Monday, June 3, 2024

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need For A Camper

How Do I Figure Out How Many Amps I Am Using Per Day

How many solar panels do I need on my RV?

An easy way to figure out how many amps youre using out of your batteries every day, and whether a 100W panel will be either too much, not enough, or just perfect, is by doing some calculations based on how much you expect to use your 12V appliances.

If you know how many watts a device is using, divide it by 12 to get the amperage.

Here are some common 12V RV appliances and their amperages per hour. These are obviously rough estimates and several factors will play into how much electricity is used.

4W LED light 0.3 amps

Water pump 4 amps

Furnace fan 8 amps

Propane alarm 0.2 amps

Now lets estimate how long were going to use each device every day, in hours.

4W LED light I use 12 of my lights for about two hours = 0.3*12*2 = 7.2 amps

Water pump We wash our hands, take a short shower, do dishes, the pump is on for about 30 min total = 4*1*0.5 = 2 amps

DC fan We run it for an hour to cool down the camper = 4*1*1 = 4 amps

12V TV We watch TV for two hours at night = 3*1*2= 6 amps

Furnace fan We run the furnace for 30 minutes in the morning = 8*1*0.5 = 4 amps

Propane alarm Its on 24 hours a day = 4.8 amps

Based on these calculations, I will use 28 amp-hours a day.

If I had a 100W solar panel generating 6A per hour, it would take 4.67 hours of good sun to generate 28A .

Parking In The Shade Can Be Tricky

On a hot summer day, youre probably dreaming of parking the RV in a nicely shaded campsite out of the blistering hot sun. However, if you have installed solar panels on your roof, they wont generate nearly as much power if they are not getting direct sunlight.

Portable solar power units might give you the best of both worlds IF you dont need tons of power. Its often easier to set up since it doesnt require drilling holes in your roof. Quality portable solar electric systems are made by Renogy, Acopower, and Eco-worthy. Goal Zero also makes portable power stations, to use with their solar panels. Whats nice is they have a built-in inverter and outlets for your electronics. Do you already own rooftop panels? Check out this easy mod from Do It Yourself RV on how to make them portable.

Determine Available Roof Space For Installing Panels

A standard RV today is 96 inches or 8 feet wide. There are some Class A motorhomes that are wider and some trailers and truck campers that are more narrow, so be sure to get your exact width.

Determine the total square footage of your RVâs roof.

  • Determine the width of your RV

    The width should be calculated by finding the usable width of your RVâs roof.

  • Determine the length of your RV

    The length of your RV should be the length of the roof, do not include any length that does not have a roof, like a trailer tongue or cargo rack.

  • Multiply Length X Width

    This will give you an idea of the absolute maximum square footage on your roof. This square footage will not be all useable to mount solar panels. You will still need to remove square footage from areas with air conditioners, vent pipes, TV antennas, awnings, roof racks, skylights, and fan ports.

  • Draw sample RV Roof.

    Draw a sample RV roof using your width and length. Note all items on the roof that will keep you from mounting a solar panel. Consider how roof-mounted items and penetrations will cause shading on your panels and remove these areas from potential layout areas.

  • Create a sample layout for solar panels

    You will now have a good sample of what your RV roof looks like and can create a sample layout for your solar panels. This will be a huge help in sizing your rv solar system because you cannot put more panels than your roof can handle.

  • Also Check: How Strong Are Solar Panels

    Tips For Conserving Energy

    Right off the bat,theres not a lot you can do to save power consumption on appliances like a microwave or coffee maker.

    The best method for conserving power in your RV to reduce your solar demand is to start by looking at things you can easily and affordably power on.

    Then you also need to ask yourself if it will pay off in the long-term.

    For example, LED and compact fluorescent lightbulbs tend to use a lot less wattage than traditional incandescent bulbs.

    They also tend to last much longer, which means youre also saving money in replacement costs over the life of the RV.

    On the other side of the spectrum, upgrading your RVs existing water heater might cost a lot of money, only to save you 7 to 10% of wattage use compared to the older model. Here it would take years to see true savings in electricity use.

    Once you comb through your light fixtures and appliances, you should be able to shave down your wattage needs by 10, to 15%.

    You might want to also think about upgrading some of your entertainment devices. For example, older TV screens tend to use more watts per hour, than newer flatscreens.

    So, you could upgrade the RVs TV to a more energy-efficient flat screen, then sell your old TV or give it to your teenager to have a TV in their own bedroom.

    There are also some basic lifestyle habits to consider adopting that will reduce the watts you need during the day.

    This includes things like:

    What Are The Best Solar Panels On Campervans

    How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run My RV?

    Campervan owners have two choices on their solar panels.

    The first choice is the more stable solar panels latched or screwed on the campervans roof itself.

    This allows you to charge the batteries while driving.

    However, as campervan roofs are normally too small to allow for 100% solar panel energy, these need to be supplemented with either gas generators or portable solar panels.

    This is also the go-to option for campervan owners with pop up tents.

    Also Check: Do Solar Attic Fans Work At Night

    How To Calculate Amps Watts And Volts

    To explain how that 100 watt = 30 amp guideline works, you have to understand watts, volts and amps. To be specific, how to convert one into the other and how to interpret the results.

    Solar panel output is measured in watts. Battery capacity is measured in amps. Most batteries and solar panels are 12 volts, but 24 volts and higher are available.

    The formulas are simple:

    If your 50 amps is 12 volts:

    50 x 12 = 600 watts600 watts / 12 = 50 amps

    These conversions assume you are using a 12V battery. If you have a 24V or 48V, replace the number and use the same steps. However the results will differ:

    50 x 24 = 120050 x 48 = 2400

    So the conversions are easy enough. But why did we say that as a rule, a 100 watt solar panel is good for 30 amps a day?

    To answer that we have to take a look at how solar panels work, and why you need 2 x 100W panels to yield 50 amps.

    Installing Solar Panels On Your Rv

    Installing rigid solar panels on your camper van will require a few pieces of mounting hardware and a handful of holes. Fortunately, the process is relatively simple and wont do a lot of damage to your rooftop.

    Z-Bracket Mounts are one of the easiest ways to hold your panels in place. You can attach them to roof rack rails or directly on top of the roof.

    To get a proper seal, place a strip of Eternabond tape beneath the bracket and fill the mounting holes with a dollop of lap sealant before tightening the hardware down.

    If youre installing panels on a fiberglass roof: substitute the included small washers with larger ones on both sides of the fiberglass to spread the load and prevent cracking.

    Adjustable tilt mounts can get you better efficiency on the roof, or work as a stand if you are using portable panels. With an adjustable tilt mount, you can install solar panels with or without a z-bracket.

    Solar cable glandsbridge the gap between the roof and the interior of your van. They are small, weatherproof covers that you can run solar cables or other wires through. They can be attached with glue, sealant or screws.

    Lap Sealant should be used to weatherproof your install. Seal any remaining gaps or holes in your rooftop with this to prevent future leaks.

    You May Like: How Many Solar Panels For 5000 Watts

    Calculating Solar Panel Needs

    One of the first questions you might ask is, How many solar panels do I need?

    This depends on what you plan on doing with your solar panels and whether you want 100 percent of your power to come from solar or if it will supplement other means of energy. According to Explorist, the number of panels doesnt matter nearly as much as the total wattage that each can produce.

    For example, you can purchase a 300 -att solar panel or install three 100-watt panels and get the same output. There are several types of solar panel wattages, and you can mix and match them as needed to fit on the roof of your camper, or you can buy a portable solar panel to use occasionally.

    The High Cost Of Rv Solar Power

    How Much Solar Power Do I Need for My RV?

    Quality RV solar panel kits are not cheap. Prices have gotten a bit more reasonable in recent years. However, a system can still get pretty pricey if you want a good RV solar power setup.

    A few 100-watt panels can add up fast. Add on some deep-cycle solar batteries to store power and a charge controller to keep them from overcharging. Dont forget an inverter to turn the DC power into usable AC powe. When its all over, you may be looking at a $1500+ investment.

    Read Also: How Many Solar Panels Would I Need

    How Many Solar Panels Does It Require

    When planning how many solar panels you will need, you must first understand that stores will usually sell you panels in ratings of 10 watts, 100 watts, 200 watts, and 300 watts.

    These tend to have different sizes and shapes, so you might want to plan how you will install these on your campervans roof.

    You must also understand that the energy output of your solar panels depends on the inverter. A system with 2500 watts from solar panels will never be better than one with 2000 watts if your inverters capacity is at 2000 watts or less.

    Now that weve got that out of the way, heres the computation for finding out the amount you need.

    How Big Do I Go

    After that preamble we get to the key question how big a solar panel do I need?

    In my opinion, the answer is simpler than you think but not truly defined but here are some choices.

  • If you have a compressor fridge and an inverter then go for 120w or above 150W if you have the space on the roof. I run a 100W solar panel and have no problems but I do use the van for everyday transport and I turn my fridge off at night.
  • If you are just powering some lights and a few charging sockets then youll be fine with 80w 100w
  • If you want to keep your starter battery topped up when its parked at home then look at the 60w panels
  • If you are thinking about panels smaller than 60w dont bother those dash mounted cheap ones from motorists stores will do nothing for your batteries.
  • You May Like: Can You Clean Walls With Pine Sol

    Can You Run A Washing Machine On Solar Power

    Some washing machines are actually designed with a solar kit installed and can be hooked up to your system. Theres also the option of installing an outdoor clothesline for drying laundry between cycles or using a dryer that runs on electricity generated by renewable sources like solar power. A third option is running off-the-grid where you use battery storage to capture the power generated by your panels, so that you can use it anytime.

    How Many Solar Panels Do You Need For An Rv Or Camper Van Conversion

    How Much Solar Power Do I Need for My RV?

    Fill out the calculator below to find out how many solar panels you need for your DIY solar panel system.

    This calculator is meant for camper van conversions, RVs and small off-grid solar systems. Watch the video below if youre not sure how to fill out the calculator. Head to our electricity main page for further explanations of each solar panel component.

    If DIY solar power is intimidating to you, we recommend looking at solar powered generators which are plug and play devices that require little to no wiring.

    Hi there parked in paradise visitors! We have a cool solar panel calculator on our site and im going to walk you through how to use it because there are a lot of steps involved and sometimes just seeing someone go through it helps quite a bit.

    So this is in our solar and electricity guide. And its our camper van solar system calculator. This is for all you do-it-yourself solar system sizing folks out there.

    Im going to talk a little bit about what its good for and what its not. And some of the things that are covered in it. Now each of these different subjects in this we cover more extensively in a post on our site so if youre not able to follow along or have some more questions about some details those youll be able to find elsewhere in the electrical guides on our site.

    This is kind of just a guide for how to use the calculator itself and what some of the different numbers and that kind of thing mean.

    So were going to say 47 watts for my fridge.


    Recommended Reading: How Much Can Solar Panels Produce

    What Solar Panel Size For A 2000 Watt Inverter

    Solar panel sizes are measured by their output in watts. The higher the output, the fewer panels you will need to run a 2000 watt inverter.

    Inverter load per hour = solar panel size

    If you want to use the inverter at full load, your solar system must produce at least 2000 watts for as long as the inverter needs to run. When the sun goes down the inverter will shut off unless there is another power source.

    With 7 x 300W solar panels you can run a 2000W inverter for as long as there is enough sunlight. If there are 5 sunlight hours, the inverter is good for 5 hours.

    What if the load is less than 2000 watts? Example you want to load 1400 watts for 4 hours.

    1400 watt inverter load = 1400 watt solar panel output

    You need a solar array that can produce 1400 watts an hour. Five 300 watt solar panels is good for 1500 watts so you can start there.

    You can use other solar panel combinations as long as the total output is at least 2000 watts an hour. However, a 300 watt PV module or larger is ideal because it does not take up as much space as a 200W or 100W solar array.

    How Much Battery Capacity Do I Need To Support My Solar Panels

    If you have an average 12 volt battery, you will be able to get around 100 amp hours of electrical storage. Under ideal conditions, this is sufficient to store up to 300 watts of solar panels.

    If you had a pair of 12 volt batteries, or perhaps four 6 volt batteries, you would be able to store between 200 to 250 am hours, which should be enough to support up 600 watts of solar panels.

    If you have a large Class A motorhome, your wattage and amp hour storage needs might be significantly higher.

    In this scenario, lets say you have four robust 12 volt batteries, which would give you an impressive 400 to 600 amp hours of storage to support up to 1,200 watts from photovoltaic solar panels.

    Also Check: How Many Amps Does A 300 Watt Solar Panel Produce

    Is It Beneficial To Install Portable Rv Solar Panel Kits

    Theres no denying that investing in flexible solar panels for RV can save us money and energy in the long term. Unlike generators, solar panels are advantageous since they do not comprise any moving components. Likewise, they work without irking sound or smell and dont require complete maintenance.

    The advantage of solar panels is that they supply you with clean, renewable, and safe energy all the time. Indeed, since they utilize the energy coming from the sun, you can enjoy free energy, which means its unnecessary to spend more on expensive fuel.

    As mentioned, solar panels dont produce annoying sounds or smells when running, so you can forget about disturbing your neighbors. In line with this, you can also avoid exhaust fumes coming from loud generators.

    How Many Photo Voltaic Panels Do I Want For My Rv

    How Much Solar Power Do I Need for My Camper? | How to Calculate Camper Solar System Size

    Signup For News and Special Offers!

    Thank you!

    You have successfully joined our subscriber list.

    Are you planning to live full-time in your RV or looking to travel to places you know are off-grid?

    Then in our opinion, installing solar panels onto your RV would indeed be a smart investment.

    But how many solar panels do you need for an RV?

    On average, an RV will need between two and four 200 watt monocrystalline solar panels to offset its energy consumption. The number of solar panels an RV needs depends on the location and daily onboard electrical consumption.

    In this article, we will show you how to work out the number of solar panels your RV will need depending on your individual situation.


    We put a lot of work into designing, researching, writing, editing, and reviewing these articles. Please consider supporting us by making a purchase from one of the affiliate links included in this post.

    Also Check: Is Home Solar Cost Effective

    Popular Articles
    Related news