Are you looking to use solar power to run your RV air conditioner unit?

You’re not the only one!

A lot of people are looking into this as a way to save money while they travel. But it’s not as simple as just plugging in the A/C to the solar panel.

There are a lot of steps that need to be taken to make sure everything runs smoothly.

How Solar Panels Power an RV Air Conditioner

In order to power your RV with solar panels, you’re going to need a lot of them- at least 400 watts solar. This is because the air conditioner uses a lot of power (watts).

So, for example, if you have a 500-watt air conditioner, you’re going to need at least 1000 watts worth of solar panels. And that’s just to run the A/C- it doesn’t include any other appliances you might want to run off of solar.

You can also opt for a “slow start” air conditioner, which requires less power to start up. These are more expensive, but if you’re really looking to save on energy, it might be worth the investment?

In addition to solar panels, you’ll also need:

  • Batteries – Your solar panels can’t actually store the energy they generate. That’s where an RV battery bank comes in. A battery bank is made up of multiple batteries that are wired together. The energy from the solar panels gets stored in the batteries and then can be used to power your RV appliances when needed.
  • Inverter – An inverter is a device that converts the DC power from the batteries into AC power, which is what your RV appliances use.
  • Charge Controller – A charge controller is a gadget that controls the transmission of electricity from solar panels to batteries. It protects the batteries from being overcharged and ruined.
  • 12 volt DV side of RV’s electrical panel – This is where you’ll connect the solar panels, batteries, inverter, and charge controller to your RV’s electrical system. If you’re not comfortable wiring all of this up yourself, you can always hire an electrician to do it for you. Or, you can purchase a complete solar power kit that comes with everything you need- including detailed instructions.
  • AC Side panel – The AC side panel is where you’ll connect the inverter to your RV’s electrical system.

Now that you know all of the components that are needed to run an RV air conditioner on solar power, let’s take a look at how it all works together.

Is Your Rv’s Solar Power System Big Enough To Run Your Air Conditioner?

Probably the most important part of the article, making sure your RV’s solar power system is big enough to run your air conditioner.

You will need to calculate the wattage of your RV air conditioner. This can be done by checking the nameplate on the unit, which will list the power consumption in amps or watts.

You also need to calculate your overall RV power needs. This includes everything that you want to run off of solar- not just the air conditioner.

Once you have both of these numbers, you can compare them to see if your RV’s solar power system is big enough to handle your needs.

Once you know the size of your RV solar power system, follow these steps to calculate its capacity:

  1. Multiply that figure by 1,000 (there are 1,000 watts in a kW).
  2. Determine the wattage of the solar panels you’re thinking about.
  3. Divide number 1 and 2.

When you want your RV solar panels to supply A/C, the three components that need extra measurement care are the solar array, battery bank, and inverter.

How many solar panels to run an RV air conditioner?

When the weather is warm, many people are concerned about their utility bills. Aside from keeping your home cool during the summer months, air conditioners consume a lot of electricity to operate.

Even in a modest RV, running an air conditioner consumes a substantial quantity of energy both to turn on and keep going.

An average RV air conditioner requires around 1800 watts of electricity to start up and 650 watts per hour to maintain use and cool down the RV. If you have a larger RV, your air conditioner will require more power.

To find out how many solar panels you need to run an RV air conditioner, begin by calculating the wattage of the AC unit.

1. You’ll Need The Correct Size Solar Array

Use the following equation:

(1,800 watts x number of hours used) + (650 watts x number of hours used) = total watts needed

For example, let’s say you use your RV air conditioner for two hours in the evening. This would require (1,800 x 2) + (650 x 2) = 4,950 watts per day.

Now that you know how many watts your RV air conditioner uses, you can determine how many solar panels you need by dividing the total watts needed by the wattage of the solar panel.

4,950 watts / 200 watts = 25 solar panels

In this example, you would need 25 solar panels to run your RV air conditioner for two hours each evening. However, keep in mind that this is just an estimate. The number of solar panels you need will vary depending on the size and model of your RV air conditioner, the climate, and how much sun your location receives.

2. Is Your Rv Battery Bank Large Enough?

With an air conditioner using 150 amps per hour, 150 Ah are required for additional things every hour the machine is in use without sunlight.

In the case of cloudy weather or at night, the battery bank must be considerably bigger. Rather than having 300 Ah or less, it should have 700 Ah or more. This allows the battery to last through nighttime hours.

3. Is Your Inverter The Correct Size?

The inverter for an RV air conditioner must be enormous. A 13,500 BTU air conditioner, for example, requires an inverter with a starting wattage of at least 2,800 W. To prevent the inverter from burning out, it should be able to output 3,500-4,000 W.

Other examples include:

  • The amount of electricity required to turn on a 7,000 BTU RV air conditioner is 1,700 watts. 600 is used after it has been switched on.
  • For a 10,000 BTU RV air conditioner, two thousand watts are required to start up and 700 watts are needed to keep it running.
  • 3,500 watts are needed to start a 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner. Once it is operating, 1,500 watts are required.

Related: The Grim Reality of RV Solar Power

What Are Soft Start Systems & How Do They Work?

A soft start system is designed to help an air conditioner ease into operation. It is a good choice if your RV doesn’t have enough power to start up the AC unit or if you want to reduce stress on the system.

A soft start system works by gradually increasing the voltage to the air conditioner over a period of time.

This allows the compressor and other components to slowly come up to speed and prevents the system from being overloaded.

If you are interested in using a soft start system for your RV air conditioner, be sure to purchase one that is compatible with your AC unit. You will also need to make sure that your RV has enough power to operate the system.

Is It Worth The Effort?

Unfortunately, this is something you must answer yourself. It is determined by how often you use your RV air conditioner and the amount of money you are prepared to invest in a solar panel system.

If you only use your AC unit occasionally, it may not be worth the expense of installing solar panels. However, if you use your air conditioner regularly, solar panels can help you save money on your electric bill. They might also be used as backup power for your home during a power outage.

No matter what you decide, be sure to do your research and calculate the costs carefully before investing in a solar panel system for your RV.

RV Air Conditioners: What Are the Alternatives?

If you don’t have enough roof space or the cash for a solar-powered RV air conditioner, there are a few alternative solutions to keep your mobile home’s interior cool. You may also use:

  • Purchase a swamp cooler.
  • Run your RV’s air conditioner while the engine is running.
  • Use RV park connections.
  • Park in the shade and blast some high-powered fans.

Purchase a swamp cooler.

A swamp cooler is a type of air conditioner that uses evaporative cooling to cool the air. It works by pulling in hot, dry air and passing it over water-saturated pads. As the water evaporates, it cools the air and blows it into your RV.

Swamp coolers are a great alternative to traditional air conditioners because they use less energy and are more environmentally friendly. However, they only work well in dry climates with low humidity.

Run your RV’s air conditioner while the engine is running.

If your RV has a built-in generator, you can use it to power your air conditioner while you’re driving. This is a great option if you’re only planning to use the AC unit for a short period of time.

However, it’s important to note that running your RV’s air conditioner while the engine is running can put a strain on the system. It’s also not very environmentally friendly.

Related: How Does A Solar Generator Work? (EXPLAINED)

Use RV park connections.

If you’re staying at an RV park, you may be able to connect your RV to the park’s power supply. This will give you access to a reliable source of electricity, which can be used to power your air conditioner.

However, it’s important to check with the RV park beforehand to see if they have the appropriate hookups for your RV. Some parks only have 30-amp connections, which may not be enough to power your AC unit.

Park in the shade and blast some high-powered fans

If all else fails, you can try to keep your RV cool by parking in the shade and using high-powered fans. This won’t be as effective as using an air conditioner, but it’s a good alternative if you’re on a tight budget.

FAQs

Can I put solar panels on my travel trailer?

Yes, solar panels can be installed on a travel trailer. However, keep in mind that the amount of electricity you will be able to produce will be limited by the size and number of panels you have. You may also need to purchase an RV solar panel kit.

Can I use the inverter to run my RV air conditioner?

Yes, you can use an inverter to run your RV air conditioner. However, you will need to purchase a high-powered inverter (3,500 watts or more) and make sure that your RV has enough battery capacity to support the AC unit.

Will my heat pump work with solar panels?

Heat pumps can be used with solar panels, but they are not as efficient as air conditioners. If you have a heat pump, you may want to consider using it in conjunction with another cooling method, such as fans or swamp coolers.

Can I use my portable solar generator to power my RV air conditioner?

Yes, you can use a portable solar generator to power your RV air conditioner. However, keep in mind that the generator will need to be able to output at least 3,500 watts of power. You will also need to make sure that your RV has enough battery capacity to support the AC unit.

In Summary

Solar panels provide a viable option for powering an RV air conditioner. They allow you to use the sun’s energy to run your AC unit, which can save you money on your electric bill.

If you are interested in using solar panels to power your RV air conditioner, be sure to do your research and calculate the costs carefully before making a purchase.

About the Author

Passionate about helping households transition to sustainable energy with helpful information and resources.

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