The best guide on how to choose the right RV solar panel

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How to choose rv solar panel

If you want to feel comfortable on a camping trip, there is hardly anything better than an RV. You can find pretty much every convenient the modern world can offer to you in the RV features. Still, in order for the RV to reliably provide you with that, it needs to be properly supplied. Among the RV requirements, electricity can be said to quite important and the main concern to RV camper. But if you just know how to choose the right RV solar panel, electricity won’t trouble you as it used to anymore.

The RV original configuration utilizes shore power to replenish its energy supply. Without a renewable energy source, you will have to plan your trip through specialized RV parking lots. Thankfully, with solar panels, now you can achieve more freedom with your RV. As long as you can install suitable solar panels, the RV can count on another electricity source for the trip. Don’t know how? Well then this article can provide you with a step by step instruction on how to do it.

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So how to choose the right RV solar panel

Solar panels features and specifications

Don’t rush to the store yet, settle down and think. There are 3 categories that you should check: Rating, Peak Power and Tolerance. The Rating will tell you the size of the solar system when you obtain the total power consumption later. It’s recommended that you pick panels with a higher rate than your batteries. From times to times, the panel’s efficiency won’t be able to reach the labeled rate.  To make up for that, using panels with a rating that is higher than the batteries is advised.

The Peak Power is the panel maximum output in ideal conditions. The panel’s efficiency will slightly drop as it getting heated so the higher the Peak Power the better. A panel Tolerance indicates the drop percent of total power. For an example, a 100 Watts solar panel with a 10% Tolerance means it can only generate 90 Watts. Go after panels that have the lowest Tolerance if possible. Preferably, a 5% Tolerance is sufficient for most of your needs.

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Daily electricity consumption

In order to select appropriate solar panels and how many you need, you must perform some calculations. Multiply the hourly power consumption of electrical appliances in the RV by the time you use them every day. After that, combine to figure out the daily energy requirement. For a precise assessment, only use the manufacturer rating labeled on each of the appliances. Do exclude anything that runs on a separate generator though.

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You are most likely operated both AC and DC devices. In this case, the AC total power consumption will be calculated in Amps while the DC one will be in Watts. Eventually, you have to convert Watts to Amps by divide the DC total power consumption by 12. This shall get you the DC total power consumption in Amps. After that, multiply the result that just comes in by 1.2. This is to take into account the wasted energy made by the inverter which efficiency often below 100%.

There is also the issue of “Phantom Loads”. To put it short, there are devices that constantly drawn on energy even when they are shut down or on standby. Naturally, you have to calculate and add them to the total power consumption like what you did above. While many devices continuously require energy around the clock, you can eliminate some Phantom Loads by pulling the plug or shut the breaker. When you obtain the final result, multiply the number by 4 again and you got the battery bank size for the RV.

Spaces on the RV rooftop

The more solar panels you want, the more space required to install them.  Next to the panels, you should consider their associated components as well. Namely, the wirings need to be laid in a way so it can conveniently reach the controller. To set out an efficient installation, park the RV on even grounds. Pay attention to the panels so you can properly orient themselves toward the sun. A large controller may be necessary if you want to install many solar panels.

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Charging principle of the solar panels

Obviously, solar energy won’t come at a fixed rate. At certain times and places, the solar panels will charge the battery fairly fast while at others, the rate is rather low. The cloud position and the geography are the deciding factors here. Generally, the further you head north, the lower the charging rate. And if the weather is cloudy, the energy generated by the solar panel may be cut in half. The same thing can happen while you are in the shade.

That being said, you better pick solar panels with adjustable mount. It will let you become more flexible when handling unexpected situations. This how to you can maximize the panel’s usefulness and reach optimal output. Compared with a generator, solar panels can generate power yet remain quiet and without any fuel required. If you got a firm grasp on the charging principle, you can take the most use out of solar panels

The reliability of solar panel

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Luckily, most solar panels are relatively tough. The cells in the panels don’t have movable parts so there is no chance of a breakdown. Manufactures of the solar panel also have a lot of faith in their products. You can expect a warranty up to 25 for most of the Crystalline panels. Amorphous solar panels offer a warranty between 5 and 25 years, depending on the brand. This one is slightly expensive compared to Crystalline but its technology is constantly updated.

You may like to see this: Top 5 Best RV Solar Panels Review | Panel, Suitcase And Kit


And that should cover most of what you should know on how to choose the right RV solar panel. It seems very simple, right? With the solar panels, your RV is no longer completely dependant on shore power. You can considerably cut down the electricity expense too. If you just read and follow the information, you can install a suitable and effective set of solar panels. These shall assist you for years to come.

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  1. sherri October 28, 2017
    • Karl October 28, 2017

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