Putting Solar Panels on an RV: What You Need to Know

Solar Panels for RVs
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solar panels for RVs: what you need to know

As your go-to for solar information, we want to first and foremost make it clear that Go Solar Group does not put panels on RVs. We do, however, want to help you out if that’s what you want to do. That is why we have put together this post. While we do not sell every kind of solar available to homeowners, we are glad to assist everyone in their own unique solar-powered endeavors. 

RV Solar Power Installation – What You Should Know

Getting solar for your RV isn’t the best option for everyone. Since RVs have limited roof space and typically more limited usage than a home, solar panels don’t completely offset your power needs. On top of this, you still will want a generator for when the weather isn’t conducive to the kind of weather you set out in your RV to find – sunny skies, warm temperatures, and clear paths.   

If you are an occasional camper who wants to save money, getting solar for your RV isn’t going to save you much. If you are a boon-docker (someone who enjoys remote camping without hookups), solar panels may be the way to go.

Either way, solar takes time to make a return on the investment of a module purchase. You will have to ask yourself if your motives are monetary or if your lifestyle needs it.

RV Solar Systems for Sale

Getting solar for your RV may be a job that you want to have someone else with more expertise help you out.  AM Solar specializes in RV solar installations.  They also provide solar kits and DIY instructions for those so inclined. 

If you would like AM Solar to install your solar panels for your RV, you will need to drive your RV to Springfield, Oregon. AM Solar has limited overnight camping Monday through Thursday. If you need a hotel, they can also get you discount rates at the Village Inn: A rite of passage for any die-hard, DIY-ing road wonk. 

If driving to Oregon isn’t an option AM Solar has several traveling installers. If you would like to book your install this way you will need to contact the traveling installer.

Solar Power for Campers: DIY Basics

If you are the do-it-yourself type, getting a solar kit will save you between a couple hundred to thousands of dollars. You will want to make sure that you do it right, though. Here are 7 basic steps to help you decide what you will need.

Getting a Load List

Before you start buying anything, you will want to find out how much energy your RV uses. There are a couple of ways for you to do this.

The most accurate way to find your RV usage is to plug all the AC devices in your RV into a power meter. If you don’t have access to a power meter, you can use altestore.com’s typical wattage lists for RV appliances.

Sizing Your RV Solar System

Now that you have your loads list, you will need to plug in these numbers to an off-grid solar calculator. This will tell you the size of the battery bank and solar panel(s) you will need.

A Deep Cycle Battery Bank

Getting a battery bank will ensure that you have power at night or when the weather isn’t cooperating. There are several batteries that you can choose from. The best one for you will depend on the space you have available.

The Actual Solar Panels

To find out how many panels you will need, you have to find the average sun hours for your area. This is not the time that the sun is in the sky, but rather the time that the sun gives the most energy. Once you have determined how many watts of solar you need, you will have to measure your roof. If you don’t have space for larger panels, you may have to use multiple smaller panels.

RV Solar Charge Controller

The primary task for a charge controller is to manage the charging of your battery bank. The controller lets power from your solar panels in during the day and stops power from going back at night.

To find the right PWM for your controller, you will need to find the short circuit current (Isc) of your solar panels. Multiply the Isc by the number of panels and a safety margin of 1.25.

If you get an MPPT solar controller, you will need wattage of your panels and the voltage of your battery. Take the wattage of the panels multiplied by the number of panels and divide it by the voltage of the battery. This will produce the figure you need. 

DC/AC Inverter For RV Use

If you don’t have AC appliances that you are plugging in, you don’t need to worry about getting an inverter. An inverter converts the DC (direct current) power from the battery to AC (alternating current). If you aren’t sure, it is best to be safe and get an inverter since most appliances in an RV will use alternating current (AC).  

RV Solar Generator Kits

Getting a solar generator for your RV is good to have, even if you don’t get solar for your whole motor home. You will want a different generator depending on your camping needs. Solar Generator Guide reviews solar generator costs and applications.

Go Solar Group uses Goal Zero battery backup and can get you set up with a Goal Zero solar generator. If you decide that you would like solar for your home, we also offer home integration kits. These allow you to have power when the grid goes down, and they can power your fridge in your actual home should you decide to use one for that purpose. 

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We were impressed with this company right off the bat. And it was a distinct pleasure to have Ralph in our home to make the sale. Installation was neat and efficient. Only wish projected savings could have been a little more realistic, as it looks like it will take about 20 years, not 10, for the system to pay for itself. We're OK with that, because we like feeling just a little less dependent on the power company for our electricity.
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