TVforMyRV.com’s Guide to Buying Solar Charging Kits and Installing Solar Panels or Charging Kits to Your RV or Motorhome
Things can be extremely expensive these days. The economy seems to be heading down and gas prices seem to steadily climb. With things being so expensive it helps to find affordable alternatives. Electricity is expensive, and in an RV sometimes electricity is hard to come by. That’s simply the price you pay when on an adventure to find new beautiful and scenic locations, but the whole point of having your motorhome is to have the comforts of home like your TV, air conditioning, Washer and dryer, etc. Thanks to technology we have a pretty simple way to plug right into nature.
That’s right more and more RVers are harnessing the affordable, free power of the sun. RV Solar Charging Kits are an affordable alternative to high electric bills. They have the added bonus of being environmentally friendly by not pumping harmful pollution into the air and ground. You can also install solar panels yourself onto your RV with little time and difficulty. That being said, if the only RVing you do is at a park with full hook-ups, solar panels probably aren’t for you. If we’re talking dollars and sense, the only way you will make your money back on an RV solar charging system is if you want creature comforts away from where you can easily tap into them.
Solar panels come in different sizes and you can pick the ones you want based on your need. You can get an iPhone case with a solar panel built into it that will charge your phone when in direct sunlight. A slightly larger solar panel kit can be used to charge your laptop wherever you go.
Or you can get an RV solar charging kit that will run your motor home. Stay out in the woods for a week and live comfortably in the wild. It is not hard to set up the system yourself.
Before you pick an RV solar charging kit you will want to figure out just how much electricity you actually use. You will need to make a list of every piece of electrical equipment used in your RV. This includes the Air conditioning, lights, washer & dryer, dishwasher, and even TV. After you have your list figure out which items are battery powered and which us an alternating current. When you’re done with your list right down next to it how long you keep each of these items on. By adding them all together you will have your estimated total Amp hours.
You can look at solar panels simply as a giant battery charger. There are a couple things that make charging your RV battery bank a little trickier with solar panels. First you’re relying on the sun and it’s availability. Second, we have to keep in mind that you shouldn’t use more than 50% of your batteries charge capacity. When we combine these elements with your previously calculated power usage, even when being conservative with your power, I think what you’ll find is that you’re going to need a system that is really able to generate some WATTS.
Now you have the choice of running items directly from a solar photovoltaic system or you can power up a ‘battery bank’ that you can draw electricity through. To run alternating current devices you will have to pick up a direct current converter to hook up to them.
For a perfect performance of RV solar panel power a person will need direct sunlight, for long periods of time, in perfect weather with a temperature around 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25c). The weather generally does not want to cooperate and be perfect all the time but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get a good amount of wattage from the solar panels.
The average person is going to use about 90 watts of power. So you’ll want a panel that can run about 125 watts to be on the safe side. A 125 watt panel is ideal for people who like their television.
What everyone really wants to know is what kind of usage they can get with solar panels when boondocking. Here are some general real world tests that will at least provide you with an idea of what to expect:
In “ideal” conditions, if you go do some day activities and have very little power usage throughout the day you can typically take your battery charge from around 55% to 98% using a 130 Watt system. When I say ideal, I mean mid 70′s all day and panels in direct sunlight.
With general and recreational power usage such as running laptop, random electronics like the fridge, and watching the TV, internet shopping. etc. totaling approximately 110 amp hours will probably push you over the days charge.
When installing your RV solar charging kit try to make sure the panels are always perpendicular to the sun. For the Do-it-yourselfers, you can watch a video tutorial below to see just how easy it is to install a solar charging system onto your RV.
The Now let us move onto the best solar panels for your RV. The best on the market by far is the Samlex Solar 130Watt Complete RV Solar charging kit. It costs about $900 – $1200 dollars but comes with everything you need to get your RV or mobile home charged by the sun. The kit comes with everything you need for easy installation (other then the drill). It has reinforced solar glass that harnesses the power of the sun while taking a beating from the elements. With an aluminum frame it will stand strong against high winds and piles of snow.
The Samlex Solar 130Watt solar charging kit has the capability of charging 30 Amp, and has eight different charge settings for different batteries. There is a dual voltage capability that can be hard to find in other models. It comes with a stunning digital LCD display to show the voltage. This is your everything kit and it can be easily expanded.
If you need a smaller wattage size it also comes in 50 watts, 85 watts, and 120 watts. The Samlex also comes with a 5 year warranty and a 25 year power warranty.
The next RV solar charging kit is the Go Power! 95 Watt solar kit. This one comes with a 25-year panel warranty. It costs around $500 – $600 dollars and can charge 5.45 amps of battery per hour. This kit will charge even in overcast weather.
This is one of the smallest panels on the market that can still pull a ton of power from the sun. It comes with a 25 amp charge controller so if you want to ad more panels you can without changing the regulator. It is easy to install. You can’t really go wrong with Go Power!
The last one is Solar Trickle Charger like The SunCharger SC-10. This10-Watt portable solar panel is designed for trickle charging of 12 V rechargeable Lead Acid batteries like those used in cars, boats, RV’s, motorcycles, All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and Powered Water Crafts (PWC).
Features Included in the SC-05:
- Perfect for maintaining the battery in your car, boat, RV or motor bike while it’s in storage
- Plug into any connected 12V lighter socket to begin trickle charging your battery
- Maintenance free and good for the environment- Extends the life of your batteries,
save on replacement costs
- Ultra slim, compact and weather-proof, won’t rust!
- Rugged, durable construction – no metal or glass
- Comes with 10 ft of weather resistant cable and a standard cigar lighter plug
- Integrated blocking diodes to prevent discharge from the battery
- 10 Watt maximum output
This solar charger has a sturdy frame and performs well on cloudy days. For the price, since the others are so high, these work pretty well. You might need more then one though if you are just trying to charge a small travel trailer they won’t steer you wrong.
Your best bet is the Samlax system, it is guaranteed to last longer then the other two even if you have to put in a little extra money for it.
Some Simple Tips to Remember to Make Solar Charging Your RV more Efficient
When powering your RV off grid, you are either relying on a generator or solar power to keep your batteries charged. Most people are seeking solar panels to power their motor homes as a more cost effective power source. If that is the case then considering some energy efficient basics will really help improve performance.
When it comes to energy efficiency, newer is better.
• Use LED lights for your RV
Upgrading your RV lighting is a much greater benefit than you may think. Did you know that you can run approximately 25 LED light per 1 50 watt bulb in your RV?
• Newer flat screen TVs are much more energy efficient
• Do the math. Figure out your daily usage and begin practicing energy
management techniques to conserve power.
• Seams obvious, but turn stuff off.
• Unplug electronic devices you’re not using.
Expanding Your RV Solar Panels
Many people find that they need more coverage. Effectively powering your RV with Solar Panels takes realestate. Many RVers find that the system they start with isn’t performing “up to parr”. If this is the case, you can always use a solar expansion kit to expand the system you have. For instance if you already have a Samlex RV Solar Charging system, you can increase your RV charging capacity by adding additional solar panels to your previous installation.
The Samlex SRV-130 RV Solar Expansion Kit comes with a premium quality, 130 Watt solar panel, weatherproof cables and connectors, and mounting hardware with the nuts and bolts required to flat mount the solar panel on the roof of the RV or any other flat surface.
Solar panel dimensions : 57.91″ X 26.22″ X 1.38″
Max Current – 8 Amps
Max Open Circuit Voltage – 21.5Volts
These kits are great for staying green. There is money that has to be put up first but in the long run will definitely help your wallet feel better.
Just remember if you want to install solar panels to your RV you should see what the total power you use is, try to calculate your costs and the system size you will need (there are websites that help you do this), and then estimate your energy savings and how much you will get back. Once you have done this you can go hunting for the perfect RV solar charging kit for you and your lifestyle needs.