep your RV batteries charged between trips? Rather than leaving the RV plugged in and risking cold-weather damage to the batteries, take the batteries out of the RV, ensure the fluids are topped off, store them somewhere warm, and leave them connected to a trickle charger. This will ensure they are ready to go camping whenever you are!
Cool the fridge faster
Hate waiting for the fridge to cool down before every camping trip? You can definitely leave the RV plugged in for the few weekdays between weekend trips now and then. That said, if you’ll be storing the rig longer than that, consider unplugging it until the night before you pull it out of storage, at which time you can plug the RV in and fill the fridge with frozen water bottles to speed up the cooldown process.
Prevent pipes from freezing
Leaving the RV plugged in and running the heater all winter is expensive. Not only will you be spending money on electricity, you’ll also be stuck refilling propane tanks on a regular basis.
A much better (and more effective) solution to ensuring your RV pipes don’t freeze is to winterize the RV water system. We recommend doing this before the first freeze in the fall. You can then use campground restrooms during any trips you take after winterizing, or de-winterize and re-winterize for each trip.
So, can you leave your RV plugged in all the time? Well, you certainly can, and if you’re RVing full-time, it really is what makes the most sense. That said, while staying plugged in 24/7 likely won’t overcharge your batteries, it probably isn’t the best idea to leave your RV plugged in all the time while it’s sitting in storage.
Track your RV maintenance
Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.
Chelsea Gonzales is a full-time RVer, freelance writer, and roadschooling mama who loves sharing her expertise about RVing with kids, roadschooling, and full-time RVing. The entrepreneurial and free-spirited author is also artistic director of the Aistear Mobile Irish Dance Academy, and currently travels with her family in a 27-foot travel trailer. Chelsea’s informational articles about full-time RVing, raising children on the road, camping, and destination features appear on her blog, Wonder Wherever We Wander. throughout the RV LIFE network, and in RV industry media outlets such as Outdoorsy, Coach-Net, and RV Share.
H goff says
Not sure what “older” means. We have a 2010 trailer and it has a stepped charger. We leave it plugged up all the time when being stored without a problem.
Paul Bristol says
“older” is a rule of thumb. Test your charger voltage to see if it is OK to use full time.
Fully charged lead acid batteries on a smart charger will have 13.2 volts for long term storage and 13.6 for occupied. Higher than that becomes a problem.
12.7 volts for long term is acceptable.
Aaron Hunley says
Good article. I recently upgraded to 15,300 watt/hours of lithium with dual Victron inverters. I set it to charge to 27.5 and then float at 26.7. I then have a 24/12 step down transformer to run my 12v loads set at 13.1v. With this set up I leave it plugged in all the time or I can switch the Batteries off and they will stay at that charge for months if not years. To see my set up look for Camp Prevost on YouTube.
Gerald W Dixon says
If You don’t leave your whole Rv plugged at least run Your Ammonia Plant all the time and will last much longer and not stop the coil up as much
Don Mueller says
I think your point whether to power continuously or not, depends on each situation is correct. We have a Class A in the north. We have a heated pole barn with a 50A receptacle and our rig is plugged in from mid-Nov to mid-Feb when we leave for Spring Training games in FL. The residential refrigerator is designed to run all the time and I make sure my house batteries are topped off with distilled water. The Magnum charger inverter has very good automatic circuitry and will not overcharge the house batteries. So we’re plugged in all the time except for driving and then house battery is still being charged by the 2000W inverter/charger.
If your converter doesn’t have a trickle charge feature or it has failed, disconnect the batteries when stored and connect a 120vac trickle charger to keep the batteries charged. it is a lot cheaper than changing out a voltage converter and does not require butchering the space where the original converter is installed to get a new one to fit. Leaving a converter without a trickle function connected all the time can boil batteries dry.
If your converter has failed completely, a good battery charger can still be a better option than changing out the old converter, especially in an older trailer.
Stan Skubic says
What was not talked about is the solar option. This better for a couple reasons:
1. Solar is passive and does waste shore power needlessly. A decent system should be able to keep the batteries at a 90 – 100% charge state.
2. Most battery experts say that a battery does better if it goes through short charge-discharge cycles. Solar does with this, with charging during the day and slight discharge at night.
Chris Reinmueller says
Thanks for the information. I leave ours plugged in all year. We live in the north of Canada. Electrical circuits fair badly when electricity is not flowing through them. Especially 12volts. Relays, circuits, contacts develop normal corrosion issues from standing, uncharged with power. Like a scrap car in a junk yard that hasn’t been used , copper wires and contacts corrode. Our fridge we unplug, and any other utility or components we disconnect. Our old Award is a 1991 and has a smart charger. I replace my RV battery with an older battery for winter and leave the good one inside. I also leave a fan circulating on low in the RV for moisture accumulation. The fan dries the air or at least circulates it. Moisture inside from weather temperature changes causes mold, unless you can store your RV inside in a heated place. Since I have started doing this a few years ago, we are mold free, no problems with electrical circuits and the best of all…No Rodents of unusual size. True, there could always be a chance of a fire, but our RV is in the driveway of our place and I can check on it daily if needed. Also, no equipment other than the fan is running so that chance is very slim for a fire. Since nothing but the fan is running the electrical impact is very very low. Just some suggestions. Thanks again.
Best way in my humble opinion is,
If furnace isn’t needed and fridge is off and you want to keep batteries topped off. Plug in electrical timer. I have mine set for one hour a day!
Raymond W. Hysom says
My wife and I have had a small pickup camper, we also had a fourth foot motor home and now we have a small twenty one foot pull camper, the comments in this RVLife I fill are what we have grown into doing and works well. We unplug in between trips and plug back in two days before the next trip. Never had a problem.