RV solar panels are becoming quite popular these days, people are installing more and more solar panels to their RVs to have more efficient access to solar energy. In this article, let’s learn about solar for campers, solar panels RV, etc.
RV Solar Panels and Solar Kits – Definition & Working
RV solar panels are just like other solar panels. They are also filled with solar cells that capture the sun’s energy and convert that energy into usable electricity. This electricity is then used to power appliances, homes, coffee pots, businesses, and also your RV.
- If your RV has solar panels on its roof and its panels have enough exposure to sunlight, then the cells on the panels absorb energy from the sun.
- The circuit of the solar panels takes up energy absorbed by the solar cells and covert it into usable solar electrical current.
- This current is then fed through wires to a charge controller that control’s the battery’s current. This energy becomes direct current (DC) electricity that has the capability to charge your RV’s house batteries or battery.
- This stored energy helps you power the appliances and devices in your RV. It also helps charge devices for later use.
Typically, the DC power from solar panels and batteries is 12 volts. This power can run electronics, lights, and appliances in your RV. Also see How to Choose Solar Panels for Food Truck
What are the Components of RV Solar System?
To develop a better understanding of RV solar panels, you should learn about the components of RV solar systems-
1. Battery Bank
It is the main component of an RV’s power system and without a battery bank, it is impossible for an RV to store power. The battery bank is charged by the solar panels and stores the energy provided by the sun. However, not all battery banks are suited to the unpredictable charge cycles of solar systems or are created equally. For solar applications, lithium batteries are a superior choice over lead-acid.
2. RV Solar Panels
The RV solar panels are installed on the roof of your Rv. These panels use solar cells to collect the sun’s energy and then this energy is transferred through a charge controller to a battery bank. You can mount your solar panels or lay them flat. Choose the best angle so that your solar panels get maximum exposure to the sun.
3. Charge Controller
The solar panels are connected to the charge controller with the help of wires and the charge controller is further connected to a battery bank. The charge controller is placed inside the RV. The charge controller controls the rate at which your batteries charge. It also prevents overcharging. Moreover, an MPPT charge controller operates the panels as efficiently as possible.
Your batteries produce 12-volt DC electricity and with this power, you can operate all 12-volt appliances and devices. If you want to use 120-volt AC power, you will need an inverter to transform the 12 v DC current into 120 v AC power. The inverter is placed inside the RV close to the battery bank and other AC devices as well as appliances.
How Many RV Solar Panels Do You Need?
The RV solar kits are not the same as residential or commercial solar systems. Typically, solar panels RVs deliver a more modest output. This is not a major issue as you don’t need many appliances and lights in your RV.
The number of solar panels needed for an RV depends on the efficacy of the panels, your energy consumption habits, the amount of sunlight your RV receives each day, etc. To determine the size of the RV solar system you need, you need to calculate your average daily energy consumption.
Let’s take a use case. You have a 500-watt mixer and you want to use it for 15 minutes each day. When you multiply these figures, you will learn that you need 125 watts of electricity to use a 500-watt mixer for 15 minutes each day. You need to repeat this process with every appliance or device.
To get an estimate of how much electricity your system will generate per day, you need to multiply your system size by the number of hours of direct sunlight your panels would receive daily. For example, an RV solar system has four panels generating 400 watts in total. Assume this RV is in a reasonably sunny area and revives 5 hours of sunlight per day. With general maths, you can figure out that the system will generate 4,000 watt-hours of electricity per day. You can use this output to compare against your energy needs and adjust the wattage and number of panels accordingly. Also see How Long Do Solar Generators Last?
Do You Need To Use RV-specific Solar Panels?
After learning how many RV Solar Panels you need, let’s see if you need RV-specific solar panels or not. No, it’s not necessary to use RV-specific solar panels, you can use any type of solar panel. However, with certain solar panels, you can face some challenges. If your RV roof has a lot of stuff on it then you need smaller solar panels. On the other hand, if your RV roof is wide open then you can also use full-size residential panels.
The challenge with non-RV-specific panels is their operating voltage. Mostly, RV solar panels are around 17-20 volts and they work with most PWM charge controllers. On the other hand, home solar panels usually produce 40-70 volts and they can’t be used with PWM charge controllers. To solve this challenge you can use MPPT-style controllers. These controllers work with any solar panels for an RV. Also see What is Pulsar Solar Watch?
What is an RV Solar Kit?
Any RV solar kit consists of solar panels, brackets, wires, and a charge controller. A solar kit is just a starter package, it doesn’t include everything needed to use the sun to power your accessories and appliances. You also need to add an inverter and batteries to this kit. The batteries store the sun’s energy and the inverter helps you use this energy to run AC-powered appliances.
5 Best RV Solar Kits
These are five RV solar kits that you can consider buying-
1. Renogy 400 Watt Solar Panel Kit
The Renogy RV solar kit provides 400 watts of solar power. This energy is enough to power small RV appliances. This kit consists of all the things you need to mount the controller and the panels. It also has a protective fuse and wires. Its panel’s pre-drilled holes make the installation easy. You need to add your battery, monitor, and inverter (if needed).
2. WEIZE 200 Watt Solar Panel Starter Kit
The Weize solar kit comes with large 200-watt monocrystalline solar panels and a PMW charge controller. This controller provides protection against reverse polarity and overcharging. The kit also comes with mounting brackets and cables to install the controller and the panel. However, you will additionally need to add a battery, a battery monitor, an inline fuse, and an inverter to complete this solar kit. Also see Top 30+ Renewable Energy Companies in India
3. Renogy 100 Watt Portable Solar Panel Suitcase With 20A Charger Controller
This Renogy solar kit is better suited to charge portable banks and power stations. You can set this 100-watt suitcase solar panels outside and also adjust it to the sun’s angle with an attached kickstand. It comes with a solar charge controller and it can be plugged directly into a power station. You can fold this whole setup into a 24-inch x 20-inch suitcase.
This kit includes a 20 amp solar charge controller, two 50-watt solar panels, a charger, and a connection wire between panels. No tray cables or mounting brackets come with the kit as it’s a portable panel.
4. QDG 1200 Watt Flexible Solar Panel Solar Kit With 40A Charge Controller
This QDG solar kit is pretty large and on a full-sun day, it can provide up to 1,200 watts of solar power. These flexible solar panels are even attached to uneven surfaces. Each solar panel collects about 300 watts of energy. This kit comes with four 300-watt flexible solar charge controllers, MC4 connectors, alligator clips, and carabiners. Additionally, you will need batteries (to store power), an inline fuse, an inverter, and a battery monitor.
5. Topsolar Solar Panel Kit 100 Watt With 20A Solar Charge Controller
Topsolar solar kit comes with a 20-amp charge controller and solid 100-watt monocrystalline solar panels. You just need to add your own battery and monitor. Additionally, if you want to run a 120-volt appliance from your battery, you need an inverter. The kit also consists of mounting brackets and cables to install panels.
Why Shift to Solar Panels RV?
People often shift to solar panels RV because of the freedom these panels provide. They are ideal for people who enjoy camping in remote areas on public lands, dry camping, and camping in campgrounds that don’t offer electricity.
It’s a wise thought to invest in an RV solar power system. This investment will help you when you love camping in the middle of nowhere. It helps you operate all the appliances of your RV without plugging them into electricity or without having to run the generator all the time. With the solar kit, you can use things like TV, lights, fans, coffee machines, etc.
With the help of a solar set on your RV, you are free from the obligation of camping in designated campgrounds for electricity. You can With solar panels RV, you can camp in any location, like a mountain, canyon, or lake. After this, let’s learn about the cons of solar for campers.
Also Read: Why Transparent Solar Panels Are The Future?
What are the Cons of Solar for Campers?
The cons of the solar for camper are as follows-
- Cost: Although applying a solar system to your RV provides you freedom but its biggest disadvantage is its cost. A full RV solar power can cost you anywhere between $3,500 to $10,000. The cost can also depend on the number of solar panels installed, the types of batteries used, size of the your inverter, and also on how you installed the system.
- Installation: It is very complex to install a solar system in an RV. Moreover, if you aren’t an engineer or electrical, you may find installing a solar power system by yourself very overwhelming. But you can seek help from the internet and youtube to learn how to install solar panels on an RV. If you don’t want to go for this hassle, you can hire a professional for the same.
- Weather Dependent: The RV solar power system is fully dependent on the weather. The effectiveness of your solar system depends on the area you are camping in, the season, and the sun exposure. Relying on solar power alone will not be wise, you should also have a backup generator just in case. For example, if it starts raining heavily in your camping area, the solar system won’t work efficiently. In such a scenario, you will need a backup generator.
So, Should You Go For Solar Panels RV?
It’s a great idea to use RV solar planes to power your batteries and RV. You need to understand your power usage and needs before choosing solar panels for your RV. Get a basic understanding of solar power and its pros and cons. Solar panels for RVs can prove to be a game changer. It’s best for people who like dry campers, boondocks, etc.
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