RV Solar 101: How to Choose, Size, and Install RV Solar System - Jackery Australia

RV Solar 101: How to Choose, Size, and Install RV Solar System

RV Solar 101: How to Choose, Size, and Install RV Solar System

You don't have to give up all your creature comforts just because you want to be off the grid for a long time. You don't have to rely on campgrounds or parks with electrical hookups with your RV or camper, but you will have to draw from your limited battery or gas supply if you want the fridge and toaster to work. Staying powered up without fear necessitates using a readily renewable energy source, and the best solution is an RV solar system. 

rv solar 101

Solar power is a game-changing advancement in modern technology. This article will guide you through all you need to know about RV solar, including its definition, working principle, components, sizing calculation, and installation. Furthermore, the Jackery Solar Generator, which combines solar panels with a portable power station, gives RV equipment continuous and dependable solar energy. 

Key Takeaways:

  • You can use solar power to make your RV off-grid while using your refrigerator, lights, and other equipment.

  • Circuits in an RV solar system convert the energy absorbed by the sun's cells into electrical current. Wires route the electrical current to a charge controller, which regulates the battery's current.

  • An RV solar system has four components: solar panels, solar batteries, a solar charge controller, and an inverter.

  • When sizing your RV solar system, you need to figure out how much power your RV uses and how much energy your RV will need.

  • Apart from mount-top solar systems, we highly recommend Jackery Solar Generators as your portable RV solar systems, especially Solar Generator 2000 Pro and 2000 Plus with expandable capacities.

  • You need to adjust the angle of solar panels, consider the shades and solar panel quality, and then pay attention to the maintenance when installing your RV solar system.


What Is RV Solar System?

You can use solar power to get your RV off the grid while using your refrigerator, lights, and other equipment. RV solar panels convert sunshine into electricity, which is then used to power your RV. The interior components of your RV require many moving parts that all work together to collect, store, and distribute the electricity you demand.


The initial finding resulted in the development of solar cells capable of harnessing the sun's energy and converting it into electricity. The technology has progressed over time, but the philosophy has yet to. A solar panel comprises solar cells that catch the sun's energy and convert it into valuable electricity that can power homes, businesses, coffee makers, and, yes, even your RV!


In recent years, more individuals than ever before are living and working on the road, whether in a huge RV, travel trailer, or camper van. To fully enjoy the freedom of such a lifestyle, a dependable source of electricity is required, and few sources are better than the gigantic ball of fire that rises in the east each morning. Adding a solar energy system to your RV has become significantly more accessible and less expensive.


There are several reasons to go with an RV solar system. The most obvious is that traveling entails spending the night in locations without simple access to the electrical grid. The most daring among us can now live and work full-time on the road, making solar all but mandatory.

Pros of RV Solar

Cons of RV Solar

- Free & unlimited power resource

- Flexibility

- Portability

- Clean & independent energy

- Cost-effective

- Solar panels can't work at night

- Need direct sunlight

- Fixed solar panels take up RV roof spaces


How Does An RV Solar System Work? 

Assume you have a few solar panels on your RV's roof. When your RV is on the road or parked throughout the day, sunlight strikes your solar panels, and the cells on the panels absorb solar energy. The circuits within this RV solar system facilitate the conversion of solar energy, which is absorbed by the photovoltaic cells, into electrical current. Wires route the electrical current to a charge controller, which regulates the battery's current.


As a result, the system looks like this: 

rv solar system to DC

This energy is converted into DC (direct current) electricity, which charges your RV's house battery or batteries, basically "storing" energy to run devices and appliances in your RV or charge equipment for later use. The DC produced by the solar panels and batteries is usually 12 volts. This DC power powers the RV's lights, appliances, and gadgets.


However, you can take that 12-volt DC and convert it to 120-volt AC electricity (like the outlets found in a stick-and-bricks house) to power 120-volt items like a coffee maker. There are 120-volt outlets throughout your RV, but they are powerless unless you use a generator or hook your RV to shore power.

how rv solar system works

If you want to run a 120-volt appliance while boondocking in the desert, you can use solar panels, a solar charge controller, a battery, and an inverter. In principle, it is possible to harness the sun's energy to provide electricity for many applications, given an adequate quantity of solar panels, batteries, and appropriate conversion mechanisms. Because of the difficulty and professionalism involved in wiring the RV solar system, using a portable solar system for your RV appliances, such as the Jackery Solar Generator, is preferable. Keep reading to learn more in the following section.


What Are The Components of An RV Solar System? 

Aside from solar panels, an RV solar system consists of numerous components. The solar panels create electricity, the batteries store it, and the controller ensures the process operates smoothly without glitches.

RV Solar Panels

Solar panels for your home generate energy in the same manner that RV panels do. In general, Photovoltaic (PV) cells turn sunlight into electricity, developing renewable energy for you to utilize. On the other hand, rooftop panels used for residences are often larger and heavier than those used for RVs.

rv solar vs residential solar

Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels are the three major types of solar panels that can be utilized for RV solar.


Monocrystalline: Solar cells in monocrystalline panels comprise a single silicon crystal, resulting in increased efficiency. Monocrystalline solar panels are the most cost-effective but produce more electricity per square foot.


Polycrystalline: As the name implies, polycrystalline panels have PV cells constructed of numerous silicon crystals. Because of a more straightforward production process, these panels have a lower efficiency and price.


Thin-film: Instead of crystalline silicon cells, thin-film panels use a layer of PV material on a rigid or flexible substrate. They are less efficient than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels but less expensive.


Thin-film or flexible solar panels, which can be affixed to curved surfaces, are an excellent choice for RVs and campers. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels can also power an RV but are more rigid. If your RV has a flat roof, you can utilize it as part of a portable power station that is not permanently attached to your vehicle.


Regarding applications, RV owners who want solar energy have two options when installing a system: roof-mounted or portable panels. You also have the option of employing both methods at the same time. Consider purchasing a Jackery Solar Generator with a bigger capacity to power RV appliances as a portable solar system.

RV Solar Panels

Batteries store the electrical energy produced by solar panels, providing power to RVs in situations where sunlight is not accessible, such as at nighttime or in adverse weather conditions. In addition, it should be noted that the RV solar panels cannot provide electricity to the equipment. The solar panels charge your battery, and your batteries provide power. Most batteries are 24 or 12 volts and rated in Amps or Ah.


Battery Wattage (W) = Voltage (V) x Ampere (A)


Ideally, you want a battery that can power your electronics or appliances for a few days. That way, even with little sunshine during the day, you will still have enough juice to power your electronics or appliances. You can use this calculation to determine the battery size you require.

RV Charge Controller

Directly connecting solar panels to a battery bank without a specialized mechanism to control the charging process might cause damage to both components. A charge controller regulates the current supply to the battery bank while preventing overcharging. The charge controller is installed inside the RV. Connections from your solar panels to the charge controller will connect to your battery bank. There are two significant kinds:

  • Pulse width modulation (PWM) charge controllers: PWM charge controllers are more straightforward and less expensive, but they only operate if the rated voltage of your solar panels matches the battery voltage.
  • Maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controllers: Increases electricity generation by optimizing solar panel voltage and current. MPPT controllers can also charge batteries even if the voltage does not match the solar panel output.

For example, utilizing RV solar panels with a 40V output, you could use an MPPT controller to charge a 12V battery bank. However, because the solar panel and battery voltages must match, this is not achievable with PWM battery chargers.

Solar Inverter

Your batteries produce 12-volt direct current power. You may use this to power all 12-Volt electronics and appliances and your RV's 12-Volt (cigarette lighter) ports. You'll need an inverter to convert 12V DC power to 120V AC power if you wish to run a coffee maker, laptop, phone, or anything else that requires AC. You'll install your inverter as close to your battery bank as possible within your RV, and your AC appliances and devices will receive the transformed (from DC to AC) electricity from that inverter.


How to Size An RV Solar System? 

Proper system sizing is critical to use solar energy to power your RV. It entails calculating the quantity of power required and determining the number of solar panels needed to provide that power. The size of your car, the number of appliances you use, and your travel habits, choose the best solar system for you.


Nothing ruins a bush camping excursion like running out of power. Whether you use solar energy or a generator to power your RV, having adequate juice is critical for a relaxing and stress-free trip. Fortunately, you can take several fundamental actions to guarantee your system has enough power when you're off the grid.

How Much Power Does Your RV Use?

You must determine your power requirements before calculating the proper solar sizing for your RV or mobile home. This entails first choosing how much electricity you generally use daily.


To begin, make a list of all the electrical gadgets you want to use while traveling. This could include lighting, a refrigerator, a microwave, a water pump, a fan, a television, and a laptop. Write the power consumption in watts next to each gadget. This information usually is available on the device or in the user handbook. Then, multiply the wattage of all the devices you intend to use by the number of hours you estimate to use them each day to figure your daily power consumption.


Watt-Hour (Wh) = Wattage (W) x Hour (H) / Amp-Hour (Ah) = Ampere (A) x Hour (H)


After calculating how many watts/hours each appliance consumes daily, total the watt-hours consumed. Do this for any device that you intend to use while parked. You can calculate how many solar panels your RV needs once you know how many Watt-hours you consume.

Appliances

Power Consumption (A)

Power Consumption (W)

Hours per Day (H)

Amp-Hour (Ah) per Day

Watt-Hour (Wh) per Day

LED Light

100mA

20W

6H

600mAh

120Wh

TV

0.5A

60W

2H

1Ah

120Wh

Small Fridge

1A

200W

12H

12Ah

2400Wh

Fan

0.3A

50W

5H

1.5Ah

240Wh

Oven

30A

800W

0.2H

6Ah

160Wh

How Much Energy Does Your RV Need?

Consider your peak power demand, the most significant amount of electricity your system must produce at any given time. This usually happens when you turn on many gadgets simultaneously, such as your air conditioner or microwave. Add the wattage of all the devices you want to use together to get your peak power requirement. This will determine the type and capacity of batteries required.


On average, a 100W solar panel will provide 350Wh of power daily. This estimate varies depending on the season and your location. You'll need enough batteries to store all of the energy generated by your solar panels. One 100Ah 12V battery can hold around 1200Wh.


Solar panels produce the expected electricity in an ideal setting under perfect conditions. In an ideal world, the sun would shine straight on your solar panels, creating maximum energy. However, if it rains or you park in the shade, you will not produce the ultimate power.


Because each day is unique, determining the exact quantity of energy you eat in one day is tough. Estimate higher rather than lower since it is better to be safe than sorry. You may believe it is difficult to calculate how many solar panels or batteries you will need for your RV solar system so that you can select a Jackery Solar Generator to power your RV. 


Jackery Solar Generators for RVs

Jackery is a remarkable brand that produces high-quality solar equipment, such as solar generators, solar panels, and portable power stations. To make calculating RV power consumption and energy requirements easier, Jackery Solar Generators combine Jackery Solar Panels and Portable Power Stations, as the mobile RV solar systems offer 240Wh to expandable 12 kWh capacities to meet all your demands.


You may also use the formula below to calculate the working hours of the Jackery Solar Generator. For example, if you use the Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Pro (2160Wh) to power a 200W portable projector, it will last 9.2 hours (2160*0.85/200).


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


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. Solar energy harvesting can be seen in the connections and cabling of solar panel connectors and power stations. Chargers can also be extended to a carport or an AC adaptor. 

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. The Solar Generator 2000 Pro is the way to go if you need dependable electricity for your RV solar system, other outside activities, or a blackout. 
jackery solar generator 2000 pro for rv
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 RV, 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. The lithium-ion battery, MPPT solar charge controller, and pure sine wave inverter of the Explorer 2000 Pro portable power station allow it to store solar energy for later use. It can power up to 98% of glamping appliances like portable fridges, projectors, lights, and other items.

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 introduces the high-performance Solar Generator 2000 Plus, a significant advancement in portable power options. With its large capacity and massive power output, it can power conventional RV equipment for weeks and meet all the power requirements of outdoor exploration or professional work.
jackery solar generator 2000 plus for rv
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 solar products on the market. Almost all critical RV devices are powered.

The Explorer 2000 Plus is the industry's first add-on battery pack that can be charged by solar panels, providing additional flexibility while boosting charging efficiency and saving time. The advanced LiFePO4 battery ensures a 10-year lifespan - even if used only once daily. Jackery solar panels produce more lifetime energy because of their industry-leading solar conversion efficiency of up to 25%.

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


How to Install An RV Solar System?

You can often install RV solar panels on your own using a portable, low-voltage system or purchasing a DIY solar kit. However, please be sure to read all product instructions carefully.

If you wish to utilize larger residential panels on an RV roof, however, you should consult with a professional solar installation. Because of the higher voltages and wattages, these solar modules are not intended for do-it-yourself installation and can be harmful. The stages for installing an easy RV solar system are as follows:

Step 1: Install Angle

RVs, unlike residences, have flat roofs. The optimal angle for mounting a solar panel is perpendicular to the sun's rays, or 90°, so portable solar panels should be inclined upwards from the ground and aimed towards the sun during the day.

When mounting solar panels on an RV, the panels are typically installed flat to the roof; this is ideal when the sun is directly overhead but sub-optimal at other times. Due to this angle and the temperature range encountered, a solar panel will deliver approximately 75% of its rated voltage in real-world conditions. Solar panels are tested at a standard temperature of 25°C.

Step 2: Shade

Even the shade of a tent rope can significantly impact the efficiency of a solar panel. Shade from branches will exacerbate the problem. TV aerials, for example, will cast shadows on rooftop panels. Therefore, mounting placement is critical. Camping in the shade is more comfortable in the summer, but this will work against using solar panels to charge your RV. When you have time in camp, monitor the output of your solar panels at various times of the day. School hours (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) will be the most productive regarding sunlight.

Step 3: Solar Panels Quality

Not all solar panels are created equal. Price is a helpful indicator but needs to be consistently accurate; a visual check might indicate a panel's quality. Look for gaps in the connections; the back of the solar panel should be smooth and even, and there should be no visible bubbles between the glass and the solar cell. Heavy-duty cables should be used, and any silicone sealing should be even and neat. If it appears to be of poor quality, it most likely is.

Step 4: Maintenance

With solar panels, there is little upkeep to be concerned about. If driving in extraordinarily dusty or windy circumstances, you may need to wipe down or clean your solar panels to ensure they work correctly. Traveling can also cause some wear on a panel's connectors. Although standard solar panel connections are weatherproof, inspecting your system regularly for deterioration, loose connections, or rust symptoms is essential.

When you choose a portable RV solar system, such as the Jackery Solar Generator, you don't need to go through any complicated installation stages; all you need to do is connect the solar panels to the power station. Furthermore, Jackery Solar Generators require no maintenance.


Is RV Solar Worth It?

Investing in a solar system may be challenging if you always camp at campsites and RV resorts where you must pay for electricity hookups to power your RV and different devices and appliances. Solar panels may be worth it if you want to camp in settings like this without using your generator! However, suppose you want to camp in places without electrical hookups, such as beaches, city parks, national parks, or deserts in Australia. In that case, a solar panel system is a fantastic addition to your RV lifestyle. This page explains everything about the RV solar system; apart from the top-mounted solar panel system, you can explore the portable solar system - Jackery Solar Generator to power your RV appliances.

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