The number of solar panels you will need will depend on your power consumption and your battery capacity. For basic accessories, a 12V battery with about 300 Watts would do. If you consume more power then, 1200 Watts of solar power is the best option.
To determine how many solar-powered panels you’ll need, you’ll first have to determine the capacity of your batteries. Your solar panels do not produce electricity themselves, rather they charge your batteries. The batteries in your RV are the sole generator of electricity. Solar panels just charge them along the way.
Solar panels have their power Output measured in watts, they all come in varying sets of values. There are a variety of solar panels with Power values of 100, 170, 200, 225, 265, 300, 335, and 360 watts. You can either buy multiple smaller solar panels or a few large ones.
The number of solar panels needed will depend on how much electricity you are likely to generate. It also depends on how much electrical demands your batteries are meant to support.
Thus, you will need to buy or use batteries that meet your electrical demands. After which you will be expected to buy solar panels that can support your total battery capacity.
This will require you to do some research before and you will need to make adjustments to your RV components before you buy your solar panels. To save you from some labor, here are some tips to guide you through the calculations.
For every 100 Amps of usable hours of batteries, 200 watts of solar panels will suffice. For any further calculations you may be needing to make regarding this, I advise you to visit this website. It will help you calculate how much solar power you will need according to your RV type and batteries present.
First and foremost, how many solar panels you’ll need for your RV will depend on how large your RV is and how much electric power you expect to use. For casual or basic usage, you can either get three 100 watts solar panels or one large 300-Watt solar panel to get your job done.
Basic accessories include lighting, LEDs, fans, refrigerator, heaters, charging phones, laptops, etc.
If you expect heavy-electric demand appliances like microwave ovens, coffee makers, blenders, and use heaters all night long or perhaps go vacationing in weak weather conditions than 1200 watts of solar panels will be your safest bet!
What’s the Best Way to Determine How Much Power You’ll Need?
Instead of relying on making too many calculations, talking with technicians, and seeking online advice. I advise you to go out on a ‘test’ camping run where you keep a close eye on how much electrical output you consume on average.
Follow these steps to get a good idea of how this works:
Step 1: Do a camping test with your RV nearby.
Go camping at a nearby RV park or a local place, you can even do this test in your backyard if there’s enough space.
Just make sure you’re in a safe environment with multiple power source backups at your disposal in case of emergency.
Step 2: Do not use generators or be energy efficient on purpose.
Simply camp like you usually would, making no exceptions or attempts to conserve or save power. Proceed your camping with no regards for energy-saving steps or resorting to your generator.
Step 3: Use a battery meter to keep an eye on whether it’s below 50%.
Buy or use your existing battery meter to keep a close eye on your battery consumption from time to time during usage. Try to not get the battery to reach less than 50% charge as that will affect your battery’s lifespan. Hence, consider 50% charge to be the minimum threshold of how low you can allow your battery’s charge to reach.
If you have multiple batteries, do the same for each battery individually. This is crucial as you wouldn’t want to replace your batteries sooner than you want them to.
Step 4: Do power and battery consumption related calculations.
Calculate how much power you have been consuming to give you a rough sketch of how much wattage your solar panels will require.
Suppose your 300 amp-hour battery holds up to 2 days without getting below the 50% threshold charge, then it means you have used about 150 amp-hour battery worth of power till now.
Step 5: Change batteries if they wear out faster.
If your batteries do not drain just as fast and hold sufficiently longer, then you should not worry much about it.
If they do drain and become empty fast, then you should resort to making changes to your battery as a means of improving your solar panel setup.
How to Get by With Fewer Solar Panels in RVs?
Many times it gets harder to be dependent entirely on solar panels as buying too much of them can be costly. Hence, the best alternative towards making use of a handful of solar panels in your RV is to conserve and save energy as much as possible.
Here are a few hacks and basic tricks that do not need much explaining. As long as you have the gist you can handle your trips just fine if you follow these thoroughly.
Step 1: Cut down on Appliances.
Usage of electrical appliances that have a high demand can drain your battery faster, which in turn will drain your solar panels.
Thus, the best way is to only use appliances that are essential. For example, this means you have to pay regard to making your own caffeine during camping trips as coffee makers intake a lot of energy.
Step 2: Manually insulate your RVs.
Resorting to furnaces and heaters during vacations in your RV can be tempting, but they will drain your battery faster than they will drain the cold.
Hence, it’s always best to cover up any nooks, crannies in your RV and properly seal the vents. Using double-pane insulated windows can also be of great aid.
Step 3: Resort to RV skirting.
Another important hack to tackle cold weather.
Step 4: Keep a check on the battery meter.
Constantly keep checking whether your battery usage is suddenly spiking or not. If they are, simply consider shutting down all appliances that do not need to be running and doing the work outside instead.
For example, if you’re out boondocking, then you will probably have loads of options to use wood for numerous purposes.
Power is an important aspect that needs to be kept in mind for any vacation-seeker. The most renewable solution for covering the RV power problem are solar panels.