Is Solar Power A Good Idea For RV Camping?
There are many reasons why people choose to add solar panels to their RVs. For some, solar power offers an emergency backup power source, a primary electrical power source, or simply for camping in more remote areas that lack hookups. Installing solar panels can also be a measure to increase the life of the house batteries on your RV by trickle charging them to make sure they’re fully charged and ready for use, even after periods of inactivity.
Others may want to go solar to reduce their ecological footprint, or just to have a more relaxed, quiet experience while camping. Having solar panels on your RV allows you to have a more peaceful experience, but also allows you to explore and camp in some more remote areas that you otherwise might not be able to. This “off the grid” style of RV camping is often referred to as boondocking and having solar panels makes it a lot easier!
Can Solar Panels On An RV Save You Money?
One of the nice things about installing solar on your RV is that there are not a lot of costs outside of the initial purchase and setup of equipment. There is some maintenance required over time and some parts may need replacing, but it’s generally self-sustaining.
As for how solar panels will save you money, that’s a little trickier. In the long run, you will save money, providing that you use your RV enough (and the solar power source) to make it worthwhile. You’ll be able to not only power the electronic components of your RV, but you can also increase the life of your house batteries, as well as forego the cost of paying for hookups at a campground.
In these ways, solar panels will add up over time, but it’s not a quick payoff. If you don’t camp regularly or tend to use campgrounds with full hookups, it may not be the right choice for you. By the same token, you shouldn’t plan on using solar panels to power your AC unit and all of your appliances. It would take a massive installation to power an air conditioner for any significant period of time.
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Considerations & Early Planning For Installing Solar On Recreational Vehicles
As we touched on in the section above, installing solar panels is not a surefire way to save money on camping, at least not in the short term. It’s really an ideal setup for RV campers that like to go off-grid or those that camp frequently enough without hookups to make it worthwhile. However, not all solar panels require a full roof installation—there are also smaller, more affordable portable panels that can be used.
While they obviously won’t provide as much juice, there are many advantages to portable panels, especially if you have a smaller RV. For one, you’re limited by the size of the roof as far as how many panels can be installed. Adding panels adds weight, which can be a concern on a windy day, not to mention that panels can make it tricky to walk on top of the RV without damaging them.
RV Camping & Solar Resources
- RV Camping & Cord Cutting – A walk through on how to set up and install solar panels on an RV, as well as some of the unexpected perks and benefits of having solar while camping.
- Campendium – A great website for finding the best spots to camp, Campendium allows you to search using different criteria to find cheap or free places to camp, as well as good spots for boondocking.