Solar energy is great for boondocking, but it is difficult to know which solar panels, and how many, to go for.
Many people go for 100-watt solar panels due to their size, price, and their smaller scale installation.
However, is a 100-watt solar panel enough to meet your needs and what you need to be powered in your RV? Will it be enough to provide for everyone in the RV, or will it leave you sitting in the dark?
Read on to find out if a 100-watt solar panel will be sufficient for your needs, or if you should maybe look at something bigger.
What Can Influence Whether or Not 100-Watt Solar Panels Are Enough for an RV?
The question of whether or not 100-watt solar panels will provide enough electricity for your RV has a multifaceted answer.
Unfortunately, it is not a simple “yes or no” answer, as there are certain factors and scenarios that will influence how much electricity you will need, and whether or not a 100-watt solar panel will be able to meet your needs.
The following factors and scenarios determine how much solar energy your RV will need, and will help determine whether or not 100-watt solar panels are enough.
How Long Your Trip Is
The amount of energy required is greatly influenced by how long you are planning for your trip to be.
If you are planning on going away for only a weekend, 100-watt solar panels may very well be able to do the trick.
If you are planning on boondocking for a few weeks, you will require a lot more energy.
This may make it difficult for 100-watt solar panels to keep up with your electrical needs.
How Many People Are Living in the RV
The more people who are living in the RV, the more electricity will be needed.
It will be easier for a 100-watt solar panel to produce enough energy for a single person, but doing the same for a family may be more of a challenge.
What Type of Appliances You Want to Run
The number and size of appliances you’d like to run will affect how much electricity you need to produce.
A single 100-watt solar panel can generate enough electricity to power small devices such as lamps, cell phone and laptop chargers, and a wifi router.
But, if you are wanting to power more appliances in your RV, a single 100-watt solar panel will most probably not be enough.
How Many Solar Panels You Have
If you only have one 100-watt solar panel, this may make it quite difficult to supply enough electricity for an RV.
However, the more you have, the easier it will be for 100-watt solar panels to be enough to supply your RV.
What Other Sources of Energy You Have
There are various sources of energy that you can use to power your RV, aside from solar panels.
These include energy created from your engine whilst driving, a generator, wind power, and charging your batteries from a power outlet at a camping ground.
If you are using these in combination with solar panels, then it is likely that a 100-watt solar panel will be enough for your RV.
However, if you are relying on solar power alone to charge your batteries, a single 100-watt solar panel may not be enough for an RV.
Whether or not you are using batteries in combination with your 100-watt solar panels influences the appliances that can be run, and for how long.
It is recommended that you use batteries and an inverter to properly store the electricity harvested from your 100-watt solar panels.
The amount of batteries you have, as well as the size thereof, also plays a role in how much electricity is stored.
Using batteries in combination with 100-watt solar panels will help to store the electricity for later use, and will make the 100-watt solar panels more capable of supplying enough power for your RV.
Whether it is sunny or cloudy for most of your trip will determine if 100-watt solar panels are sufficient for your RV.
If it is constantly sunny with no cloud cover, 100-watt solar panels will produce quite a lot of electricity and may be sufficient to supply your RV.
However, a 100-watt solar panel output on a cloudy day is very minimal and will not be nearly enough to supply your RV.
How Much Electricity Can a Single 100-Watt Solar Panel Produce?
It is all good and well to know that 100-watt solar panels produce 100 watts of electricity per hour, but some appliances only state the amps that they use and not the watts. So the golden question is “100-watt solar panels equal how many amps?”.
Knowing both the amps and watts produced will help you to estimate how much electricity you need to generate to properly supply all of your appliances.
In general, 12V batteries are used to capture the energy produced from solar panels. This means that on a very sunny day, with no cloud cover or shade blocking your solar panels, you can expect to produce about 8 amps per hour.
Bear in mind that the above approximations are for absolutely perfect conditions and in cases where no electricity is lost in the storage process, both of which are very rare.
How Many 100-Watt Solar Panels Should I Invest in?
Now that you know how many watts and amps a 100-watt solar panel produces, you can now go look at how much electricity the appliances you want to power use, and work it out from there.
For example, if the appliances you want to use in a day require 2000 watts to run, then you will need two or three 100-watt solar panels to do so.
It is important to have an accurate number of solar panels for what you need. If you have too little, you won’t be able to power all the appliances you need.
If you have too many solar panels, it will be a waste. Batteries can only store a certain amount of electricity, so if you are producing more than they can store, it will end up being a waste.
What Type of Solar Panels Produce the Most Electricity?
If you are using 100-watt solar panels, which we have already mentioned are slightly on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of energy production, you obviously want to use the ones that will provide you with the most energy.
With this being said, there are a few different types to choose from, and figure out which will benefit you more and provide the most electricity.
Polycrystalline vs Monocrystalline
The main difference between these two types of panels is that monocrystalline solar panels are more efficient than polycrystalline ones.
Monocrystalline solar panels have approximately a 15% - 22% efficiency rate of converting sun into usable electricity, whereas polycrystalline solar panels have an efficiency rate of approximately 10% - 16%.
Although monocrystalline solar panels may be more efficient, they cost a whole lot more than polycrystalline ones do.
So, if you are willing to spend that bit extra on them, monocrystalline solar panels would make your 100-watt solar panel more efficient and more capable of supplying an RV.
On the other hand, the difference is very minor, and may not make a big enough difference to be worth what they cost.
Portable vs Roof Solar Panels
You have the choice between using roof-mounted or portable solar panels.
The difference between the two is quite self-explanatory. Roof-mounted solar panels are those that you secure on the top of your roof and can capture sunlight whenever it is out.
Portable solar panels are those that you would keep inside with you, and only put out when you stop.
Both of them have their benefits, and we will discuss which may be better in terms of energy production.
Roof-mounted solar panels are great because they constantly conduct sunlight as you’re driving, and even when you’re not. Whereas portable ones can only conduct sunlight when you put them out.
However, if you plan to do a lot of adventuring in thick forests, the roof-mounted solar panels may not be ideal due to the lack of sunlight. In this case, portable ones may be more efficient for you.
There are pros and cons to both types of solar panels. If you are looking to create as much energy as possible, especially with 100-watt solar panels, it may be worth looking at using a combination of both these solar panels.
What Appliances Can Easily Be Run on a 100-Watt Solar Panel?
These are all fairly large appliances, and unfortunately, a 100-watt solar panel is known to be able to power smaller appliances, as opposed to the larger ones.
Things that can be quite easily run on a 100-watt solar panel are laptop and phone chargers, ceiling fans, LED light bulbs, and DVD players.
Anything bigger than that will generally require more than one 100-watt solar panel.
What Appliances Should You Not Run on a 100-Watt Solar Panel?
As mentioned, 100-watt solar panels are much better for smaller devices.
We would not recommend running larger appliances such as refrigerators or air conditioners on the solar power generated batteries, as they are power hogs, and will require a huge amount of electricity to keep going.
For example, if a refrigerator is run for a day, it will take at least two days to replenish the battery power that it drew.
Because of this, we would recommend using other electrical sources, or solar panels with a much higher wattage, to power these larger appliances.
As mentioned, 100-watt solar panels are on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to producing electricity to supply your RV.
It is unlikely that a single 100-watt solar panel will be enough for your RV, especially if it is being used without the help of other power sources.
We would recommend either investing in quite a number of them or perhaps looking into a 200 or 300-watt solar panel to try and meet your needs.
Using things like a gas stove, and propane to run your refrigerator will make it easier to rely on 100-watt solar panels, as it means they will have to produce less electricity.
Ideally, if you want to go completely off-grid with your RV, you are going to need solar panels that are slightly bigger than 100 watts.
This is especially true if there are circumstances out of your control, such as cloud cover or lots of trees that block the sun from your solar panels.
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