Guide to Camper Van Solar System: How to Choose & Install - Jackery Australia

Guide to Camper Van Solar System: How to Choose & Install

Guide to Camper Van Solar System: How to Choose & Install

Australian campers know the cost of nightly powered charges in campgrounds and have resorted to reducing prices by utilizing solar to power camper vans. Solar panels collect sunlight and channel it through a charge controller, which recharges the batteries in your camper van's electrical system. 

camper van solar system

If you're new to camper van electrics, finding the correct solar panel can seem like a never-ending maze of questions and unknowns. You've arrived at the right location! You will learn everything there is to know about camper van solar systems, including their working principles, fundamentals, and how to choose and install one. Alternatively, the Jackery Solar Generator, which combines solar panels with a portable power station, provides a continuous and stable solar energy power supply to camper van equipment.

Key Takeaways:

  • When light particles reach the solar panel, they knock the electrons within the silicon loose, causing electricity to be generated. Because the voltage and current from a solar panel vary, a charge controller is always required to filter the electricity. Then, the batteries store the electricity for later use.

  • A camper van solar system typically consists of solar panels, a battery, a charge controller, and an inverter (some may require a DC-DC charger). There are different standards to choose each component.

  • When sizing a camper van solar system, you should figure out the total power consumption, the energy needed, and how to size a solar charge controller.

  • We highly recommend Jackery Solar Generators as your portable camper van solar system, significantly Solar Generator 2000 Plus and 2000 Pro, to charge most outdoor appliances with higher capacities.

  • There are three steps to install a camper van solar system. Firstly, you should wire the solar system in series or parallel, then put the solar panels and install them with care.


What Is A Camper Van Solar System? 

Alternative energy sources remain popular as the world becomes more aware of environmental challenges. Solar panels are a popular and practical way to use renewable energy at home and when traveling in your camper van.


Before we get into the specifics of how a campervan solar system works, let's look at the various components of a campervan solar unit. Individual units may differ slightly from one another. However, the following components are typically found in a camper van solar system:

  • Solar Panels: Solar panels for campervans sit atop the van and gather energy from the sun, converting it into power that can be used in the campervan. Solar panels are classified into two types: polycrystalline and monocrystalline.
  • Wiring: The campervan solar panel wiring transports electricity from your panels to your recreational batteries. There are two ways to connect your solar panels: parallel and series.
  • Charge Controller: A charge controller is a piece of equipment that regulates the voltage of the electrical current flowing into your campervan's battery.
  • Battery: This is where you store the power to run your campervan's numerous loads. The solar panels on the van will replenish your battery.
  • Inverter: A device that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) for use with standard household appliances.


How Does A Camper Van Solar System Work?

A camper van solar system typically consists of solar panels, a battery, a charge controller, and an inverter (some may require a DC-DC charger). Using solar panels to recharge the battery in a campervan is a common and eco-friendly practice. Solar panels can take your campervan off-grid with the correct electrical system and some excellent sunshine, allowing you to relax in your favorite camping area, explore your home country, or even travel the world without worrying about hooking into an electric hookup. 

how does a camper van solar system work

A solar panel comprises a series of photovoltaic cells linked together and constructed of a semiconductor such as silicon. When light particles (photons) reach the solar panel, they knock the electrons within the silicon loose, causing electricity to be generated. The greater the light's intensity, the larger the flow of electricity.


Because the voltage and current from a solar panel vary, a charge controller is always required to filter the electricity before connecting it to your battery. A charge controller will manage the voltage from the panel and pull the optimal current to charge a recreational battery efficiently.


Your battery bank stores 12 volts of power. If you have a coffee machine, an instant pot, or anything else, you will need 110 volts, the standard household socket. The inverter turns the 12v power stored in the batteries into 110v, allowing you to power your household appliances.


How to Choose A Camper Van Solar System?

If you're new to solar power and the prospect of customizing every component of your system seems daunting, purchasing a camper van solar system kit, such as Jackery Solar Generators, can be an excellent way to reduce decisions and stress. As per your demands, you can choose a Jackery Solar Generator with a capacity ranging from 240Wh to 12 kWh.


You need more flexibility to customize your components, which is usually only problematic if you have particular requirements. If a solar panel kit isn't for you, keep reading for information on selecting individual components for your camper van solar system.

1. Solar Panels

Solar panels are available in three different configurations, and there are several types of solar cells to be aware of. First, consider the form factors:

  • Rigid Solar Panels: Rigid solar panels are less expensive, more durable, and have a longer lifespan (20-25 years) than other varieties. They are, however, more challenging to install, particularly on vehicles with sloped roofs.
  • Flexible Solar Panels: These solar panels are less conspicuous and more accessible to install on curved or irregular rooftops. They are, however, more expensive, less durable, and have a shorter lifetime (3-5 years).
  • Portable Solar Panels: Portable solar panels are easy to carry and do not require installation. Portable solar panels often offer superior quality and longer lifespans but may be more expensive.

Solar panels for camper van solar systems are classed into three varieties based on their solar cells: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels. For the majority of consumers, we recommend monocrystalline solar panels. They are more efficient than other varieties and have a longer lifespan. Polycrystalline solar panels are less effective, but they are significantly less expensive. Thin-film solar panels are used in flexible solar panels. However, their performance could be better. 

Monocrystalline

Polycrystalline

Thin-Film

Quality

High

Low

Medium

Lifespan

High

Low

Medium

Efficiency

20%+

15%

7-10%

Price

High

Medium

Low

2. Solar Batteries

There are various varieties of batteries for a camper van solar system, but the most important ones to understand for van life electrical are LFP (lithium iron phosphate or LiFePO4) and AGM (absorbed glass matt, a lead-acid battery).


LFP batteries are lighter, charge faster, and can be entirely depleted without causing damage. Because they can be fully finished, sizing is much easier, and you don't have to worry as much about the health of your batteries daily. LFP batteries are more expensive at first but less expensive over time since they last much longer.


AGM batteries are somewhat heavier, and you must be careful not to overcharge them. Because they cannot be discharged past 50% regularly, you must continually monitor them and be cautious with your electrical usage while running low. AGM batteries are less expensive upfront but more in the long run because they need to be replaced more frequently.


Choose lithium batteries since they are lighter, easier to handle, and perform better. AGM batteries are only appropriate for highly low-budget applications because they cause more hassles, and the initial cost advantages over LFP soon erode over time.

3. Solar Charge Controller

A solar charge controller manages the voltage produced by your solar panels to correctly charge and maintain the recreational batteries in your van. The type of charge controller determines this. There are two varieties of solar charge controllers, and each one works differently to reduce the voltage from your solar panels.

  • PWM Charge Controllers(pulse width modulation): They quickly lower solar voltage by switching on and off. While this works for charging your batteries, it wastes a significant amount of solar power - up to 30% of your solar output.
  • MPPT Charge Controllers (maximum power point tracking): These devices convert extra solar voltage into current, then routed to your house batteries. This saves energy, charges your home faster, and works better with higher-voltage solar arrays.

PWM controllers are inexpensive, but they waste a significant amount of solar energy. MPPT charge controllers, on the other hand, are better suited for camper van solar systems due to their high efficiency and voltage. If you are considering a portable solar system, invest in a Jackery Solar Generator, which features an MPPT charge controller inside to prevent overcharging.

4. Inverter

Inverters are classified into pure sine wave (PSW) and modified sine wave (MSW). Although modified sine wave inverters are less expensive and can function adequately, we recommend using a pure sine wave inverter for your van's AC power system.


Pure sine wave inverters produce a cleaner electrical signal, similar to what you would get from the power grid. This implies that delicate devices like computers are safer to power, and loads like motors, microwaves, and induction cooktops will function much more efficiently. A modified sine wave inverter's "dirtier" signal can shorten the life of specific AC equipment. Some appliances will also not operate on a modified sine wave. Simultaneously, the Jackery Portable Power Station includes a pure sine wave inverter to power most camper van appliances.

jackery solar generator for campervan


How to Size A Camper Van Solar System? 

Calculate your gadgets' power consumption to determine how much solar generation you require from the sun. A basic understanding of your equipment and panel will keep you from purchasing the incorrect regulator, battery, or solar panel type. List the items you'll need for your camping trip to calculate your solar power requirements and equipment consumption. Here's a basic calculator for converting solar energy to electricity. The steps for sizing a camper van solar system are as follows:

Step 1: Power Consumption Calculation 

You may calculate how much power is required by using your leisure battery and seeing how long it lasts. You'll also need to know your battery's Ah rating (which will most likely be 110 or 200Ah). If your 200AH battery, for example, powered everything you wanted it to for two days, your computation would be 200 / 2 = 100Ah each day.


Consider the power consumption of all the electrical gadgets you will use while camping to estimate how much power you need for your camper. Calculate this using the table below:

Appliances

Wattage 

Amperes in 12V

Hours

Amp-Hour

Watt-Hour

Light

16W

1.3A

4H

5.2Ah

64Wh

Fan

20W

1.7A

1H

1.7Ah

20Wh

Water Pump

40W

3.3A

0.3H

9.9Ah

12Wh

TV

50W

4A

2H

8Ah

100Wh

Radio

25W

2A

1H

2Ah

25Wh

Total

26.8Ah

221Wh

Because your battery produces around 12 Volts, use the power rating of your appliances to calculate how much your devices drain the battery. To calculate power consumption, use the formula below.


Power (W) = Current (A) x Voltage (V)


A television, for example, has a power rating of 60 Watts, so:


60W / 12V = 5A

Then, multiply that quantity by how many hours it will be utilized. In the case of television, for example, 5 hours:

5A x 6H = 30 Ah

This signifies that 30Ah of the battery's capacity is used to power the appliance.

Step 2: Solar Energy Needed

Now that you know what type of solar panel you require, you must decide on the size or, more accurately, the power rating. A solar panel's power rating, or wattage (W), indicates how much power it will provide to charge your battery bank. The energy you require from your solar panels will be determined by the size of your battery bank and how long you intend to be off-grid. However, it may be constrained by your budget and the amount of space available on your roof.


To calculate the amount of charging power required to recharge your batteries fully, you must first determine your battery bank's total 'usable capacity' in watt-hours. The quantity of your battery bank you can access is called usable capacity. For example, you should regularly discharge LFP batteries at most 80%. As a result, the functional capacity of a 200Ah LFP battery is 200Ah * 80% = 160Ah.


The amp hours (Ah) can then be converted to watt hours (Wh) by multiplying the battery voltage: 160Ah x 12V = 1920Wh.


The sun's angle must be considered because solar panels on a campervan will be positioned level with the roof. In the summer, this will only have a minor impact on efficiency. However, this will have a considerably more significant influence in the winter. 

Step 3: How to Size The Charge Controller 

Solar charge controllers are a vital component of any camper van solar system. The first thing you'll need to figure out is what size charge controller you'll need. Charge controllers are classified according to amp ratings and come in various sizes.


The total wattage of your solar array determines the controller size required. The more watts your solar panels produce, the more current (A) will be supplied to your batteries for charging. Regardless of the power output capacity of the solar array, if the charge controller's limitation is 10A, then it will restrict the supply of current to the batteries. The rest is a waste of time. The table below shows the amp ratings for charge controllers.

Solar Panel Size (W)

Charge Controller Amp Ratings (A)

0-130W

10A

131-200W

15A

201-270W

20A

271-400W

30A

401-540W

40A

541-680W

40A


Jackery Solar Generators for Campervans

Jackery is a remarkable brand that produces high-quality solar equipment, such as solar generators, solar panels, and portable power stations. Jackery Solar Generators combine Jackery Solar Panels and Portable Power Stations, being the mobile camper van solar systems, providing 240Wh to expandable 12 kWh capacities to meet your demands.
how jackery solar generator works
The Jackery Portable Power Station, powered by lithium batteries, provides a consistent and dependable energy source for RV equipment such as a refrigerator, fan, air conditioner, grill, light, and more. A portable power station can be charged in a variety of ways.

Working Hour (H) = Power Station Capacity (Wh)* 0.85 / Appliances Wattage (W)

You may also use the formula above to calculate the working hours of the Jackery Solar Generator. For example, if you use a Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Pro (2160Wh) to power a 300W blender, it will run for 6.1 hours (2160*0.85/300).
The Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Pro is a 2160Wh capacity and 2200W output power combination of the Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro with SolarSaga 100W solar panels. If you need dependable electricity for your camper van, other outdoor activities, or during a power outage, the Solar Generator 2000 Pro is the way to go.

Your Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro portable power station will last ten years if you use it twice weekly. It is a dependable power source for home backup, with a standby capability of 100% for over a year. It's ideal because it has cutting-edge features, including fast charging (just 2 hours with AC input), comprehensive security with a top-tier BMS, and an easy-to-use, high-contrast display. The portable generator weighs 19.5 pounds for portability and has a folding handle. 

Product

Explorer 2000 Pro Portable Power Station

Capacity

2160Wh (43.2V/50Ah)

Life Cycle

1000 cycles to 80%+ capacity

Dimension

30.75x26.9x38.4cm

Recharging Methods

Explorer 2000 Pro + 6*SolarSaga 100W: 5.5H

AC Adapter: 2H

12V Car Adapter: 24H

Output Ports

2*AC Output: 230V, 2200W (peak 4400W); 2*USB-A: Quick Charge 3.0x2, 18W Max; 2*USB-C: 100W Max, (5V, 9V, 15V, 12V, 20V up to 5A); 1*Carport: 12V⎓10A

jackery solar generator 2000 pro for camper van
Jackery introduces the high-performance Solar Generator 2000 Plus, a significant advancement in portable power options. With its enormous capacity and high power output, it can power a standard van appliance for weeks and meet all the power requirements of outdoor exploration or home backup power supply.

The Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Plus enables add-on battery packs, increasing capacity from 2 kWh to an impressive 12 kWh and taking RV life to the next level. Expandable to 3000W, a 30% increase in rated power over other 2 kWh items on the market. Almost all critical RV devices are powered. The advanced LiFePO4 battery ensures a 10-year lifespan - even if used only once daily.

Product

Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Plus

Capacity

2042.8Wh (13A/638.4Ah)

Life Cycle

4000 cycles to 70%+ capacity

Battery Cell

LiFePO4 battery

Dimension

37.36x35.94x47.3cm

Recharging Methods

Explorer 1000 Pro + 6*SolarSaga 100W: 6H; 

AC Adapter: 1.7H; 

12V Car Adapter: 25H

Output Ports

3*AC Output: 230V~ 50Hz, 3000W Max, 6000W surge peak; 2*USB-A: Quick Charge 3.0, 18W Max; 2*USB-C: 100W Max, (5V, 9V, 15V, 12V, 20V up to 5A); 1*Carport: 12V⎓10A

jackery solar generator 2000 plus for camper van


How to Install A Camper Van Solar System?

After you've learned about the components of a camper van solar system and how to choose or size one, it's time to install one in your van. The steps for building a solar system are as follows:

Step 1: How to Wire A Camper Van Solar System 

You can connect multiple solar panels in series or parallel, like combining various batteries. You can manage the volts and amps transmitted to the charge controller from the solar panels by choosing which method to link your panels together.
how to wire campervan solar system
Because it is easier to accomplish and requires fewer components than wiring in parallel, wiring panels in series is the most prevalent way in camper vans. To connect two panels in series, click the first panel's negative line to the second panel's positive line. To connect numerous solar panels in parallel, use branch connectors to link all positive and negative cables. When many solar panels are connected in parallel, the total current (A) produced by the solar array equals the sum of the output currents of each panel. In essence, the recent rises. 

Step 2: How to Mount Solar Panels

There are two ways to arrange your rooftop solar panels: horizontally (left to right) and vertically (back to front). The size of your vehicle's roof and the unique dimensions of each panel will be the two key elements influencing the orientation of your panel. It is easy to create a scaled-down solar panel layout plan. However, you will need to know the exact dimensions of your camper van's roof and the dimensions of the solar panels.

Direct mount is an alternative to placing your solar panels on the rooftop of your campervan. The solar panels are screwed directly onto the top or the ground. This method keeps the panels low-profile and draws the slightest notice, which is advantageous for stealth campers.

Step 3: How to Install Solar System 

Before beginning the installation of your camper van solar system, it is a good idea to order and have all of your system's components ready. This way, you may begin the installation without experiencing delays due to a missing piece.

After you've installed your panels, it's time to wire them together! Whether you've chosen series wiring, parallel wiring, or a combination, you'll connect the entire system so energy can flow from your panels to your charge controller and finally to your batteries! After your solar panels have been installed and the wiring has been done, it is essential to perform a safety check. A safety check will not only guarantee that your system is running safely but it will also confirm that every component is working effectively.


Final Thoughts

Solar panels are an excellent addition to camper van conversions. They provide energy independence and let you live off-grid. We hope you found this camper van solar system tutorial helpful in your van conversion effort. Although installing a solar system may sound complicated, you can do it yourself by taking your time and completing your research. Alternatively, you can use a Jackery Solar Generator as a portable solar system to effectively power campervan appliances.

Best-selling Jackery Solar Generator

Sale Off
Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Plus
$4,199.00
Sale Off
Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Pro
$5,879.00
Sale Off
Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Pro
$2,199.00$1,899.00

PAGE CONTENTS

New Arrival

Hurry up! Sale ends once the timer hits zero

00Days
00Hrs
00Mins
00Secs