You may be thinking of going solar in your RV to charge the batteries for increasing their lifespan or produce more and continuous electricity even in remotest locations or save money or you simply want to “go green and clean.” Whatever be the reasons, you would definitely like to narrow down on the ideal RV solar panel before proceeding with the installation, right?
The article below will provide you with the necessary insight preparing you for the correct buy.
What are the factors you should consider before choosing solar panels for your RV?
You have decided to go solar for your RV, right? But before doing so, you should consider the following facts and decide for yourself
- The Daily Power Consumption
- The Specifications of RV solar panels
- The wattage of RV solar panel
- Size and Efficiency
- Rigidity or flexibility
What is the daily power consumption in your RV?
This calculation is of utmost importance as it will help you decide the correct-sized RV solar panel that will meet your requirements.
The calculation will be a summation of the consumption of your DC and AC devices. Initially, the amp rating of each DC device in your RV is to be taken into account and then multiplied by the number of hours each device is used. Once this estimation has been done for all the DC devices, these are to be summed up.
The same process is followed for AC devices. Only instead of amp, watt is calculated. Thereafter, the AC watt-hour of the AC devices is to be summed up and converted to amp-hours. Finally, the wasted energy of the inverter used for the AC devices has to be taken into account. Then a totaling is done of the amp-hours of the DC and AC devices with the inverter wastage.
There are certain devices like TV, microwave, refrigerators and many more which draw electric current constantly even when kept on standby and this is what is termed as phantom loads. The phantom load should also be included.
With all this data, you can calculate the size of the battery bank easily.
What should be the ideal wattage of your RV solar panel?
You are done with the calculation of the daily consumption of power in your RV and also know the capacity of the battery bank needed. Herein comes in the wattage of RV solar panel required to keep these batteries totally charged and always ready for use.
Your primary concern here is your geographical location. Latitude is the keyword and along with it consider the clouds. The more north you are from the equator, the less intense will be the sun rays. And cloudy days are bound to reduce the production of solar energy.
The Pacific Northwest experience many cloudy days and Alaska being in the extreme north hardly gets any intense sunlight even during summers. So at least 1.5 watts of solar panel output for every 1 amp-hour of battery capacity is suggested.
In case of Southwest, as these areas receive lots of sunshine, 1 watt of solar panel output for every 1 amp-hour of battery is advised.
If cloudy days continue for long or you park your RV in the shade for a long duration, the solar energy output is bound to fall.
If you are not able to buy all the RV solar panels you require, leave some place on your RV roof so that you can install these later on. A solar charge controller has a peak power amp rating that may be bought to satiate your future requirements.
What are the attributes you need to check in your RV solar panels?
The attributes that you need to check in an RV solar panel specifically before purchase –
Peak Power (Amps) is a measure of the maximum power (amps) the panel can manufacture in total sunlight. If the solar panel shows a peak power rating of 5 amps and the panel gets 6 hours of intense sunlight every day, then a total of 30 (5×6) amp-hours of charging may be expected in a day. In case of the solar charge controller, the combined peak power rating is to be considered.
Watt Rating is the specification that will help you determine the size of your entire solar panel system.
Peak Power (Volts) is the maximum power (in volts) that the solar panel can yield in complete sunlight. This is significant as the output of a panel can fall if it gets heated up and even in low light situations. So a higher peak power is desirable.
Tolerance: If a 100-watt solar panel has a tolerance of 10%, then it will produce 90 watts of power at the maximum. This means the lower the tolerance, the better the panel. A tolerance of 5% is ideal.
What size and kind of RV solar panel would be the most efficient?
In case of RV solar panels, not only is size important; the efficiency counts too. Amongst the varieties of RV solar panels available, the amorphous variety, though the cheapest, is the least efficient and fragile. It is also almost twice as large as the mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline types.
Mono-crystalline options are able to produce more power in conditions of low light than the poly-crystalline and amorphous ones. But the most preferred is the poly-crystalline kind as it takes up just half the space occupied by its amorphous counterpart and produces just a wee bit less power as compared to the mono-crystalline varieties.
The size of the RV roof and the RV solar panels should be calculated and compared. Also you should take into account the space to be occupied by the batteries, inverter and other equipment that will have to be installed along with the panels.
What kind of solar panel is better – the flexible or the rigid type?
Rigid solar panels are fixed firmly and hard and are manufactured by fixing glass panes in the aluminum frame.
Pros – This variety is extremely durable and thus able to endure the tough travel conditions and is definitely more long-lasting. As Silicon is environment-friendly, disposing of or recycling these solar panels is not a deal. As these solar panels can be installed leaving some space between the RV roof and the panels, less heat is produced. As the panels are mounted to hinge and tilt you can take care of the roof without stepping on the panels. Also, the installation cost is less.
Cons – These are heavier and thus add more weight to the frame. Aesthetically these are not up to the mark and are tough to put in between antennas, AC units and other things on the RV roof. Being manufactured of glass, these are breakable even after being prepared to withstand harsh climatic conditions.
Flexible solar panels are the newest in the market and are also called thin-film panels.
Pros – As this variety is lightweight, these can be added in more numbers without adding lots of weight and thus score above the traditional mono and ploy-crystalline solar panels. Even with lesser amount of Silicon, these are able to yield an equal amount of energy as the traditional varieties. As you can install these directly to your RV roof, aesthetics are taken care of.
Cons – As these are thin, you cannot walk on these panels or else these will crack thereby reducing the output and longevity. The durability is usually one-third as compared to that of their traditional counterparts. The heat buildup is more as there is hardly any space between these panels and the RV roof and the entire heat buildup enters the RV roof causing huge discomfort during summer. These panels are glued to the roof and removing these, later on, is not convenient and can cause roof damage.
How many solar panels are required?
Usually, most RV solar panels have something in between 100 and 400 watts of power and thus a complete system will be 800 watts. You need to have a proper setup to take complete advantage of the energy produced by the panels. And the number of solar panels needed will largely depend on the daily power consumption in the RV and the watt size of the panels. If your RV roof does not have space for one big panel you may go for two with the same wattage so that the output remains undisturbed.
Are portable solar kits useful?
Portable solar kits give you the independence to move your solar panels easily as these are fitted with cables. Thus these receive the maximum sunlight even in cloudy days or under shade. These are very efficient for RVs and can be used along with your permanent large system.
With all this information you are probably aptly prepared to choose the correct RV solar panels.