Looking to install RV solar panels to your travel trailer or RV? Who can blame you? They’re popular for a reason! Many RV owners are drawn to the idea because of potential savings, and the ability to camp nearly anywhere with direct sunlight, not to mention the environmental factor.
If you’re new to solar panels then you probably have a lot of questions. For starters, what equipment is necessary to power RV solar panels? (Spoiler alert: at a minimum, you’ll need a solar panel, deep cycle battery, and charge controller to start.) And how do you install it? You’re also probably wondering if the initial investment is worth it and how much power solar panels provide. To help you decide whether installing solar panels is the right decision for you, check out this article for lots of helpful information.
Pros & Cons of Powering With RV Solar Panels
RV solar installation is pretty popular right now and that’s a good thing. There are a lot of potential benefits to powering your home on wheels this way. But as with anything, there may be some drawbacks to consider as well. Let’s take a look at several pros and cons of powering your RV off-grid.
Solar Panel Pros
One of the main benefits of using solar for your RV is that it’s a renewable energy source so you’re not contributing to carbon emissions. That’s a major perk and more important than ever. Being aware of what’s being put back into the environment is important, and utilizing solar for your RV can help.
A Money-Saving Method
One hindrance many people face is the idea that solar energy seems more expensive, especially with larger systems. And while the initial cost certainly is a factor, over time that upfront cost should pay off. The long-term savings can be amazing! Depending upon where you park your RV throughout the year, you’ll likely save on either electricity, the fuel it takes to power a generator, or both. Most solar panels also last for a long time. Once you pay off your initial investment, you may very well be powering things for free!
Freedom to Roam
The freedom that comes with portable solar panels is one of the biggest benefits of the investment. Once solar panels are installed, you can travel practically anywhere in your RV. No shore power necessary. If you want to explore new, practically untouched places, an RV with solar is probably the best way to do it.
Ditch the Generator
Not a fan of the noise accompanying your RV when the generator’s on? Nature’s meant to be peaceful, right? If you’re a slight sleeper, then the noise from a generator may even disturb your sleep. Solar is quiet, allowing for a completely noiseless experience while traveling in your RV. In addition, it often requires less maintenance than a typical generator would.
Cons of RV Solar Panels
The Upfront Cost
Although it might be worth it in the long run, there’s no denying that the costs you’ll pay upfront are considerable. You’ll need mounting hardware, deep cycle batteries, solar panels, an inverter, and a controller, among other items. Not everyone can afford the upfront cost, so if there’s one drawback to installing panels on the roof, it’s probably the cost.
Is it Sunny Out?
Another drawback to solar panels is that they’re reliant on the weather. This means that YOU will also be reliant on the weather. Solar panels depend on sunlight to generate electricity, so the energy output will be affected when it’s cloudy. This can be a hassle for those who don’t want the extra burden of watching the weather.
How Much Electricity Do You Need?
Need a lot of power? An RV solar system has limits to the amount of energy it can generate. This means you may not have the energy and power necessary to run your appliances, such as your AC power and what it needs to run correctly.
RV Roof Installation
The installation process can be a hassle, especially on older RVs. The process can be confusing and time-consuming, especially if you’re doing it alone. Some people hire a professional due to the difficulty.
Can You Run an RV Completely on Solar Power?
Wondering if you can run an RV completely on solar? Yes, you can! You’ll need to consider how much energy consumption you’re likely to use. Air conditioners, refrigerators, other large appliances, lighting, and electronics all take a piece of the pie. And don’t forget about the small things like your cellphone charger, laptop, blow dryer, and TV. So it’s important to accurately calculate how many solar panels you’ll need, as well as how much sunlight you’re likely to get. Ideally, you’ll park your RV or fifth wheel in a really sunny spot.
For many the initial cost is more than worth it. It allows RVers to embrace a more self-sufficient and sustainable energy solution. This transition signifies a shift towards a lifestyle that celebrates eco-consciousness and adventure while helping to reduce the carbon footprint.
Is One Solar Panel Enough? How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?
Knowing the number of solar panels you’ll need to run your RV effectively is important. To determine how many you’ll need, you’ll want to calculate how many watt-hours you’ll use daily. You also need to consider how much energy your solar panels will provide to your battery bank. The goal is to balance these two aspects to ensure that you have a working solar panel system that runs well.
For instance, if you have a lot of panels and not enough RV batteries in your battery bank, your electrical system won’t run correctly. On the other hand, if you don’t have enough panels and too many batteries in your battery bank, this is a problem for your RV solar panel system as well.
Although it might be difficult to understand how many lithium batteries you need and the correct number of panels, it will likely be more than worth it. You’ll want to focus most of your attention on making sure that you calculate your energy needs correctly. For instance, knowing if an appliance is 100 watts is important. By doing this, you can avoid errors in your system and make sure your solar panels work as they should. Another aspect you want to remember is that the solar panel systems are positioned correctly. You want your panels to get adequate sun exposure to run properly. If you’re in the northern hemisphere you’ll make sure your solar panels are facing south and in the southern hemisphere, you’ll need your panels to face north. Make sure you pay attention to all these critical aspects to have a well-running solar-powered RV.
How Much Power Do I Need?
Wondering how much power your RV needs? The first step is to calculate the energy usage. This means taking a look at how much energy your RV typically uses. You want to start this process by taking stock of all your appliances and the charge controller. Next, you’ll want to look at how much power they take and how many hours you typically use them each day. You’ll multiply these two elements by each other. By doing this you’ll paint a picture of how much energy you use daily.
An RV solar system can help you achieve freedom and a noiseless experience, amongst many other benefits. When you’re calculating your power, make sure you think about all that is necessary for your solar system. Remember that you’ll need batteries and inverters as well. You want to ensure the panels are positioned perfectly to get the right energy for your RV.
Are RV Solar Systems Worth It?
There’s no denying that solar on an RV comes with a cost, but depending on the circumstances, it may be a worthwhile investment for your RV. If you usually camp at locations where you’re paying for electrical hookups to power your RV, solar for your RV may not be the best option. But if you’re looking to camp in more remote locations or want to get away from the crowds, then solar power is where it’s at! Boondocking is an adventure in and of itself and there’s a reason so many RVers love it.
Having a solar panel system installed can reduce the noise power generators make and provide a better camping experience too. If you’re a committed RVer and spend your time traveling in your RV, you may need installed solar panels to free yourself. With RV solar installation, you’re free to travel and stay where you want. Hardly any limitations! Gone are the days of worrying about electrical needs or finding hookups. Deciding if RV solar panel installation is worth it is a decision you should make after thorough research and thought.
How LithiumHub Can Help
To power your RV solar panels you’re going to need deep-cycle batteries. Better yet, LiFeP04 batteries! While lead-acid is cheaper upfront, they generally last only 2-5 years, whereas LiFeP04 lithium batteries often last 10+ years. Ionic lithium batteries are more energy efficient, weigh half as much, require no maintenance, and even have Bluetooth monitoring capabilities. Lastly, if you’re going to invest in solar panels that are more environmentally friendly, it only makes sense to go with a battery that doesn’t leak and is safer for the environment!