RV Solar


The alternative to a generator is solar. Prices have come down, technology has improved and even for the weekender, it's a cheap and viable option. Manufactures rate solar panels in watts and the calculation is simple: watts divided by volts equal amps. In other words, three fifteen watt panels will provide you with just under four amps of power to charge your battery.

If you go the solar route, remember that equation and it will serve you well. You will need more than that of course, try to have enough to give you at least five amps or otherwise it will be ineffective for RV use. An ideal setup would be double that, an output of around two hundred watts, to allow for overcast weather and any unforeseen drain on the battery. The brand I use, and the best bang for the buck in my opinion, is Renogy. Their panels are tough, reliable, and almost legendary among RVers.

When you go to purchase, avoid the big RV stores and the local expert who has the sales pitch with an answer for everything. Also avoid all the internet advice that tells you how complicated it is. Solar for an RV, or for anything for that matter, is incredibly easy and well within the scope of anybody who can use a screwdriver and do some basic math.

If you buy a kit then just follow the instructions. Otherwise, shop online, buy a few panels in the wattage that you need and grab your screwdriver. Many of the kits come with a charge controller and if you are running over a hundred watts, I would suggest that you install it as recommended by the manufacturer in order to prevent overheating of the battery. At lower power levels however, it certainly isn't a necessity. In an RV system, all you need the panels for is battery charging and with only about six or so hours of viable sunshine a day, that battery will suck in every drop of current they can provide. A controller will regulate the voltage by throttling it and that's the opposite of what you need to be doing to charge a deep cycle battery effectively within the short time-frame of a day's sunshine.

As a final word on power, whatever method you choose for battery charging, look around your RV and see where you can minimize your electrical drain so that you can maximize your time spent out camping. It's the little power draws that add up. The average incandescent RV light bulb sucks up twenty-one watts and when you're dry camping then that's a lot of juice. Consider instead, switching to LED bulbs because they draw a tiny fraction of the power and last forever. They are still a little pricey compared to regular bulbs but worth every penny for the luxury of keeping the lights on for a few days longer.