Camping out in an RV without worrying about your car battery and just staying at any place you want sounds like the ultimate experience. But, how do you do that without all those plugs and hookups, or worrying that your battery might not last long? Here’s the answer- solar panels!
If you’re not a fan of staying at RV parks or constantly driving around, investing in solar panels might be the best decision for you, but you need to have an idea of how much solar power you’ll need to keep your RV running. Ask yourself, “How much power do I need for my RV?”
Here’s a very general idea on how much solar power appliances use: A 100-watt solar panel has the capacity to keep small appliances like a laptop, radio, or LED lights running for a couple of hours, while bigger appliances will of course require more.
- How much power do you need?
- Important things to consider
- Final Tips
How much power do you need?
You will think that plastering as many solar panels on your RV may get it running and all that, but that isn’t exactly the case. It is vital to know essential information such as what kind of solar panel you should use, how much energy you need, and where to store all the energy you get.
While going overboard may not be such a good idea, going short on power is just as bad as that, if not worse. Remember, you’re installing solar panels for a reason, and that is to avoid using your generator, or draining your car battery.
As such, knowing the capacity of the size and weight of your motorhome is a must.
Calculate your power requirement
Are you worried about not knowing how much energy you use a day? Don’t fret, here are some tips on how to do so. You need to balance out how much power you use in relation to how much power comes from the solar panel.
The power used pertains to the amp-hours you consume everyday. The other one is the power stored, pertaining to how much energy your solar panels provide to your battery. If you have no clue on how to determine these, continue on reading below.
Go for a trial run
The simplest way to determine how much power your RV requires is to go for a trial run. Going out on an actual camping trip and doing your usual routine without using a generator will help you know how long your RV’s power can last.
Let’s say you are using a 100 amp-hour two deep-cycle batteries, and after around two days the battery went down to 50%, then your batteries provide energy from around 200 amp-hours. One cause of shortening a battery’s life is to discharge past 80%, and doing it past 50% will be much more harmful. It can take a toll on your battery’s life
Know your daily consumption
To find out how much energy you consume a day, here’s what you need to do. Using a battery of 100 amp-hours is your basis, then dividing it according to the number of days you camped out will most likely be the answer.
For example, using a 100 amp-hour battery for 2 days will make the answer 50 amp-hour a day. Easy, right?
After knowing how much energy you consume a day, the next step is choosing solar panels that will provide the replacement of the average amp-hours you use a day.
Anticipate sunlight exposure levels
You also have to consider the season you’re going to use it. Let’s say using the RV around summer and spring will get you an average of around 5 peak-sun-hours. What does this have to do with the panels?
The peak-sun-hours are the vital key to producing solar energy. One solar panel that has around 100-watt power is equal to an average of 6 amps per peak-sun-hour which in turn can be converted to 30 amp-hours daily. If your average daily energy usage is around 50 amp-hours then you will want to put 2 100-watt solar panels to cater for your daily power needed.
Going for a trial run will help you best in determining how much solar power you need. You can also get tips from other solar panel owners to get best results.
Important things to consider
What’s the next step after knowing your daily average power consumption? Of course it’s identifying how many solar panels you need. Different solar panels have different ranges of how much solar power it produces. How to identify that? Check these out:
Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline
Here are two types of solar panels, monocrystalline and polycrystalline. How do we know which is which? Let’s hop on first on our recommendation, the polycrystalline.
In the case of efficiency, a polycrystalline panel will provide around 10-15 percent conversion rate, that of course will depend on the manufacturer, while a monocrystalline panel will provide around 22 percent conversion rate, increasing the efficiency of the polycrystalline to 10 percent higher in converting sun energy to electricity.
Solar power efficiency
Of course solar panels won’t work by themselves, even by having guaranteed maximum efficiency. It all boils down to the weather conditions, despite having a 100-watt solar panel that could really produce 100 watts.
Choosing and using the best solar panel there isn’t the only factor you’ll have to consider. Remember that solar panels get power from the sun, so other factors such as the weather, temperature, which time of the day it is, and many more, will contribute to how successful you can generate as much solar power you can.
One helpful tip is to use online calculators which help you best determine which is which for your location, weather, and time of year and how many hours of sunlight you’ll be able to get.
Solar charge controller
A solar charge controller, or MPPT controller, has got to be the best thing yet. This allows you to convert your panel’s excess voltage to amperage which in turn will increase it. Increasing the amperage also means shortening the batteries’ charging time.
Paying a little bit more for premium features won’t hurt especially if it shortens the batteries’ charging time. You may not think that this is as important, but this is actually a crucial feature especially when running on season’s like winter where the sun is a little bit off the grid.
Peak power (amps)
Solar panels all produce different amounts of peak power, there are the ones that are measured for amps. If you chose a solar panel that provides a 5-amp peak power rating, combining it with a 6-hour sunlight a day will give you a rate of around 30 amp-hours.
Adding a solar charge controller to the side is a bonus. Of course getting a solar charge controller to have an accurate peak power rating like the solar panel is a must.
Peak power (volts)
While the peak power above is measured in amps, this one is measured in volts. You may want to choose a panel that is very efficient in producing volts, seeing that this affects the rate of how fast charging is.
Some panels are less efficient than others, so it’s really important to look out for ones that are most efficient at voltage. One more point to remember is that low-light conditions tend to reduce charging rate so considering this factor is really important.
The wattage of a solar panel will also contribute most to how much energy will be produced. Checking and totaling the watt rating of a solar panel will let you size a system accurately.
A panel produces power depending on its tolerance. Some panels may have a negative to positive power tolerance, while others may have just the positive ones just like Renogy. Its power tolerance has “Guaranteed positive output tolerance (0-3%).” Choosing one with the percentage number that fits your RV most will be a big help.
Read also: How long do break pads last?
Results will always vary depending on different decisions, but here are final tips to help you get the best ones.
When it comes to the question of “how much power do I need for my RV?”, the most important thing you have to remember is that a 100-watt solar panel produces about 30 amp-hours daily, so you can calculate how many panels you need with this information.
Another is that matching the battery capacity with the same amount of solar power output will be great, 100 amp-hour battery to 100 watts solar power. Opting also for additional power is best especially for cloudy days which results in a drop of about 75-90% efficiency.