You may have seen other RVs with solar panels on the roof and wondered what the owners could possibly need them for. Or perhaps you’ve thought about getting a solar system yourself, but you’re just not sure if the cost would be worth it in the long run.
There are many factors that go into deciding if RV solar power is something you need. A few questions should help you decide if solar power is right for you and which type of system might fit your lifestyle.
Do You Ever Boondock?
Boondocking is staying somewhere other than a park with no utility hookups. This could be as simple as staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot or as complex as staying out in the Arizona desert for an entire winter season. If you only stay in parks, then you probably don’t have a need for solar panels.
How Long Will You Boondock?
If you think it will just be overnight in a parking lot on occasion and you are willing to avoid using much electricity during the evening, then you might not need any auxiliary power at all. You could just be conservative with your power usage or top off the batteries by running your on-board generator for a few hours every evening. But if you think you will stay somewhere for an entire week or longer at a time, and you don’t want the noise, pollution or cost of running a generator for several hours every day, then a solar system may make sense for you.
You will need to consider whether the areas you plan to stay will provide enough sunlight to fulfill your needs. If not, you may be better off with a wind generator or your on-board RV generator.
Solar Systems Require Maintenance
Solar systems, like any other RV system, requires maintenance, including battery maintenance and getting up on the roof (if your system will be roof-mounted) to clean off the solar panels regularly. If you are unable to perform that kind of maintenance, then you may want to consider another alternative.
Types Of Solar Power Systems
Large, roof-mounted systems are intended for monster motor homes that have huge battery banks and most likely, a residential refrigerator. If you aren’t trying to run an all-electric coach with a residential refrigerator, you probably won’t need this large of a system. A more moderate system of a few solar panels mounted on the roof can be much more reasonably priced and still help you stay out in the “boonies” for longer periods of time.
Suitcase systems can be handy for those who don’t want to put more holes in their roof or who can’t climb up on their roof to keep the panels clean. They are inexpensive, reasonably lightweight and compact, and easily connect to your existing auxiliary batteries, however, they are easy to steal and need to be put away every night.
RV solar power can be a huge benefit to the eco-minded RVer who wants to enjoy the quiet sounds of cricket song while boondocking in nature on remote land. They can also be useful to the occasional weekend boondocker. It’s all up to what kind of RV lifestyle you are planning on living.