How Much Solar Power Do You Need For Your RV?
When you wander around your local retailer looking for battery chargers, you may notice that many of them offer about ten amps of power.
The good news is that solar panels can also provide these ten amps of power, about what’s needed to charge a normal RV battery. You can expect a ten amp RV solar panel to offer a hundred watts in most cases.
Factor in energy losses from clouds, the angle of the sunlight onto the panel, the temperature of the panel itself, and other atmospheric and design factors, and the usable power from a solar panel is but a fraction of the energy that the sun deposits on the panel.
When all is said and done, modern solar panels provide about 60 watts per square meter – only 6% of the sun’s energy that hit the panel!
When you measure up the space you have available on your roof or elsewhere, you may find it difficult to capture the power required to run your RV’s house systems completely off of solar power.
For a large motorhome, you might need 500 to 800 watts of power. That’s about 10 to 15 square meters of real estate filled with solar panels.
If You Need RV Solar on Steroids
If you consider yourself a full-timer, boondocker, or dry camper, then chances are a standard trickle charger setup won’t get you excited.
You’re going to want to live fully ‘off the grid’.
You must realize you’re going to need a lot of solar panels if you want to make up for the power output of your generator.
As many RVers are quite frugal with their power needs, in some cases all that may be needed is 100 or so watts of solar panels and a few extra batteries to store the collected energy.
This should allow for moderate lighting, use of a TV and other basic electrical devices.
Some folks use propane to power the energy hungry appliances like the fridge, heater, and stove and save the solar for lighter-duty uses.
More Power, More Dollars
You may have seen RVs with multiple solar panels on their roof that produce upwards of 800 watts of power.
These systems, such as the 320 watt solar power system from Go Power! shown below, are built to capture huge amounts of power from the sun, store it, and then convert it as needed in order to run all the gadgets and appliances that make modern RVing fun and convenient.
Expect to pay around $200 for every 100 watts of solar power you’re looking to have. So for 800 watts of solar power, that’s an outlay of at least a couple of thousand dollars. This price is just for the panels though, and doesn’t include charge controllers or inverters.
Still, these expensive systems will enable you to spend days without the need for power hookups or a generator.
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