How much solar power do I need for my RV? We frequently get inquiries like this. We’ve actually created this article from a collection of emails and educational materials over the years because we’ve done it so frequently.
200 watts of solar is the bare minimum to keep a battery bank topped off, and that’s while your RV is not in use, but you will require more if it is. Keep reading and learn more information about solar power for your RV.
Table of Contents
- Why Solar is Important?
- How Does RV Solar Power Work?
- How Much Solar Power Can RV Solar Panels Make?
- How Many Batteries Do I Need for RV Solar?
- Takeaway: Energy Saving Tips
Why Solar is Important?
We are all aware of the ongoing struggle to maintain the charge of our RV batteries due to the constant.5-2A draw of RVs. This will equate to 12-48AH of battery consumption each day just to keep the lights off!
This is made worse when using lead-acid batteries because of sulfation and decreased capacity. Your RV converter cannot fully charge your battery with the appropriate voltage for the outside temperature like a good solar charge controller can.
How Does RV Solar Power Work?
While there are unlimited ways to customize your solar setup to fit your needs, every system has 3 major parts:
- Solar Panels – Take in raw power from the sun
- Charge Controller – Converts the raw power from the panels into a format that can easily be stored
- Batteries – Store power to use when the sun is not out
DC power can be used if you have these parts. For your lights, water pump, slides, refrigerator, and furnace, the majority of RVs are set up to run on DC power. Many more recent systems also include USB ports that use DC power to recharge small electronics like cell phones.
You must include an inverter in your system if you want to use AC power (think of typical household plugs). Inverters convert the DC energy stored in your batteries into AC energy that can be used for your TV and microwave.
Given that inverters can be quite expensive ($200 to $2,000+) depending on the appliances you want to run, many RVers opt to keep their systems straightforward and rely solely on DC power.
For instance, because we frequently use our air fryer and espresso maker, we decided to spend $1100 on a powerful 3000 watt inverter.
In our post on How Much Does RV Solar Cost, I go into more detail about the system components, walk you through our setup, and help you compare brands based on your needs and price range. I also go through our setup.
You only need to be aware of the basic principles of how your rig’s panels, charge controller, batteries, and inverter interact to understand this article’s points.
If your head is spinning a little bit from all of this information, I recommend that you check outthis video outlining a simple RV solar setup. Jared from All About RVsis an incredible source for various RV projects and equipment.
How Much Solar Power Can RV Solar Panels Make?
Solar energy is virtually limitless, as was previously stated. To produce more energy, you simply need more space (for more panels). The amount of space on the RV’s roof, which is where solar panels are most frequently installed, is the primary restriction on solar power for RVs.
We have reached the maximum number of flexible solar panels that could be installed on our 33-foot roof over the course of years of increasing our RV’s solar power capacity. The system we designed in our ultimate off-gridsolar build maxes out around 2000 watts of produced power in peak sun.
Running a small generator at maximum capacity is comparable to this. This obviously generates a lot of power and powers almost everything in our RV. High load appliances still have some limitations, though. It will occasionally, but not always, run the AC for a few hours each day.
All of this is fantastic, but without our electric vehicle to use as a power sink, the majority of the energy generated by this system would be wasted.
The crutch is located there. If you use too much solar, it will be wasted (unless you have a large load), and if you use too little, your needs might not be met. For this reason, it’s a good idea to look for the ideal size before you start installing.
Related Reading: What Can 400w Solar Panel Power Run?
How Many Batteries Do I Need for RV Solar?
The quantity of solar panels you use does affect your off-grid capabilities, but the batteries you select for your solar setup are more crucial.
The solar panels allow you to generate electricity on sunny days, but the true test of your solar system is how well it works at night. The batteries are used in this situation.
Choosing the right batteries is one of the most important steps to building your solar setup. The batteries are frequently the most expensive part of the solar setup in addition to being the heaviest.
Before choosing your batteries, you should be aware of your options because weight and price are two factors that every RVer considers to be very important.
Lead acid and lithium batteries are the two main varieties of RV batteries. The main advantage of spending more money on lithium batteries is that you can use all of their listed storage capacity without causing damage.
A lead acid battery will experience a significant reduction in lifespan if its capacity is discharged more than 50% more than a few times. Because of that, you should double the battery bank size from the RV solar calculatorif you choose to use lead acid batteries.
How Much Solar Power Do I Need for My House?
You can calculate how many solar panels you need by multiplying your household’s hourly energy requirement by the peak sunlight hours for your area and dividing that by a panel’s wattage.
What Size Solar Panel Do I Need for My Motorhome?
For motorhomes, panels of 80W and above are most commonly needed. Storage: The battery stores the electricity produced by the solar panels during the daytime until it is required, either right away or after dark.
Will a 100 Watt Solar Panel Keep My RV Battery Charged?
Based on the earlier calculation, a 100 watt panel will produce an average of about 30 amp-hours per day (based on an average sunny day). This means that, on an average day, you would require either three 100 watt solar panels or a 300 watt panel to fully recharge your battery.
How Many Batteries Do You Need for a Solar System in RV?
Most of your RV applications require 12v current, so you’ll need two 6v batteries connected in series to generate those 12 volts. No usable power will be available if one of those 6v batteries malfunctions.
What Happens to Solar Power When Batteries Are Full?
Should the battery bank become full, it will stop absorbing power from the solar system. While the solar panels will keep producing electricity, it won’t be used or stored until there is a need for it or enough battery capacity.
Takeaway: Energy Saving Tips
It is beneficial to develop energy-saving habits when boondocking. Try these tips below:
- Use LED bulbs
- Electronics (phones, tablets, etc.) should be unplugged when not in use.), or charge them while driving if possible
- Change your daily routine; go outside instead of using fans during the day to read.
- Replace older TVs with efficient, LED flat screens
- Shorten your shower time
- Park under shady trees or use your awning to keep cool; conversely, layer up to keep warm
If you want to learn more, read our complete guide on solar panels for RV.