Youll Need A Battery Bank
With shore power, you never really need to worry about backup power. Once youre hooked up at the campsite, you can just plug in your laptop or coffee maker like you would at home. The weather or time of day doesnt affect your life at all.
On the other hand, if you have solar panels, youll need a battery bank. This provides power for nighttime, cloudy days and when you want to park out of the sun. Lithium-ion batteries, though more expensive, are a better option for solar energy storage than lead-acid batteries. Theyre lighter, more compact, and have a longer lifespan.
What Is An Off Grid Solar System And Who This Is For
Solar power systems are great alternatives to your typical electrical systems. Aside from obvious benefits like energy-efficiency, solar power systems are also cheaper and are friendlier to the environment.
There are three types of solar power systems: 1) on-grid, 2) off-grid, and 3) hybrid solar systems. This article will tackle and focus more on the second type, the off-grid solar power system.
As in their name, solar power systems like a home off grid solar system operate on solar power. They then convert that solar energy into electricity.
Also called stand-alone power systems, off-grid solar systems are basically not connected to any electrical power grid. Because of that, they are equipped with a high-capacity battery bank to store the electricity harvested by the solar panels.
Because of the battery storage, an off-grid solar system is perfect to use in long winters, during adverse weathers or emergencies. During these conditions, there is a high possibility that power outages will occur which can sometimes last from hours to days to weeks.
With an off-grid solar system, your home will not be affected since the system can provide electricity for you. Just make sure that your solar system is designed to have the capacity to meet the electricity needs of your home.
This type of solar system is also perfect to use in remote areas located far from the local electrical grid or in areas that are prone to power outages.
Can I Run My Rv Air Conditioning On Solar Power
Yes and no.
You’ll need an inverter powerful enough to run the AC unit, plus batteries to keep it running and solar panels to recharge the batteries.
Our Victron MultiPlus 12/3000 inverter can happily run the 13.5k AC unit in our RV, which pulls about 1300W when running. Our 300Ah of Battle Born Lithium batteries are enough to keep the AC running for about 2 hours. But with just 800W of total solar , it’s a losing battle – the batteries will drain faster than the solar will recharge them.
We rarely run our AC while off-grid, but sometimes we run it for 20-30 minutes just before bed to cool things off if it’s really hot in the RV.
That said, we know plenty of people with big solar arrays who can happily run their AC unit from solar alone. You should typically plan on having a bare minimum of at least 1500W of solar if this is something you want to do.
If you have a smaller inverter , you may need to install an EasyStart on your AC unit to reduce the Locked Rotor Amps that create a huge power draw when you first turn it on.
How And Why We Hired The Dry Campers
I did some research online and found The Dry Campers, a full-time RV couple that travels around the country doing solar installs. On their website, I saw that they were coming through Utah. It seemed like it was meant to be. I loved the idea of working with someone in-person instead of leaving our house-on-wheels at a busy shop.
I gave Mike a call and he happily chatted with me for 1.5 hours, answering question after question. He explained to me that he had over 25 years experience as an electrician and reassured me that we could run A/C with the right system.
Ultimately, we decided on what Mike called the minimum A/C system which included 1300 watts of solar panels on the roof, 400 amp-hours of lithium batteries, a 3000 watt inverter, and a charge controller with a few extra goodies .
We ended up meeting Mike and Leanna in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho for a weeklong install. They were able to reserve a spot for their Airstream a few sites down from ours at Lava Campground, a low key RV park with cute and colorful vintage campers for rent.
While Mike worked during the day, we played at The Olympic Swimming Complex which has an indoor pool thats perfect for toddlers. We also soaked in the hot springs a few times and ran errands in Pocatello.
Are Lithium Batteries Good In Cold Weather
We often get asked if we can use our Lithium batteries in cold temperatures. Yes, absolutely!
Our Battle Born Lithium batteries can be used as normal down to 24Â°F. Below that temperature, the BMS will prevent them from charging to avoid damaging the batteries. But, as long as the temperature stays above -4Â°F, they can still be discharged. And they can be stored at temperatures even lower than that!
Since we installed our batteries under the bed and we live full-time in our RV, I don’t expect our batteries to ever get anywhere near that cold!
If you do plan to keep the batteries somewhere more exposed and want to camp in very cold conditions, then you may want to consider adding some supplemental heating, such as Battle Born’s specially designed and thermostatically-controlled battery heating pad.
Remember that not all Lithium batteries are equal, so if you plan to buy other batteries then be sure to check what their temperature limits are, and whether the BMS will protect them.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that it’s not just Lithium batteries that are sensitive to very cold temperatures. The usable capacity of lead acid batteries drops significantly in cold weather, and extreme cold can be bad for other electronics too – e.g. the minimum operating temperature of our Victron Smart Solar 100/50 MPPT solar charge controller is -22Â°F.
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Start By Calculating Your Power Needs
How much power do you use daily? This will help you determine the size of the solar system you need.
First, find the power rating of the appliances. If the appliance is rated in amps , multiply the amps by the voltage to get the wattage .
The formula P = V x I is used to calculate the wattage.
Multiply the wattage of the appliances by the usage hours to determine the power consumption .
Step A: Calculate The Average Daily Watt-Hours
Average Daily Watt-Hours = + DC Daily Wh
Average Daily Watt-Hours = + 0 Wh
= 2489 Wh
Step B: Calculate The Battery Bank Capacity
Battery Bank Capacity = Average Daily Wh x Days of Autonomy x Battery Temp Multiplier ÷ DoD
Battery Bank Capacity = 2489 Wh x 3 Days x 1.00 ÷ 0.8
= 9334 Wh
Step C: Calculate The Battery Bank Capacity
Battery Bank Capacity = Battery Bank Capacity ÷ Battery Voltage
Battery Bank Capacity = 9334 Wh ÷ 48 V
= 194 Ah
Are Solar Panels For An Rv Worth The Cost
Solar panels can be one of the most cost effective upgrades you can do to your RV. Once they’re installed, they require no maintenance or fuel – they just keep producing free power as long as the sun is shining.
Solar panels are relatively cheap , and while MPPT solar charge controllers can be expensive, the slightly less efficient PWM controllers can be bought for much less.
So as long as you camp somewhere sunny, solar panels can at least reduce the hours spent running the generator, and maybe even offset all of your electrical needs. But in cloudy weather, or if you like to camp in heavily forested areas with limited clear skies, they might not work for you.
Is An Rv Solar System Worth The Cost
RV solar systems are becoming more popular as RV owners look for ways to reduce their reliance on hookups and generator power.
But is an RV solar system worth the cost? The answer depends on several factors, including:
- How frequently you go camping
- Your RV type and
- Your power requirements.
If you camp frequently or dry camp often, an RV solar system can be worth the cost. Remember. RV solar systems provide a convenient and sustainable way to power your RV, and they can ultimately save you money on your camping costs.
If you have a larger RV or require more power for things like air conditioning or cooking, youll need a more powerful RV solar system, which will be more expensive. However, the initial investment can be offset by the long-term savings on your camping costs.
Ultimately, whether an RV solar system is worth the cost is up to each RV owner. Consider your power needs and how often you camp when making your decision.
Renogy 100w Off Grid Solar Panel
Portable off grid solar systems are immensely useful when traveling and camping. This foldable solar panel kit by Renogy is among the best ones out there.
The panels are made with an aluminum framing that is corrosion-free, so Im sure theyll last me a long time. They also come with a kickstand, making them easier to position at my campsite.
When youre done using the panels, you can simply fold them up. This saves on storage space in your RV, off grid cabin, or trailer when theyre not in use.
This off grid solar kit comes with a 20A charge controller with an LCD screen to show you all the relevant info on your battery charging. The charge controller also protects against overcharging, minimizing fire risks. Since the entire system is low-voltage, it also prevents electric hazards.
- The solar panels have a corrosion-free, aluminum frame and kickstand
- You can fold up the panels to save on storage space when theyre not in use
- Comes with a 20A charge controller that protects against overcharging
- LCD screen for charging info
- Low-voltage to prevent any electric hazards while off-grid
- Can only be used for travel purposes, not permanent installation in homes
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What Can An Rv Solar System Power
An RV solar system can power various appliances and devices, including lights, computers, TVs, and refrigerators.
Many people install these systems because they allow them to live off the grid without relying on hookups for electricity.
When choosing an RV solar system, it is important to consider the size of your rig and the amount of power you will need.
Solar Makes For Carefree Living On The Open Road
Remi is standing between a large motorhome and a brand new Airstream trailer.
This unit here will have four, 335-watt modules, a 48-volt inverter in two 48 volts batteries.
Thats a large 1.3 kilowatt solar system on a vehicle that was designed to use energy efficient appliances so it goes a long way.
People are spending anywhere between $2,000 and $20,000 on these sophisticated systems.
My personal trailer is a very simplistic one. I have two modules and a single lithium battery and a charge controller. And mines a $2,000 unit, says Watts.
The Airstream on the other hand has four flexible solar modules that follow the contours of the sleek top of the Airstream trailer, a very sophisticated charge control system, digital controls and four lithium-ion batteries.
Solar systems have come a long way for RVs. This is Don Rieps charge controller, inverter and you can see two of four lithium-ion batteries that will keep his Airstream powered for days and weeks at a time when he hits the open road. Photo David Dodge, GreenEnergyFutures.ca
When you think about these vehicles as retirement homes instead of weekend warrior camping vehicles you can start to understand why people are investing in top-notch systems.
Watts company CBI Solar is also very accommodating. They sell Victron components for do-it-your-selfers and they also install full systems as well.
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Using An Inverter For Household Ac Power
The role of our Samlex 2000 watt pure-sine inverter is to convert 12 volt DC power to 120 volt AC power. The AC power from the inverter simulates a shore power connection and powers all of the AC circuits and household receptacles in the RV.
The game changer was when my wife was able to use her blow dryer. Yes. .
Installing a . Our large battery bank enables us power just about everything we would on a shore power hookup. We regularly use our microwave, induction burner and Keurig coffee maker. Running our air conditioner and hot water heater for limited periods of time is even possible after adding lithium batteries.
Throughout the day I switch our refrigerator over from gas to electric. It runs off of the inverter and batteries until night time when Ill switch it back over to LP.
Heres a diagram that shows how our inverter ties into our RVs electrical system.
Important: Disconnect the Converter/Charger While Using The Inverter
The converter/charger needed to be disabled while running on inverter power. Heres why.
Without disconnecting the converter/charger the batteries would be charging themselves through the inverter and converter/charger. This is not a safe scenario.
To solve this problem, the power to the converter/charger is wired to the shore power side of the automatic transfer switch . This setup only allows battery charging to occur when connected to shore power .
There are a few solutions to this problem which I cover in detail here in this article: .
Windynation 400 Watt Solar Kit
- Complete kit and ready to install
- High efficiency solar panels
- Ideal for cabins, homes and recreational vehicles
- May need battery replacement
- Charging varies from sunlight availability
When shopping around for a good off-grid solar system, you should also not miss the WindyNation. It is a complete kit that will give you the convenience and ease of installation as well as use. Choosing it, you will not have a hard time to set it up in your cabin, home, recreational vehicle or boat, among others.
One of the things that make the WindyNation a good choice is its a complete kit. This model includes a 100W polycrystalline solar panel, solar charge controller, solar cable, connectors, mounting hardware and so on. Buying it, you dont need to buy any other accessories because it is ready to install.
Another thing that I liked about the off-grid solar system is that it comes with battery cables and AGM deep cycle batteries, which are maintenance free, too.
In addition, I liked the solar system because it is good as a remote and backup power source. You can also use it in boats and other applications you need power source. So if youre living off the grid and want an efficient system, you might want to take a look at the WindyNation.
On the downside, the solar system requires battery replacement. Its charging also varies from sunlight availability.
So whenever you need a power source or a remote power source, you can rely on the WindyNation 400W solar system kit.
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Windynation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off
Price: $439.99 Buy Now
Best: Runner up
The fact that WindyNation gives RV owners the option to purchase a battery with their solar kit is a huge plus! Image source:
WindyNation offers a 100 watt, 12 Volt solar panel kit that is great for boondockers who dont use a lot of power. The kit includes one panel with a power output of 100 watts, a 20 amp PWM charge controller, four Z-brackets for mounting, cabling, and solar connectors. It also includes a 100 Amp-hour absorbed glass matt lead-acid battery.
According to WindyNation, this panel will produce 350 watt-hours of electricity per day. That isnt a lot, but the charge controller included is able to handle up to four 100 watt panels, so you can expand the system in the future. This kits great online reviews and included equipment are what make it our best overall runner up RV solar kit.
- Comes with a lead acid battery
- Cabling and mounting equipment included
- Charge controller allows for future system expansion
- High user reviews on Amazon
- Only one panel, so it wont cover all of your electricity usage right off the bat
- Inverter not included
Price: $499.68 Buy Now
Best: Portable RV solar setup
Go Power!s kit may not have the ability to mount to your roof, but its perfect for those just looking for portable solar power. Image source:
Price: $230.35 Buy Now
Best: Flexible solar panel for RV
Renogys 100 W flexible solar panel makes it easier to add a few solar panels to your roof. Image source:
Can I Run My Fridge On Solar Power
Yes, but check your fridge carefully to see how. Remember that an RV fridge that runs on propane still needs some electricity to power the pump and control board – but ours is only around 3W, so easily achieved with solar power.
Our fridge is a two-way fridge, so as well as propane it can run on AC power. However, as is common for RV fridges, it’s an absorption fridge – this means it’s really inefficient when running on AC and uses around 300W.
If your fridge can run on 12V DC power, then that’s a great option – check to see how much power it draws though so you can size your solar panels accordingly.
If your RV has a residential fridge , then you’ll need an inverter to run it when off-grid. Electrical consumption can vary widely on residential fridges from as little as 100w on very efficient models, to many times that on less efficient models with an ice maker and defrost mode.
Your manufacturer’s website or instruction manual should have the information you need to calculate how much power it draws, or better yet, use a device like a Kill-A-Watt to measure it.
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