|25 million Americans traveled in RVs this spring and summer alone.
The RV lifestyle has become a movement in the United States. RVers come from diverse backgrounds and age groups.
There’s something about the freedom that an RV brings. Spending time with family, going off the grid, and enjoying nature are among the top reasons people love to RV.
The downside? Lack of electricity.
More and more RVers are turning to RV solar setups to power their lives while on the road. Keep reading to learn more about how RV solar works and why you should go solar today.
How do solar panels work for RVs and motorhomes?
In order to generate and use solar power for your RV, you’ll need a setup complete with the following components:
A charge controller to prevent overcharging your storage system
Solar batteries to store energy (common options are lead-acid or lithium-ion)
An inverter to convert DC electricity to AC electricity (occasionally pre-built into the solar battery component)
You can buy all of these components separately, but there are some motorhome solar panel kits available to purchase that include most components. For example, WindyNation makes a 100 watt (W) RV solar panel kit that comes with a solar panel, charge controller, cables, and mounting hardware. You’ll need to purchase a battery separately for this specific kit.
You’ll also need proper wires and cables to hook all of your components together, as well as racking and mounting equipment for your panels – these parts will be included with your solar panel or battery system purchase.
Should you install solar panels on your RV?
If you’re the type of RV owner who plans on spending lots of time in remote locations and dry camps without power hookups (known as “boondocking”), solar energy may be a way to generate power and see some long-term savings when compared to a gas generator. Over time, the costs of continually starting up and running a gas generator will exceed the investment required for a solar panel system. You can expect your solar “payback period” to be under five years, but the actual time it takes to recoup your investment will depend on the equipment you purchase and the amount of sunlight that hits your solar panels.
However, RV solar panels won’t make financial or practical sense for every RV owner. If you spend the majority of your RV time at campgrounds, you’re probably better off hooking up to the local power system and paying the associated fee. Installing solar may end up saving you money in the end, but you may have to wait a long time to break even. Additionally, if you only take RV trips a few times per year, the upfront cost of an RV solar panel setup will likely not be worth the few times you can actually use the system.
Economics and Lifestyle Factors
There are two things to consider before buying a system for an RV – is it worth it, and why is it worth it?
The most obvious factor is the cost of the system – solar is not cheap, and may not be for everyone. It will save you generator fuel, wear, and maintenance – but probably not enough to be money ahead. Other things to consider are that solar is very quiet, and if installed correctly, is very low maintenance. The sound of a generator running in the wilderness or late at night in a camping area can get very annoying, and it is prohibited in many areas. It tends to make some folks very upset.
To find out if this is right for your situation, you need to figure out how much it will cost you to run the generator. An average generator will probably cost about $1 per hour to operate: it ran for 6 hours per day for one year, which would be about $2000, counting only fuel costs. Maintenance & repairs would add to that. At that cost, you would just about break even at twelve months with the system shown above. You may only run yours for an hour or two a day – if so, the payback (considering only the money) will be longer. To many, the noise, hassle, and fumes that generators produce are often far more important than just the dollar cost – although modern generators are much quieter than older ones, it is still a factor. Many places restrict generator usage, especially during the evening.
If you choose to purchase these components a la carte, it’s essential that you ensure you’re purchasing items that are compatible with each other. You don’t want to end up with an item that won’t work with your system.
When it comes to installing your RV set up, you may be able to do it yourself. You can also choose a solar installer to handle your setup.
When it comes to determining how many solar panels you need or what type of battery is right for you, you must consider your power needs. A smaller setup won’t be able to power as large appliances or smaller appliances for as long as a bigger one.
You need to consider what you’ll be using the energy you collect for. If you expect to power a mini-fridge for most of the day, you’ll need a set up with more watts of power than if you plan to use a blender once a day.
Get Started Building Your RV Solar Setup Today
If you’re an RV who travels off the beaten path, you need an RV solar setup. Going solar will transform your RV experience taking you to new places while still ensuring you have access to electricity.
When it comes to building your solar setup, it’s important that you choose the best components for your needs. Batteries are the backbone of your energy storage system and it’s essential that you choose batteries you can trust.
You can contact us directly if you need help determining which battery is right for your set
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