Installing solar panels for your RV is surely a great idea. Not only will you be able to run many of your appliances and devices while on the road, but you’ll also be doing your part in preserving the environment. But with a plethora of panel brands and models in the market, how do you determine how many solar panels you need for your RV?
Well, the task can be overwhelming but do not worry because today, we will be discussing everything you need to know about solar panels for RVs including a detailed guide on how to calculate the number of panels needed for your own rig.
Factors Affecting How Many Solar Panels You Need to Run an RV
There are several factors that need to be considered when trying to determine how many solar panels are needed to run an RV. These include the following:
The Size of Your Solar Panel
The size of your panel will affect the power output and ultimately, the number of panels you’ll need for your RV. Most standard solar panels have a size of around 40-50 inches. Of course, the bigger the panel, the more expensive it is. But if you’re looking for more power, then opting for a larger panel is certainly a good idea.
The Efficiency of Your Solar Panel
Solar panel efficiency simply refers to how much sunlight the panel can convert into electricity. The higher the efficiency, the more power your panel will generate. Currently, there are a few solar panels in the market that have an efficiency rating of over 20%.
The Angle of Your Solar Panel
The angle of your panel also plays a role in its power output. Basically, the angle of your panel should be such that it faces the sun as directly as possible for maximum energy conversion.
Ideally, you should mount your solar panels on your RV at a 45-degree angle. However, if you’re unable to do this for whatever reason, then a 30-degree angle will still be better than having them mounted horizontally.
The Amount of Sunlight Your RV Receives
Another factor that affects how many panels you need is the amount of sunlight your RV receives. If you camp in shady areas often, then you’ll need more solar panels than someone who camps in sunny areas.
Steps to Calculate The Number of Solar Panels to Run an RV
Now that we’ve gone over some of the factors that determine how many panels you need, it’s time to learn how to calculate the number of panels needed specifically for your RV. Follow the given steps and you’d be good to go:
- The first step is to assess your power requirements. How many devices do you typically use while on the road? A laptop, TV, coffee maker, and fan would usually require around 200 watts of energy. If you have a larger rig with more appliances, then you’ll need more panels.
- Once you know how many watts your devices require, you need to find out the amps they use. This information can usually be found in the owner’s manual or on the device itself. For example, a laptop might use around .5 amps, while a TV might use 2.5 amps.
- Now that you have both the wattage and amp requirements for each device, add them all up. This gives you the total watts needed to power all your devices. In our example, we would need around 1000 watts of energy.
- Now divide the total wattage by the voltage of your solar panels. Most panels operate at 12 volts, so if you’re using 120-watt panels, divide by 12 volts (120/12 = 10). This number is the minimum number of panels you’ll need.
- It’s important to remember that not all panels are created equal. Some might have a higher voltage and require fewer panels, while others might have a lower voltage and require more panels. If you’re using a panel with a different voltage, you’ll need to do the appropriate math to find out how many panels you need.
- In our example, we would need around 10 120-watt panels to power our devices. However, it’s always best to buy a few extra panels in case one or two are damaged or not working properly.
Now that you know how many panels you need, it’s time to start shopping!