RV Solar Panel Kit FAQ’s
Believe it or not, there’s such a thing as a solar panel kit for RVs. With a little bit of work, you can install a set of panels on the roof of your RV that will power – or at least help power – all the goodies in your camper. Here are some basic questions and answers from a guest author.
Q. What exactly are motorhome solar panel kits?
They are convenient easy to install kits that can convert your motor home to run off of solar power. In each kit you will find a solar panel, a battery to store the solar energy, a charge controller, and an inverter.
Q. Why choose solar power for your RV?
Apart from the savings in money – you don’t have to fuel your gas generator as much nor do you have to maintain it as frequently – solar power makes you more self-sufficient.
Q. How can you convert your camper to Solar Power?
Q. How do I find out my RV’s Solar Power consumption and needs?
For example, let’s say you want to watch TV and run your refrigerator (full of ice-cold beer) completely with solar power:
A 37″ LCD flat screen uses 50-75 Watts, and an RV-sized fridge uses 80-120 Watts. If we estimate the total wattage to be 160 Watts, then you need at least 160 watts of panel OR a slightly smaller panel with a battery storage system.
Q. Let’s say you only have the budget for a 60w solar power array – is it worth the cost?
Using our example above, you take the wattage of our TV-fridge combo (160) and divide it by the system voltage (almost every RV in North America runs on a 12V system). SO, our 160 watt TV-Fridge combo uses 13.33 amps. If we have a pair of batteries that can store 200 amp hours each, then we have 400 amp hours available (although in the real world it’s less, but this is just an example).
At 13.33 amps, our TV-fridge combo kills the batteries in 30 hours…unless we have a 60W solar array.
If the 60W solar array can only store 60W of energy for 8 hours, that’s still adding back 40 amp hours of storage to our battery. You may be saying, “ya, but that still only extends the battery life about 3 hours,” but consider this: batteries are more efficient when they’re discharged more slowly. In the real world, our 60W solar array cuts back on the wear and tear of our batteries and keeps them running better longer.
However, if we go to a 120W solar array, we extend our total operating time to 40 hours…except that the clock resets every 24 hours. As the sun rises after 24 hours, we start charging our batteries again. During the day, we use very little battery power to run our TV and fridge, and then our battery capacity keeps us running at night.
As you can see, even a little 60W solar system helps. While you won’t be able to use it to run your RV indefinitely, at the very least it can keep your batteries topped off and supplement any power you need when you’re not near a campground power source.
Q. What would be an acceptable RV Solar Panel with good wattage?
This will largely depend on the size of your RV, the number of people, the length of time and what appliances you’re running. For example, an 80 watt panel will easily power fans, charge batteries, and run some lights. A 125 watt panel would be great for prolonged television use, and those mentioned previously. The 140 watt panel is for heavier usage, and prolonged stopping. Or you may install two 125 watt panels, and this is highly recommended if you are running a refrigerator, compressor, stopping for long periods at a time, and for year round usage.
Q. What parts are needed for solar on a RV?
You will need the following parts, RV Solar Panels, Solar Charge Controller, Batteries, and an Inverter. RV Solar Panel Kits, will have everything you need for your RV power needs.
Q. How do I self install the panels on my RV or Camper?
There are two common methods to installing solar panels on your RV. The first way is flat on top of the roof, and is excellent fro traveling in warmer months. The second method is for tilt positioning so that your panels are perpendicular with the sun, and is superior for collecting Solar Power in the cooler months.
Q. How to wire a solar panel to two batteries on a RV?
Connect the positive and negative leads from the solar panel, to the positive, and negative terminals of one battery respectively. Attach jumpers between both batteries to connect the positive to positive, and negative to negative.
Q. What appliances or electronics can my RV run off of a 220 Watt Solar RV Kit?
It will run everyday items like interior lights, televisions, a laptop computer, and fans. I would not suggest running power draining appliances like refrigerators, but a toaster, toaster oven, and possibly a microwave oven.
Q. Will a 60 watt solar panel charge my RV battery?
Yes, although your battery size will determine how quickly.
Q. Can solar panel run a RV air conditioner?
Yes, but you will have to size the solar panel for the power needs of the A/C. Considering that a 11,000 BTU air conditioner could pull as much as 1000 watts (older models), air conditiong is the one thing you might not be able to have without a generator.
About the Author: E. Fortie is a small business energy consultant and RV owner. He writes for renewable energy blogs and posts threads in forums and communities. You can shoot him a note or request answers to solar questions by mail at info [@] 12voltsolarpanels [.] net
Filed Under: Tundra Towing