Whether you want to find ways to become more environmentally friendly or are simply looking to save money on your travels, solar energy is an excellent way to go. That brings us to questions about solar generators. Can you power an RV with a solar generator? We did the research to bring you the answer.
You can definitely power an RV with a solar generator. You will need to make sure you purchase a unit that is strong enough to support all the features your RV has to offer. However, you will likely have to sacrifice some amenities.
There is so much to learn before purchasing a solar generator for your RV. Continue reading as we discuss the best solar generators for your RV, how to connect your RV to a solar generator, how many panels you will need, and more.
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Powering an RV with a Solar Generator
Traveling can get expensive. You have to pay for food and gassing up the RV, and don't forget the cost of connecting to water and electricity at campgrounds.
There is, however, one way to save money if you enjoy RVing. A solar generator is good for the environment, and it can help offset the costs of running your electricity.
Solar Generator VS. Residential Solar Panels
Before you run out and purchase a solar generator, it's important to understand the basics of the system.
Unlike residential solar panels, solar generators are not meant to power an entire home. As with most generators, they are meant to be used as backup methods of power.
That being said, your typical home solar panel provides approximately 350 watts, while an RV panel can be expected to provided closer to 100 watts.
For this reason, you'll need to carefully decide how many panels and how much wattage you will need to adequately power all the necessities in your RV.
How Many Watts of Power Do I Need for my RV?
When determining the number of watts needed to power your RV, you must keep in mind that you should never completely drain the battery on your solar generator.
Therefore, you will need to have plenty of wattage to run all your appliances without completely depleting your energy supply.
When calculating the number of watts you will need to power your RV, you should make a list of all the appliances you will be using and how many hours you will use each one. Many people forget to calculate their refrigerators and air conditioners into this number.
However, these will take up the majority of your electricity needs, and both will need to run continuously, unlike other appliances such as microwaves and televisions.
To figure out how many watts each appliance uses, find the label on the bottom or side of each item. The following chart is an example of how many watts common items use.
Appliance Watts Hours Total Watts
TV 400 5 2,000
Lights 18 12 216
Microwave 800 0.5 400
Refrigerator 500-800 24 12,000-19,200
AC Unit 1,200-1,700 18-20 21,600-34,000
Space Heater 400-1,500 10-20 4,000-30,000
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Power My RV?
As you can see from the above chart, you will need a lot of energy to keep your RV running comfortably. Therefore, you may need several solar panels and generators depending on how many watts your panels and generator can contain.
If you want to power all the above appliances, you will need approximately 80,000 watts of solar energy per day.
This number is not reasonable for a portable solar generator; therefore, you will need to cut back on your electricity usage. Many RV refrigerators can run on propane. This will eliminate approximately 19,000 watts from your daily usage.
If you camp during seasons that do not require the use of air conditioners or heaters, you can save up to 30,000 watts. However, if you cannot skip the heat and air, you will need to cut back on the amount you use.
According to RVShare, many RVers can run their rigs on just one or two 100 watt solar panels. If you take your family, however, you may need closer to four panels.
On average, one solar generator panel provides about 100 watts which equals approximately 400 watt hours per day. However, it is important to note the capacity of the generator itself.
You will need to make sure your generator battery can store the energy your panels are collecting instead of just wasting it. For example, some solar generator batteries only hold a maximum of 600 watts, while others may hold up to 2,000 watts.
If you have two 100 watt panels collecting a total of 800 watt hours, a 600 watt generator will not be enough.
How Many Solar Panels Does it Take to Charge an RV Battery?
The number of solar panels needed to charge your RV battery will depend on the size of the battery. However, it is important not to allow your RV battery to drain below 50 percent.
If you have two 12V batteries that have each been halfway drained, you will need two solar panels to charge your batteries. With two 100 watt panels, you will be able to recharge your batteries within about 15 hours.
When charging your RV batteries, it's easy to know when they are at 100% capacity. Most RV solar generators feature LCD screens that tell you exactly how much power is left in the generator as well as the battery percentage of the items you are charging.
Best Solar Generators
Jackery Solar Generator 1500
The Jackery Solar Generator 1500 features four 100 watt panels and an 1,800-watt capacity. It also boasts 30% faster charge times. Your generator can be at 80% capacity in as little as four hours.
Generark Solar Generator
The Generark Solar Generator Bundle features four 100W panels and two generator batteries. They can easily be recharged by solar panels, a car adapter, or an AC wall outlet.
You can even continue to use your solar generator while it is recharging. With six built-in protection modules, you can have peace of mind knowing you won't overcharge, overcurrent, or short circuit your device.
BLUETTI Portable Power Station
This portable power station features two 120 watt panels and a holding capacity of 1,000 watts. Recharge the generator using the solar panels, or plug it into an AC wall outlet.
It's advertised to last for 2,500 cycles or more when properly maintained. You'll also enjoy protection against short circuit, overcurrent, overvoltage, overload, and overheating.
ECOFLOW EFDELTA Solar Generator Set
This little generator packs a big punch with two amazing 160 watt panels featuring an 1,800 watt capacity. It offers an astonishing charge time of 80% in as little as one hour. From completely drained, it can be fully charged in just over 1.5 hours.
Although this bundle includes solar panels, the ECOFLOW generator is compatible with any solar panel on the market. You can recharge it using solar power or by connecting it to a wall outlet. Panels are waterproof for up to 30 minutes and feature a high conversion rate.
How Does a Solar Generator Charge an RV Battery?
Solar generators work by utilizing solar panels to collect energy from the sun. The generator hooks to the solar panels, collecting energy from them and storing it for later use. When you're ready to charge the RV battery, there are a couple different methods to use.
Connecting Directly to Battery
Connecting the solar generator directly to your RV battery is a very simple process. You can either remove the battery, connecting it directly to the back of the solar panel, or you can remove the generator from the solar panel and connect it to the RV battery.
Connecting to 12 Volt Outlet
If you prefer not to connect the generator or the solar panel to your battery, you can plug the generator into your 12-volt outlet on the dash of your RV. The energy from the generator will transfer to your RV's battery without having to plug anything into the battery itself.
How Do I Connect My Solar Generator to My RV?
When connecting your RV to a solar generator, you will do it in the same way you plug your RV into an outlet at a campground. This will allow the generator to completely power your RV. It will also eliminate the need to plug your generator into your RV battery.
If you prefer not to power the entire RV, you can plug your appliances directly into the generator instead of using your RV outlets. You can also have your generator connected to the solar panels while it is in use. This will allow your generator to continuously gather energy.
How Long Do RV Solar Panels Last?
According to Generark, their solar generators will last well beyond 500 cycles. If you let the battery deplete completely, after 500 cycles, your generator will only be holding 80% of its original capacity.
Although the panels themselves only feature a 5-year limited warranty, they should last longer if properly maintained. However, solar panels that mount to the top of the RV can last between 20 and 30 years, and many feature 25-year warranties.
Solar generators are capable of powering an RV. However, you will likely need to cut back on the appliances you are using for the generator to supply enough power.
Be sure to purchase a generator that will store plenty of watts without wasting the energy you are converting.
For more information about RV solar panels, read the following posts: