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How much solar power do I need for my RV? Many RVers have been scratching their head around this question. Green energy has been gaining popularity and many people prefer solar power as an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint. Solar panels are also a good choice if you want to get rid of the noisy generators or simply need an additional power source.
So, how much solar for RV is the safe bet that will let you camp out in any place for days to weeks?
It is necessary to learn about the specs and know the jargon before deciding on solar panels for camping trailers. When shopping for the best solar panels for RV, make sure to check these specs:
Wattage – The wattage of a piece of electrical equipment refers to the amount of energy it uses to function. The higher the wattage the better and more powerful the device is. But, it also means using more electric power.
Peak Power (amps) – It equals the maximum amount of power a solar panel is capable of producing when exposed to full sunlight. The power is measured in amps. If a 10-amp solar panel receives 5 hours of sunlight in a day, it will produce 50-amp of a power that day.
Peak Power (volts) – The term also refers to the max power a solar panel can produce. However, the power is measured in volts in this case. Remember that an overheated panel will be less efficient because extra heat affects the charging rate, leading to dropping volts. Similarly, a low-light condition also hinders the panel to charge with the highest efficiency.
Power Tolerance – The term indicates the amount of electrical power a solar panel is capable of producing either more or less than the rated capacity at a given time. For example, a -5/+5 percent of power tolerance on a 100-watt solar panel means it can yield 95-watt to 105-watt of power in real-world conditions. The lower the tolerance percentage the better will be the performance. The best solar panels for RV are likely to have up to 5% tolerance.
Solar panels transform the sunlight into electrical power. However, there is no direct connection between the panels and the electrical equipment. Rather, a battery stores the electrical energy from the panels and then distributes it to the devices.
The solar rig charges the battery with the aid of a charge controller that adjusts the current flow. Similarly, the rig needs an inverter to transport the DC battery power into the AC format and supply to the electrical system and equipment.
How much solar power do I need for my RV? Well, it depends on the amount of electricity you use every day. Each electronic device has a specific amp-hour. You have to multiply the amp-hour of all the devices and gadgets by the number of hours you use them every day to find out your daily electricity consumption.
For example, if you use a 7Ah microwave for one hour a day, the total consumption will be 7Ah x 1 = 7Ah. How to calculate the amp-hour of the devices? Most electrical equipment has the power rating in watts rather than directly mentioning the amp-hour. In that case, you have to convert the watts into amps. The formulae are:
Example: Amps = 200W/12V = 16.67A
Example: Amps = 200W/(1 x 120V) = 1.67A
Using these formulae, you can easily calculate the amount of electric energy you need in the RV.
Most solar panels have around a 100-watt power rating. They can produce 6A in an hour upon receiving one hour of peak sunlight. If a 100W panel receives 5 hours of peak sunlight on an average per day, it can yield 30Ah of electric power every day.
On the other hand, most RV batteries have 70 to 90Ah storage capacity. It is safe to use batteries with 3 to 4 times more capacity (at least two times) than you need. It will be useful in getting backup power during overcast conditions.
How much solar power do I need for my RV on a daily basis? This simple breakdown per day will give you an idea:
Keeping the lights on for a total of 10 hours (20Ah), running the vent fan for 5 hours (10Ah), the water pump for an hour (12Ah), and watching a large TV for 4 hours (24Ah) will consume 66Ah of power per day. Add to it 2 hours of phone charging (2Ah), 30-minute of microwave (40Ah), or anything else as you need. Make a list and add or deduct amp-hour according to your requirements.
Carlos Perry’s passion for outdoor activities can be traced back to 5 years ago when he spent a significant time to conquer beautiful pristine lands and experience different cultures with his best friends. Currently working as a blogger, he takes pride in providing comprehensive contents about camping knowledge, survival skills based on his own experience. A lot of his work was published on well-known travel magazines like: Travel+Leisure, Thrillist