Having solar panels on your rig is almost essential to have true freedom on the road. With panels, you can camp/park almost anywhere and still have power to run your lights and fridge (even propane fridges use some power to run). You will also be able to charge your phone, laptop, camera, etc. As long as you have some sunlight, you have power! Even on cloudy and rainy days you can generally still use all the essentials (lights, fridge and phone charge)
There are many options for solar panels for your RV. There’s also a bit to learn first, so let’s get started!
Solar and Power Basics
To have a complete solar system you’re going to need a bit more than just the panels. You need batteries, you need a charge controller and you probably will want an inverter. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Let me explain the process real quick:
- Sun shines onto your solar panels, the bigger the panels (more watts) the more power they bring in from the sun.
- The panels are connected to the charge controller, the power then is sent to the controller.
- The charge controller is connected to your battery bank and it controls the amount of power that gos into the batteries so they don’t overcharge etc.
- Your batteries are than connected to your RV and that is how you get power to your lights, fridge and the DC outlets in the RV. (round charge plugs found in cars) You can charge your phone and many other things using a DC outlet. However, to charge your laptop or anything else with a standard “house plug”, you’ll need an Inverter.
- The inverter is connected to the batteries as well, the inverter, inverts the power from DC(direct current) to AC(alternating current). Regular house plugs use AC. The inverter has AC plugs on it and you can run extension cords from it to anywhere in your rig and you have AC power!
If this sounds hard to set up yourself, its really not bad, I set mine all up with just a little research and just a drill, and screwdriver. The Solar kit I recommend below makes it even easier and there’s instructions of course!
Now, just because you have enough plugs doesn’t mean you can plug anything and everything in! You probably won’t be able to run a big blender, a microwave or a big vacuum off your inverter, unless you have a lot of sun coming in (a lot of panels), enough battery power to store the power(a lot of batteries) and a big powerful inverter that can handle that much power pull at once.
Just be aware when shopping what you actually are going to be using regularly and how much power you think you’ll need. I’d say ditch the microwave! Vacuum with car wash vacuums! If you don’t need all the luxuries you can save a ton of money on your solar set up. More money saved is more money to travel with!
I’m going to be going over the exact solar kit I installed on my RV. This kit is the best for the price and it comes with the charge controller and everything you need besides the batteries and inverter.
Before I got this kit I heard many good things about the company Renogy and I have to say, I have no complaints after two years of use. My panels have got rained on, snowed on, dust stormed on and even a bit of hail. The panels have no cracks or any damage that I can see. The controller still works, my batteries get full everyday.
I went with the 200 watt panels and two 100 AH batteries. Between my travel companion and I, there is almost always at least one phone being charged and 1 laptop being charged through the inverter. Lights are usually on and usually one small fan plugged into a DC outlet and being used all summer. Ive had very little issue with this set up, actually, with these panels and batteries there is only two times when I even have keep an eye on the charge.
First, on a very cloudy day, when there’s little sun, we may not be able to charge two laptops for long, might not be able to use a fan. Most likely we will just stick to charging phones and maybe one laptop, but still only a couple hours with the laptop.
The second time I have to be conservative with the power is in the winter time. This isn’t as bad as a cloudy day but since the sun is never as high in the sky, the panels just don’t bring in as much power. Winter is usually not much of a problem, we can usually can still do everything we need but definitely need to keep an eye on the power regularly. That’s our experience with the 200 3 Renogy panels, check them out below!
If you don’t think you need the 200 w, there is the same kit with just one 100 watt panels. This would work for less power hungry people, and If I was just one person using the RV, I would consider this one:
I have TWO of these batteries and for the price you really cant beat them. For deep cycle batteries, these are a great price. I’ve had mine for two years now, so far, so good.
For the inverter that I’ve used for the last two years, click here.
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Thoughts? Concerns? Leave a comment below!
Happy Camping! -Lance