Have an RV? Power it with solar

Francisco CastroApril 16, 2019 1395 0

Power Your RV with Solar Power!

For many retirees, an RV is the ultimate ride and sign of freedom. Imagine, traveling the country comfortably, at your own pace, and in your own home on wheels.

“Bob” has been living off the grid for seven months in West Virginia, in a 28-foot travel trailer and he decided to give solar power a try. But he soon encountered a problem, not enough juice from the solar panels to run a microwave and toaster, his 42-inch LED TV, refrigerator and electrical blanket, so he kept adding more and more panels.

But it was still not enough, especially at night, when the solar energy production goes does along with the sunset. 

New RVs already come with solar panels. If yours is an older model, solar panels for an RV are a great investment with plenty of benefits. Solar panels are completely silent compared with noisy generators. They’re easy to use. Simply point them towards the sun and voila!, you’re producing electricity. They’re clean, for the environment and to use them, without any fumes or fuel spills and they allow you to go further into open spaces less traveled, without having to rely on hookups.

How much power do you need?

But before you head out to buy the solar panels, much like a regular home, you need to determine how much electricity you need.

Solar panels come in a range of sizes from as small as 55 watts output to over 300 watts; the only limits is how much space do you have on your vehicle to mount them.  

If the space is limited, you can use portable solar panels that can be easily set up and moved around to make the most of the sun’s rays.

But back to your needs. In a blog on the subject on, the writer notes that if you need to run a few lights and a water pump, a 140-160 watt solar panel paired with a good battery in the 60-80 Ah range should be sufficient. 

However, if you’re planning on running A/C and appliances, you will need to expand to two or more solar panels with output of 170-300 watts, and a larger battery bank in the 150-300 Ah range. 

For an accurate reading on your energy usage, one recommendation is to plug all the AC devices in your RV into a power meter. If you don’t have access to a power meter, you can find the typical wattage lists for RV appliances by clicking here.

With those numbers on hand, you can apply them to an off-grid solar calculator. This will tell you the size of the battery bank and solar panel(s) you will need.

The system

Whether large or small, the solar power system for your RV requires a few basic components: the solar panels, an inverter, batteries and a solar charge controller to regular the power sent to the batteries (so they don’t fry), and also to prevent the batteries from sending power to the solar panels during periods of low or no light.   

A DC/AC inverter is needed if you have AC appliances. If you don’t, you don’t need to worry about getting an inverter. An inverter converts the DC (direct current) power from the battery to AC (alternating current). If you aren’t sure, it is best to be safe and get an inverter since most appliances in an RV will use alternating current (AC).  
“Charge controllers must be sized to exceed the maximum amperage and voltage output of the solar panel,” the Koa blog writer indicates.

He also recommends a 12-volt system battery bank. For increased battery bank capacities, you can connect multiple 12-volt batteries in parallel or 6-volt batteries in series. 
You will also require proper-sized cables to connect the solar panel to your charge controllers and your charge controller to your batteries. These are typically 12- or 14-gauge cables and purchased with the solar panels.

If you’re technically-inclined, you can attempt to try to put all these items together. Some companies sell solar panel kits with everything you will need. 
Or you can have a company that specializes in these type of installations set it up for you.

Whichever your decision, adding solar power to your RV will give you an extra measure of freedom.

As the writer of the article “Cutting the Cord: Our RV Solar Set-up,” notes in RV to Freedom.

“Adding a solar set-up to our RV arsenal has opened up a lot of options for us and reinvigorated our camping/living experience. We are able to choose whether we want to stay in a campground connected to power or out in the wilderness connected to nature,” he wrote. 

And having a choice is the true definition of freedom, isn’t it? 

HahaSmart can help you find the latest designs and the hot innovations you seek for making your solar dreams become a reality.  

HahaSmart Blog - More Solar Tips and Guide
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