If you want to power your electronic gizmos you need electricity. Luckily, RVs are flexible and all you to take advantage of many different power sources from generators, to solar panels, to mini wind turbines.

In recent times, solar power from RV solar panels has been getting more and more popular.

Solar panels collect the sun’s light and convert it to electricity. This electricity can be used immediately or stored in a battery for later use. When in an RV, solar panels provide power to electronics and lights.

If yes, you should know that solar power (link to Wikipedia) does come with several benefits. You only need sunlight to charge your batteries for free and sunlight is free! The only cost you would be buying the necessary equipment. See further down in this post for a list of what you need.

Also, solar power is good for the environment and does not create fumes that pollute the environment like a generator does. However, it is worthy of note that solar power may not power everything you want powered in your RV. It’s not difficult to find solar panels that provide 30 amp hours a day when in the full sun. If sun exposure is not 100%, for example, if trees are in the way or it’s cloudy, then you’ll be generating less than 30 amps.

Running an RV microwave will draw anywhere between 7 and 16+ amps depending on the model.

So, solar energy can run small electronics and lights. But it really shines as a backup power source in case everything else fails.

In most cases, the solar panels are not permanently attached to the RV, so you can move them around to make sure they get as much sun exposure as possible.


What Do I Need Besides RV Solar Panels?

Well, first you need RV solar panels. The sun’s energy collected by the solar panel will then be passed into an inverter; a gizmo that converts solar energy into useable energy.

The useable energy is most commonly stored in a battery as soon as it has been converted. Having multiple batteries could also be a good idea so you can swap when one is fully charged. 

Having a generator can also be useful for days when your batteries are out and the sunlight is low. Though some people find it unnecessary; it all depends on how much electricity you need.  

If you were following the path of the energy above you’ll see the equipment you need is bold and italicized:

  • RV solar panels
  • an inverter
  • a battery or multiple batteries
  • a generator (optional)

All of the equipment you need will either come in package (excluding the generator) or the place where you buy will have all the items you need and the staff can help you find the right things.

How Much Solar Power Do Use In My RV?

Good question! You’ll need to have a good answer to that before you can buy a solar panel set up. If the panel is too weak, it won’t be able to sufficiently power your electronics. If it’s too powerful, you will have so much extra electricity that you won’t be able to store it all. You should calculate your electricity needs before deciding what size of solar panel to purchase.


Mini RV Solar Panel
Mini RV Solar Panel credit Amazon

One way to figure out how much energy you consume in your RV is to determine how long your battery lasts before it dies. On the information sticker it will say how many amp hours your battery contains. If the sticker is removed or unreadable you should be able to look up the battery model number online. Or if the battery came with your RV, there may be information about in the RV manual.

Divide the amp-hour value of your battery by the number of days it lasts.

For example, if your battery has 400 amp-hours and it lasts 5 days, then you use 80 amp-hours a day.

On average, a 100-watt solar panel can provide 30 amp-hours a day (assuming full sun on the solar panel for most of the day. Even a bit of overcast can significantly reduce the solar energy reaching the solar panel). This means you would need three 100-watt solar panels to power your RV.

If you have a generator as backup you’ll never have to worry about running out of power and by using solar panels for most of your energy needs, you’ll be saving on fuel for the generator.

And once you know how much electricity you need, you can also reduce your usage and have a smaller solar panel system. An easy example is a water heater. If you eat a lot of water using electricity that will drain a battery quickly. You could instead eat the water on the campfire or on your grill while you’re cooking.


Conclusion

RV solar panels can be an efficient option for powering your RV electronics. Solar energy can be your main power source, but it also works well as a backup power source. If solar energy is right for you, be sure to first consider what your energy needs are before making a purchase. If you go to a store that sells RV solar panels, they’ll be able to walk you through everything.

If you don’t have an RV and you’re just considering all your options, then consider that some RVs have solar panels built in at the factory.