Houseboat batteries come in many shapes and sizes. But which marine battery is best for starting and powering your houseboat?
The best marine batteries for houseboats are the Duracell Ultra BCI Marine battery, the West Marine AGM 79 AH Dual-Purpose Marine battery, the Mastervolt AGM 12/70 Sealed Marine battery, the flooded West Marine Dual-Purpose battery, and the Ampere Time LiFePO4 Lithium Iron battery.
In this article, we’ll cover five of the best marine batteries on the market for houseboats. We’ll also cover how a typical houseboat battery bank works and which batteries are best for storing power for starting the engine and running onboard appliances.
We sourced each battery’s technical specifications directly from the distributor or manufacturer to ensure accuracy.
Houseboat Battery Banks
Houseboats almost always have more than one battery. Batteries kept in a single location and connected together are called battery banks, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Houseboat battery banks also range in safety and complexity, and some aren’t set up properly from the beginning.
There’s an easy way to tell if your battery bank is sketchy or well-designed. First, figure out where the batteries are located. A well-designed houseboat battery bank should be easy to access and—most importantly—dry. Some houseboat battery banks are located in the bilge and close to water, which is a good indication that it’s time to create a safer system.
The most basic houseboat battery banks utilize two marine batteries, which are wired together. These batteries sometimes run both the domestic power and start the engines. This isn’t always the best setup, as overuse can deprive you of the power needed to start the engines and generate more.
Other houseboats have larger battery banks or separate batteries for starting the engine and running the appliances. This is the best setup, as a pair of marine batteries dedicated solely to the engine gives the most reliability. And if you use interchangeable batteries, you can simply swap them out if you run out of power to start the motor.
Houseboat Battery Types
Many kinds of batteries are found in houseboats, but some are better than others. It’s always best to use purpose-built dedicated marine batteries aboard houseboats, as they’re designed to safely handle many of the hazardous conditions found aboard boats.
Lead Acid Car Batteries
Lead-acid car batteries, or standard car batteries, are sometimes used on houseboats. They’re not designed for boats, but people use them anyway because they’re cheap. These batteries are filled with acid and easy to puncture, and also sensitive to many conditions found on boats and thus should be avoided if possible.
Deep Cycle Marine Batteries
Deep cycle marine batteries are the best option for houseboats. They’re more expensive than lead-acid car batteries, but they’re designed for boats and have superior charging cycles and capacity. These batteries run at the standard 12 volts that car batteries do, and they’re long-lasting and safe to use aboard a houseboat.
But how are deep cycle batteries different? These batteries are a type of lead-acid battery designed to provide stable and sustained power over time versus a short burst of high amperage like a regular car battery. Deep cycle batteries work better on boats due to their higher average loads and multiple discharge sources.
Lithium Iron Marine Batteries
Lithium-iron batteries are similar to the lithium-ion batteries found in most phones, electric cars, and rechargeable devices. These batteries are excellent and hold an enormous amount of power. They can store more than a standard marine battery, and they also have better power output in many applications.
Lithium-iron marine batteries are expensive, but they’re the best option for running domestic power in a houseboat. Lithium-iron marine batteries are also a great choice for integrating with houseboat solar and wind generation systems.
Best Marine Batteries for Houseboats
Here, we’ll review five of the best marine batteries for houseboat engines and power systems. These batteries can be used alone or in battery banks, and charged by shore power, generators, and the propulsion engine. Here are our top picks.
1. Duracell Ultra BCI Marine Battery
Duracell is one of the world’s largest battery manufacturers, and they’re known for producing high-quality batteries for all applications. Here we have the Duracell Ultra BCI Marine battery, which is one of the best and most affordable batteries of its kind on the market.
So, what sets the Duracell Ultra BCI Marine battery apart from standard car batteries? After all, it looks like one, so why is it different? One of the chief advantages offered by the Duracell Ultra BCI Marine battery is its vibration resistance.
Vibration resistance keeps it and the occupants safe from rolling that houseboats encounter on the water. According to Duracell, the Ultra BCI Marine battery has 20 times more vibration resistance than flooded batteries and twice the cycle life.
Additionally, it’s a deep cycle battery with a large 105 amp-hour capacity. This battery is designed specifically for starting engines, though it can also be used in battery banks for powering other systems aboard your houseboat. The Duracell Ultra BCI Marine battery has 800 cold-cranking amps at 12 volts, which is standard.
You can purchase a Duracell Ultra BCI Marine battery from Batteries Plus for $286.99, which includes a $27 core deposit. The retail price for this battery is $259.99.
The Duracell Ultra BCI Marine battery is a great option for starting and powering your appliances. These batteries are ideal for building small battery banks.
2. West Marine AGM 79 AH Dual-Purpose Marine Battery
Here’s an affordable AGM battery that works great on houseboats for both starting the engine and powering appliances from a battery bank. This smaller battery is 79 amp hours and 800 marine cranking amps. This is sufficient for most houseboat applications, though you’re probably going to need more than one aboard.
The West Marine AGM 79 AH Dual-Purpose marine battery is an excellent replacement for standard car batteries or flooded batteries and offers superior charging, discharging, and reliability. It’s also vibration-resistant and lasts longer than standard flooded batteries.
The West Marine AGM 79 AH Dual-Purpose marine battery features glass mat separators, which absorb shock and reduce the risk of internal damage when motoring around in rough weather or beaching. Additionally, these batteries are made in the USA.
Self-discharge is another problem that the West Marine AGM 79 AH Dual-Purpose marine battery solves. These batteries have a self-discharge rate of only 3% per month, which is superior to many cheaper batteries.
You can purchase an AGM Dual-Purpose marine battery from West Marine for $249.99 with an additional core charge, so be sure to provide an old battery with it to swap out.
The West Marine AGM 79 AH is a great battery for medium-sized battery banks that either start the engine, service appliances, or both. It’s a smaller battery, so you will likely need more of them for either purpose.
3. Mastervolt AGM 12/70 Sealed Marine Battery
The Mastervolt Group 27 is a sealed marine battery offering 70 amp hours and a reputation for reliability. But what’s the benefit of a sealed marine battery over a flooded battery? For starters, this sealed AGM battery requires virtually no maintenance, and it’s completely sealed from environmental contaminants.
Sealed marine batteries won’t leak harmful chemicals into your boat’s compartments, and they also don’t need to be topped off with water to remain functional. Sealed AGM batteries also have a better cycle tolerance, which means they can endure more charge and discharge cycles than standard marine batteries.
When it comes to houseboats, many people want to spend the majority of their time enjoying the boat—not maintaining it. And obviously, some maintenance will be necessary, but a sealed marine battery like the Mastervolt AGM 12/70 can greatly reduce electricity-related headaches aboard.
The Mastervolt AGM 12/70 Sealed Marine battery comes with a two-year warranty. It weighs about 50 pounds and offers 615 cold-cranking amps at 12 volts DC. This is about standard for medium-sized marine batteries. One thing to note is that the battery is long and narrow, measuring 13 3/4 inches long and 6 5/8 inches wide.
You can purchase a Mastervolt AGM 12/70 Sealed Marine battery from West Marine for $319.99 each. Don’t forget to bring in another 12-volt battery to offset the core charge.
The Mastervolt AGM sealed battery is a plug-and-play solution for houseboat battery banks. You can install it and leave it alone, as these batteries don’t require any maintenance.
4. West Marine Flooded Battery - Dual Purpose 800 MCA
Flooded batteries get a lot of heat in the boating industry, but they’re not all bad. A flooded marine battery is a great replacement for worn-out or improper batteries aboard a houseboat, and they provide a great level of reliability if properly maintained. Flooded marine batteries are also the most affordable deep-cycle batteries on the market.
The 800 MCA Dual-Purpose Flooded battery is a Group 27 battery with 800 marine cranking amps at 12 volts DC. The battery has a discharge of 80 amp hours, putting it in line with a few of the other batteries on our list. You can use a single battery for starting smaller marine engines, but you should use more than one in a battery bank.
The great thing about the 800 MCA West Marine Dual Purpose Flooded battery is that it can be used for high-discharge starting and slow deep-cycle discharge. That makes it a great choice for houseboats, where one battery bank is responsible for starting the engine and powering electrical systems aboard.
The 800 MCA Dual-Purpose Flooded battery is a lead-calcium battery, which is known for higher power output than other types. It’s designed for marine use and won’t spill its contents at angles up to 45 degrees. Houseboats rarely encounter such aggressive angles, but the added security gives you peace of mind (especially when beaching or launching down a boat ramp).
West Marine 800 MCA Dual-Purpose Flooded batteries are available for $179.99 each, and an additional core fee applies unless you swap out an old 12-volt battery for recycling.
West Marine 800 MCA flooded batteries are the most affordable marine battery on our list, and they’re a great replacement for worn out marine deep cycle batteries.
5. Ampere Time 12-Volt LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Battery
We mentioned lithium iron batteries above, and here’s one of the most popular marine LiFe batteries available today. The Ampere Time LiFePO4 battery is a 100 amp-hour battery with deep cycle performance that’s ideal for houseboat battery banks.
Ampere Time LiFePO4 batteries are robust and hold lots of power. They’re primarily designed for domestic power applications instead of starting engines. These batteries can be connected in series or parallel, giving you lots of flexibility when designing your battery bank.
Ampere Time LiFePO4 batteries are best used for deep cycle discharge. They can be connected to a power management system, which may include a generator, a solar array, a wind turbine, shore power, or all of these combined. You can easily build a 1,000 amp-hour bank with these batteries and reliably power all the systems aboard your boat.
Ampere Time LiFePO4 batteries are popular with liveaboards, as they provide a high enough capacity for daily use. Additionally, they’re available in multiple sizes up to 300 amp-hours. Ampere Time LiFePO4 batteries are the best of their kind on the market and affordable compared to other lithium-iron batteries.
The primary downside is that they’re still much more costly than standard marine batteries, which can sway buyers away from their superior qualities. These batteries are also about half the weight of equivalent lead-acid and lead-calcium batteries, which allows you to use more without throwing off the balance of your houseboat.
The 100 amp-hour Ampere Time LiFePO4 battery is available on Amazon for $469.99. Other models are also available for different prices, so be sure to make a selection before checkout.
The Ampere Time LiFePO4 battery is the best choice for a long-term power storage battery bank. These batteries are high-capacity and lightweight, making them great for liveaboards who use solar and wind power to offset a generator.
About THE AUTHOR
I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.Read More About Brian Samson