Solar power vs generator power has been long discussed around RV parks and campfires. Generators have been a dependable source of power for a very long time, but in recent years with developing technology and improved access the solar power camp has grown.
Below we will discuss how using solar to power your RV can make your experience more enjoyable, sustainable, flexible, and even more affordable.
1. Peace and quiet
Imagine sitting in your campsite admiring your view of a lake, valley, or mountain, listening to song birds chirping away, and thinking to yourself how peaceful and great this is. Or you’ve found an amazing boondocking spot right on the beach and you’re listening to the waves crash outside your window. Then you realize you’re running low on power and need to start up your generator. Now all you hear is the sound of a small engine revving away. What a downer!
The biggest reason many of us start the RV lifestyle is to explore the country and wild open spaces. With solar power you can continue to enjoy all of those sites and sounds without getting up to turn anything on. Solar power is hands down the quietest means to supply power to your rig without disturbing your neighbor or nature. A properly set up solar power system can generate all the power you need with absolute silence.
2. There are options for all budgets
Money is a sticking point for a lot of people. But with the ever changing and improving solar products now offered, it doesn’t have to be anymore. Depending on your energy needs, solar setups can be inexpensive and readily available on websites such as Amazon and eBay.
- Batteries will be your biggest cost depending on battery type (i.e. flooded, gel, AGM, or lithium), preference, and budget.
- Inverter/converters will be the next biggest cost, but are needed to make direct current (DC) into usable alternating current (AC). Read here on how to choose the best option for your rig.
- Solar controllers are relatively inexpensive depending on the amperage rating, but are critical in protecting and charging your batteries.
- Finally, you will need the solar panels which are inexpensive and available from several manufacturers.
Upfront costs for a solar set up can add up just as much as a generator, but with minimal maintenance solar can be dependable and reliable for a long time.
Generators on the other hand can easily cost thousands of dollars to buy and repair, and also cost money to maintain and operate. You will need to either personally maintain your equipment or pay a technician to maintain it, and for some people this would not be physically or financially possible.
Fuel is required for your generator to run, so it either drinks regular or diesel. And depending on the region of the country, fluctuating fuel costs can be an added expense to budget in. All of these extra parts, equipment, fluids, and tools add weight to your rig, which makes your RV work harder to haul and drive, and translates into more fuel consumed to drive from point A to B.
3. They’re low maintenance
The most important piece of equipment with solar power is your batteries. The type will dictate whether you have some or no maintenance. Read here on how to choose the best RV batteries.
- If you have a gel, AGM, or lithium battery, you will not have to do any maintenance other than an occasional visual inspection.
- Flooded batteries require a monthly maintenance routine. All this requires is removing the battery caps to check the level of liquid in the battery and topping off with distilled water if needed. Anyone can do this! Read here for more information on battery maintenance.
- Check battery connections for any signs of corrosion. If your connections are tight this should not occur.
- Your solar panel maintenance is as easy as washing or removing any dirt, snow, or debris off it.
Generator maintenance as I mentioned above requires more money, time, and manual labor to maintain. For some people this maintenance would be hard to physically perform and might be mentally intimidating as well.
If you run the generator a lot you’ll need to have extra fuel on hand, and extra parts such as spark plugs, air filters, and engine oil.
4. Solar is more sustainable, and better for the environment
We all know that burning fossil fuels is bad for the environment. But even though most of us need to use them to drive around the country in our RVs (props to the biofuel RVers!) why not cut out any extra use?
One easy way to do that is by using a solar setup to satisfy your power needs instead of a generator. The sunlight is there and using it does absolutely no damage to the environment, so why not take advantage?!
It is an amazing and rewarding feeling to go about your everyday activities knowing that all your power is coming from the sun. And the longer you stay unplugged or without running a generator, the more empowered you feel.
5. You can camp in more areas
Many National Parks and State Parks have areas of their campgrounds designated as “No Generator Allowed” areas. Not only does this limit your chance at getting a site if you’re relying on a generator, but it also increases your chance if you have solar power.
We’ve pulled into Walk-Up Only campgrounds to find the full hook-ups and generator areas full while the no generator areas had plenty of spots available.
Even if you are in a campground where a generator is allowed, there are often certain times when you are not allowed to run it. This may mean having to visit your solar powered neighbor for coffee when you’re out of power for your coffee machine and it’s too early to run your generator!
Once you make the leap to solar, you won’t go back!
Making the move to solar can be intimidating and overwhelming. Choosing the right system for your power needs can be a confusing process and of course there’s always the fear, “what if it stays cloudy forever!?” However, once you make the move to solar I believe you’ll find that the peace and quiet, affordability, low-maintenance, and good feelings will make you a happy camper.