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How Many Solar Panels Do I Need For My RV?

Overhead view of RV with solar panels parked on stone driveway in well landscaped yard - how many solar panels do I need for my RV?
How many solar panels do I need for my RV?

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need For My RV?

So, you’ve decided to join the solar club! Switching to solar has tons of great benefits, but it can be intimidating to figure out. One big question that needs answering is: how many solar panels do I need for my RV?

Solar power is extremely appealing to many people and for good reason. For RVers, solar is even more beneficial as it gives you more freedom to roam and unplug.

On the surface, to the average person with no real knowledge, solar is square black panels pointed at the sun that somehow powers electrical items.

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Before investing in solar, your research will show it is much more. It can be overwhelming calculating power draw, battery capacities, and hours of sunlight at certain times of the year.

Any reputable solar company will be able to educate you on how it works and calculate what you need. Here, we will look at the basics of solar, and more specifically, how many solar panels do you need for your RV?

The basics of RV solar power

Harnessing the power of the sun is actually pretty simple to do. Although there is more science involved than we will discuss here, the simple pathway from the sun to your RV is this: solar panels are mounted, typically to the roof of your RV, for maximum exposure. The sun is absorbed by the cells in the panel and converted to energy in a process known as the photovoltaic effect.

The energy created is in the form of DC power, which is then readily used by many items in your RV. This energy is sent through a solar controller, which monitors the flow of power to the batteries and ensures they stay charged.

With the batteries charged with solar energy, the power is then distributed to your RV in the same way as always. DC-powered items draw from the batteries, and AC-powered items have the power converted by your converter first.

The components include the solar panels, solar controller, batteries, and wiring to complete the circuit.

When done correctly with the right components, the solar process is very efficient and problem-free.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need For My RV?

After deciding to switch to solar, you will have some important decisions to make regarding which components you will use. There are tons of companies and options for all of them.

Buying a single solar panel, in most cases, will not be enough to keep up with your power needs. There are some calculations involved unfortunately to figure out how many solar panels you need for your RV.

There isn’t a kit for everyone, as your needs will be different than the next person, so it is important to take the time to calculate and buy the right setup for you. Panels, controllers, and batteries will all need to be planned.

Just looking at the panels, and more specifically the number of panels, there are two calculations:

  • First, how much energy you will use on average.
  • Second, on average how many hours of daylight you will have to obtain that energy.

Energy needed

This is the main calculation in the solar formula. Knowing how much power you need on a daily basis is key to ensuring you have enough. Your batteries will play a role as they are the storage for all this energy. The solar panel’s job is to keep them fully charged. If you only have one battery, a bunch of solar panels is not the answer.

There are lots of charts and online references to determine what appliances draw how much power. With solar calculations, it is best to round up if you’re unsure.

Available daily sunlight

This one is out of your control; however, there are things you can do to maximize the amount of sun your panels are exposed to.

When you have your power required calculated, you must now figure out how much sunlight it will require to obtain this energy. The amount of sunlight, along with the size and number of panels you have, will determine this.

Looking at real-life calculations can make this easier, and there are lots of videos and calculators online to help. Just remember to keep your individual needs in mind.

Yes, there is some hair pulling math to do, and the upfront cost to pay, but going with solar will be a decision you and the environment will be thankful for.

One of the best parts about RVing is engaging with the community of traveling enthusiasts. iRV2 forums allow folks to chat with other RVers online, and get other perspectives on everything RVing, including products, destinations, RV mods, and much more.

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