Recreational vehicles can come in the form of a caravan, campervan, motor homes, truck campers and more. No matter which one you have for your outdoor adventures, it's always a good idea to have a reliable power source for a bit of luxury. After all, who wouldn't like a nice, air-conditioned and well-lit place with warm food at the end of the day? The solution to this: Install an efficient solar panel in your vehicle.
How much will an RV solar panel installation cost you?
There are different factors that play in the installation of caravan solar panels that may affect its total cost. On average, it may cost you around $600 for the simplest setup to $2,000 for a larger installation. If you want to add more panels, that's another separate cost as well. An RV solar setup usually includes solar panels, charge controllers, battery storage, and inverters.
There are also a variety of solar panel types to choose from. Usually, the best solar panels for RV would be solar shingles or fixed solar panels. If you're stopping by campsites and want something portable, you can also go for flexible solar panels, folding solar panels, or solar blankets.
How do I connect solar panels to my RV?
First, mount your solar panels on the roof of your RV, then take your charge controller and install it inside, preferably as close to the batteries as possible. Install a fuse or circuit breaker and work on your wiring from the solar panel into the RV, then to the charge controller. Next, connect your wires from the charge controller to your battery bank. This could be lead-acid batteries, AGM, or lithium batteries. For these wirings, you will need another fuse installed which should be a little bigger than the charge controller's rated current.
Your RV solar set up is almost complete by now. The only step left to do is to connect it to the charge controller but before you do this, make sure to double-check all the wirings for added safety. For those who would like to run 120V AC appliances, you need to fit an inverter in your RV (close to the batteries) and run the appropriate wiring to it.
How many solar panels do I need to run an RV?
Before answering this question, it is important to determine first how much power will you need for your RV and knowing what kind of power setup you need. Simply mounting several panels on your caravan roof won't do the trick if you don't have anything to store all the energy you get in, so you should have at least an estimate of how much battery capacity you need. There are two ways to do this: You can either try to list and calculate the wattage of every appliance you have in your RV and its average run time. Another method would be to do an actual camping test. Go off-the-grid for a couple of days and use your RV as you normally would, without trying to conserve power. Use a voltmeter or battery monitor to track your battery level and determine how much power you consume in a day.
Now, for the number of solar panels. Generally, a 100-watt solar panel can produce about 30Ah per day, so you can start with this guideline to determine how many panels you need. An easy way to do this is to match your batteries’ Ah capacity with your solar output in watts. For example, if you have a 300Ah battery, you would need about 300W of solar power. Usually, a 4WD solar panel setup requires a minimum of 120W or at least two solar panels to meet your daily power needs. Also, keep in mind that your solar panel's efficiency may change depending on the weather, time of day, season, and location.
What will a 200-watt solar panel run in an RV?
A 200-watt solar panel is perhaps the minimum power output you can go for to keep a battery tank topped off. This is good enough to power a couple of appliances and gadgets in a day like a laptop, coffee maker, microwave oven, and a light bulb. When it comes to air conditioners for your caravan, you could power it using solar panels but this will require a large number of panels and an electrical system upgrade. But hey, if you're willing to design this big of a system for the perfect road trip, why not? In terms of charging, a 200W solar panel that produces 1 amp of current can take 5-8 hours to fully charge a 12V car battery, which is half the time needed if you're using a 100-watt solar panel.
More from Outbax
Solar installation on your RV poses a number of benefits. For one it's a clean and affordable way of keeping yourself comfortable wherever your travel takes you. It's also silent so you won't have to deal with a blaring unit while sleeping, plus, it gives you more freedom to explore places beyond campsites and still enjoy your electronic devices.
Here at Outbax, we have all kinds of solar panels and solar panel accessories not just for your RV but for your home as well. Browse through a range of the best solar panels in Australia from caravan solar panels, camping solar panels, and even boat solar panels. To make your experience even better, we also have an experienced customer service team who can help you with all your questions whether you're a first time or seasoned camper. Happy camping!