Many new RVers want the freedom that solar power adds to the road tripping experience, but when they get the estimate for the cost of installing an RV solar power system that meets their needs, they’re overcome with sticker shock.
Did you survive your first RV solar power estimate?
After spending money on the RV, paying for insurance, registration and any critical RV mods or tow vehicle, it’s hard to swallow the cost. Many RVers see it and chicken out, opting for a less expensive system instead. We did the same thing when building our first system, and here’s why our frugality didn’t pay off.
The cost of RV solar power: the “Should Haves” and “Would Haves”
Our first RV was a 24′ Arctic Fox fifth wheel with just 250 watts of power and two 12 volt batteries. This gave us just enough juice to run our two laptops, RV satellite Internet system, and basic daily functions like lights and the water pump during sunny, daylight hours.
Our first system was great under ideal conditions.
Unfortunately we were out of luck on cloudy days, during late work nights or if we wanted to run the heater all night long. When our juice ran low, we were forced to run our Honda eu2000 Super Quiet generator, which we really hate doing.
Isn’t solar supposed to free you from being a fossil fool?
The lesson learned? We should have paid the higher upfront cost of more RV solar power that could keep us cozier, comfier and more productive on the darkest winter or rainy days.
Living larger with a bigger solar power system
Eight years after hitting the road, we finally upgraded to a newer, slightly larger 27′ Arctic Fox fifth wheel. Not only can the rig accommodate my jewelry design business, but it also has enough roof space for more photovoltaic panels and storage space for a bigger battery bank.
Paying the higher cost of RV solar power with real juice was painful to consider, but we agreed to dig deeper into our wallets and bought a bigger 500-watt system with four, 6-volt batteries.
The difference has been amazing.
Things we can do with a bigger RV solar power system (without running the batteries down)
- Turn on the microwave to heat our dinner or leftovers
- Toast bread in a pop-up toaster
- Blend smoothies and boat drinks
- Run the heater all night if we want to
- Vacuum the rig
- Turn on handheld power tools for my jewelry business
- Keep two laptops and our RV satellite Internet online at least 3 hours into darkness, without having to put them to sleep while we’re away for a few minutes. We’ve never pushed it longer because we’re good battery stewards.
- Simultaneously run small items like the bathroom and kitchen fans, radios and other minor devices, while doing all of these other things.
We can do everything, and still have enough power.
To sum it up, we’re living like normal people in a stick house! Paying the higher cost of a larger RV solar power system that really suits our needs wasn’t easy, but it’s dramatically improved our full-timing lifestyle.
Now we can go anywhere, any time.
Last week we were camped at a gorgeous remote spot for over a week, in very cold temperatures that we never could have endured before because we couldn’t run our heater at night.
If you’re in the early stages of diving into the RVing lifestyle, don’t skimp on the cost of RV solar power. Get what you need, and then some, and you won’t be disappointed.
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