Savor the Sun: Solar Power Options for Your RV
Did you read our blog post about the 7 Benefits of Solar Power for Your RV and fall in love with the idea of harnessing the sun use as your personal energy source when camping? If so, then you are aware that utilizing a solar power system in your RV can give you the freedom to use all the features of your RV without having to be connected to a power source—not to mention the money you can save on generators.
Because we feel so strongly about the positive benefits of solar energy, we have compiled a list of all the options and essentials you’ll need to consider when purchasing a solar panel system for your RV.
Spend on amps to save on time.
When it comes to solar, the more amps you have for your panels, the faster you will be able to charge your batteries. For a good reference, a 10 amp RV solar panel equals about 100 watts of power, which is what’s typically needed to charge an RV battery.
Consider your current voltage.
How many volts does it take to run your RV? This will vary based on the size, for example, a teardrop trailer shouldn’t use as many volts as a motorhome. Identify your voltage (found on the battery of your RV) and use that number to determine the best solar kit option for you. As a reference, a typical RV runs on a 12 volt system.
Assess your energy needs.
Another factor to consider is how aggressively you use your RV’s electric system. If you and your family are minimalist when it comes to electricity use, or you are looking for solar to replace only part of your electricity, then you could get away with a 100 watt system (plus some extra batteries to store the energy you collect). This will likely cover your lights, fans, basic electrical appliances, and even the TV.
However, if you are looking to rely fully on solar, meaning refrigerator, stove, heat, etc., then you will need something closer to 320 watts of power.
Determine your available space.
Once you have an idea of the amount of watts your looking to for in a system, you’ll need to identify how much physical space that system will require and take a look at how much space you actually have. As a reference:
- 60 watts roughly equals 1 square meter
- A large motorhome could take upwards of 500 to 800 watts of power to run all the necessary systems. That’s about 10 to 15 square meters of space the panels will require.
Think about what would make the most sense for your specific situation, but keep in mind that you can always purchase a portable solar kit which does not require the same amount of space on your RV.
Decide between fixed or portable.
Portable Kit – Detachable portable solar panels that can charge while they are separated from your RV and then reattached when they are good to go.
- You can park your RV in the shade and still collect solar energy.
- There's a built-in pwm charge controller—you don’t have to wire to one.
- No permanent installation needed.
- Includes legs and brackets to make it easy to position the devise directly at the sun.
- Typically includes a tote bag for transporting and storing.
- Keep in mind: Even though you don’t have to accommodate for the large amount of space needed on top of your RV, you will have to consider the space it will take to store the portable panels within your RV.
Fixed Kit — Permanently attached solar panels that continuously power your RV while it has access to the sun.
- The generally large size of these panels allows you to collect a surplus of energy.
- There’s just a one-time installation.
- The panels are unaffected by weather and harsh conditions—you won’t have to take them down or cover them.
- Keep in mind: This system will require quite a bit of space on top of your RV and will not collect energy when there is no access to the sun.
Need help determining what kind of solar panels you need for your RV or how to install RV solar panels? With service centers located in California, Arizona, Florida, and New Mexico, La Mesa RV service centers can help you with all your RV solar needs. Did this help you determine the best solar power system for your RV? We’d love to hear your thoughts about the advantages of using solar while camping.