What Will Solar Panels Power in My RV?
By James Mannett, CEA Solar
Solar power for your RV depends on many factors: number of batteries, types of appliances, duration of use, presence and size of the inverter, and, or course, your budget. While solar panels won’t power everything on your RV, most items can be powered, either partially or entirely, by solar—with careful planning.
After being given a list of appliances, the most common question I get asked is, “How much solar do I need?”
Along the way, I have developed a simple tool to help the RV owner determine their energy demand. This downloadable worksheet enables the RV owner to enter the number of hours each appliance or electric device would be used and provides a total number of amp/hours of energy demand over a 24-hour period. At the bottom of the sheet are examples of how many amp/hours/day a typical solar panel size will generate.
I’ll stress here that this is NOT an exact science. There are MANY variables — any of which can change the outcome. To be ideal, solar energy production predictions (amp/hours/day) depend on the following variables. Here are some of those variables:
• Number of hours of direct sunlight
• Clouds and thickness of clouds
• Panel tilt
• Panel direction
• Panel soiling
And finally, don’t be worried about having all of the solar you need all at once to meet your demand. Instead, adopt a phased approach. Even partial solar power will reduce the number of hours your generator needs to run. Most well designed, industry standard, RV solar devices can be adapted to grow with your needs and as your wallet permits. Be sure to ask your supplier when purchasing how additional panels (and power) can be added in the future without having to throw anything away that you already bought.
Have questions about RV solar power? You may write James Mannett at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at http://blog.rvsolarnow.com where you may post your comments or suggestions about this article or others that appear there. Download his free solar power calculator by clicking here. James will be giving seminars on RV solar power at The Rally, Redmond, OR, July 13 and July 16 2011. RV solar devices can be seen at www.rvsolarnow.com.