RV SOLAR PANELS
It’s all about freedom right? I mean there are other driving factors behind someone purchasing an RV, but for the most part the words independence and freedom come to mind when envisioning the lifestyle around the experience that an RV can bring. Now when you add RV solar panels into the mix, independence takes on a whole new meaning. Or are YOU still tied to your shore power cord or running your generators when you’re camped out or parked for the night?
As RV’s have become more sophisticated and are filled with more gadgets, the power requirements have also become more sophisticated, or simply put, they suck a lot more juice than they used to! Well if you’re an RV’er (is that a word?) or you’re considering a purchase of one, the idea of RV solar panels should be something on the horizon. Unless you’re planning to only travel through Siberia, the northern most areas of Canada or Europe, than RV solar panels “just make sense”. The systems (see Solar Power Kits) can be built small and scaled up at any time to fit the needs of your rig. As your rig grows, than the solar panel system can grow too (see How Many Solar Panels).
Ok, for those of you who just joined us (Us being the other readers on this site that are currently here with you, or who have been here before) I want to make sure you’re clear on the purpose of solar electricity in an RV. This may be elementary to some of the readers out there, but the RV solar panels are used to charge your 12 volt batteries for your lighting, power for your television, water pumps, and stereo equipment/electronics and any other 12 volt appliances. If you’d like a full overview of solar power, there are several other articles on this site around the subject that you can check out (see Solar Photovoltaic Systems). If you’re new to this subject, the idea of converting the sun’s energy into sunlight may seem highly technical. Actually it really isn’t. If you’ve ever did any electrical conversions for your RV, such as adding a 12 volt outlet or some extra lighting, then you have the technical ability to install or even build your own RV solar panel system.
THE BASICS OF RV SOLAR POWER
A standard RV solar panel system will create a predictable amount of power on a regular basis, given an adequate amount of sunlight. For example, an 80 watt panel (around 4 amps) can produce about 30 amp hours per day. This is equivalent to about a 1/3 of a typical RV battery. As stated before, these types of systems are scalable and can more or less be customized to fit the power needs of any size RV. A good first step is to determine the size of a system you may need (see How Many Solar Panels) Your goal should be to figure out an accurate estimation of your daily power consumption. An easy way to do this is to first list all the items that you typically use on any given day, then multiply the actual draw of amperage for that device or appliance by the hours of use. This will give you the total amp hours for that appliance. Add all these figures together and wah-la! you’re on your way to being RV Grid (Generator) Free! Ok well not really, but this IS an important first step.
Whether or not you dive into an RV solar panel system, it is a good idea to measure your energy requirement to help you get a better handle on your power needs. As a general rule of thumb, most systems can get away with an 80 watt panel with a 100-110 amp hour battery. This set up will provide an adequate amount of power for even long term outings. It is a good idea to eventually ramp up any system to the point where you have a back up solar panel and battery for those really bad weather months or for just the assurance that you’ll always have the power you need.
Hopefully this article has been helpful. Poke around the site some more. You might just learn something!