When you’re traveling in an RV, you may face some unwanted situations or problems. The question is, are you prepared? For example, you can face issues with your electricity supply.
I understand power interruption is one of the most common problems faced by RV owners. However, there is a perfect way to avoid such issues: solar power. Solar power, although expensive, has a wide array of benefits. In case you’re already considering it, you may first ask yourself, ‘how much solar power do I need for my RV?
Don’t worry. We’ve answered all of your questions in this comprehensive guide about solar powers in RVs. After all, when you’re traveling or going camping, you want as much comfort as possible. With proper knowledge and preparation, you can easily accomplish a problem-free trip.
Table of Contents
How Does Solar Power Work?
Solar energy is a very relevant topic of research these days. With fossil fuels or hydropower, producing electrical power is a very long process, needing much fuel production and even environmental cleaning. As experts say, solar power, while having its drawbacks, presents the most sustainable and cost-effective solution.
How does it work? Well, in simple terms, solar panels convert energy from the sun into electricity.
The panels absorb heat and light energy from the sun, feeding it into a solar inverter. A solar inverter converts DC (direct current) electrical waves into AC (alternating current).
After this, the inverter sends the current to the switchboard, which distributes it to all the electrical appliances.
However, with solar power, you also need to worry about storing solar energy (for night time or cloudy/rainy days). For this, you need to install a storage battery, which will absorb a portion of the electricity produced during the day time to power the RV at night.
Why is Solar Power Useful?
Let’s establish why solar power is useful, especially if you own an RV. There are many reasons why you may prefer solar power to other types of portable electricity supplies. Of course, when you’re on the move, you live off the grid and need something that stores power. Some people use batteries, while others use generators.
On the whole, generators make too much noise and constantly need fuel. Similarly, batteries always need replacement, so if you forget to keep extras, you’re out of electricity. Solar power only has high installation costs, after which you get to enjoy an endless stream of renewable electricity.
In sum, solar power is useful because:
- It’s not noisy nor does it give off harmful fumes (like with generators)
- There’s limited maintenance
- It’s environmentally-friendly
- It’s cheaper in the long-run
- Solar energy is cost-free and clean
Therefore, if you’re constantly on-the-go in your RV, solar panels are a good investment.
How Much Solar Power Do I Need for My RV?
Now for the main event: how much solar power do you need for your RV? You need to calculate this number according to the power needs of your vehicle. Some RVs are much larger than others, so they have different requirements.
According to some camping experts, you can check your RVs power requisites by going camping without an AC generator on hand. Check how long the RV works when simply working on batteries.
For most RVs, the time limit is four days with two deep-cycle batteries (both of which have a 100 amp per hour rating). However, if you go past 60% of the battery life, the batteries begin to weaken (which is why batteries aren’t a reliable, long-term solution).
I suggest using the batteries only to 60% drainage and noting down the amp-hours it took to drain them to that extent. If you have the amp-hours, divide it with the number of batteries you took with you.
For example, you used the batteries for around 210 amp-hours, and you took three batteries with you. Divide 210 by 3, and you get 70 amp-hours. In essence, 70 amp-hours is the electrical energy your RV consumes per day.
Taking the same example, you need to figure out how many solar panels will give you 70 amp-hours per day. One 100-watt solar panel gives off 35-40 amp-hours every day (depending on sun intensity). Consequently, for 70 amp-hours, you need to install two 100-watt solar panels.
One thing to remember: the weather. If you’re traveling in the summer, you’ll get lots of solar energy, considering the rise in peak-sun hours. However, winters are another story, especially if you live somewhere snowy.
What Are the Things to Take Into Consideration?
Also, there are some things you should take into consideration when looking at solar panels. Since they’re a big investment, you need to be smart about your purchase. Consequently, it’s a good idea to know what to look for in solar panels.
Here are things to take into consideration when buying solar panels:
Type of Panels
Traditionally, mono-crystalline solar panels are more in use. However, with increased research and technological advancements, poly-crystalline panels are becoming increasingly popular. Mono-crystalline panels are sleeker and more efficient than poly-crystalline panels.
However, poly-crystalline panels are cheaper and more durable. Both types are made with different types of silicon.
Consider the size of your RV roof and adjust that with the voltage output of the panel. Even if you have a large roof, getting large-sized solar panels may not be ideal. Size doesn’t always mean efficiency, so it’s better to mount smaller panels and simply add some later on if the need arises.
Also, mounting the panels should be done properly. If you live in/are traveling to an area prone to storms and cyclones, ensure that the solar panels are cyclone-rated. If not, the panels may be damaged or fall off with strong winds and harsh weather.
Thirdly, you should always get a solar power system with a warranty. You never know when you might need it. Most manufacturers (at least the reputable ones) sell panels with substantial long-term warranties, going up to 25 to 30 years.
In that way, you know you’re getting a long-term investment when you pay for your panels.
For any purchase, warranties are a form of insurance. Therefore, you should compare the length of warranty with different manufacturers before deciding on the best one.
Of course, weather resistance is a key factor for solar panels. Ideally, you want something adaptable to all kinds of weather. However, it’s better to prioritize resistance to weather you’re primarily in. For example, if you live in a cyclone-prone area, both your RV and your solar panels should have a cyclone-rating.
A cyclone-rating tells you how durable your solar panels are in a cyclone. Moreover, for higher weather resistance, look for panels with good build quality. Poly-crystalline panels are better in this way.
Max Voltage Output
Always check the maximum voltage output. This, along with the Watt rating, tells you how efficient your panels are. This is because maximum voltage output tells you how much voltage your solar panels produce (in comparison to the amount of energy they’re given).
Moreover, check the peak amp rating as well as this is key in determining whether the panels will be enough for your RV or not.
What Are the Costs of Installing Solar Panels on My RV?
We all know that installing solar panels is expensive. However, how expensive? For RVs, solar power systems differ, so does the price.
If you want to power most electrical appliances (including refrigerators, microwaves, air conditioners, heaters, water coolers, and televisions), you need solar panels that give between 2000 to 2,500 watts per day.
Overall, such solar power systems cost between $3,500 to $4,500. You may need to replace some inverters every four years or so, depending on how often you use the RV. However, there may also be some additional net costs.
For example, a 400-watt system, which generates 2000 watts per day, can be used daily. If you live in your RV, you need double the amount of watts (at least 4000) to efficiently run your appliances. Consequently, you need two 400-watt panels.
For two panels, you need to pay between $800 and $1200 more than you would for one.
You can easily buy solar power systems at most home improvement stores, including Amazon and eBay.
In essence, solar power systems are a very efficient and sustainable mode of electricity, even for RVs. Albeit expensive, they have many advantages that make them worth the money. Consequently, we strongly urge you to try them.
With this guide, we hope we’ve answered the question ‘how much solar power do I need for my RV’. It’s a process of simple math, so you don’t need to stress too much. Simply, consider all factors, and you’ll get the right calculation.