There are many factors that go into figuring out how much solar power your RV needs. In this article, I’ll cover everything from where you should place your panels to how long your batteries will last.
I’ll even share with you a few tips to help you save money while maximizing your energy output.
How Does RV Solar Power Work?
There are two main types of solar power: direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). Both types of power are used by most RVs, but only DC power is compatible with most appliances.
Direct Current (DC) Power
This type of power comes directly from the sun without any conversion. As long as you have enough panels, you should be able to generate enough DC power to operate your appliances.
Alternating Current (AC) Power
This type is converted from DC power using an inverter. You may already have an inverter if you have a standard house electrical outlet. However, if you don’t, you’ll need to buy one. An inverter converts DC power to AC power that you plug into your outlets.
How Much Solar Power Can RV Solar Panels Make?
Solar power is almost limitless. However, there are limits to how much space you have on your RV roof.
You’ll need to calculate how many watts you need to cover all of your RV’s electrical needs.
For example, if you plan to plug in your refrigerator, microwave, TV, DVD player, etc., you’ll need to add those loads to your calculations. Then, divide your total wattage requirement by the number of panels you’ve chosen. This will give you the maximum number of watts you can expect to produce.
This is why it’s important to do research before buying solar panels. You don’t want to buy a bunch of panels only to realize that you won’t be able to use all of them.
How To Size Your RV Solar System
Many people think that buying a solar panel system for their recreational vehicle is easy. However, sizing a system properly requires careful consideration. There are several factors to consider when deciding the right size of a system including the following:
• How much electricity does your RV consume?
• What kind of electrical loads do you have?
• Where will you install the system?
• Will you run the system continuously or intermittently?
• Is your RV equipped with batteries?
• Are you planning to plug into the grid?
• How large is your RV?
• How much space do you have available?
• How much money are you willing to spend?
• How much sunlight do you receive?
• How much shade do you have?
To find answers to these questions, you’ll need to perform a thorough analysis of your RV. Start by identifying the appliances and devices that consume energy inside your RV. Next, calculate the average watt-hour consumption for those items. Then, divide the total watt-hour consumption by the number of days you plan to operate your RV during the year. Finally, multiply the result by the number of square feet of roof surface you have available. This calculation gives you the approximate wattage needed to produce the amount of electricity you require.
Once you’ve determined what type of system you need, you’ll need to decide where to place it. Most RVs have a flat roof, which means installing a photovoltaic array directly on top of the roof is ideal. However, if you don’t have access to a flat roof, you might be able to mount the system on the side of your RV facing south. In this case, you’ll need to take into account the sun angle and the orientation of your RV.
Finally, you’ll need to consider whether you’re going to run your system continuously or intermittently. Continuous operation allows you to generate electricity whenever the sun shines. Intermittent operation generates electricity only when the sun is shining. Both options have advantages and disadvantages. Running your system continuously saves you money because you won’t pay any utility bills. On the other hand, continuous operation uses more energy and produces less electricity than intermittent operation.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?
You don’t necessarily need to buy a whole bunch of solar panels to install an RV solar system. Instead, you can purchase individual panels and connect them together to form a complete system. A single panel may only produce enough electricity to run a small light bulb, but when connected to multiple panels, you can generate enough energy to charge your battery bank and keep your electronics running.
For instance, our 30 foot fifth wheel had plenty of space on the roof, so we decided to mount four panels there. We were able to get away with using less than half of the recommended number of panels because we didn’t have any obstructions blocking sunlight.
Before you decide on the number of panels that you want to purchase, you should measure the space where you will store them. Your available roof space (and storage space if you choose to not mount your panels) will depend on your rig. Our thirty foot fifth wheel had plenty room on top, so we mounted four panels there.
Once you’ve determined the size and number of solar panels that you need, you can start shopping. Solar panel technologies have improved significantly over the past ten years. The improvements have resulted cost savings and increased efficiency, making the panels one of the least expensive components of many RV solar systems.
Today, you can find quality panels for under $1/watt, which means that the panels are one of the cheapest components of many RV solar setups.”
How Many Batteries Do I Need for RV Solar?
There are two main types of batteries used in RV solar setups: lithium and lead acid batteries. Lithium batteries are generally considered superior because they last longer and hold a larger charge. However, they are significantly more expensive than lead acid batteries.
Lead acid batteries are less expensive and provide much greater energy density. You don’t need to buy twice as many batteries to store the same amount of energy.
You’ll find that the RV solar calculator recommends doubling the size of your battery bank if you plan to use lead acid batteries instead of lithium ones.
With that said, there are still plenty of reasons to consider using lithium batteries. First, they are significantly lighter than lead acid batteries. Second, they are capable of holding a larger charge. Third, they last longer. Fourth, they are safer to operate. Fifth, they are easier to maintain. Sixth, they are cheaper. Seventh, they require less maintenance. And finally, they are environmentally friendly.
So which type of battery should you choose? Lead acid batteries are great for RV solar setups because they are inexpensive, safe, reliable, durable, and easy to maintain. On the flip side, lithium batteries are heavier, harder to handle, and require more maintenance. So if you’re planning to build an RV solar system, you may want to opt for lead acid batteries.
What Size Inverter Do I Need for My RV?
If you plan to use AC appliances in your RV, you’ll need an inverter. An inverter converts direct current (DC) electricity from your battery bank into alternating current (AC) electricity. AC electricity is the kind of electricity that comes out of a wall socket.
You’ll need an inverter that has enough wattage to handle the largest appliance you plan to use. For example, if you plan to use a 1500 watt oven, you’ll need an 1800 watt inverter.
An inverter should have a minimum wattage rating of at least 500 watts higher that the highest rated appliance you plan to use in your RV.
For example, if you plan on using a 1500 watt oven, then you’ll need an inverting unit with a minimum wattage rating at least 2500 watts.
This ensures that you won’t overload the inverter and cause it to shut down.
That means that you’ll need a very powerful (but expensive) inverter.