If you want to finally free yourself from the noisy campgrounds, generators, and hookups while still enjoying your RV experience by ensuring that your vehicle has power, then you should consider investing in solar panels. They let you camp out in any place you want for longer periods.
If you expect to be away from RV parks and won’t be driving your RV every day, then having solar power and battery storage makes sense. For a very general idea of the amount of solar power you’ll need, get a 100-watt solar panel for a couple of hours of small appliance use (radio, LED lights, laptop) and more solar panels for heavier use or bigger appliance use (coffee maker, blender, TV).
Enjoying your time away from everything is possible without having to sacrifice too much. You are helping reduce your carbon footprint by not using a generator. Solar panels are generally getting better at using photovoltaic cells to convert the energy of the sun into electricity at a lower price. If it makes sense for you, getting solar panels could be a good investment.
Benefits of a Solar Panel
Investing in RV solar panels and using them as a source of power for your recreational vehicle carries with it plenty of benefits. Unlike a generator, a solar panel is beneficial because it does not come with any moving parts. In addition, it operates without noise or smell. It also requires the least amount of maintenance.
With that said, expect it to be cost-effective over time. Even better, with some patience, you can figure out how to tune your solar panel system to perfectly suits your needs. This will help you save time and money. You’ll know what the right solar panel system is for you, even if what you need is only to keep a single battery charged. The video below might help.
You’ll also need to decide on your battery bank storage, so you can run all the appliances and conveniences that are part of your daily routine. Get enough battery storage that is at least twice the amount of power you use. Why? Your batteries will last longer. For more information, see this article.
One more benefit of solar energy is that it’s free. It makes use of the energy of the sun, which is free and does not require spending on costly fuel.
It is also clean, considering the fact that you do not need to deal with messy oil or fuel. You will also like the fact that the solar panel will never disturb your neighbors. It does not cause your neighbors to tolerate noise or breathe exhaust fumes that usually come from generators.
How Much Solar Panel Does your RV Need?
There are several ways for you to calculate the power requirements of your recreational vehicle. One way to determine your RV’s power requirements is to go camping for a couple of days without the use of an AC generator. What you have to do is to determine how long it takes to run your RV during normal usage without generators, using batteries only.
If it took around two days for the batteries to be drained 50% (assuming that you are using two deep-cycle batteries with a 100 amp-hour rating each), then note that your batteries give you around 200 amp-hours of energy that you can draw from. The problem with some batteries is discharging past 80% starts to cause life to shorten effects. Past 50% can be more harmful, shortening battery life.
That said, you can use up to around 100 amp-hours if you need to. Divide that figure by the number of days it took to drain the batteries when you camped (100/2), and you will get 50 amp-hours. That’s actually the amount of energy you consume on a regular day.
Now that you are aware of the storage capacity of your battery, you have to figure out the number of solar panels required to replace the 50 amp-hours often consumed on an average day. If you use your vehicle during summer and spring, then there is a great possibility that you will be exposed to 5 peak-sun-hours daily on average.
A solar panel, which has around 100-watt power, is capable of producing around 6 amps per peak sun hour on average. This can also be translated to around 30 amp-hours daily. In that scenario, you will most likely need 2 solar panels (around 100 watts each) to recharge or give full power to your RV on an average day.
It’s best to have a trial run with energy usage and get help from others who have solar panels and have similar energy use routines as yours.
Then you’ll at least have a rough idea of the amount of solar power needed for your RV. Also, you can do your homework on solar panels and battery banks by checking the specs of specific RV solar panel systems. When checking the spec, make sure that the following are thoroughly checked and assessed:
Watt rating – You need to check the watt rating of each solar panel and total the watts, so you can size the system accurately.
Peak power (amps) – This refers to the max power measured in amps that the solar panel is capable of producing when used in full sunlight. In case the solar panel comes with a 5-amp peak power rating, and you expect to enjoy 6-hour sunlight daily, then expect a daily charging rate of around 30 amp-hours.
If you plan to use a solar charge controller, then make sure that you are aware of the solar array’s combined peak power rating, so you can pick a controller with the accurate amp rating.
Peak power (volts) – This refers to the max power measured in volts that the solar panel is capable of producing in full sunlight. This is vital information because panels tend to be less efficient than the max. They have a tendency to drop their output by up to two volts, greatly affecting the charging rate.
Also, note that low-light conditions have the tendency to reduce the charging rate, so you have to really consider this spec prior to choosing.
Tolerance – Check the tolerance of the solar panel too. This has an impact on the power that the solar panel can supply. A panel might produce 3% more power or 3% less power if it has a -3%/+3% power tolerance. Renogy has a “Guaranteed positive output tolerance (0-3%)” on one of their panels. Getting the percentage number can help you calculate better the number of watts you’ll need each day.
Solar power is one way you can go off-grid for a while in your RV. However, make sure that you are fully aware of the specific solar power requirements of your RV. That way, you can pick a solar panel that can really meet your daily needs.
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