Using Solar Power in Your RV 5592

solar power rv

Unless you’re really roughing it, most campgrounds will include some form of electric hookup for your rig. Those hookups give you everything you need to power and charge your RV while you’re camping.  No blackouts for your interior RV lights!

When you’re boondocking, however, you’re at nature’s mercy. No powerlines, no buzzing, nothing to keep your rig up and running except your battery. And while your battery will hang on and keep you comfy for a while, it can’t last forever.

Conveniently, though, we have a bright, shining star in our sky whose power we can harness to help us power all of our stuff—from the TV to more practical things like the portable espresso machine. Solar power for your RV is a smart, though not always inexpensive, way to make sure you’re camping exactly the way you want to no matter where you are.

The Realities of Solar Power

solar power on an RV

First and foremost, while harnessing the power of the sun seems like a no-brainer, it’s an investment. And not always a cheap investment, at that. Unless you’re a regular boondocker, regularly go off the grid and stay away from power sources, solar may not be a worthwhile effort.

If you mostly stay at campgrounds, if you’re regularly in populated areas, or only boondock once in a while, a generator might just be your best bet.

The Investment in Solar Power

solar panels rv

For free energy, it doesn’t come cheap. There are multiple components to a solar system: panels, a charger, a battery monitor, additional batteries, an inverter, and then labor for installation. Depending on the wattage rating, you’re looking at a pretty penny. For example, a 600w installation (that includes four 150w panels) could cost roughly $6,000 (maybe less; maybe more). You’ll certainly save money in camping fees—and be able to go more places for longer—but that’s hardly pocket change.

The Perks of Solar Power

ground panels rv

That’s a lot of caveats, but this shouldn’t dissuade you from going solar. Even with an investment, solar power comes with a lot of perks.

  • Quiet – Generators are noisy—even the quiet ones. Solar panels, on the other hand, are completely silent. They’re not going to bother you or your neighbors.
  • Easy to use – Generally, you don’t have to think about them. You may choose to aim them toward the sun, or if you’re really hardcore, set out ground panels. Otherwise, if the sun’s out, you’re collecting energy.
  • Clean – In terms of energy, obviously. But they’re also easy to clean (when and if you need to), there are no fumes, and no potential fuel spills.
  • Open spaces – With no reliance on hookups, you can go more places, see more things, and worry less about comfort.

If you have interest in going solar, the best advice you can get is to do all the research you can. Determine how much energy you may need, and find the level of solar power you would require to meet those needs.

If you’re ready to look on the sunny side of things, Camping World can help equip your RV with the solar panels and equipment to keep you out there.

8 Comments

  1. The most basic and easiest solar use is light. Get a few solar yard lights at the dollar store and you can hang them high or use them inside (with no flame risk or replacement battery cost).

    1. Can you live in an TV using solar for heating , cooking and freezer, what about a power pack. I don’t like propane, thanks.

  2. Goal Zero has suitcase solar panels and a lithium battery inverter. For 600 watts mentioned above, a complete system will be half of the price in the article

  3. Hey Folks,

    Great Article ***

    I have a 2003 40′ Alfa SeeYa and have installed a 600 watt solar system on my unit. I have a (12) battery system, 6-6volt House, 4-6volt Inverter and 2-12volt Chassis in my system. My inverter and solar controller work together and are basically set in float mode to maintain all my system batteries. Just because I dry camp more than not, and I need to store power without shore power both out and about and in storage. I also have a 3-12volt deep cell battery backup I can direct to start a 330 Cat diesel or my 8 kw generator set, just in case all else fails whilst in the boonies, without shore power to save my bony backside in the wilderness and I am sure one or two of you out there can relate!! In addition, I have converted ALL my driving lights, inside and outside coach lighting to LED (Not Cheep Either) but has cut my power demand by 80%… I have been able to go off-grid for weeks at a time (in fair weather that is) without generator or alternator back-up (Note, do not park under trees, LOL! There, I am happy but the real challenge for me today is water, both in and out. My Love Nuggets loves to stay and keep everything fresh and clean, and 100 gals. of water only goes so far, so-to-speak and that folks is my next challenge, to reduce the cost of handie-wipes, dump fees, let alone the storage of Black & Grey water etc… LOL!. Yes, for me solar was and is worth the cost. A side benefit of Solar is you more than double the battery use life by keeping them fully charged and maintained…! Solar has been a win/win for us.

    V/R, and “SeeYa”

    Kent M. Whitney

  4. When considering solar power for your RV, look at the advantages of foldable remote panels. You can park your rig in the shade and place your PV panels in the sun. I have two 60 watt panels that fold together and a 50 foot cord that can connect the panels to the RV battery. The panels conveniently fold together and I store them in our cloths closet when not in use. Roof top panels force you to park your rig in the sun if you want to make power.

  5. When considering solar power for your RV, look at remote, foldable panels. You can park your rig in the shade and place your PV panels in the sun. I have two 60 watt panels that fold together and we store them in the cloths closet when not in use. We also have 50 foot cord that connects the PV panels to the RV battery. Permanent roof top panels force you to park your rig in the sun if you want to make power. Who wants a hot rig just to charge your battery?

  6. Here is another super energy saving device that uses the sun to cook your food. We have several solar items that we carry when camping in our RV. We use a “Sun Oven” solar cooker to prepare our food (it is like a solar powered crock pot), and a solar shower to heat water. All of these devices add up to saving energy and make for good conversation for passers by. We have conducted low impact camping discussions at many federal, state and private parks. It is a simple way of decreasing our carbon footprint while travelling in our RV..

  7. Hi,
    This is more of a question. I am going to be moving into a travel trailer with my daughter and was thinking of doing solar panels. We are going to be living in a park with full hook ups. My question is that is it worth it to put solar panels on or not? Any advice is welcomed. Thank you!

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