Powering your RV, Purely by Solar

Many people want to know if you can power an RV purely by solar.

The answer is it really depends on the build and the use of the RV. In the case of an RV that spends long periods parked up in the bush without the vehicle engine running  – and is fitted with a large range of electrical appliances such as washing machine, toaster, fridge and air-conditioner – it is very unlikely that a solar system could power everything indefinitely.

But if an RV spends a couple of hours driving, allowing the alternator to charge the battery and it doesn’t have air-conditioning, it’s likely that you will be fine with a 1kW solar system and never need a generator again.

Because of the limited roof space, most RVs can only fit up to 1-1.5kW systems. A 1kW system will be enough to run LED lighting,  a TV, a 12V fridge up to 30L, and other appliances which only run for short periods of time.

An RV system has to have at least 500W otherwise it won’t be enough to run the fridge, but, ideally, five 200W 12V solar panels, or as many as possible, would be recommended.

 A 1kW system would pump out about 50-55A in the best case scenario. The average sunlight in a day ranges from 4-6 hours, depending on the season, so if the panels are fully exposed to the sun all day, you could get 200-300Ah of energy. You need to work out your total energy consumption and design the solar system accordingly.

 A solar system runs autonomously and is maintenance free. But there are a couple of things to keep an eye on. 

The first thing would be the battery voltage. Most deep-cycle batteries are not designed for deep discharge.

Any deep discharge will shorten the life expectancy of the battery. It’s not recommended to draw energy from the battery when the voltage is lower than 12V.

So it is essential to have the battery voltage displayed at all times and turn off your non-essential appliances when the battery drops under 12V. This is something you need to do even if you don’t have a solar system.

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