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RV Battery Disconnect Switch: On Or Off In Storage?

RV Battery Disconnect Switch: On Or Off In Storage?

We’ve posted on the battery disconnect switch before. We’ve even addressed the question “Should I disconnect my RV battery when plugged in?” (meaning plugged into shore power). But we’ve never discussed whether or not to keep the RV battery disconnect switch on or off while the rig is in storage.

Should you keep your RV battery disconnect switch on or off when your rig is in storage? Let’s find out.

What Is a Battery Disconnect Switch?

A battery disconnect switch allows you to temporarily turn off the flow of 12-volt electric power without having to manually disconnect your RV battery bank. In an RV, a battery disconnect switch quickly and easily cuts the house batteries off from the main circuits in the RV.

A battery disconnect switch is generally placed between the negative battery terminal and the negative cabling. When an RV battery is disconnected using the switch, it stops the flow of power from reaching anything else in the rig, which keeps the battery from draining. It also protects you and your RV’s equipment from shock or damage while working on the electrical system.

You can install an RV battery disconnect switch in your battery compartment if you don’t already have one. A battery disconnect switch installation can be done as a DIY project as long as you’re able to safely, confidently, and competently work with electrical components.

There are a couple of different types of battery disconnect switches. You can read more about the options in our complete post on RV battery disconnect switches.

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Blue Sea Systems 6006200 m-Series Battery Switch ON/OFF with Knob, Black
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Top Post Knife Blade Master Switch, Ampper 12V / 24V Battery Disconnect Switch Isolator Power Cut Off for Marine Car Boat RV ATV (Negative, Vertical)
  • Compatible: used for top post terminal, 15-17 mm cone / tapering battery NEGATIVE post only, DC 12V-24V system, 200A continuous and 600A momentary at...
  • Convenience: vertical knife blade type, easy to install & simple to use. Lift the knife, then power will cut.

Should My RV Battery Disconnect Be On or Off When My Rig Is In Storage?

The answer to this question depends on a couple of factors, most importantly how long your rig will be in storage.

If you’re storing an RV for an extended period of time, it’s definitely wise to use your battery disconnect switch because batteries will discharge and degrade over time when left unused due to the parasitic drains in the RV.

This can also happen when batteries are exposed to sub-freezing temperatures. This can damage their overall health and decrease their longevity. Here are some guidelines for when to use your battery disconnect switch during periods of storage.

  1. If you’re storing your rig short term (a week or two for example), your batteries will probably be fine without disconnecting. However, this does depend on the loads you may have in your RV, what devices/appliances you leave turned on, and whether or not you have solar panels on the roof (and if they get sun while in storage).
  2. One of the biggest factors to consider is your fridge. An RV fridge can cool using propane, with only the most minuscule amount of power needed to manage the circuitry. If you have an RV fridge (and plenty of propane), you could leave it on without a problem for quite some time, even without a shore power connection.
  3. If you have a residential fridge, you should absolutely empty it and shut it off, even during shorter storage periods. Even with our hefty solar and lithium battery banks, we’d never leave our residential fridge on without a shore power connection while we’re away from the rig for more than a few days. The risk of melted freezer contents oozing out onto the floor simply isn’t worth the risk.
  4. If you’re storing your rig for several weeks or longer, you should turn on your battery disconnect switch (i.e. turn OFF the batteries) to preserve the health of your batteries.
  5. If your RV will be stored in sub-freezing temperatures, you may want to disconnect battery cables, remove your batteries entirely, store them somewhere they can stay warm, and/or use a trickle/maintenance charger or battery tender.

Do I Need to Use My RV Battery Disconnect Switch If My Storage Space Has Shore Power?

If you have a power hookup at your storage location, the answer to whether or not you should flip your battery disconnect switch to the “Off” position may be a bit different. For full details on this topic, read our post, “Should I Disconnect My RV Battery When Plugged In to Shore Power?

However, generally speaking, if you’re storing your rig for a month or less and your rig will be plugged in, you can leave your battery disconnect switch in the “on” position. If you’re storing your rig for longer than that, we recommend using the battery disconnect switch to kill power coming from the battery bank by shutting it “off” during storage.

An RV battery disconnect switch being turned on

An RV battery disconnect switch is a convenient way to temporarily disengage your rig’s house batteries from the electrical system.

However, there are a couple of circumstances under which it’s best to disconnect your RV battery/batteries completely (as in disconnecting the cables).

When storing your batteries for long periods of time, depending on the situation, you may want to disconnect your RV battery/batteries even if your RV is connected to shore power. This is especially important if your RV has an older converter/charger (or one that’s cheap/inefficient), as those can overcharge the batteries while your rig is plugged in long term. This can be prevented by completely disconnecting the battery/batteries and, ideally, storing them in a heated location.

Also, as you may recall from our article on RV battery disconnect switches, the battery disconnect may not stop ALL power drains. Some gear may be hard-wired directly to the battery, bypassing the shutoff switch altogether. Many of an RV’s electronics will continue to draw a small amount of power even when they’re turned off. This is known as “parasitic” or “phantom” drain. You’ll want to disconnect your battery/batteries to prevent this power draw.

Disconnected batteries will still discharge… but at a much slower pace. In most situations, leaving the battery/batteries connected when your RV is connected to shore power is preferable so the battery remains fully charged.

Want to learn more about your RV’s electrical system? Check out our article: RV Wiring For Dummies: Don’t Be Shocked By What You Don’t Know.

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Dennis

Monday 11th of September 2023

Love the article, but what if you have a solar charging system? Should we disconnect or leave it on and allow the solar to keep the circuit charged?

Craig Caldwell

Sunday 10th of September 2023

Thanks for the article, but some rigs are not wired in a way that a disconnect can be easily added. I was disappointed when our Newmar came without a battery disconnect. We just replaced the 8-year old batteries and found one house battery has 4 ground cables and the other battery has 3 ground cables (count includes one jumper between them). So no easy task to install a disconnect on our model. It needed a terminal block installed at the factory but instead they connected numerous circuits directly to the batteries. Sure made a bigger job of replacing the batteries too because there were just as many positive cables. Bought two pair of brass terminal ends with studs to bolt cables to, but they won't work logistically with 4 cables. So bolted them all back up directly to the new batteries.

Norman

Friday 8th of September 2023

Believe the more recent updates is that rv batteries are now perfectly fine staying with the trailer through the cold of winter if they have a good charge and are disconnected to avoid parasitic drain. Freezing or damaging point is way below temps across the country.

Lyn Greenhill

Friday 8th of September 2023

A lot of storage places, especially indoor ones, and including the one I use, require trailer batteries to be disconnected when in storage.

sparky1

Friday 8th of September 2023

@Lyn Greenhill, i agree with their rule less chance of a electrical fire. sparky1 in Va.

Brendan deMilt

Friday 8th of September 2023

Will solar panels continue to trickle charge the batteries when the battery disconnect switch is off?

TheRVgeeks

Saturday 9th of September 2023

@Brendan deMilt - Good question! @Tom Lorr gave a pretty detailed answer based on his setup, but in general, the answer is "It depends!"

Not all RV manufacturers (or aftermarket solar installers) wire their systems the same way... so it just depends on how your particular setup is configured.

One way to check would be to drain the batteries using a large load (with the solar turned off or covered if it's sunny out), disconnect the batteries using the battery disconnect switch, turn the solar back on (or uncover the panels), and use a multi-meter to check the voltage on the battery(ies). If it's 12.8V or below, your solar isn't charging when the batteries are off. If it's 13.2V or higher... your solar is charging.

It's a relatively easy modification to move the attachment point for the output from the solar charge controller to allow the solar to continue charging even when the loads are shut off using the disconnect switch (see Tom's comment for more on that).

Tom Lorr

Friday 8th of September 2023

@Brendan deMilt, I installed and connected my Renogy Solar Charge Controller positive and negative outputs directly to the house battery buss of the positive and negative 4 AWG cables. In this way the house batteries are automatically maintained by the controller and, every 30 days it runs a surge charge cycle which reduces battery sulfation. My 6-volt Trojan wet battery bank gave me seven years of reliable service with this set up.

If your Solar Charge Controller positive output is connected to the positive house battery buss and the controller negative ground is connected to house ground, then the Controller output will be turned off by the house battery on/off switch and the house batteries will not be charged by the solar output.

I run six Renogy 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panels through a Renogy 30A controller to a bank of six Trojan 6-volt wet acid batteries on a 27' Winnebago Sightseer class A.

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