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How Much Solar Power Do I Need for My RV? (Expert’s Guide)

Written by Philip Lopez / Fact checked by Paul Lemaire

how much solar power do i need for my rv

Nowadays, solar power is the rave for many RVers. This type of power isn’t only cost-effective, but it’s also environmentally friendly. So, my topmost concern is how much solar power do I need for my RV?

If you have the same question, it all depends on the power consumption of your appliances. You can make an estimated guess with the number of minutes they’re used or measure the battery consumption per day. On average, you need 200o to 3000 watts of solar power to run an RV.

Let’s learn more about solar power below.

Benefits of Running a Camper on Solar Power

For my motorhome, I used a generator to power my appliances when boondocking. This changed when someone convinced me to use solar panels.

Here are the reasons why you should also make the big switch.

  • Though initial costs are high, the use of solar energy is free of charge. All you need is sunlight to power your camper.
  • Since you harness the power from the sun, it’s sustainable and environment-friendly.
  • Maintaining solar panels is easy since there are no moving parts.
  • It’s ideal to use solar power for RV batteries. The slow power offers a steady charge, improving the battery’s life.

Conducting an Estimated Power Usage Audit

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If you want to know the best size of a solar panel to get, perform an audit on how much power your RV consumes on a daily basis. Here’s a guide:

  • Gather the appliances or items that you plan on powering. List them on a spreadsheet or paper.
  • Determine the watts the appliances use. Estimate the number of minutes you plan to use each item daily. Multiply both results to get an estimated guess of power consumption per item.
  • DC-powered appliances don’t usually show their power usage. Your best measure is to look for the product online and get that information.
  • Other appliances will list the amps and volts instead of wattage. For this case, use the formula: Watts = Amps * Volts.
  • When the result of your calculation is 1000 watts, then you can go ahead and arrange five 200-watt solar panels. If you have a smaller camper, use two 600-watt solar panels to save roof space.

Auditing in Actual Time

Do you want an easier method to determine your daily power usage? All you need is a voltmeter to monitor how much battery is used up during camping for a day.

Find a good camping site and stay there for several days for evaluation. Use all the appliances like you always would and avoid using your generator.

After a day has passed, use a voltmeter to check the life of your RV batteries. If your 200-amp hour batteries are at 75%, this means you consumed 50 amp hours for a day.

To determine the number of solar panels to use, find the amp hours of your solar panel. For example, a panel with 5 amps of output and 6 hours of sunlight a day will produce 5 x 6 = 30 amp hours/day.

Suppose you need 50 amp hours per day, you’ll need two 30Ah panels.

Solar Panel Sizes

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The size of solar panels may refer to their physical size or power rating. A large solar panel doesn’t necessarily mean a high power rating.

The exact amount of energy it generates depends on many variables, including the climate and month of the year. But here’s a rundown of how much power you can expect.

1. 200 Watt Solar Panel For RV

For full time RV, you’ll need at least 200 watts of solar panels to power small appliances such as LED lights, laptops, and TVs.

If you want to support a 50 amp RV solar system, you’ll need a 200W solar panel, which generates around 10-12 amps an hour.

Consider adding inverters and other equipment to run devices with this type of solar panel.

2. 600-Watt Solar Panel

This solar setup is suitable for a large RV housing a small family of four people.

If the sun is at its peak for four hours, a 600-watt solar panel can offer 180-192 amp hours daily. This amount of electricity can power a regular-sized fridge, coffee maker, and microwave. It can also recharge four 6-volt batteries, provided that you don’t use the RV during the day.

Consider upgrading your solar power to 800 watts if you plan to use other appliances like lights and water pumps.

3. 1000 Watts Solar Panel And Up

You can run plenty of appliances with a 1000-watt solar panel. These appliances include your electric cooker, water heater, and home refrigerators.

Air conditioners (ACs) need the most power in your motorhome. Your travel trailer should have at least 1500 watts of solar power to run a 13000-BTU AC unit.

For portable ACs, you’ll need a lesser amount of solar power. Solar panels of at least 900-1100 watts are enough to run a portable AC with very good sunlight.

When installing 1000-watt solar power, consider using five 200-watt solar panels or ten 100-watt solar panels.

Watch how to install the proper wiring of solar panels in your RV in this video.

Conclusion

So, how much solar power do I need for my RV? It depends on the number of appliances you have and your average consumption.

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