● You need to size your RV solar system properly
● There are many benefits to using a solar power system while RVing
● You can conserve energy while on the road by using solar power
Life on the road can be an adventure, and there’s nothing quite like exploring the world around you from the comfort of your RV. There’s just one big thing you need to consider – how are you going to get electricity? Well, solar power tends to be a pretty popular choice.
The amount of solar power you need to power your RV will depend on the type of solar battery you are using and the amount of energy you use. However, 200 watts worth of solar panels is a good place to start in order to gain a consistent supply.
In this guide, we will take you through everything you need to know about giving your RV a power boost and kitting it out with some solar energy.
How Much Solar Power Does an RV Need?
Generally speaking, you will NEED between 100 watts and 300 watts worth of solar panels to power an RV.
Of course, this number can CHANGE based on the solar panel’s efficiency, the size of your solar battery, power consumption, and how much energy you actually need to generate.
Let’s take a look at some of the DIFFERENT types of solar batteries that are available on the market today:
- Lead-Acid Batteries: These batteries are the most COMMON type of solar battery used in RVs. They are also the least expensive, making them a popular choice for many RVers. However, lead-acid batteries are not as efficient as other types of solar batteries, and they require more maintenance.
- Lithium-Ion Batteries: These batteries are more expensive than lead-acid batteries, but they are also MORE efficient. Lithium-ion batteries are also much lighter, making them easier to transport.
- Gel Cell Batteries: These batteries are similar to lead-acid batteries, but they are filled with gel instead of acid. Gel cell batteries are more expensive than lead-acid batteries, but they are also more DURABLE and require less maintenance.
Now that we’ve gone over the different types of solar batteries, let’s take a look at how you can properly size and INSTALL a solar panel system on your RV.
Sizing Your Solar Panel System
When trying to determine how big of a solar panel system you need, you first need to take inventory of ALL the electrical devices you have in your RV.
Next, you need to determine how much POWER each of those devices uses. You can do this by looking at the wattage rating on each device.
Once you have that information, you can add up the TOTAL wattage of all the devices you want to power with your solar panel system.
For example, let’s say you have the following devices in your RV:
- A 50-watt TV
- A 100-watt laptop
- Two 150-watt solar panels
In this case, you would need a 400-watt solar panel system to power all of those devices.
Calculate the Size of Your Battery Bank
The next step is to calculate the size of your solar battery bank.
To do this, you need to take into account the TOTAL amp hours of all the devices you want to power and then multiply that number by the voltage of your solar battery.
For example, let’s say you have the following devices in your RV:
- A 50-watt TV (0.5 amps x 120 volts)
- A 100-watt laptop (1 amp x 120 volts)
- Two 150-watt solar panels (1.5 amps x 120 volts)
In this case, you would need a solar battery that can hold AT LEAST 7.5 amp hours.
Calculate the Solar Array Size from the Battery Bank Size
Now that you know the size of your solar battery bank, you can calculate the solar array size.
To do this, you need to take the TOTAL amp hours of your solar battery and divide it by the number of sunlight hours you get in a day.
For example, let’s say you have the following solar battery:
- A solar battery that can hold 7.5 amp hours
- You live in an area that gets 5 hours of sunlight per day
In this case, you would NEED a solar array that is AT LEAST 1.5 amps.
Installing Your Solar Panel System
Now that you know how to size your solar panel system, it’s time to install it on your RV.
The first step is to find a location for your panels. IDEALLY, you want to install them on the roof of your RV, where they will get the most sunlight.
Next, you need to ATTACH the solar panels to the roof using brackets or clamps. Once the solar panels are in place, you need to connect the solar panel cables to the solar charge controller.
Finally, you need to CONNECT the solar charge controller to the solar battery.
How Many Solar Panels Does an RV Need?
As a general rule of thumb, you need one solar panel for EVERY 100 watts of power you want to generate.
So, if you want to generate 1,000 watts of power, you would need 10 solar panels.
Of course, the number you need will also DEPEND on the size and efficiency of the panels.
For example, if you have 200-watt solar panels, you would need HALF as many panels to generate the same amount of power.
Pro Tip: The number of panels you need will VARY depending on the power needs of your RV and the size and efficiency of your panels.
Should You Add More Power to Your Solar Array?
Sometimes, you might need a little EXTRA power to help get you and your devices through the day. Two of the most common reasons for this are as follows:
Solar Power is Inconsistent
Solar power is an inconsistent source of energy. This means that there are times when your solar panels might NOT produce as much power as you need.
For example, if you live in an area with a lot of clouds, your panels might not produce as much power. Or, if you go camping in the winter, you might not produce as much power because there are FEWER hours of sunlight.
Prepare Your Solar System for Winter
If you plan on using your solar system in the winter, you need to take a few EXTRA steps to prepare your panels and batteries for the cold weather.
First, you need to make sure your panels are BIG enough to produce enough power in the winter.
Second, you need to make sure they are properly INSULATED to prevent them from losing heat.
Third, you need to make sure your solar batteries are properly CHARGED before the winter months.
Pro Tip: Solar panels will work in the winter, but you might not get as much power as you need.
Roof Panels vs Portable Panels
When it comes to solar panels, you have two main options: roof-mounted panels and portable panels.
Roof panels are PERMANENTLY installed on the roof of your RV. Portable panels, on the other hand, are NOT permanently installed and can be moved around as needed.
There are a few advantages and disadvantages to BOTH roof panels and portable ones.
Advantages of Roof Panels
- More efficient because they are installed in a permanent location
- Get more sun because they are installed on the roof
- More aesthetically pleasing because they are installed in a permanent location
Disadvantages of Roof Panels
- More expensive because you have to install them
- More difficult to install because you have to drill holes in your roof
Advantages of Portable Panels
- Less expensive because you don’t have to install them
- More flexible because you can move them around as needed
- Easy to store because you can fold them up and put them away when you’re not using them
Disadvantages of Portable Panels
- Less efficient because they are not installed in a permanent location
- Get less sun because they are not installed on the roof
- Less aesthetically pleasing because they are not installed in a permanent location
How Does Solar Power Work in an RV?
Solar power works by using solar panels to CONVERT sunlight into electricity. This electricity is then stored in a solar battery.
The solar battery can be used to power ANY electrical devices in your RV, such as lights, appliances, and electronics.
They are often installed on your RV’s roof, and they will be more EFFICIENT because they will get more sun. If you have a solar battery, you can use it to power your RV even if there is no sun.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Solar Power Do You Need for Lithium Batteries?
Lithium batteries are the newest type of solar battery and are very efficient. You will need fewer solar panels to charge a lithium battery than you would need for a lead-acid battery.
How Much Solar Power Do You Need for Lead-Acid (AGM) Batteries?
Lead-acid batteries are the most common type of solar battery. You will need more solar panels to charge a lead-acid battery than you would need for a lithium battery.
Solar power is a great way to power your RV. It is renewable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. You can EITHER install panels on your roof or use portable ones.
How many solar panels you require will depend on your needs and the number of electrical devices that you have in your RV. However, the amount is easy to calculate, and you can make adjustments so that you always have enough power.
We hope this guide has been able to help you as you work to convert your RV into a self-sufficient and eco-friendly powerhouse.