Are you thinking about going solar with your RV or Campervan?
You’re not alone.
More and more people are making the switch to solar power every day. It’s a great way to reduce your environmental impact and save money on your camping trips.
But before you buy those panels and go gung-ho DIY, there are a few things you should know.
Solar power isn’t perfect – it has its pros and cons. We want to make sure you have all the information you need before making a decision that could affect your whole trip.
- 1 The Solar RV Reality
- 2 The High Cost Of Rv Solar Power
- 3 Off-grid Rv Power Can Get a Little Tricky
- 4 A Battery Bank is Needed
- 5 The Shade Isn’t Always your Friend
- 6 Are Foldable Solar Panels the Way to Go?
- 7 Is Solar Power Worth It?
- 8 FAQs
- 8.1 Can you mix lead-acid and lithium-ion in the same system?
- 8.2 Can you use a power inverter with a solar panel?
- 8.3 Do I need a regulator for my solar panel?
- 8.4 What is the difference between a solar panel and a solar charger?
- 8.5 Can a travel trailer be used with solar power?
- 8.6 Is it safe to live in an RV full-time with solar power?
The Solar RV Reality
Let’s face it when it comes to road trips, RV trips, or boondocking the solar PV part of your equipment will likely be the most expensive component.
With that said, many people believe that going solar is worth the investment. After all, you’re saving money on gas and you’re helping the environment.
Let’s go deeper into the costs involved.
The High Cost Of Rv Solar Power
The average price of a good 100-watt solar panel kit is around $700. And that’s not including the batteries and inverters necessary to make the system work efficiently.
You’re looking at a minimum investment of $1,500 for a decent solar setup – and that’s before you factor in installation costs.
That’s quite a lot of money, right?
And there’s more…
If you want to go off-grid with your solar setup, you’re looking at a minimum investment of $5,000.
Yes, you read that correctly – five thousand dollars.
We’re not trying to scare you away from solar power. We just want you to be realistic about the costs involved.
If you’re not careful, you could end up spending a lot of money on a solar setup that doesn’t work as well as you hoped.
Off-grid Rv Power Can Get a Little Tricky
In my article How Easy Is It To Put Solar Panels on Your Campervan or RV? I do drill down into the installation process and just what is involved.
Even though it is a step-by-step guide, there’s still quite a lot of knowledge and know-how needed to get the job done right.
And if you’re not careful, you could end up making some costly mistakes.
- Not properly calculating your power needs
- Buying the wrong size solar panels
- Not installing the panels correctly
These are just a few of the mistakes people make when setting up their off-grid solar power systems.
And if you’re not careful, you could make them too.
A Battery Bank is Needed
So you’ve bought your solar panel kit and now you can start producing lots of clean energy, right?
Hmmm, yes and no.
You see, solar panels only produce electricity when the sun is shining.
But what happens at night or on cloudy days?
That’s where batteries come in.
Batteries store the energy produced by your solar panels so you can use it when the sun isn’t shining.
Without batteries, your solar setup will be useless.
And batteries are not cheap. A good quality 100-amp hour battery will set you back around $300.
And you’ll need at least two of them for a decent-sized RV or campervan.
So now your total investment is up to $2,100 – and that’s not including the cost of installation.
The Shade Isn’t Always your Friend
On hot summer days, the rush to find shade by all RVers can campervan owners is a must. In fact, the locations are like gold dust on most campsites.
But here’s the thing…
Ideally, your solar panels need direct sunlight to work efficiently.
That means if your RV is in the shade, your solar panels won’t be able to produce as much electricity.
And that can be a problem if you’re relying on solar power to run your RV.
This is where portable solar panels come in handy.
Portable solar panels are a great way to get around the shading problem. You can set them up in direct sunlight and then move them as needed throughout the day.
Of course, this adds another level of complexity (and expense) to your solar setup, but it gives you the best of both worlds – shade when you need it and direct sunlight for your solar panels.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider before making the switch to solar power.
Solar generators from Renogy, Acopower, Jackery, and Eco-worthy are some of the most popular options. Goal Zero also makes portable power stations that may be used with their solar panels. They have a built-in inverter and ports for your electronics, which is great.
Are Foldable Solar Panels the Way to Go?
One of the types of solar that’s becoming more and more popular is foldable solar panels.
As the name suggests, these are panels that can be folded up for easy transport and storage.
They’re usually made of thin, flexible materials like polymer or silicon. And they come in a variety of sizes – from small, personal-sized panels to larger ones that can charge an RV or campervan battery.
Foldable solar panels have a lot of advantages.
They’re lightweight and easy to carry, so they’re great for hiking and camping trips.
They can also be stored in small spaces, which is a huge plus if you’re short on storage space in your RV or campervan.
But there are some drawbacks to foldable solar panels as well.
For one, they’re usually more expensive than traditional solar panels.
And because they’re made of thin, flexible materials, they’re also more fragile and can be damaged more easily, and aren’t as efficient.
So if you’re looking for a solar panel that’s easy to transport and store, foldable solar panels are a good option. But if you’re looking for the most efficient panel, traditional solar panels are the way to go.
Is Solar Power Worth It?
Yes, 100%. No matter what your budget is, you’ll find a solar power setup that will work for you.
Just be sure to do your research and understand the costs involved before making the switch.
Like most things to do with solar, the initial investment can be a lot, but in the long run, it will save you money.
Do you have solar power in your RV? What brand and model of solar panels do you have? Let us know in the comments below!
Can you mix lead-acid and lithium-ion in the same system?
No, we don’t recommend mixing the two types of battery since the performance of both will be affected. Lead acid batteries need to be charged at a lower voltage to prolong their lifespan, while lithium-ion batteries require higher voltages for charging.
Can you use a power inverter with a solar panel?
Yes, you can use an inverter with a solar panel to convert the DC power from the panel into AC power. This is useful if you want to use AC appliances with your solar setup.
Do I need a regulator for my solar panel?
Yes, you will need a regulator (also called a charge controller) to prevent your batteries from overcharging and being damaged. Most solar panels come with a built-in regulator, but you can also buy them separately.
What is the difference between a solar panel and a solar charger?
A solar panel is a device that converts sunlight into electricity, while a solar charger is a device that uses electricity from a solar panel to charge batteries.
Can a travel trailer be used with solar power?
Absolutely, in fact, if you want to add more solar panels to your system, installing them on your trailer’s roof may be the best option since it’ll give you more space to work with.
Is it safe to live in an RV full-time with solar power?
Yes, as long as you have a properly installed and maintained solar power system, it is perfectly safe to live in an RV full-time with solar power.