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How Much Solar Power Do I Need for My RV? – Detailed Guide

how much solar power do i need for my rv

More and more people have become invested in solar energy as a form of electricity in their homes. In addition, due to the continuous development cycle, rig owners are also starting to use solar energy for their RVs.

In this article, we will discuss the answer to the question, “How much solar power do I need for my RV?” Continue reading the next section if you’re interested in installing solar panels for your camper.

How Much Solar Do I Need for My Van?

If you have solar panels on your RV, it will produce direct current from solar energy and store it in the 12-volt batteries of your rig. Your trailer’s inverter will then turn the direct current to an alternating current to help run the appliances in your RV.

An average RV requires an amount of solar energy of 120 Amp-hours to function its appliances and provide us with comfort, safety, and convenience to be on the road.

Meanwhile, consider providing twice the solar power needed for standard RVs if you have a fifth-wheel motorhome or class A camper. That means a motorhome can consume as much solar energy as 240 – 360 Amp-hours to run smoothly.

So, to answer the question ‘how many solar panels do I need for my RV” there are several determining factors. First, it depends on your usage, space, and type of solar panel. Some rigs can function on a single solar panel that takes up solar energy for 6 hours a day, while some would need three panels side by side to operate smoothly.

Ultimately, you should always base your decisions on how much electricity you use in a single day. You should also be meticulous in picking the type of solar panel that you will use.

Calculate How Many Watt Solar Panel Do I Need for RV?

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To determine how much solar power an RV full of appliances requires, you must calculate the amount of wattage used daily. Doing so avoids the shortage of energy, which prevents us from even turning our lights on.

In calculating your rig’s daily wattage power needs, there are two possible ways. One is by appliance use, and the other is by personally testing out your rig. These two methods are proven effective in finding out how much wattage of power your rig needs.

But first, let’s learn how to convert Watts to Amp Hours.

Before starting with two methods, we should know how to convert watts to amp hours and vice versa.

Technically speaking, converting watts to amp hours and vice versa is not a 1:1 conversion. How

  • Amp Hours x Volts = Watts
  • Watts/Volts = Amp Hours

Method 1: Testing it out with a battery meter

The first method is to test out your RV for a day to determine how much power you need. Also called the “Camping Test,” a method that couples are more recommended to use than families since it will be easier.

You would go out camping somewhere and use electricity regularly without trying to save some. Ensure that the place you choose has a nearby power backup source for when things go wrong or if you ever use up all of your power sources.

If you’re keen on investing in solar panels, you should also invest in a battery meter. This device will help you monitor your battery’s discharge and give you an idea of how much power your appliances use.

  • Once your camping trip is over, calculate your battery’s amp hours and figure out how much you used up.
  • Know how much amp-hour your battery has initially.
  • Then, measure how much is left right when your trip ends. If the RV’s battery level goes lower than the 50% level, you might want to try an alternative.

Method 2: Calculating By Appliance Use

Another method that rig owners can use to calculate their RV’s power wattage is checking all of their appliances and adding them all up. This process can be time-consuming and tedious.

  • In this method, you will check each of your appliance’s specifications and list them down. You can find these specifications stamped or printed on your appliances or the item’s manual.
  • Next, compute the total number of watts per appliance by multiplying it by how many hours you’ll be using a specific one. In this process, you should be exacting and accurate.
  • Finally, get an estimate on how many hours you spend on an appliance. Remember that it’s okay to go above your estimate rather than fall short in the end.

Make sure that you cover all appliances inside your rig, including the DVD players and speakers. Everything that is powered by electricity should be included because you will get the total of it all, and that is your estimated total power wattage.

It may be tiring for some, but it is worth it since you’ll be able to figure out how many solar panels you need and all necessary things such as battery size and type that you’ll need.

Checking How Much Space You Have for Solar Panels

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As you calculate the solar for RV power required, it’s time to check your RV and figure out how much space is required to install the solar panels. For instance, as you find out that you need a 50 amp RV solar system, make sure to do an RV solar panel size calculator to fit such a system to your vehicle.

It is possible that you’ll have more wattage needs than the actual square foot of space you have for solar panels. Therefore, it’s important to assess your RV’s exterior and figure out how you will work around it.

Your solar panels can only give you 70% – 90% of energy from their overall production. That’s why you should map out your solar panels on your RV’s exterior with a 75% productivity rate for optimal results.

In this step, you must know what type of solar panels you want to use as it will also play a big factor in the installation. As a rough estimate, one 100-watt solar panel can produce up to 30 Amp hours of energy per day.

However, there are many things that you should also consider, such as camping and parking sites. For example, if you like parking your car under a shade, your solar panels wouldn’t absorb much solar energy, thus giving you less of what you need.

How Much Battery Power Required to Support Your Solar Panels

After finding out your solar power needs and stuff about solar panels, you should now figure out how much battery you should get to support your solar panels. Generally, this is dependent on the type and size of the rig that you have.

Most rigs come with a 12v battery power source. This battery power can give you 100 amp hours of electric storage, equivalent to 300 watts of solar panel energy. So if your rig has two 12v or four 6v batteries, you can have twice the storage of a regular one, and you’ll be able to store more energy.

It’s important also to consider what type of RV you have. If you have a large RV, you may need more electric storage since you’ll be using up more electricity as time goes by.

Conclusion

Calculating your rig’s energy consumption is not so complicated. And once you know this, you’ll be able to answer the question “How much solar power do I need for my RV?” After finding out how much solar power you need, you can now assess your situation and find ways to get enough energy to power your RV.

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