Solar Power for RV Air Conditioner: Is It Possible? The Ultimate Guide
There are few better summer vacations than a great road trip in an RV. Hitting the open road in the peak of the season, however, it can also often lead to uncomfortable interior temperatures once you setup camp for the evening. With so many adventurers turning to solar power for an affordable, portable way to generate electricity, many people are wondering if it is possible to get enough solar power for RV air conditioners.
Solar Power For RV Air Conditioner: What it Takes to Stay Cool on the Road
So the question is, it possible to run the RV AC with solar power? The short answer is Yes. With the right setup, it is possible to run an RV air conditioner with solar power. It should be noted, however, that it can be quite difficult to do so (more on why this is later).
In this article, we are going to explore the things to consider when considering solar power for rv air conditioners, alternatives to RV AC, and some product recommendations to make RV air conditioning a possibility with solar power.
How Much Solar Power Does an RV Air Conditioner Require?
Those who have air conditioning at home may look at their increased electric bills during the summer and realize that air conditioners need a large amount of power to run. Even in a smaller space like an RV, running an air conditioner requires a large amount of electricity to both start up and sustain. As laid out by campergrid.com, an average RV air conditioner requires around 1800 watts of electricity to start up and 650 watts per hour to maintain use and cool down the RV (this is why it's "hard" to do... affordably).
How to Size Your Solar Power for RV Air Conditioners
Now that we know approximately how much an RV air conditioner uses, there are three crucial components of a solar power system that need to be considered and sized if you are hoping to utilize solar power for your RV’s air conditioning: batteries, solar panels, and inverters.
Minimum Battery Bank Size for RV AC
As discussed above, running your RV air conditioner requires a lot of power. The larger your battery is though, the more energy storage you will have available to power your RV AC. When it comes to options, we usually recommend stringing together a few lithium ion batteries, such as the LFP12V200A from AIMS Power, for your solar battery bank.
Cheaper options, such as lead acid batteries, become damaged if they are fully drained, whereas most lithium batteries are built to be used to their full potential. When running an AC unit in your RV, you will want to use every Amp hour you can in order to keep your RV cool. Because air conditioning units can use over 100 amps each hour, for overnight use, we recommend a battery or battery bank with an absolute MINIMUM of 700Ah.
Minimum Solar Panel Array Size for RV AC
Unfortunately, solar panels and cool inside temperatures operate with completely separate goals in mind. Whereas your RV is more likely to stay cool if it is in the shade, solar panels require direct sunlight to produce electricity. With this in mind, you will want to have a solar panel array that is large enough to run your RV air conditioner continuously while exposed to full sunlight.
For an average sized RV air conditioner (around 13,000 BTU’s), we would recommend a minimum of 1500 watts of solar power. If you’re in a school bus or an RV with ample roof space, you could consider a set of 16 x 100 Watt Solar Panels such as these monocrystalline ones. Or if you are a bit more limited on space, you may want to consider looking into larger, high efficiency solar panels generally found on residential homes. Five of these 325 watt panels from Canadian Solar should do the trick.
Minimum Inverter Size for RV AC
Even if you have an enormous battery bank and plenty of solar input, in order to use solar power for an RV air conditioner, you will need to have an inverter large enough to handle the unit’s electricity demand. An inverter’s job is to convert the DC electricity produced by solar panels into usable AC electricity (the kind traditionally found in homes) to run your electronic devices. As mentioned earlier, an average sized AC unit for an RV can require around 1800 watts of electricity to get up and running.
When sizing an inverter, we always recommend that you leave as much wiggle room as possible, especially if you are going to be running other devices such as lights or phone chargers while your AC is on. Therefore, we recommend an absolute minimum of 2500 watts for the size of your inverter.
For a small solar power RV air conditioner system, this 3000 Watt inverter from AIMS should be powerful enough to keep your unit running. However, knowing the required wattage for your specific AC to run is very important when purchasing your inverter.
Solar Generators For Running a Solar Powered RV Air Conditioner
If you are looking for an easy and efficient way to set up and run your RV’s air conditioning, we would also recommend checking out this complete kit with the Titan Solar Generator. The Titan generator comes equipped with an inverter powerful enough to run most AC units and provides the capability to add as many batteries as you need to store your solar power (a second battery for the Titan generator would give you 4,000 watt hours). The 1500 watts of solar power included in this kit allow for a serious amount of electricity generation at an affordable price.
Alternatives to RV Air Conditioners
If you do not have the roof space or the budget for a solar powered RV air conditioner, there are a few options you can explore to keep your mobile home’s interior cool. You can always:
- Purchase a swamp cooler.
- Run your vehicle's air conditioning while the engine is on.
- Plug into RV park hookups.
- Or park in the shade and use a few high powered fans.
Although it requires thoughtful planning and high powered solar equipment, it is possible to generator enough solar power for your RV air conditioner. We hope this guide was able to help answer some of the questions and concerns you may have about solar powered RV air conditioners. If you have any specific questions about your setup, feel free to contact us for more expert information.
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