Solar power has come a long way and is a great addition to your RV setup. There are some drawbacks, but generally, solar panels help you stay off the grid longer and reduce the need for alternative energy systems.
For many RV owners, the concept of solar powers is just too complex. There’s the need for a solar regulator (to drop the output voltage to suit the charging voltage) and there’s no guarantee that solar will provide all your energy needs. In fact, it’s unlikely that solar power will keep you afloat in long periods off the grid. So, why bother?
While solar may not provide 100% of your energy needs, it does provide enough to keep you from being reliant on a noisy and fuel-hungry generator. Solar energy is environmentally friendly and depending on the appliances you run in your RV, it can actually provide a significant amount of energy.
To efficiently power an RV, five 200W 12V solar panels (or as many as you can fit on your caravan) are recommended. Consult an expert to calculate your energy needs to determine the best solar fit-out for your van. When costing your setup, don’t forget that you will need a regulator and perhaps an inverter. Many vans come with an inverter, but it may not be appropriate for your setup.
To make matters even more complex, there are different types of panels that suit different conditions. Depending on the type of travel you intend to undertake, you have several choices. Monocrystalline panels are considered to offer greater efficiency, while polycrystalline panels are more suited to changing conditions and different angles of the sun.
In general, poly panels are the best choice, but mono panels are okay if you’re camping for short periods or only seeking solar coverage for a short part of the day. Folding panels are a good solution if storage is a problem. However, traditional glass-mounted panels are the best option if your RV is Power usage
In a caravan, the three greatest energy drains are fridges/freezers, microwaves, and incandescent lighting (and fluorescent tubes). With many more people working on the road, computers are another drain on the energy system of a caravan.
While little can be done to minimise the use of these items, buying the right equipment can help reduce power burdens significantly. A correctly installed fridge is a must, and three-way fridges are a popular choice. Each fridge comes with a rating that indicates the type of ambient temperature above which the fridge must supply. Fridges must also have the appropriate working voltage.
For microwaves, there really isn’t a way to avoid the power drain. The best alternative is to only use your microwave when mains 230V is available. Outdoor cooking is so much more fun anyway!
If working from your van, laptops draw significantly less energy than desktop computers, and are a far more portable and RV-friendly option.
Replacing your lights with LED alternatives is a good way to reduce the lighting burden on a solar-powered RV.
Some of these options may seem pricy in the short term but will reduce energy costs in the long term and be less of a burden on your RV’s solar setup.
So power up and enjoy the sun!
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