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Is 200-Watt Solar Enough For RV?

By SSK Admin November 13, 2021

Is 200-Watt Solar Enough For RV

Do you need to know if 200-watt solar is enough for an RV? The thought of powering your RV with solar can be both exciting and daunting.

A 200W solar panel could be exactly what you need. But what if you need more than 200-watts? How do you know how much power you need?

This article aims to provide answers to these questions. We provide a detailed view of whether 200-watts is enough for an RV. We discuss the needs of an RV and the different aspects of a solar power kit. 

Continue reading to find out what you can power with 200-watts of solar energy.

Is 200-Watt Solar Enough For RV

Running an RV on 200-Watt Solar Power

Are 200-Watt Solar Panels Right for You?

The number of solar panels you use depends on how much electricity you want. 

You need to consider what you want to power and for how long. So, what can you power with a 200-watt solar panel

A 200W solar kit is the bare minimum of solar power for an RV. A 200-watt solar panel can run a refrigerator in your RV. Fridges need constant power to keep your food fresh. 200W solar power is enough for a 12V refrigerator. 

You would need a battery bank overnight. This is why a complete solar kit is ideal. With 120amp hour lead-acid batteries, you will be able to get by until morning. You would have some leftover power for small appliances like a coffee maker or TV for an hour. 

You would need to track what you power and how much power you use. If you don’t track it, you could end up having nothing to keep your fridge running. This is okay if you only use your RV for a couple of weeks a year. 

If you want more than the minimum output, you will need at least 600W of solar power. This will allow you to power your fridge, coffee maker, fan, and lights, at the same time. 

If you intend to live in your RV for most of, or all of, the year you will need a lot of power. Many boondockers use between 2000W and 2200W. This is enough to power high-draw appliances like a microwave oven.

What Do You Need in a Complete Solar Power Kit?

can 200 watt solar run a RV

Buying a complete solar power kit is ideal for beginners. It contains everything you need to set up a solar system for your RV. 

The kit contains the following:

  • Solar Panels
  • Battery bank
  • Inverter
  • Charge controller

You can buy all these separately, but it is cheaper to buy the kit. A 200-watt kit usually has two 100-watt panels. Remember, you can always buy more solar panels if you need them. 

The solar panels will power your appliances/devices during the day. But you need a battery bank for nights. 

You could go without a battery bank but it is not advised. The charge controller protects your battery bank from overloading. It also has a digital readout that shows how much power you have. 

The reading needs to be above 12V. This will prevent battery damage.

The inverter is used to convert the solar power to an electrical current we can use. This is important. Solar power is Direct Current (DC) and we use Alternating Current (AC) for our electronics. 

Solar power would be useless without an inverter.

What Type of Batteries Should You Use?

We’ve discussed why you need to use batteries with your solar system. But did you know that there are two different types? 

The two types of batteries for solar power: 

  • Lead-acid batteries
  • Lithium-ion batteries

The type you decide on depends on your budget and needs. Lithium batteries are the newer, more popular option. But while these have obvious perks, they are expensive.

We have been using lead-acid batteries for decades. They are high-maintenance but have gotten us through some tough times. 

Comparison table: Lead Acid vs Lithium Batteries

Type Of Battery

Pros

Cons

Lead Acid 

  • Cheaper
  • Powerful
  • Shorter lifespan (4 to 5 years).
  • Toxic
  • Maximum 50% daily energy discharge
  • Slow to charge

Lithium

  • Low toxicity
  • High efficiency
  • Lightweight
  • High energy discharge(up to 80% daily with no problems)
  • Charges faster
  • Expensive ($1000 each)

The truth is, despite the obvious benefits of lithium batteries, you don’t need them. You can go with the cheaper option. Lithium batteries are perfect if you plan to live off-grid permanently. 

But, if you only plan to be off-grid for a few weeks out of the year, then lead-acid batteries are perfect. They might be a little high maintenance, but they are much cheaper. 

How long does it take a 200W solar panel to charge a 12V battery? It would take between 5 to 8-hours to charge a 12V battery. Be sure to factor this in when deciding on your solar needs. 

Generator (optional) 

can 200 w solar run RV

Buying a generator is not necessary, but it can be a good idea. If you have the budget for it, then why not?

Generators are perfect for powering multiple high-draw appliances. If you want to use an Instant Pot or microwave oven, then consider investing in a generator. 

Even if you won’t be using those appliances, a generator will ease some pressure off your battery bank. It can also act as a backup power source in case your batteries fail suddenly. 

Generators do have a few downsides. They are slow to charge and can be expensive. 

Number of Appliances and Power Consumption

A 200-watt solar panel can power a 12V refrigerator and a few small appliances. Since the refrigerator needs constant power, you won’t be able to use the other appliances for long. 

Electronics you can power with a 200-watt solar panel.

Appliance/Device

Usage Time

2* LED Lights 

5 hours

Phone/Tablet/Drone 

3 hours

Laptop

2 hours

TV

2 hours

Electric fan

2 hours

Coffee maker

1 hour

Microwave oven

1 hour

If you use solar lights with their own built-in solar panels, this would reduce your power usage. These lights are often portable and are perfect for campers and RVs. 

These lights can be used in your backyard at home too. 

Output

A 200W solar panel’s output per day will vary depending on different factors. These factors include:

  • Weather
  • Time of day
  • Season
  • Shading
  • Tilting angle of the solar panels
  • How clean your panels are

Let’s assume that you will be using the solar panels in perfect conditions. This means on a clear summer day, with no shaded areas. The sun is stronger in summer than in winter and clear skies are ideal. 

In this instance, the panels will generate the maximum watts around midday. Even on a perfect day, the panels will generate less power before and after midday. 

This is why you need a battery bank as well. It will ensure your RV has constant power. If you have an RV fridge, this is important since it needs to run 24/7. 

Average power output for a 200W solar panel at different times during the day: 

Time

Output

Highest output times

11 am to 1 pm

170W to 200W

1 pm to 3 pm

200W to 100W

Moderate output times

9 am to 11 am

50W to 170W

3 pm to 5 pm

100W to 50W

Lowest output times

6 am to 9 am

0W to 50W

5 pm to 7 pm

50W to 0W

These estimates are for solar panels operating in summer with clear skies. Remember that there are other factors that affect the power output. 

Dimensions

Knowing the size of a solar panel is important. There is limited space on the roof of an RV. You need to make sure that the panels you buy will fit. Be sure to measure the space on the roof before you buy your solar panel(s).

The dimensions of solar panels will vary. The size depends on the number of watts it’s intended to produce. 

A 200-watt solar panel would be about 65 inches x 39 inches for a residential model. Industrial models are slightly bigger at 77 inches x 39 inches. 

Benefits of Solar Power

Using solar power has many benefits for you and the environment. When people talk about “going green” they often mean using eco-friendly energy. Solar power is the ultimate “clean” energy source. 

Here is how using solar power can benefit you and the environment:

  • Solar energy is safe, clean, and renewable. It has no harmful effects on the environment and will help to lessen your carbon footprint. 
  • A complete solar power system is a long-term investment. It might be a little pricey for the initial setup, but you will be saving money in the long run.
  • Solar power is reliable. The sun powers the panels. That power is then stored in batteries for overnight use or cloudy/rainy days.
  • Portable solar panels are convenient too. They can be used - and charged - on the go.

Almost anyone can benefit from solar power. Investing in a complete solar power system will provide clean, renewable energy for years. 

If you plan on turning to solar power permanently, you will need more than 200-watts. But, it’s okay to start off small with a 200-watt solar system. This will allow you to get a feel for how solar works. You can buy more solar panels if or when you need them. 

If the system is well taken care of, it could last up to 20 years or longer before needing to be replaced. Remember to keep the solar panels clean and check that all parts are working correctly.

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