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Solar-RVing-part-2Welcome back to Solar RVing!  Part 1 discussed the benefits of using solar panels on your RV travels.  Part 2 will focus on what it will take to transition into using solar panels in order to harness the free energy shining down from above.

Not all RV solar panels are alike, so it’s important that you get one that can address your energy needs. Here are a few items to consider when choosing the right solar panels:

1.  Know how much power you actually need

You can buy a recording meter/battery monitor to help determine this or you can calculate it yourself.

2.  Calculate the battery bank capacity you’ll need

Your RV batteries should have a total capacity that is four times the amount of your daily power consumption.  And remember that in order to keep your RV batteries running smoothly, you need to make sure that their discharge never goes beyond 25% of their total capacity.

3.  Compute your RV solar panel wattage

Your RV’s solar panel wattage will determine just how much output in watts you will need from your solar panels to keep your RV batteries charging continuously. Take into consideration that your required RV solar panel wattage depends on your location. The sunnier it is, the lower wattage you will need. The cloudier it is, the more wattage you will need. For example, the south typically gets plenty of sunshine; therefore, 1 watt of solar panel output for every 1 amp-hour of battery capacity is recommended. For cloudy areas, 1.5 watts of solar panel output for every 1 amp-hour of battery capacity is recommended.  The amount of sunlight you can harvest using your solar panels will be greatly reduced on cloudy and rainy days.

4.  Check the RV solar panel’s specifications before you buy it

Make sure you pay extra attention to the solar panel’s watt rating, peak power in amps and in volts, and tolerance.

    • The solar panel’s watt rating should correspond to your daily power consumption
    • The peak power in amps measures the total amount of power in amps that your solar panel will produce when there is full sunlight. This specification will come in handy when you are buying a solar charge controller.
    • The peak power in volts gives you the total amount of power in volts that your solar panel will produce when there is full sunlight. This specification is important when determining the efficiency of your solar panel. The higher the number, the more efficient the solar panel is.
    • Tolerance refers to power loss in the solar panel. The lower the percentage of tolerance that panel has, the better its performance is.

There are custom systems that can be professionally installed and less expensive, do-it-yourself solar kits if you’re savvy in this sort of thing. You can increase the efficiency of your RV solar panels by giving thought to the layout of your RV’s interior before you put up your solar panels. When you have a solar panel on your RV, you need to park your rig so that your solar panel tilts to the south. So you won’t waste your harnessed solar energy, it will help if your appliances are situated on the cooler side of your RV where they won’t get a lot of direct sunlight.

Once you install a solar panel on the roof of your rig, the amount of solar energy available for your RV solar panels to harness depends on a number of factors, including whether it’s full sunshine, or if your RV is parked on a shady spot. You’ll need to be able to regulate the voltage output using a solar charge controller. A solar charge controller will help ensure that your solar panels will produce enough power for your needs and also prevent your solar panels from mooching power from your batteries at night when there is no sunlight.

In a few years, solar will be everywhere.  There is emotional satisfaction in having a high degree of energy independence and of knowing we have helped to pave the way to clean, sustainable solar power that can ensure a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.

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