Solar power is exciting, especially for those who love to live ‘off the grid’ and spend a lot of time on the road in their RV. The idea of essentially free energy from the sun is unsurprisingly very appealing to many RV owners. Especially RV owners who make it a habit of taking long haul trips. It’s common as an RV owner to find yourself in a situation where your batteries are not being charged properly by your alternator, and you find yourself in a rough spot.
That is where the power, and innovation of solar powered energy comes into play, and can be a life saver for RV owners in that unfortunate situation. The primary fear that most RV owners would state that keeps them from diving head-first into the solar powered market, is cost. While harvesting your own battery energy from the sun is extremely cost effective in the long run, it isn’t exactly cheap up front. In addition, it will require a fair bit of know-how and leg work on the part of the RV owner to make it all work. However, most would argue that the results are worth it, by far. Let’s take a moment to examine a bit of what is necessary to get started in solar power for your RV.
The Four Components of a Solar System
Your solar system is going to be made of 4 primary parts, I’ll explain them briefly, however bear in mind that I won’t go into too much detail here. You will want to do a bit more research of each component.
The Solar Panel
Solar panels themselves come in various sizes depending on watt power. You can buy them in as little as 100 watts to 400 watts. The average solar powered RV will run on 800 watts of power daily. However, that watt usage will largely depend on the amount of electricity you consume, and need for your personal use. You will need to consider how many watts of power each of your electricity components consume on average, and estimate to the best of your ability. Unless you are running some serious power, 800 watts will be able to keep your lights and TV on, although you won’t be running on unlimited power throughout the day, try to keep that in mind.
The size of the battery that you will need largely depends on your desired final results. Do you use your RV infrequently, and only on small trips? Or, do you live in your RV full-time
and require a bit more ‘juice’ from your batteries? Only you can answer that. The total amount of power that a battery can store is measured in kilowatts per hour. You will want to purchase a battery that allows you to store enough energy daily to serve the needs of what you will be using them for. It’s always best to overestimate here.
A Charge Controller
When left unchecked, the solar panels can overcharge the batteries and lead to permanent damage of the battery. A charge controller will ensure that you are not overcharging the battery, and allows the panel to cut off energy intake once the battery is full. These are especially important for off-grid solar uses such as boats or RVs that will not be using their power constantly, and need to be regulated for overcharging.
The energy harvested and produced by your solar panels is almost useless on its own. You will need an inverter that will convert the energy into usable AC current. The Inverter will take energy harvested, and create usable energy that can actually power your electric devices.
Getting Set Up
While each individual component can be purchased separately, for the uninitiated, you may want to purchase a ‘solar panel kit’. These are bundled kits that come with all the necessary components to get yourself set up! When it comes to pricing, it is always best to purchase the best solar kit that you can afford. It will pay off in the long run. However, as I mentioned before, determining the power needs of your RV, and solar kit, is largely dependant on you and what you aim to get from your solar power. You will need to have a firm understanding of how much electricity you consume, and would like to have daily on hand in your RV when you are using it.
Converting to solar power is rewarding, and quite frankly pretty dang cool. However, it does not come easily. It requires a hefty amount of research, and a bit of trial and error. But I am confident that with a bit of determination, you too can be on your way to solar powered energy, and living off the grid in no time!