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Solar Power for RVs: What You Need to Know

solar power for rvs

Short on Time? Here’s The Article Summary

The article discusses the challenges RV travelers face with traditional power sources like electrical hookups and gas generators, highlighting the limitations and expenses involved. It introduces solar power as a third, more independent and environmentally friendly option for powering RV appliances.

Key benefits of a solar-powered RV include renewable energy, cost savings, environmental friendliness, and freedom from traditional power sources. The article also provides a guide to the components needed for a solar-powered RV, such as solar panels, batteries, inverters, and generators, detailing their functions and options available. It suggests considering a solar RV kit for simplicity and compatibility, and provides examples of different types of kits available, ranging from basic setups to comprehensive systems for complete energy independence.

Introduction

RV’ers cherish independence. They like going where they want when they want. But most RVs significantly impede independence: They require an electrical hookup or gas generator to power essential appliances.

Electrical hookups limit the freedom RV travelers long for and increase expenses. Similarly, gas generators are expensive, loud, require constant fueling and access to gas, and aren't environmentally friendly.

Let’s face it: choosing between grid hookups and gas generators is a serious challenge; it seems like there's no good option. But now, solar power offers a brilliant third way. Going solar unleashes you from the grid, dirty emissions, and petrol stations, giving you complete control over how you travel.

Some of the key benefits of a solar power RV are: 

  • Renewable Energy: The sun isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and you can use it as a clean and renewable source to power your devices. With solar power, you can bid adieu to fossil fuels and electric hookups. 
  • Savings, Savings, Savings: Whether you run a hybrid setup or go fully off-grid, no more outrageous electric bills. Also, solar generator kits are much simpler than gas generators, mechanically speaking, meaning they require less maintenance. 
  • Environmentally Considerate: In case you haven't heard: Solar power is environmentally friendly. Also, solar generators are quiet, making a solar power RV perfect for enjoying your nights in the open wilderness.
  • Sweet Freedom: As long as the sun rises, you have a source of energy. Go wherever, whenever, without stressing over where your power will come from.

The benefits of owning a solar RV are big and bountiful. But before purchasing anything, familiarize yourself with each component. From there, you can evaluate and select the best match for your style.

The Components of a Solar Power RV

Creating a sun-powered travel shack requires more than a few solar RV panels. There are several core elements to a fully operational solar power RV. For best results, you must understand each component and its various options to create a system that gives you enough flexibility, storage, and power. 

Solar Panels RV

Solar panels absorb the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity through photovoltaic cells. You’ll likely mount the solar RV panels to the roof, given that’s where they collect the most sun. But RVs have limited roof space. So to get the right number of panels, first calculate your max energy needs. Then select panels with enough efficiency and wattage to accommodate power requirements.

Panel efficiency is determined by what percent of the sunlight it converts into electricity. For reference, any panel with more than a 22% efficiency rating is considered above average. There are three main solar panel types used for RVs:

  1. Rigid Panels
  2. Folding Panels
  3. Flexible Panels

Rigid panels are best for efficiency, power, longevity, and durability. However, they are less portable, heavy, and more expensive upfront. 

Folding panels are super portable but aren’t as efficient at converting solar energy. Many folding models also take longer to charge and wear out faster. But the largest draw to foldable solar RV panels is the ability to move them whenever. So, if the panel is in the shade on the roof, you can remove it easily and place it somewhere it’ll soak up more sun.  

Finally, flexible panels have appeal because they’re easy to set up, lightweight, and low-cost. But they aren’t as efficient or durable as rigid solar panel RV options. 

Batteries

Solar RV batteries reserve the excess power collected by panels, allowing RV owners to draw from a reservoir of energy during nighttime or cloudy days. Many RVs come with built-in battery banks, but older models often have 12V lead-acid batteries, which are inefficient. 

For top performance, lithium-ion batteries offer the best endurance. They are also the lightest-weight and most durable. RV owners love lithium-ion batteries and often purchase additional batteries for their solar generators to increase power storage. But regardless of the solar power RV system, always purchase enough batteries to store your estimated energy needs. 

Inverter

The energy within batteries is a DC, which only powers certain appliances, such as fans and lights. Other appliances, like refrigerators and air conditioners, require AC. An inverter is necessary because it converts DC to AC. 

Some RVs have an inverter built in already. But RV owners can purchase a higher power inverter that provides a more reliable flow of power, a vital thing if you need to run sensitive medical equipment. 

Generator

A generator incorporates a battery, inverter, and panels, acting as a central charging hub for an RV or campsite. Generators have multiple charging outlets, allowing you to plug devices directly into them at all times. You can add batteries and panels to your generator to increase storage and output. 

Consider a Kit for Your Solar RV

rv in a field

When putting together a solar RV, you face two options: Buy each component separately or purchase a kit with every necessary part. Our pro tip: Consider a kit!

Many standalone components are only compatible with specific parts. Kits guarantee that every part is in full compatibility. Not only that, most companies offer extensive support during setup and for future maintenance issues.

Various Types of Solar Kits for Your RV

There are many solar RV kits for sale, some with the entire generator and others with only the batteries and inverter. Depending on your outlet setup, you can select the best type. But always research multiple options to know the differences in power, storage, and expandability. 

Generator Kits

Solar RV generator kits are amazing because they come in many different sizes, allowing you to choose something that fits perfectly. From there, you can expand with additional batteries and panels. Here are some great kits at various output levels and stages. 

  • Basic setup: The EcoFlow Delta Max 2 features two 12V foldable panels and a 2kWh lithium battery capacity, perfect for small RVs, campsites, and emergency backups.
  • Utility setup: Bluetti's AC200 Nomad Kit starts with 2kWh of battery capacity but has two expansion ports which could boost total capacity to 8kWh. The kit also features a 400W AC wall charger and two 200W foldable panels.
  • All bases covered setup: EcoFlow's Delta Max 6 is a premier option for any off-grid setup, with four 200W rigid panels and up to 6kWh of storage.

Battery + Inverter Kits

Some on-the-go setups don't need the central charging hub included with the generator, meaning you'll only need a battery and inverter.

  • Basic: HBK's 8-panel, 3.1kWh Max package is one of the best kits for under $5,000, allowing you an easy transition into completely off-grid living.
  • Utility: The HBK Pro takes off-gridding to another level, offering a split phase 120/240V inverter capable of powering heavy equipment for long periods.
  • All bases covered: EcoFlow's EPK-4 expandability is unmatched, allowing owners to grow capacity up to 15kWh for total energy independence.

The Ultimate Solar + Storage Blueprint (Mini Course)

Struggling to understand how solar + storage systems actually work? Looking to build or buy your own solar power system one day but not sure what you need? Just looking to learn more about solar, batteries and electricity?

Join 15,000+ solar enthusiasts breaking free from their energy dependence with this short step-by-step video course that will make you a solar + storage expert. Start your journey to energy independence today.

Learn More Now

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Don’t waste a second more wondering where to hook up your RV for the night. ShopSolar.com makes going off-grid easy, offering the market's leading solar brands at unbeatable prices and discounts. 

Get a FREE, personalized solar system quote specifically designed for RVs.

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Article by

Cody Oehm

Cody is the Head of Marketing at Shop Solar, and joined the company in spring of 2022. 

He has an entrepreneurial background and has been in the ecommerce industry since 2015. With 4 businesses under his belt and a drive to make a bigger impact, he decided to team up with Shop Solar on their mission to make solar simple and affordable. You can browse best seller's here.

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