Sustainable Travel: Solar Power On The Go
For avid adventurers, an RV is more than just a way to get around – it's a source of fun and freedom. As experienced RVers know, you need electricity – and plenty of it to keep all the modern day appliances and computer devices powered or charged. RVs are typically plugged into shore power or rely on a generators to produce electricity demands for the RV. But for those that would prefer to explore the road less traveled, having the ability to generate electricity from the sun provides a means of freedom while cutting the cord.
Unlike many power sources, the sun’s rays can find you on any road – even the most remote of ones. As solar powered systems become increasingly reliable and affordable, it only makes sense that we would turn to the sun to meet our energy needs on the go. A solar-charged battery system may provide everything an RVer needs to run lights, fans, refrigerators, and electronics, wherever the sun is shining.
What is a Complete Solar Kit?
While some people use solar panels as a simple method of trickle-charging their RV batteries, others seek out a more comprehensive solution to sustainable power. If you want to use solar as your primary power source, you'll need more than a couple of solar panels installed on the roof of your RV – what you need is a complete solar kit.
A solar kit is a system that converts light from the sun turning it into power that is stored in batteries on your RV. Of course, the amount of technology you need to run that system will depend on how much energy you use. Regardless of whether you're using solar to power a minimal amount of appliances, or everything on your rig, you'll need the same basic elements in any set-up: solar panels, a charge converter, and a batteries.
Selecting Solar Panels
While deciding to use solar panels seems easy, choosing the right ones for your rig might not be so simple. First, determine what size of solar panel, and how many you're going to need, by figuring out how many amps you use on a typical day. With too low an output, you'll run out of power, whereas too high an output could mean spending serious cash on a system you barely use. Once you've figured out your energy usage you then need to consider if adequate space on the roof of your RV exists to accommodate the panels.
The calculations for power are relatively simple: multiply the average draw of your electrical appliances by the hours they are in use each day. (Appliance Amps x Hours per Day = Daily Amps Consumed.) It's best to overestimate your power needs a little, just to make sure you don't run out of energy too early, should you end up using extra electricity for any reason.
Once you've chosen your solar panels, you'll need a system for managing the collected energy. The more sunlight the panels absorb, the more voltage they will produce. Standard 12-volt solar panels emit a charge of around 16 to 20 volts and without a regulator, batteries can quickly be damaged. A charge control helps maintain proper voltage. As the input voltage from the solar array climbs, the charge controller regulates the energy to prevent overcharging of batteries.
According to some experts, the solar charge controller is the heart of most solar power installations on an RV, because it determines how much of the sun's energy is actually converted into an electrical current. Without this piece of tech, you're simply plugging solar panels into your battery, and hoping for the best.
Now that you’ve purchased your panels and your charge controller, you need to determine whether your battery is robust enough to handle solar energy. The size of the batteries needed to keep your system running will vary according to your RV – the suggested size for smaller RVs is a minimum of at least 200-225 amps per hour. If you choose to use more than one battery, it's important not to mix old and new batteries in a set, or mix battery types; as this can lead to serious problems.
You should be able to establish the battery size you need (in amp-hours) by figuring out your watt usage per day. Once you have that number, double it – as a form of security when you're out on the road, or exploring the trails. You never know when you might need to use a little extra energy.
Using Solar for RV Power
If the idea of cutting the cord, going green, and exploring the world off the grid appeals to you, adding solar-powered to your RV could be a perfect solution. Whether you’re in the market for a new RV, or want to make your current RV more eco-friendly, you’ll find countless benefits to using solar power. With the right solar setup, you can access a cost-effective means of power, using a shining resource that’s practically inexhaustible – even during winter months.