Should You Add a Solar Panel to Your RV?

Camping, traveling, or living in your RV is an amazing experience. You get to constantly explore new places with the people you love most. As you may already know, a hassle with RVing is needing to find hookup sites while on the road, and not every campground offers them. In fact, there are many that don’t, especially in popular places like national parks. So, what do you do to ensure you have power wherever you go? Well, adding a solar panel to your RV provides a reliable solution.


Solar panel with sunflowers in background

What is a Solar Panel?

A solar panel is a clean and renewable source of energy that turns sunlight into electricity, which can be used to power up electrical items, such as your smart gadgets and microwave. Solar panels have become more popular over the years, especially for RVers. They are made up of solar cells, which are what capture the sun’s energy for use. 

Solar panels are not only a sustainable source of energy, they’re also much cheaper than other energy types. After the initial cost of installing them, they’re free for the next 15 to 25 years (which is how long the average solar panel will last, if it’s a quality one). Now you understand why so many RVers love using them!



Installing a solar panel

Why You Should Consider Adding a Solar Panel to Your RV

Solar panels are a great way to let you live off the grid while still having energy handy. Depending on which type of solar panel you buy, they can generate power for either some or all of your electrical devices. You can either add a portable solar panel or a rooftop solar panel to your RV.

Portable solar panels can be attached to the roof of your RV (or even your pack for a backpacking trip). These solar panels require a simple set up and usually attach to a designated solar plug in your RV. Portable panels are ideal for powering small electrical items, such as a few lights and your phone.

Fixed solar panels may be a bit pricier, but their efficiency is hard to beat. These panels attach to the roof of your RV and collect light from the sun. They’re great if you want to collect power for major electrical items, such as your air conditioner and cooktop.



Living life inside travel trailer

How Many Solar Panels You Need for Your RV

To determine how many solar panels you need for your RV, you’ll need to add up the wattage of every electrical item in your RV that you plan on powering with a solar panel. Then, find a solar panel that will generate enough power to keep those items fueled for however long you need them, such as a couple of days.

In addition, you’ll need to consider how much energy is going into the batteries you have to collect power. If you have too much power and not enough batteries to store that power, you’ll just be wasting your money. Or if you don’t have enough solar panels and way too many batteries, there won’t be enough power to fuel those batteries properly and won’t have enough energy for your electrical needs (it’d be quite a bummer to lose power in the middle of a work project).



Working while traveling

What Else You Need to Have Solar Power in Your RV

In addition to the solar panels themselves, you’ll need a few other items to generate power in your RV properly. These items include a solar battery, charge controller, and inverter.

Solar batteries are where you actually use the energy from. The role of solar panels is to simply charge these batteries. Therefore, a solar battery is required to store all of the energy that was collected by the solar panels when there was sunlight. The best batteries will hold enough power to allow you to keep using your electrical appliances for days without sunlight.

A charge controller is needed for transporting energy from the solar panel to the batteries. These controllers also prevent damage to the batteries because they control how much power gets transported into them. 

Lastly, you’ll need an inverter. Inverters convert direct current (DC) power into alternating current (AC) power. This enables the electrical system in your RV so you can do things like watch television or use your computer. Some portable solar panels do not require inverters, but all fixed solar panels do.



Solar panel up close

Now that you understand what a solar panel is, how they work with RVs, and what you need, you can decide if adding one to your RV is the right move for you. If you’re always on the road and struggle to find hookups, then adding a solar panel to your RV would be ideal. In addition, if you’re looking to set up your RV’s utilities and hookups, we have an entire blog post on that as well. 

See you on the road!

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