Solar Power

Solar power is our main source of electricity and we’ve learned way more about it over the years than we ever wanted to! From our current sailboat and past RV Solar Setups to explanations on what it is and how it works, we try to keep things as simple as possible with these complex systems. Click on any of the posts below for more information on solar, inverters, chargers and panels.

Want to say thanks for all the info?

114 Comments

  • Shannon M

    November 20, 2014 Reply

    Hi Wynns,

    Have you ever thought about using wind power? Have you checked it out? Any thoughts on if it would work for RVing?

    • Jason Wynn

      November 21, 2014 Reply

      We touch on Wind Power here: http://www.gonewiththewynns.com/behind-scenes-louisville-rv-show
      In general we do not like it. I also think I answered in depth in some of the comments on the solar posts. Sorry to make you dig, we'll have to add a post about Wind in the future.

  • Drew Knapke

    November 6, 2014 Reply

    Great blogs and video guys. I envy you both on your advnatures and Ive learned so much just in an evening finding your YouTube and website. We used to own a large cheap RV but with teens, they weren't interested and it was sold for lack of use and expense it was. Now that we are older, kids grown and gone, we really want to save and get a small travel trailer that fits our needs and after a lot of searching I think we've found one that fits us well. As much as I would love being on the road like you 2 are, we just cant pick up and go, so I envy your Yuri trekking! I think the Lance 1985 model is the one for us. My question, since you guys know so much with experience is, this model has a 160watt solar panel as an option. I Know more can be added, but if we start out with tis one panel on the roof, and 2 marine batteries,12v, what kind of performance could we expect. Is it worth it? Assuming we off grid for say 2-3 days of camping. Will it recover much in a day? What I incision is say we needed to run the furnace over night and keep the chill off at night, or, to run the fantastic fan to keep cool. I'm wondering what the Atwood furnace on low would draw on the batteries? I KNOW it runs 3amps on low and a little over 6 amps on high. Would either run batteries completely down over night? Is a 160watt panel worth having? Or do you have to have a bunch to even make a dent charging 2 12v in parallel? I 7understand theres a lot of math to get into, and knowing all what u use. Would mainly cook and heat water and RV with propane. The electricity we would use is only for Led lights in RV, and run fan and furnace, so im notsure what kind of draw that would be on batt, and if a 160watt panel will recover the batt from over night in a sunny day.

    Thanks. Drew

    • Jason Wynn

      November 7, 2014 Reply

      Drew,
      GoPower! has a solar calculator that might come in handy which you can find here: http://gpelectric.com/go-power-calculator
      If you throw in a 120w portable panel my guess is you'd be fine.
      Let us know what you end up with and happy travels!

      • Drew Knapke

        November 7, 2014 Reply

        Great info. An after thought, since you two rely on solar so much, did you, or do you really on wind power at night or during cloudy conditions? Thx so much for reply. You are probably tired of hearing it, but you both are so inspirational. Thank you for the info, especially the destinations. Great ideas to give us to go check out .

  • ramesh

    November 5, 2014 Reply

    Hi, I really fond of your blog & videos. Can you please recommend me from where to install full solar power modules on RV with auto generator as well air condition on off .I will be very thankful to you for your help

    • Jason Wynn

      November 5, 2014 Reply

      Any solar preferred dealership can help you, check out GoPower website for their preferred dealer network. Good luck.

  • Paul

    November 1, 2014 Reply

    Jason and Nicki,

    It was great to finally meet you both at the RV Show in Pomona. We had a great time attending your seminars. At your Boondocking session when you were talking about solar and LED you had mentioned the name of a company you use for your replacement LED bulbs.

    In reviewing my notes now it seems I was unable to write the name down fast enough. Can you tell us the name of that web site? Do you ave a section on your pages where you list all the companies that you do business with regularly, if so I have not found it, but it would be a good idea!

    Thanks again for all the great advice and ideas.

    Paul & Debbie

    • Jason Wynn

      November 1, 2014 Reply

      Hello Paul and Debbie,
      We keep all of our favorite gadgets and gear in our Travel Store, if it's in the store we recommend and use the products: http://www.gonewiththewynns.com/store
      As for the LED lights it was our friends the RV Geeks that recommend the M4 brand: http://thervgeeks.com/electrical/led-your-rv/

      Hope this helps. We appreciate you shopping our Amazon links or our Travel store, it helps fund our site and you pay the same price :)

  • Renee

    October 23, 2014 Reply

    Before I ask my question, please know you have been SO inspirational and have provided SO much education in achieving this dream. We have finally reached the point to go full time RVing! In doing so, now we need to act on installing a solar power system. Your article on the flexible solar panels is hard to resist. I've called Camping World but they're not familiar with Go Power. Do you have a suggestion on who could install the entire system?...we live in Denver. I appreciate any advice! Thank you.

    • Jason Wynn

      October 23, 2014 Reply

      I would not trust Camping World to install solar anything! Contact GoPower! directly and ask for a preferred dealer near Denver, tell them we sent you and they should jump through hoops to make sure you're happy.
      If you want to save money, and you have the roof space, I'd recommend installing the tempered glass solar panels vs. the flex panels.
      Jason

      • Ron R.

        October 23, 2014 Reply

        Great job with your web site and all the information provided.
        I am interested in your comment "If you want to ... I'd recommend installing tempered glass solar panels vs. the flex panels". Does this mean you prefer your previous panels to the 3 month old flex panels? I like the idea of less weight and more aerodynamics and plan to add 2 100 Watt flex panels to our current 95Watt panel. I have and plan to stay with GoPower. We have a LTV Unity Corner Bed and really like it.
        Thanks,
        Ron

        • Jason Wynn

          October 25, 2014 Reply

          I think for an LTV, or any class B RV the flex panels will be perfect. I don't think the flex panels are any better for us: our RV is large, the roof is flat, there's loads of unobstructed real estate and there's plenty of wind drag from other rooftop appliances. If I was installing on my personal class A RV I'd save the money and go with tempered glass.
          That said the flex panels are performing well and we are satisfied with the product.

          BTW - We had these panels installed mid-February 2014

  • Bruce G.

    October 4, 2014 Reply

    We are getting ready to retire soon and have been following your site as a guide for our RV setup and adventure when we finally buy it in a few months. A question though, I see that Roy has the panels mounted on the roof. How did those folks at the dealer mount the wires from the roof to the battery bay? The videos just miss where they go.

    We are looking for a used 2009 model Discovery or a Excursion as we want a king size bed (unless we can modify it somehow).

  • doug rutz

    September 28, 2014 Reply

    Hey Jason, I have a HR Trip which is the sister to your old Windy. Question is did you add extra batteries to Windy and if so where? We are on the road 2 to 3 months a year and have considered adding solar. We do not stay anywhere very long that does not have electric, and I guess I was wondering if I had a couple of extra batteries and a switch that would use the energy from the spare batteries when regular house batteries were weak would this work? My main energy drain when I am boon docking is my tv as I am a fanatic for tv and internet. We use propane for cooking (bbq) and I also have a gas buddy heater for heat. Do you think I could get by with a portable solar or would I need to go to the 320 watt deal?

    Sorry if this rambled or too many questions,

    Doug

    • Jason Wynn

      September 30, 2014 Reply

      Hey Doug,
      The batteries installed on the Vesta were HUGE, offering 420ah of power. There isn't anywhere to add batteries unless you're willing to get rid of a bay for more battery storage. I would purchase a at least 300 watts of solar and then run the generator when necessary (i.e. if it's a cloudy day or you're in the trees). The 120 watt panel is a good place to start but I don't think it'll provide you with enough juice.

  • rosie

    September 22, 2014 Reply

    We are looking into the go power 120 kit. Have a 2005 bounder and while we do love it, not sure we want to invest in permanently installed roof top panels. The portable 120 looks pretty good to us,charging devices and keeping up weigh phantom draws of rv. We are planning to go out for 5 months this winter, come home,sell house and hit the road. We want to put dry camping into our mix, but have no track record. What's your take on this portable solar option? We really enjoy your perspectives!

    • Nikki Wynn

      September 22, 2014 Reply

      The portable kits are great and even better when you don't know how long you will be in your rig! You can actually get 2 and link them together. Then you could have 240 Watts which would be a great way to start!

  • Darren

    August 26, 2014 Reply

    Hi Wynns!

    I wanted to thank you for reviewing the 120Watt Go Power portable solar kit. After viewing your video I decided to buy one. The family and I did some dry camping on the beach this past week and boy o boy did those panels work like a charm. They sucked up that sun no matter if it was sunny, cloudy, or overcast. I decided to not bring my generator and rely solely on the panels. It was a great feeling to go bed with a full battery charged by the sun.

    They did not disappoint!

    Thanks Wynns!
    Darren

  • George Zeiler

    August 7, 2014 Reply

    I just found your site and what a wealth of information you provide. Keep it up! My wife and i have a 37' 5th wheel and when we become empty nesters in a few years we want to spend more of our time traveling in it. I like all the info you provide about solar and based on your input and other blogs I've accepted the fact that a 'normal' solar set up will not be enough to power our two ac units.

    My question is this: have you done any research, or can you do research, on the use of evaporative coolers in an rv as a possible substitute for ac while running on solar.

    • Nikki Wynn

      August 9, 2014 Reply

      Hey George, we will probably not do any research on evaporation coolers (but it is an option). However, we do plan on capturing some of the interesting set ups at Burning Man this year to show some different 'stay cool' options for RV'ers off the grid.

  • Richard

    July 24, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jason and Nikki,

    I don't have a RV as we speak but this should change fairly soon but before I buy one, I am looking at the options I have here regarding solar power.

    A big thanks for your Inverter and other videos on solar panels like the the 24 hrs of boondocking running on solar only, that one was really cool. Very interesting stuff.

    So basically, you ran almost everything except A/C which seems to be where the bar is raised so once we break this "energy barrier" it looks like we will be well on our way to be self sufficient with solar panels.

    On your website somebody asked you about A/C and you replied this...

    "...Unfortunately there are not many options for running the A/C on solar. We did see a new DC powered AC at the RV show, but this means you’ll need to replace your A/C’s on the RV and that is not cost effective."

    Now it's not that we can't run A/C with solar, because this guy is doing just that right here...

    - 3kw solar powered Off-grid RV -
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5Fb0kQMwQg

    It's just that he went a bit overboard and installed 3,000 Watts of solar panels on top of his RV and in the video he said he runs A/C with it and he said that in the month of May 2013, he even had an extra 1.7Kwh/day.

    This is what he said in his Youtube video comments...

    "... UPDATE: it looks like its true, you can be 100% solar powered in an RV, my last months (may 2013) electric bill was $0 with an excess power generation of about 1.7Kwh per day."

    So what this means is that your 500 Watts Solar kit and 2 batteries only battery bank is not enough and his 3,000 Watts Solar kit and his 6 batteries battery bank is more than enough so the true answer lies somewhere in between these 2 numbers. Before adding solar panels the logical next step would be to add 2 or more batteries to your battery bank.

    So my questions to you are:

    1- Have you tried adding new batteries to store more Solar power that could handle EVERYTHING you need including A/C?

    2- Are you planning to add new solar panels on your roof?

    My ultimate goal will be use my solar panels to not only recharge the house batteries and run everything inside the RV but recharge also the RV Hybrid or electric engine batteries and run my RV for free.

    This guy here is doing just that with his Electric Nissan Leaf but he needs the house's big roof to put all those 4 Kwh solar panels on but with a RV, we already have that big roof...

    -Running your car for free - Nissan Leaf 2013 Solar Powered - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THngfLrVcWs

    He said that those 4 Kwh solar panels can recharge his Leaf in just 2 hrs.

    Cheers,

    Richard

    • Jason Wynn

      July 24, 2014 Reply

      Hello Richard, Thanks for the great questions. You are correct that it is possible to run an A/C using solar, but is it probable or affordable is an entirely different question. It can be done however for the mainstream RV'er I don't see this happening for a few more years. Below are my answers to your questions:
      1. Our battery bank is crammed with the 4 batteries that come standard on the Excursion. There is a spot in the bedroom (just above the current battery setup) that we could install a giant bank of lithium batteries, unfortunately lithium batteries are way too expensive for now. I think you'll find most RV's are not setup for adding a battery bank large enough to support such heavy duty loads, the only way I see this as a possibility is with a heavy modification or by overtaking an entire storage bay and re-wiring the 12v system. Another limitation is roof space on an RV. With all the vent fans, A/C shrouds, antennas, etc there's just not a lot of usable roof space up there to hold much more than a few panels. I'm sure there are some people who might be able to engineer something cool to have "fold out" or "accordion" style panels while parked but that's way over my head.
      2. We are currently testing the GoPower! Solar Flex panels on our Fleetwood, they are brand new to the market and so far so good. We'll be updating in another 6 months or so.
      Hope this helps, as with anything if you really want to spend the bucks and invest a lot of R&D time you can upgrade an RV in just about any way imaginable. Let us know what you end up doing.

      • Richard

        July 24, 2014 Reply

        I heard a lady who is in charge of a RV park say that on average, a RV takes around 400 Kwh per month and when they are using their A/C it can reach around 650 Kwh per month.

        So if you divide this 400 and 650 by 30 days, you get between 13 and 21 Kwh each day and in your 24h Boondocking video, you posted in the end that you took 6.5 kwh during this 24 hrs period.

        The solar setup that you have right now seems to be giving you 1/3 of that 21 Kwh that we seem to need to run A/C during all month long.

        In other words, you may be closer than you think to be able to have the battery bank needed to match the 650 Kwh that the lady is talking about which would be enough to run exactly like you are hooked on shore power. Maybe 2 or 4 more batteries might have done the job.

        Sad to learn that you don't want to push it further. It looks like I will have to do this research on my own.

        Oh well, see you on Youtube... one day. :-D

        Richard

        • Jason Wynn

          July 25, 2014 Reply

          We are in this Fleetwood Excursion as a temporary test unit. We will be tackling a larger battery bank in our next RV setup. The problem is flooded batteries can only be drained to 50% and that is why lithium batteries are necessary for such a heavy draw as they can be depleted to 80%. Good luck.

          • Richard

            July 25, 2014

            Now I don't have a RV as we speak so I don't know if we can run the AC from the battery bank alone or we can only use the propane generator and shore power to make it work but in case you can run the AC from the house batteries, have you tested it to see how mush Kwh the AC drains every hour?

            Richard

      • Richard

        August 21, 2014 Reply

        Hi Jason.

        Found this video helping me in my Quest #1 of running EVERYTHING house batteries recharged by solar.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7ZJlxygtzk

        It looks like you can run AC, Induction cooker and Microwave on a set of 8 - 6V battery bank each battery developing 200 AH.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZJg06JkuaQ

        By hooking them in a setup explained in this video above, you can make those 8 batteries give you up to 9,600 Watts (or 9.6 Kwh) each day which is more than enough to run those AC which usually takes a 2000+ W generator to run it.

        Hope you liked..

        Cheers

        Richard

        • Jason Wynn

          August 23, 2014 Reply

          Thanks for sharing Richard! Good luck and let us know how the install goes.

  • BigD

    July 20, 2014 Reply

    Hey Wynns,

    You guys have an amazing site here! Love it! I was wondering, with the 600 Watts of Solar and using your daily appliances, how large is the battery bank? What kind of batteries are you using? 6 Volt? 12 volt? Interstate, Deka?

    Any insight would be great. Thanks for this wonderful site.

    BigD

    • Jason Wynn

      July 20, 2014 Reply

      We have 464ah using 4 6v batteries. The base power setup should be 1 watt of solar per 1 amp hour. We do not have the best battery setup, but it's what came on the coach and we're not planning to upgrade anytime soon.

  • Ron Carter

    July 14, 2014 Reply

    A good idea for you guys would be to make a hand water pump with a long hose to a nearby water source, then you could buy one of those exterior rv water filters. That would really help you guys get water, and it would be a hand pump so it doesn't use any electricity.

  • Colby

    July 14, 2014 Reply

    It sounds to me like Wendy had 2x 6V 420Ah batteries configured in series to create a 12V 420Ah system, and now you have 4x 6V 420Ah batteries configured in series-parallel to create a 24V 420Ah system. Is this correct?

    I'm about to return from Afghanistan and purchase a 2015 Class C RV to move into. I'd like to establish a simpler, mobile, off-grid lifestyle before I get out of the military to eliminate the employment/financial stresses of re-integration. I'm trying to compare my solar needs to your power consumption so that I can begin piecing together an affordable (but still adequate) system for my motorhome.

    Do you think I'd be comfortable with a 24V 450Ah system (w/ 4-6 125W panels on the roof)? It'll just be me in there and I will utilize propane for the fridge and possibly water heater to conserve electricity...

    • Nikki Wynn

      July 14, 2014 Reply

      I think that's a great place to start Colby. It's so hard to say as its always about how much power you use in a day which is hard to know until you test. With our propane fridge we were pretty happy with our 420AH. of course more is always better but its a great place to start for your setup as a single guy in a class C.

  • Carla

    July 11, 2014 Reply

    Our family needs air conditioning while camping due to a medical condition. Does the extreme solar system power the air conditioning or just smaller appliances?

    • Jason Wynn

      July 13, 2014 Reply

      You would need a giant bank of batteries (preferably lithium) and 3-4x as much solar plus full sun to power an A/C unit for any extended amount of time. So yes it can be done, but it is not cheap.

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