Extendable trailers guide

Solar panels for motorhomes, motorhomes and caravans: everything you need to know

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If you own a motorhome or motorhome, you’ve probably considered investing in solar panels for your vehicle. Depending on your lifestyle and energy consumption habits, RV solar panels can be a great investment, but are they right for you?

Before you start looking for solar panels for your RV, it’s important to understand the basics behind them, including what they’re used for, how to install them, and how to maintain them. We’ve answered each of these questions (and more) in this guide, so you can decide if RV solar panels are right for you.

What are RV solar panels?

RV solar panels work like residential and commercial solar panels, except on a smaller, more transportable scale. Once installed on your motorhome, motorhome or motorhome, solar panels capture sunlight and convert it into usable electricity for your vehicle. In turn, you can use this electricity to power the devices, lights, and outlets in your RV.

Without solar panels, you will have to rely on another power source for electricity, such as a generator or a camping hookup. RV solar panels offer a practical and environmentally friendly alternative to these traditional energy sources, as they rely on renewable energy from the sun.


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How many RV solar panels do you need?

Unlike residential and commercial solar systems, which are designed to power an entire home or business, RV solar systems typically provide more modest output. This is usually not a problem since you don’t use as many lights and devices in your RV as you would in a brick and mortar property.

So how many solar panels will you need for your motorhome? It depends on several factors, including your energy consumption habits, the efficiency of the panels and the amount of sunlight you will receive each day.

Calculating your average daily energy consumption is the first step in determining the size of the RV solar system you need. To do this, you will need to make a list of all the devices you want to use, how much power they need, and how many hours per day you will be using them.

For example, let’s say you have a 500 watt (W) microwave that you want to use for 15 minutes every day. By multiplying these numbers, you can determine that you would need to generate 125W of electricity to use your microwave during that time. Repeat this process with each device or device that you plan to use.

To determine how much electricity your system will generate per day, you need to multiply your system size by the number of hours of direct sunlight your panels receive each day.

For our example, suppose we have a motorhome solar system that consists of four individual solar panels (100W each), which gives us a total system size of 400W. We will also assume that we are in a reasonable area. sunny. which receives five hours of sun per day.

With a few quick calculations, we can see that this system will generate 4000 watt hours (Wh) of electricity per day. You can use this output as a benchmark to compare your energy needs (calculated above), then adjust the number of panels and wattage accordingly to meet your needs.

For reference, a 4000 Wh system is usually sufficient to run small household appliances and turn on your vehicle’s lights, but it will not support the use of heavy household appliances. In fact, even the largest RV solar panel systems are not designed for constant or excessive power consumption. So if you need tons of energy, solar panels won’t be the best choice.

Setting up an RV solar panel system

There are three types of RV solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and amorphous.

  • Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient (and expensive) of the three, so they will generate the most energy in the least amount of time.
  • Polycrystalline panels are slightly less effective, but they are still a durable and reliable option.
  • Amorphous panels are newer on the market. They aren’t as efficient as their counterparts, but their slim, foldable construction makes them easy to set up.

In addition to solar panels, you will need several other components to complete your RV solar system, including:

  • Solar inverter, which converts solar energy from direct current to alternating current
  • Charge controller, which protects the storage system from overload
  • Solar battery, which stores the energy you generate

These components are often bundled with solar panels, which is ideal for first-time solar installers. Or, if you already have solar panels that you want to use, you can purchase these items separately.

While it is possible to use residential solar panels on your RV, it is not an option that we recommend. This is because these types of panels are larger and take up more roof space than specific RV specific products, so you may not have enough room above your vehicle. Additionally, the voltage on residential panels may not be compatible with other components in your RV solar system.

Don’t know where to shop? Online retailers like Amazon have a huge selection of solar panels and motorhome starter kits, along with customer reviews for each product. Stores like Camping World and Home Depot also have a decent range of options.

Installation and maintenance

When you’ve found the right solar panels for your RV, it’s time to install them. Fortunately, installing solar panels for motor homes is fairly straightforward and shouldn’t require professional intervention.

If you have purchased solar panels that are to be mounted on your roof, they should come with instructions for doing so. Typically, this involves minor manual work, like securing your panels to your RV using mounting brackets. Amorphous solar panels are even easier to install because they come with an adhesive backing that you can quickly affix to your roof.

Don’t want to tie your solar panels to your RV? There are also case style portable solar panel sets that can be unfolded and propped up to absorb sunlight when you’re not driving. When you are done, you can store them inside your vehicle.

Once your system is up and running, maintenance should be minimal. When you use solar power as a power source, you don’t have to worry about buying fuel or creating noise like you would with a generator. Plus, many RV solar panels come with long-term performance guarantees (typically 25 years), so you can be sure you’re making a smart investment.

Cost and discounts

The overall cost of your system will depend on a few factors, including the type of panels you choose and the amount of electricity you need to generate. If you need a lot of power, you will need to purchase more equipment, which will increase the price of your system.

You can find an RV solar system kit to suit any budget, with options starting at around $ 150. However, if you’re looking for a plan that has everything you need to get started, you should expect to pay between $ 250 and $ 500. Renogy and Windy Nation are two of the most well-known brands for RV solar systems, but there are plenty of high-quality options to consider.

If your RV is your primary or secondary residence, you can save money on your solar investment by claiming the Federal Residential Solar Energy Credit, which offers a 26% tax credit on purchased and installed solar systems. until 2022.

Are RV Solar Panels Right for You?

It’s hard to argue with the benefits of solar power, but RV solar panels might not be right for everyone. If you live in your motorhome and often take it off the grid (where there are no hookups for campgrounds), then solar power can be a convenient and environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline generators. . However, solar power may not be worth the investment if you only use your motorhome once or twice a year or if you only stay in campgrounds or RV parks.

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