How Much Solar Power Do I Need for My RV?

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Are you tired of noisy and expensive campgrounds? Do you want to get rid of the RV generator that keeps you awake all night and consumes a whole lot of fuel? Are you tired of struggling to hook up your RV? Do you want to camp at a calm, peaceful, and noise-free place while also ensuring your RV has power?

If you have answered yes, you need nothing but a solar panel for your beloved RV. Not only do they make sure you have enough power, but they also let you camp out at a place for longer periods you are dreaming about.

Enjoying your camping at a peaceful, noise-free place is possible that too without compromising much of your comfort. Upgrading your RV or travel trailer to solar panels means you will make a very big decision. When you are out in the market, you will find a vast range of solar panels that will make it an overwhelming choice for you.

You will find yourself surrounded by question marks.

How much solar power do you need for your RV? How many solar panels do you need to run your RV? What RV solar panel size should you buy? What can you run on RV solar panels?

How Much Solar Power Do I Need for my RV

It is insisted on reading the post until the end to find the exact answers to these questions, which will make things a bit easier for you.

While writing this post, my only intention is to clear things up and help you to find the best solar panel setup that perfectly fits your camping and traveling needs.

So, let’s get started!

How Much Solar Power Do I Need for My RV?

If you are serious about having solar panels for your RV, the first thing you should ask yourself is how many solar panels do you need to run an RV?

Absolutely, the answer to the question entirely depends on your recreational vehicle’s size and how much power you want to generate. However, if you have a modest 30 amp travel trailer and don’t have many appliances, you don’t need many solar panels.

However, you should also note that smaller solar panels may not provide you enough power that you are expecting. For instance, you might not be able to run your RV HVAC system. This is because RV solar panels are primarily for off-grid travelers and boondockers who don’t mind living without having luxury amenities, and they just need a peaceful place to camp. Determining how many solar panels you need to run your travel trailer also heavily depends on how much you use your generating electricity.

Generally, the majority of campers find it enough to travel with between one to three 100W solar panels, which are capable of generating 6-amp electricity per peak sun hour. However, you should use an online calculator, such as Go Power, or use AMSolar’s System Sizing.

Are RV Solar Panels Worth It?

Solar panels can be described as devices that convert sunlight into power. Most RVers want to install RV solar panels for the two most common reasons – to charge house batteries and provide power.

But the question is, are solar panels worth it?

It isn’t necessary to have RV solar panels, but it is also a fact that they have many benefits – except their painful cost. If you’re willing to cut the cord, get off the radar, or go off-grid, then you should consider installing solar panels on your RV.

RV solar panels are also useful if you want to stretch the lifespan of batteries life, save your hard-earned money or propane, and to forget using your RV generator to generate power.

So, what are the benefits of RV solar panels?

Benefits of Having an RV Solar Panel

Spending your hard-earned money to buy solar panels for your RV so you can use solar power means you are going to enjoy plenty of benefits while camping that will worth every penny you have spent buying them.

Here are some main RV solar panel benefits,

1. Ease of Traveling

Having RV solar setup means you are free to go anywhere you want without worrying about power. You don’t need any station where you can charge your RV batteries. You will also be able to explore new places and move around without any worries. You don’t have to make reservations in advance at boring RV parks just because they have hookups.

2. Noiseless

The biggest reason why you go camping is to leave everything behind, find a peaceful place, and get yourself to interact with nature. While having an RV generator with you, you will have to use it carefully to get more running time, so you don’t have to spend more on fuel. Although it will keep all your RV appliances running, what about its noise? That was one of the reasons why you want to go to a noise-free place to camp, right?

Moreover, if you are camping at a place where you have people around, your noisy generator will quickly make a bad impression on your neighbors. Although RV generators are made exclusively for RVs and don’t produce much noise, they still do.

Well, this is where solar panels come in. Having RV solar panels means you don’t have to worry about fuel consumption. You can turn on your RV TV to enjoy your favorite TV shows, cook, clean, turn on all of your RV lights, and more whenever you want. They are noiseless and lets you sleep peacefully at night.

3. Fewer Emissions

If you are a bit of an environmentally-minded person, using RV solar panels is the best option than using a generator while camping. Running an RV generator means you will have to follow guidelines mandated by the government. Moreover, running an RV generator means you are potentially at risk as they also produce carbon monoxide.

While on the other end, having RV solar panels, you will have all the freedom and save the planet. 

4. Cost-Efficient

Another area where RV solar panel setup beats the hell out of RV generators is cost-efficiency. Although you have to shell out some dollar initially, once your RV is equipped with solar panels, you don’t have to pay for maintenance or fuel. Moreover, RV solar panels also don’t have any movable parts, which means there will be no breaking or damaging.

Solar panels are also tending to last more than ten years, and as the technology has advanced, the cost of solar panels has also decreased drastically. You can opt for a small solar panel that doesn’t cost much or go for a portable solar panel setup that doesn’t have to be installed permanently.

5. Space-Efficient

RVers already know how hard it is to manage RV space. They are not as spacious as our homes, and yet we want to carry all of our belongings with us when camping. Since they also have weight limits, it is important to not surpass those limits by towing excessive loads that an RV can handle.

RV solar panels are not only space-efficient, but they are also lightweight that save a bit more weight. RVers can use that weight well by carrying more of their outdoor adventure equipment when camping.

RV Solar Panel Installation

Yes, RV solar panel setup is easy to maintain when it is installed, but what about its installation?

It is not just about slapping some solar panels on your travel trailer roof, as other parts are essential to convert solar power into usable power. The most critical part of RV solar panels is controllers that deliver the energy created by panels to the battery system.

RV Solar Panel Installation

Controllers are also critical because they make sure not to overcharge the battery system by determining the amount of energy that they deliver to the battery system. The second most critical part of the RV solar system is an inverter. It converts the energy from DC to AC to make it usable for all of your RV’s appliances and equipment.

Some other basic parts of the RV solar system include,

  • Panels: Panels are available in different sizes. You can purchase additional panels and add them to your existing RV solar system without overhauling the existed system.
  • Battery Monitor: A battery monitor is used to keeping a tab on battery levels. They are useful for knowing how many amp-hours do you have.
  • Charge Controller: This RV solar system part is used to regulate the electricity flow to the batteries. It also makes sure that your RV batteries don’t get overcharged.
  • Wire Harness: They are used to deliver the charge from panels to the batteries.

Types of RV Solar Panels

Since there is a range of different solar panels for RVs, you should research them thoroughly before buying one. Each RV solar panel has its own benefits and drawbacks. Moreover, RV solar panels are also available in both flexible and rigid versions, making it another factor to consider when buying an RV solar panel.

For RVs, there are three types of solar panels available on the market. That includes,

  • Poly Crystalline Solar Panels: These solar panels are made from various tiny crystals.
  • Mono-Crystalline Solar Panels: These solar panels consist of a single crystal, and the individual cells are made from silicon crystals.
  • Amorphous Solar Panels: They are thin-film panels, and their individual cells are made from a thin layer of silicon. They are attached to a backing material.

So, what is the best solar panel for RVs?

Well, when deciding what solar panel is best for your RV, and since they will be installed on the roof of your recreational vehicle, you have to consider size and efficiency.

Out of the three solar panels mentioned above, the Amorphous solar panel is the cheapest one with a greater efficiency rate. It is 2x bigger than both Poly and Mono-Crystalline solar panels.

Mono-Crystalline solar panel also has a great efficiency rate and tends to generate greater power even in low-light situations than its other two counterparts.

Poly Crystalline solar panel, however, is the most used one. It occupies less space than Amorphous due to its size but generates less power when compared to the Mono Crystalline solar panel.

The bottom line is, the best solar panel for your RV is the one that absolutely fits your power needs.

Difference Between Flexible and Rigid RV solar panels

1. Flexible RV Solar Panels

Flexible RV Solar Panels

Flexible solar panels are also known as thin-film panels. They are newcomers in the solar energy field. They are incredibly lightweight, making it easier to install plenty of them without adding much weight. They are far lighter than Mono and Poly Crystalline RV solar panels.

These solar panels are also made from silicon, making them capable of generating as much power as other traditional RV solar panels can produce. You can easily get Flexible solar installed on your RV roof, which generates stable power and makes them look good to the eyes.

However, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have any drawbacks. Suppose you have flexible solar panels installed on your travel trailer, and they aren’t producing as much power as they should be. In that case, it means they might have cracks because of pressure, which, as a result, not only affecting their power output but also reducing their lifespan.

Moreover, you should also consider the heat buildup factor when considering having Flexible solar panels on your RV. To prevent heat buildup, you should leave a bit of space between these RV solar panels, which will help keep them cool and boost their power-generating capacity.

Furthermore, before getting Flexible solar panels installed on your RV roof, you should know that they require you to glue them to your recreational vehicle roof. And when it comes to removing flexible solar panels, it is really a painful process, which might damage your vehicle’s roof.

2. Rigid RV solar panels

Rigid RV solar panels

Rigid RV solar panels are made from glass panes inside an aluminum frame. These RV solar panels are hard and can be fixed firmly. What makes them better than Flexible RV solar panels is durability. They are extremely durable and have the ability to fight against the harshest weather conditions. They are great to have for the long-term.

Since they also include silicon in their construction, they are environment-friendly, which is great for recycling or disposing of. Moreover, they are also incredibly heat-resistant. You can mount them with spaces between your trailer’s roof and them.

However, these RV solar panel’s biggest drawback is their weight, which is far greater than flexible RV solar panels. Although they can fight against harsh weather conditions, high winds, and hail, you should know that they are made of glass that is breakable.

Tip: No matter what RV solar panels you get installed on your RV, if you want to get more sunlight to generate more power even when your vehicle is parked under the trees, you should consider having a portable solar kit. A portable solar kit allows you to change your RV solar panel’s direction to get more sunlight.

Installation Cost of RV Solar Panels

We all know that RV solar panels are expensive, but how expensive are they exactly?

Just like determining how much solar power you need for your RV, the cost of RV solar panels is also greatly dependent on your RVing needs and what RV solar setup you want to have. Since it is incredibly customizable, it means what may work perfectly for one; may not be suitable for others.

Generally, the RV solar system costs just a few hundred dollars and then keeps going upward. However, since RV solar panels are becoming a common thing, their prices are dropping consistently.

Final Words

Frankly speaking, RV solar panels are great to have. They are also great to have if you want to say goodbye to boring, noisy RV parks to go off-grid, while still having sufficient power to run all your RV appliances that too without producing any noise. Above, I have discussed RV solar panel’s benefits, how many solar panels do you need to run your travel trailer, and how much solar power you need to run your RV. If you have queries regarding RV solar panels, leave a comment below.

FAQ

How do I know how much solar power I need to run my travel trailer?

Since a 100W solar panel is capable of generating 30-amp-hours per day, you can determine how much solar power you need to run your travel trailer using this guideline.

About Ted Mosby

My Name is Ted Mosby from Cleveland, Ohio. I am a freelance Architect. I live in New Jersey, USA right now and I take my RV every alternate weekend. As I am a Freelancer I can work anywhere so most of my work is done inside my camper remotely.