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What Can Solar Power Do For an RV?


2015 UPDATE – We have a new and greatly improved solar system!

Click the button to see our most recent upgrades:


 

One question we get often is “what all can be powered by solar panels on an RV?”  The question is simple, the answer…well, it’s a bit more complicated.

First, let’s look at the RV Solar Power set up we have on Windy:

I know that was quick and brief but hopefully it gives you an idea of what our set up looks like and how it works.  As you see we have two 65 watt solar panels for a grand total of 130 watts.  Our solar power setup isn’t perfect and can be improved providing more power.  That said we’re happy with our purchase as it does allow us to live off the cord longer (without having to run the generator) than the standard RV.

 

solar panel

This solar setup was pretty basic.  We had it installed at the Monaco factory when we picked up Windy in February 2011.  The cost was $3,000.00 for the 2 panels, a charge controller and remote meter.  The cost for install was $1000.00.  The grand total as you see in the video is $4,000.00

By no means are we solar pros, so we called on Clay the “Solar Guru” over at The Power Company to help give you an idea of the perfect solar setup for 3 types of RVers:  Basic, Medium and Heavy use.

We met The Power Company guys at Burning Man and they are hard core energy saving fools!  They had the most amazing, and efficient, RV Solar set ups we have ever seen.  At Burning Man these guys were able to power an entire bar off the sun including a bumpin’ stereo, blenders, refrigerators, draft beer pumps, disco lights, and everything else you can image in a Burning Man style bar.  So, let’s get technical, and get you ‘solared’ out!  (just to clear the air this is not a paid post, the power company didn’t compensate us for this.  These are nice guys we met on the road who are doing cool things with solar power, and we felt the RV community needs to meet them!)

Basic: I want to power lights, run my fantastic fan and keep my house batteries charged while I am dry camping.Solar Guru Recommends: 12 volt Basic System; 55 watt module, charge control, 25’ module cables, 10’ battery cables, fuses, fuse holders, solder-less connectors and a simple module mount, (mount to roof fasteners not included).Average use per day rating – 220 watt hoursCost – $478.00 (Nevada addresses add $25.65 sales tax.) (Battery Bank Not Included)

Medium: I want to power lights, run my fantastic fan, charge my cell phones, laptop and watch 2 hours of TV a day.Solar Guru Recommends: 12 volt Medium System; 2 – 140 watt modules, charge control, 25’ module cables, 10’ battery cables, fuses, fuse holders, solder-less connectors and a simple module mount, (mount to roof fasteners not included).Average use per day rating – 1120 watt hoursCost – $1,175.00 Nevada addresses add $75.00 sales tax. (Recommend 200 AH Battery Bank as a minimum. Not Included)If you don’t have a 12 volt TV you will need an inverter, add $1020.00 for 1100 watt pure sine inverter. Nevada addresses add $66.31 sales tax.

Includes 10’ battery cable with pre crimped ends and circuit breaker. AC output needs to be connected in safe way. Contact for example diagrams.

Heavy: I want to power lights, run my fantastic fan, charge my cell phone, laptop, use an electric kettle, run my electric blender, run the microwave for 5 min and watch 2 hours of TV a day.Solar Guru Recommends: 12 volt Heavy Duty, (and we mean Heavy Duty) system; 6 – 140 watt modules, charge control, 25’ module cables, 10’ battery cables, fuses, fuse holders, 2000 watt pure sine inverter / charger, AC hook up wire, remote inverter controller, load center with breakers for inverter and charge control, charge control battery temperature sensor and simple module mount, (mount to roof fasteners not included).Average use per day rating – 3360 watt hoursCost – $12,708.00 Nevada addresses add $900.13 sales tax. (Recommend 600 AH minimum battery bank, not included.)

Watts example: A standard incandescent 12 volt RV light fixture uses 1 or 2 – 18 watt bulbs. If 1 bulb is used, and you had the basic system, you could run that 1 bulb for 12 hours just from the energy harvested from the module.As in the basic system, the average daily output is based on the solar module being the only input you have. So one could use 220 watt hours from dawn to dawn and be ok, mostly. There are many other variables to this, but for ease of understanding, this will get the job done.Ohms Law;amps x volts = wattswatts x hours = watt hours

Example: 55 watt module x 5 hours of clear day sunlight = 275 watt hours. If the module is flat x .8 for realistic output.

Batteries: Most are rated in Amp Hours; this is not a good way to measure usage or storage. Watt hours is more accurate as a guideline, Amp Hours of the battery x the nominal voltage of the battery. Example: 200 amp hour x 12 volts = 2400 watt hours. You don’t want to take %100 of the storage, so figure %50. Batteries can only be recharged a finite number of times, the more you take, the less times you can recharge them. SO, if you use 100 watt hours from dawn to dawn and you have 220 watt hours of solar input, it will take .46 hours to put that back into the batteries from that 55 watt module. Basically.

The hardest part of this is figuring out how long you will REALLY run the loads you want to power, then finding the amps or watts of 12 volt items to figure it out.

Lot’s of people will say, “no one needs more than XX watts of solar; we dry camp all weekend and don’t have a problem!”. The solar guru explains that most of the time under sized systems just slow down the discharge of their battery bank. Which is fine for a weekend maybe, but the batteries are usually depleted when they are leaving. Most RV’s will charge the batteries while underway, so no one really notices.

One of our readers shared this very detailed breakdown of the Solar RV Setup for their Safari Trek. The information goes in depth (and I mean in depth) on the science behind solar in different lattitudes, months, usage numbers for appliances, battery capacity, and so on. It’s a very interesting read and a must if you’re planning to do a solar installation on your RV.

The Trek RV Solar System Design and Operation
Revised: May 7, 2010 An RV Solar System design is different from a residential system in two ways: first, real estate for mounting the panels is limited; and two, the position of the sun relative to the RV panels change with each new location. This implies that components need to be chosen for their ability to wring the maximum energy from the sun during daylight hours. Fortunately, technology in the three critical areas of battery, solar panels, and solar controllers has come a long way in the last few years. But there will still be some lifestyle and operational tradeoffs.The design begins with a determination of our daily power use that is compatible with the limitations of the RV’s battery and solar charging capabilities. Necessarily, that will imply a certain lifestyle … which may cause the numbers to change from time to time.Electrical Item Qty Watts hrs/day Whrs/day
AC Inverter Loads
Coffee Maker 900 0.5 450
Toaster Oven 1300 0.1 130
Sharp Conv/Micro 850 0.17 144.5
Total Cooking 724.50Internet
Hughes Modem 19.2 2.0 38.4
LinkSys Wireless 8.5 2.0 17
Lynn Laptop 34 2.0 68
Dick Notebook 25 2.0 50
Total Internet 173.40Television
Dish Vip612 DVR 45 2.0 90
Sharp 26” LCD 115 2.0 230
Sony DVD/CD 10 1.0 10
Magnedyne Sound 100 3.0 300
Wii Exerciser 45 1.0 45
Misc. Chargers 18 2.0 36
Total TV 711.00

DC Battery Loads
Furnace Fan 91 1.0 91
Safety Detectors 3 1.2 24 28.8
Fantastic Fans 2 2.4-23 6 240
Water Pump 48 0.5 24
Bed/Awning Motor 2 96 0.12 23.04
Total DC 406.84

Lighting
Ceiling F15T8 2 15 2 60
Galley F8T5 2 8 4 64
Bath 1141 3 18 0.5 27
Bed 1141 6 18 0.5 54
Dinette 921 16.8 2.0 33.6
Clip-On 13 CFL 13 2.0 26
Total Lighting 264.60

Total Sys Whr/Day 2280.34

The tabular DC Ahr = 2280.34/12 = 190.03 Ahrs. Using a factor of 1.5 for losses resulting from a poor power factor, copper transmission, & inverter/charger losses, the total requirement for the battery charging system is 285 Ahrs/day.

Our Safari Trek Motorhome, at 29’, is shorter than many suggesting limited space for the installation of solar panels. This implies the use of high efficiency solar panels placed in a way that minimizes shading by roof components such as the air conditioner, roof vents, and TV antenna. If just a few cells of a solar panel are shaded, it can significantly reduce the panel’s power … in some cases, it can reduce panel power to zero.

The Trek’s electrical system is optimized around a Magnum 2000W inverter/charger. The charger efficiency is 85% with a 100A maximum for charging the batteries. The charger’s power factor (pf) is greater than 0.95. This implies a 1 to 2 hour generator-produced bulk charging cycle to achieve an 80% capacity. Absorption (3 hours) and equalization (2 hours) cycles would require an additional 5 hours (solar or shore power). When batteries are chronically undercharged, plate sulfation develops to reduce both capacity and battery life.

The Magnum’s inverter produces a modified sine wave with an efficiency of 94% max (at 2000W output). Unfortunately, the modified sine wave produces eddy current resistance losses for all AC inductive loads (transformers and motors). Most AC loads are inductive with power factors varying from 0.45 to 0.9.

The Trek’s battery capacity is sized at 440 Ahr (4-AGM 6V 220 Ahr batteries) to be compatible with the 2000W inverter/charger. Since the tradeoff between battery life and deep cycle performance is dependent on initiating the charging cycle at the 50% discharge level (a battery resting voltage of 12.2), the usable capacity of the battery bank is limited to 220 Ahrs. One of the nice things about a solar system is that it is constantly providing power so that the 50% discharge level takes longer to reach than otherwise.

From the above chart, a charging cycle of approximately 285 Ahrs will be required, where the bulk charging cycle is done by the generator, while the much longer absorption and equalization cycles are done by the solar array.

A 285 Ahr usage implies a daily/weekly lifestyle consisting of:

1. A continental breakfast (coffee and a muffin)
2. Morning and evening lights for dressing/shaving/reading
3. Daytime activities while the solar array charges the batteries
4. Two hours of evening satellite internet
5. An hour of home-theater radio sometime during the day
6. Two hours of evening TV
7. Three movies a week
8. Cooling and air movement using windows with the Fantastic Fans
9. Miscellaneous housekeeping power requirements
10. Minimal cooking for lunch (sandwiches) and dinner (Wheaties). Of course, we’ll eat out occasionally.

Solar panel requirements are dependent on knowing the available “peak sun hours” during which the panel can be expected to deliver its rated power. Peak sun, defined as 1000 W/m2, varies by season and latitude for any particular location. Data for maps and charts are provided by NASA [http://www.solarpanelsplus.com/solar-insolation-levels/]. For example, in June, the average insolation in Portland, Oregon, is 6.09 kWhr/meter2/day, whereas the June insolation in Anchorage, Alaska, is 4.58 kWhr/meter2/day. Using the above definition, the peak sun hours for those two examples would are 6.09 hours for Portland, and 4.58 hours for Anchorage … assuming cloudless days with the panels directly facing the sun. Thus, a 150W panel located in Portland, Oregon, could supply 913.5 Whrs (76.13 Ahrs) on an average June day.

Regarding the technology of the mono-crystalline silicon solar cells used in our 150 W panels, each cell has an efficiency of 16% – 17% and generates between 30 mA and 35 mA of current per cm2 at a voltage of 550 mV during peak sun hours. Since the cells have an effective area of 225 cm2, the rated current density is 7290mA/225cm2 = 32.4 mA/cm2.

Our 40-cell panels are rated at 20.6 volts at a current of 7.29 amps (150.17 Watts). The rated output of all four panels is then 600 watts, which for 6 peak-sun hours = 3600 watt-hrs/day. For a 12V system, this is equivalent to 300 Ahrs/day (best case, where pf = 1.0).

The 45A TriStar MPPT solar array controller will be configured to use these values to dynamically adjust the load so the maximum power is always transferred, regardless of the variation in lighting. This effectively extends the hours of usable sunlight, and to some extent compensates for cloudiness, shading, and panel orientation.

MPPT is an industry standard acronym for Maximum Power Point Tracking, which allows the use of more cells (higher panel voltage) for lower cell currents (smaller cell size) to produce a better form factor for RV roofs. For example, a panel rated at 150 Watts can use either 40 cells (20.6 Volts) each rated at 7.29 Amps, or 36 cells (18.54 Volts) rated at 8.09 Amps. With MPPT, a panel voltage 6V above the battery level provides better charging management.

Charging Notes:

1. The Lifeline, GPL-4CT, AGM battery bank, consisting of four 6V 220 Ahr batteries (440 Ahr total), has a maximum rated charging current of 132 amps (@ 12V) for the bulk charging cycle.
2. While the total power requirement is 190 Ahr/day, the necessary replacement power will be 50% higher so that the motorhome charging system, consisting of a generator and solar array, actually needs to generate about 248 Ahrs/day.
3. Both the Magnum charger and the TriStar MPPT Controller are capable of all four battery charging cycles of bulk, absorption, float and equalization. For the MPPT, all four cycles are temperature compensated with battery sensing for accurate charging.
4. The Magnum Charger requires either shore power or the Onan 5500W generator to produce a maximum of 100 amps continuous charging current. When ‘peak sun’ is available, the TriStar controller is capable of producing a maximum of 29.16 Amps. Thus a maximum of 129 Amps is available if both are operating at the same time.
5. Bulk charging is when the charging current is constrained only by limits of the charging system. During bulk charging the voltage slowly rises from its 50% depleted level (12.2 volts), to its absorption level of 14.2 – 14.4 volts. To replace 80% of 248 Ahrs at a rate of 129 Amps will require a minimum of 1.9 hours.
6. Once the absorption voltage level is reached, the MPPT controller maintains that voltage while the current is slowly decreased over a period of three hours. At that point the MPPT’s float setpoint voltage of 13.2 – 13.4 volts is maintained indefinitely.
7. The actual voltages for absorption and float depend on the ambient temperature. Lower temperatures require higher charging voltages and vice versa.
8. The basic concept of a three phase charging cycle is to charge the batteries as fast as possible without producing explosive hydrogen and oxygen which, for a 12V battery, happens at the critical gassing voltage of 14.9 – 15.1 volts.
9. Unfortunately this three-phase solar charging cycle won’t be able to charge the battery completely. To complete the chemical process that completely recharges a battery the electrolyte must reach 104° F. If insufficient charge is applied to bring the electrolyte to this temperature the batteries will never fully recharge, and over time, both capacity and life will be reduced due to the formation of sulfation crystals. To recover lost capacity and to prolong battery life, an equalization cycle is periodically required to use a higher voltage to level the cell voltages and to complete the chemical reactions. The TriStar MPPT controller can automatically execute a two hour equalization cycle at 15.1 volts every 28 days. The Magnum charger is not used for equalization.
10. Typically the generator will run from one to two hours to do the bulk charging, while the solar array will finish with an absorption charge of three hours followed by a float charge for two more hours. The result will be a charged battery that only requires an occasional equalization cycle.
11. Besides providing 100 Adc for the Magnum inverter (10Aac), the Onan 5.5kW generator is also able to provide AC power to the coach for other tasks, such as air conditioning, hot water heating, refrigeration, and other wall-socket loads. Like most electrical power devices, the generator is more efficient when run at 60% or better of rated load.
12. A future useful upgrade would be a sine wave Magnum Inverter rather than the present modified sine wave. The increased cost is approximately 20%, but both system efficiencies and power factor will be significantly improved to result in reduced charging times.
13. For completeness it should be noted that energy for the coach furnace, refrigerator, 3-burner cooktop and hot water heater are all supplied by propane. Both the furnace and the refrigerator require a small amount of DC for the control circuits.

Solar Insolation Levels In North America (kWh/m2/day)
Insolation (Incoming Solar Radiation) is the amount of solar radiation incident on any surface – for our purposes, we will be comparing insolation levels on the surface of the Earth. The amount of insolation received at the surface of the Earth is controlled by the angle of the sun, the state of the atmosphere, altitude, and geographic location.
The values of solar insolation are commonly expressed in kWh/m2/day. This is the amount of solar energy that strikes a square meter of the earth’s surface in a single day.

Insolation levels are used to determine what size solar collector is needed to efficiently provide adequate levels of hot water. Geographic locations with low insolation levels require larger collectors than locations with higher insolation levels.
For comparison, consider the average annual insolation levels of these two extreme locations:
• Oslo , Norway = 2.27 kWh/m2/day (very low)
• Miami , Florida = 5.26 kWh/m2/day (very high)
See a solar insolation map or use the solar calculator.
State City Latitude Longitude Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year Avg
AL Birmingham 33′ 34″ N 86′ 45″ W 2.29 3.31 4.04 5.14 5.92 5.98 5.81 5.7 4.8 3.93 2.96 2.25 4.34
AK Anchorage 61′ 10″ N 150′ 1″ W 0.21 0.76 1.68 3.12 3.98 4.58 4.25 3.16 1.98 0.98 0.37 0.12 2.09
AR Little Rock 32′ 25″ N 94′ 44″ W 2.36 3.39 4.01 5.32 5.71 6.19 6.15 5.85 5.25 4.17 2.95 2.25 4.46
AZ Phoenix 33 ‘ 26″ N 112′ 1″ W 3.25 4.41 5.17 6.76 7.42 7.7 6.99 6.11 6.02 4.44 3.52 2.75 5.38
CA Los Angeles 34′ N 118′ W 3.09 4.25 5.09 6.58 7.29 7.62 7.45 6.72 6.11 4.42 3.43 2.72 5.4
CA San Francisco 38′ 31″ N 121′ 30″ W 2.35 3.33 4.42 5.95 6.84 7.39 7.55 6.51 5.75 3.92 2.65 2.06 4.89
CO Denver 39′ 45″ N 104′ 52″ W 2.25 3.2 4.32 5.61 6.11 6.71 6.5 5.86 5.47 4.01 2.59 1.98 4.55
CT Hartford 41′ 44″ N 72′ 39″ W 1.7 2.43 3.48 4.07 5.14 5.58 5.38 5.04 4.13 2.91 1.81 1.42 3.59
DE Dover 39′ 8″ N 75′ 28″ W 1.85 2.62 3.6 4.33 5.44 5.91 5.64 5.3 4.38 3.23 2.21 1.66 3.84
FL Miami 25′ 48″ N 80′ 16″ W 3.72 4.61 5.42 6.4 6.61 6.29 6.26 6.08 5.47 4.84 3.96 3.46 5.26
GA Atlanta 33′ 39″ N 84′ 26″ W 2.31 3.37 4.08 5.2 6.02 6.01 5.81 5.59 4.76 3.95 2.98 2.33 4.37
HI Honolulu 21′ 20″ N 157′ 55″ W 4.38 5.15 5.99 6.69 7.05 7.48 7.37 7.07 6.51 5.46 4.41 4.01 5.96
IA Dubuque 42′ 24″ N 90′ 42″ W 1.64 2.58 3.34 4.57 5.54 6.06 5.81 5.26 4.33 3.03 1.72 1.35 3.77
ID Boise 43′ 34″ N 116′ 13″ W 1.73 2.72 3.77 5.22 5.9 6.57 7.17 6.12 5.28 3.29 1.74 1.46 4.24
IN Indianapolis 39′ 44″ N 86′ 17″ W 1.67 2.59 3.28 4.67 5.46 6.11 5.79 5.37 4.76 3.33 1.97 1.46 3.87
IL Chicago 41′ 53″ N 87′ 38″ W 1.5 2.45 3.2 4.48 5.56 6.07 5.68 5.27 4.51 3.07 1.69 1.26 3.72
KS Kansas City 39′ 12″ N 94′ 36″ W 2.06 2.89 3.62 4.92 5.58 6.17 6.21 5.59 4.9 3.49 2.2 1.75 4.11
KY Louisville 38′ 11″ N 85′ 44″ W 1.71 2.65 3.32 4.73 5.38 6.08 5.79 5.35 4.8 3.42 2.1 1.56 3.9
LA New Orleans 29′ 37″ N 90′ 5″ W 2.64 3.73 4.67 5.8 6.6 6.15 6.09 5.7 5.13 4.48 3.49 2.68 4.76
MA Boston 42′ 22″ N 71′ 2″ W 1.66 2.5 3.51 4.13 5.11 5.47 5.44 5.05 4.12 2.84 1.74 1.4 3.58
MD Annapolis 38′ 35″ N 76′ 21″ W 1.96 2.8 3.71 4.55 5.54 6.03 5.77 5.34 4.48 3.4 2.37 1.81 3.98
ME Portland 45′ 36″ N 122′ 36″ W 1.38 2.33 3.49 4.57 5.46 6.09 6.64 5.78 4.8 2.79 1.41 1.1 3.82
MI Detroit 42′ 25″ N 83′ 1″ W 1.43 2.33 3.19 4.34 5.44 5.98 5.64 4.99 4.25 2.73 1.52 1.14 3.58
MO St.Louis 38′ 45″ N 90′ 23″ W 2.02 2.82 3.52 4.97 5.56 6.21 6.05 5.63 4.91 3.55 2.21 1.73 4.09
MN Minneapolis 44′ 53″ N 93′ 13″ W 1.6 2.61 3.3 4.55 5.44 5.86 5.77 5.12 4.12 2.9 1.62 1.34 3.68
MS Jackson 42′ 16″ N 84′ 28″ W 1.47 2.41 3.22 4.33 5.46 5.93 5.57 4.99 4.3 2.78 1.55 1.17 3.59
MT Billings 45′ 48″ N 108′ 32″ W 1.55 2.57 3.52 4.82 5.63 6.45 6.39 5.75 4.67 3.19 1.77 1.3 3.96
MT Great Falls 43′ 33″ N 96′ 42″ W 1.3 2.36 3.41 4.84 5.56 6.18 6.44 5.53 4.4 2.9 1.53 1.11 3.79
NC Charlotte 35′ 13″ N 80′ 56″ W 2.22 3.17 3.95 4.98 5.8 6.01 5.76 5.27 4.58 3.75 2.76 2.21 4.2
ND Fargo 46′ 54″ N 96′ 48″ W 1.44 2.39 3.36 4.79 5.62 5.82 5.94 5.14 4.01 2.83 1.59 1.31 3.68
NE Omaha 41′ 18″ N 95′ 54″ W 1.92 2.76 3.45 4.74 5.6 6.14 6.11 5.46 4.74 3.34 2 1.57 3.98
NH Manchester 42′ 56″ N 71′ 26″ W 1.66 2.5 3.51 4.13 5.11 5.47 5.44 5.05 4.12 2.84 1.74 1.4 3.58
NJ Trenton 40′ 13″ N 74′ 46″ W 1.71 2.39 3.43 4.04 5.26 5.67 5.39 5.14 4.18 3 1.98 1.48 3.63
NM Albuquerque 35′ 3″ N 106′ 37″ W 2.92 3.97 4.92 6.3 6.68 6.94 6.66 5.8 5.68 4.18 3.16 2.5 4.97
NV Las Vegas 36′ 18″ N 115′ 16″ W 3.02 4.13 5.05 6.57 7.25 7.69 7.37 6.42 6.08 4.26 3.18 2.6 5.3
NY New York 41′ N 74′ W 1.67 2.37 3.41 3.93 5.11 5.48 5.26 5.01 4.05 2.85 1.82 1.4 3.53
OH Columbus 39′ 16″ N 85′ 54″ W 1.64 2.57 3.26 4.63 5.4 6.08 5.73 5.29 4.74 3.29 1.96 1.45 3.83
OK Tulsa 36′ 12″ N 95′ 54″ W 2.33 3.22 3.9 5.25 5.58 6.32 6.4 5.8 5.08 3.8 2.62 2.06 4.36
OR Portland 45′ 32″ N 122′ 40″ W 1.38 2.33 3.49 4.57 5.46 6.09 6.64 5.78 4.8 2.79 1.41 1.1 3.82
PA Philadelphia 39′ 53″ N 75′ 15″ W 1.85 2.62 3.6 4.33 5.44 5.91 5.64 5.3 4.38 3.23 2.21 1.66 3.84
PA Pittsburgh 40′ 27″ N 79′ 57″ W 1.59 2.4 3.26 4.07 5.05 5.53 5.27 4.94 4.05 2.88 1.86 1.41 3.53
RI Providence 41′ 44″ N 71′ 26″ W 1.7 2.46 3.53 4.2 5.17 5.67 5.48 5.08 4.21 2.97 1.8 1.43 3.64
SC Columbia 38′ 58″ N 92′ 22″ W 2.14 2.91 3.62 5.03 5.56 6.22 6.13 5.64 4.95 3.57 2.25 1.82 4.15
SD Sioux Falls 45′ 27″ N 98′ 25″ W 1.72 2.71 3.31 4.65 5.61 6.1 6.04 5.42 4.47 3.2 1.78 1.43 3.87
TN Nashville 36′ 7″ N 86′ 41″ W 1.94 2.9 3.54 4.76 5.57 5.9 5.86 5.62 4.63 3.53 2.45 1.82 4.04
TX San Antonio 29′ 32″ N 98′ 28″ W 2.57 3.7 4.43 5.54 5.94 6.62 6.49 6.28 5.7 4.67 3.43 2.62 4.83
TX Houston 29′ 59″ N 95′ 22″ W 2.47 3.5 4.4 5.59 6.03 6.45 6.36 6.07 5.46 4.61 3.3 2.44 4.72
UT Salt Lake City 40′ 46″ N 111″ 52″ W 2.23 3.15 4.09 5.57 6.26 6.98 6.86 5.98 5.39 3.68 2.29 1.97 4.53
VA Washington 38′ 51″ N 77′ 2″ W 1.95 2.8 3.66 4.46 5.42 5.88 5.63 5.22 4.38 3.36 2.34 1.79 3.9
VT Montpelier 44′ 16″ N 72′ 35″ W 1.58 2.54 3.5 4.05 5 5.24 5.37 4.92 3.79 2.46 1.52 1.28 3.43
WA Seattle 47′ 32″ N 122′ 18″ W 1.14 2.04 3.23 4.26 5.19 5.75 6.27 5.46 4.43 2.5 1.21 0.9 3.53
WI Milwaukee 42′ 57″ N 87′ 54″ W 1.43 2.41 3.29 4.48 5.6 6.09 5.74 5.21 4.34 2.9 1.6 1.2 3.69
WV Charleston 38′ 22″ N 81′ 36″ W 1.75 2.64 3.34 4.26 5.2 5.67 5.49 5.19 4.26 3.19 2.15 1.62 3.73
WY Casper 42′ 55″ N 106’ 28″ W 1.93 2.8 3.79 5.13 5.9 6.68 6.5 5.9 5.13 3.59 2.06 1.65 4.25


Peak Sun Hours per Day

State City High Low Avg State City High Low Avg
AK Fairbanks 5.87 2.12 3.99 MO Columbia 5.50 3.97 4.73
AK Matanuska 5.24 1.74 3.55 MO St. Louis 4.87 3.24 4.38
AL Montgomery 4.69 3.37 4.23 MS Meridian 4.86 3.64 4.43
AR Bethel 6.29 2.37 3.81 MT Glasgow 5.97 4.09 5.15
AR Little Rock 5.29 3.88 4.69 MT Great Falls 5.70 3.66 4.93
AZ Tucson 7.42 6.01 6.57 MT Summit 5.17 2.36 3.99
AZ Page 7.30 5.65 6.36 NM Albuquerque 7.16 6.21 6.77
AZ Phoenix 7.13 5.78 6.58 NB Lincoln 5.40 4.38 4.79
CA Santa Maria 6.52 5.42 5.94 NB N. Omaha 5.28 4.26 4.90
CA Riverside 6.35 5.35 5.87 NC Cape Hatteras 5.81 4.69 5.31
CA Davis 6.09 3.31 5.10 NC Greensboro 5.05 4.00 4.71
CA Fresno 6.19 3.42 5.38 ND Bismarck 5.48 3.97 5.01
CA Los Angeles 6.14 5.03 5.62 NJ Sea Brook 4.76 3.20 4.21
CA Soda Springs 6.47 4.40 5.60 NV Las Vegas 7.13 5.84 6.41
CA La Jolla 5.24 4.29 4.77 NV Ely 6.48 5.49 5.98
CA Inyokern 8.70 6.87 7.66 NY Binghamton 3.93 1.62 3.16
CO Granby 7.47 5.15 5.69 NY Ithaca 4.57 2.29 3.79
CO Grand Lake 5.86 3.56 5.08 NY Schenectady 3.92 2.53 3.55
CO Grand Junction 6.34 5.23 5.85 NY Rochester 4.22 1.58 3.31
CO Boulder 5.72 4.44 4.87 NY New York City 4.97 3.03 4.08
DC Washington 4.69 3.37 4.23 OH Columbus 5.26 2.66 4.15
FL Apalachicola 5.98 4.92 5.49 OH Cleveland 4.79 2.69 3.94
FL Belie Is. 5.31 4.58 4.99 OK Stillwater 5.52 4.22 4.99
FL Miami 6.26 5.05 5.62 OK Oklahoma City 6.26 4.98 5.59
FL Gainesville 5.81 4.71 5.27 OR Astoria 4.76 1.99 3.72
FL Tampa 6.16 5.26 5.67 OR Corvallis 5.71 1.90 4.03
GA Atlanta 5.16 4.09 4.74 OR Medford 5.84 2.02 4.51
GA Griffin 5.41 4.26 4.99 PA Pittsburg 4.19 1.45 3.28
HI Honolulu 6.71 5.59 6.02 PA State College 4.44 2.79 3.91
IA Ames 4.80 3.73 4.40 RI Newport 4.69 3.58 4.23
ID Boise 5.83 3.33 4.92 SC Charleston 5.72 4.23 5.06
ID Twin Falls 5.42 3.42 4.70 SD Rapid City 5.91 4.56 5.23
IL Chicago 4.08 1.47 3.14 TN Nashville 5.20 3.14 4.45
IN Indianapolis 5.02 2.55 4.21 TN Oak Ridge 5.06 3.22 4.37
KS Manhattan 5.08 3.62 4.57 TX San Antonio 5.88 4.65 5.30
KS Dodge City 4.14 5.28 5.79 TX Brownsville 5.49 4.42 4.92
KY Lexington 5.97 3.60 4.94 TX El Paso 7.42 5.87 6.72
LA Lake Charles 5.73 4.29 4.93 TX Midland 6.33 5.23 5.83
LA New Orleans 5.71 3.63 4.92 TX Fort Worth 6.00 4.80 5.43
LA Shreveport 4.99 3.87 4.63 UT Salt Lake City 6.09 3.78 5.26
MA E. Wareham 4.48 3.06 3.99 UT Flaming Gorge 6.63 5.48 5.83
MA Boston 4.27 2.99 3.84 VA Richmond 4.50 3.37 4.13
MA Blue Hill 4.38 3.33 4.05 WA Seattle 4.83 1.60 3.57
MA Natick 4.62 3.09 4.10 WA Richland 6.13 2.01 4.44
MA Lynn 4.60 2.33 3.79 WA Pullman 6.07 2.90 4.73
MD Silver Hill 4.71 3.84 4.47 WA Spokane 5.53 1.16 4.48
ME Caribou 5.62 2.57 4.19 WA Prosser 6.21 3.06 5.03
ME Portland 5.23 3.56 4.51 WI Madison 4.85 3.28 4.29
MI Sault Ste. Marie 4.83 2.33 4.20 WV Charleston 4.12 2.47 3.65
MI E. Lansing 4.71 2.70 4.00 WY Lander 6.81 5.50 6.06
MN St. Cloud 5.43 3.53 4.53

Several useful energy calculators for cross-checking the numbers can be found at this site:

http://www.alternate-energy.net/calculateamp02.html
A definition – Peak Sun Hours: The equivalent number of hours per day when solar irradiance averages 1 kW/m2. For example, six peak sun hours means that the energy received during total daylight hours equals the energy that would have been received had the irradiance for six hours been 1 kW/m2.

http://homesolarwind.com/47/solar-efficiency-peak-sun-hours-rated-power-solar-panels.html

Solar Efficiency – Peak Sun Hours and Rated Power of Solar Panels
When calculating the solar efficiency of your installation a figure known as “peak sun hours” is used to estimate the power output of your solar panels. If you have looked up the number of peak sun hours for your area you may be wondering why that number appears to be so low. So what does it really mean?
The amount of radiant solar energy falling on a surface is commonly measured in Watts per square meter (W/m2). This quantity will vary according to your location as well as the season, time of day and weather conditions. The radiant energy from the sun at its peak (around noon on a clear day) falling on an adjacent surface is about 1000W/m2. It obviously won’t be so powerful when it’s lower in the sky, and in fact will be changing all the time throughout the day, so how can we simplify things to make it easier to calculate our solar efficiency?
If someone were to measure this radiant energy and take the average over the whole day we might ask them “How long would it take to gather the same amount of energy if the sun was always at its peak, delivering exactly 1000W/m2?” The answer to this question would be the peak sun hours for that day. It’s the number of hours it would take to gather the same amount of energy if the sun were always at its peak.
So why is it so useful to work in peak sun hours? The short answer is “Because it’s a standard”. When you look up the solar irradiance (or insolation) for your location, chances are it will be expressed as peak sun hours, and may be averaged across the months, seasons or even the whole year. It’s common practice to quote one figure for summer and another for winter so you can work out the worst-case performance when calculating your solar efficiency.
The solar panels you buy (or cells if you are making your own panels) will have their power rating specified at what is called “standard test conditions” or STC, which define a fixed air pressure, temperature and irradiance when measuring the panel. And what is the standard irradiance? You guessed it – 1000W/m2.
Here’s a quick example so show how this all fits together. Let’s say your location gets on average 3.5 peak sun hours a day. You have a 100W panel and want to know how much energy you can expect from it. You simply multiply these two figures together: 100W x 3.5 peak hours = 350Whr of energy per day, on average. In reality this will most likely be slightly lower due to panel tolerances and temperature. Peak sun hours are a standard quantity that can simplify the task of sizing solar panels and calculating your solar efficiency, and make the calculations much easier.

All prices include a 10%, “Gone With the Wynn’s Discount” and shipping to most locations, (example – southwest states and a couple midwest states.) Be sure to mention the Wynn’s when contacting us!  ***You will need additional pieces and parts to complete your installation.  If you need help installing these systems we can come to you or you can come to us. Contact us for more information.

Are we confused yet?  Nobody said going solar was easy to understand.  To put all this in layman’s terms is practically impossible.  What you need to understand about solar is that it’s a science that has a million variables based on sun, daylight hours, and quality of your products, battery age, and so many other factors.  Below we try to break it down a little further, but I can’t promise it will make you any less confused.  The best thing you can do is call in and discuss with the pros.  In the meantime we’ll try to un-confuse ourselves below:

A special thanks to The Power Company for taking the time to answer our questions about solar and share the info with you, I’m sure they get these same stinkin’ questions every day!  If you do call them make sure you are interested in purchasing solar from them as they are a business and not a free information booth. Hope this helps clear up your questions about solar, or at least maybe you can relate to one of the packages:  BASIC, MEDIUM, or HEAVY.  Hopefully this will help you decide what solar power package might be best for your needs and budget.

Do you have personal experience with RV solar systems?  Please tell us what you think in the comments below.  Make sure you let us know how many panels and the wattage so we can do the math!

Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (65)

  • Hello: Can you tell me where I could get solar panels installed on an RV? Also, if I’m buying a brand new RV, would dealerships do the installation? Thanks.

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  • Paul Robinson

    I have a small off grid cabin that does not have any power coming in. I would like to set up the power the same as a RV would be set up. My first phase is to charge the batteries with a generator. Phase two would be to add a solar set up to be the primary power source. My question is, is it possible to charge the same battery bank with either the generator or solar without some sort of switch? I hope this makes sense. Thank you for your info.

    reply
  • Mary Alice Nelson

    Looking for power back up for permanent parked rv. Trailer has12 v 110. Plus propane.. We have frequently t weather related power outage’s. One for 12 days. What would you recommend for low cost system ??

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  • Helen

    We purchased a used rv. It has solar system and three extra batteries. When we are off the grid, I am able to use the lights but unable to use plugs and TV. Is there a switch? to turn on the solar for usage?

    reply
    • They very well may not be wired to run off the inverter. You can take it into service and have them wire the outlets you want to use while wild camping or have them double check to make sure there isn’t something you are missing.

      reply
  • Nj

    http://www.kingtecusa.com/pages/ac-rooftopbattery.html
    is this the air conditioner someone was saying that would work solar. I think it says battery operated.

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  • Why don’t more conventional homes have solar on their roofs. Seems like a no brainer….like every home owner should have that option. I love RV solar…and any kind of solar…lol!

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  • Shawn w

    Thanks for the info. It just seem that any thing green is very costly. After the cost of setting up a solar system does it pay for it self? And how long to get your investment back? Or is it the same as running a generator after over all cost? Thank you and I really enjoy your videos.

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  • Chelsea

    Does switching from off grid power system to a traditional power source possible? If ever how does it work? Tahnk you!

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  • Johan

    Jason & Nikki – Thanks for all the great info on solar!! Curious how you handle hot climates when boondocking. I started to research AC units to can run on solar (not much out there!) and ran across this product that runs on a 48V solar setup. Wondering if you have any thoughts/experiences/heard anything about these type of solutions. Sure would be nice to be able to run a small AC unit without running a generator!
    http://kingtecusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/RV-Brochure.pdf

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      • JOHn

        What about heating using solar is that out of the question? I’m converting a ford transit van into a RV and going to use solar and would like to not use gas at all if I can (for cooking or heating) and instead use electric. What are the possibilities? I know most people have a gas stove in van conversions (instead of say an induction hob) and I’m wondering if the need to use gas for heating is the reason why. Thanks

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  • Andrew

    Thanks for the article, I really like what you wrote! I’m rather new to the solar game and I am trying to suck up as much information as I can! (no pun)

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  • Opagi Robert

    Am in Uganda we do appreciate what you people are doing.Making people go green but we also love to get one that can pump water,light up the village,refrigeration,television and iron.How much would it cost to have one?

    reply
    • You are looking at a post and set up that is older, Check out our newer set up here that is a lot more powerful: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/boondocking-video I would recommend calling Go Power or whichever solar manufacture you are thinking of going with, let them know what all you want to power and let them help you decide which set up would be best for you.

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  • I have 300 watts and hope for 600 watts,, its over kill for my rv,,but would be awesome…last 28 days we only hooked up 2 days,,, all solar, except if we want the microwave on.. then turn on the generator. way cheaper to make ur own solar panels,, shows on you tube. I have 4 dry cell batteries and shootingfor 6 batteries at least.. solar is the way to go. free electricity.

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    • chris

      If you have that much solar a microwave doesnt really use much to run off a inverter. let say you have a 900 watt microwave with inverter loses say itll draw [email protected] instead of [email protected] so actual usage is 1100watt if ran for a hour it use about 92ah off a 12v battery. odds are it wouldnt run for a hour. so 1.53ah from the battery pack per minute of microwaving. in basic terms with 300 watts of solar you need 3.7 minutes of solar to run your microwave for 1 minute(11 minutes of solar for 3 minutes of microwave)
      honestly generally switching the microwave to run off a inverter can help free up the power bus plus if someone has a rig with a 30a shore power. figure the roof ac can pull 15a on a hot summer day almost 10a to the microwave, a battery charger can draw as much as 12a and as little as 4.5a depending on the model. as you can see a ac, microwave, battery charge controller will nearly use up the whole 30amp bus. now add a switch to the power converter(turn on at night before bed)microwave off a inverter. with this setup you can microwave anywhere along the road and when on shore power run the ac, microwave, and have half the power buss left for a hair dryer, video games, fryer/air fryer, rice maker what ever you wish

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  • Deb

    Have you looked into or considered adding a wind turbine system to your RV. Having a power source that works as long as there is a little wind (even at night) seems like a good idea.

    I learned about a company called Kohilo Wind from a Kickstarter project.They make systems specifically for RVs.

    kohilowind-com.3dcartstores.com/RV-Off-Grid-Camping_c_21.html

    What do you think?

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      • Deb

        Thanks for the reply! It seems the version of wind power you were introduced to is very different than the link I provided.

        Maybe the Kohilo folks would let you test their model.

        I don’t have an RV yet as I am waiting for retirement (I *do not* want to have to work at all and my heath insurance will be covered for life in about 2 years if I wait).

        If and when I get there, I will try some sort of solar/wind combo.

        Keep up the fun work. I’m very much enjoying your adventures!

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  • Joe

    So happy I found your site ! We are about 2 years from full timing ( unless I just say the heck with it and retire earlier).. I appreciate everything you both post ! Haven’t bought our rig yet but because of you two, we’ll be sure to equip it with solar, a good inverter and numerous other suggestions we like that you’ve made “before” we head out on the road !!
    Quick question, since the solar and all other electrical set up seems somewhat confusing to me,, can you point me to the solar/rv-electrical for dummies pages :-).. Thanks for everything you both do !
    It was Great meeting the both of you Saturday morning at the Pomona RV show ! Hope to one day meet you on the road ! Take Care and be safe out there !

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  • Randall Keefer

    Jason,

    Any idea how many solar panels a year are bought/installed for RVs? Or even a percentage? I am doing research on the subject. Your site and videos are amazing!!!

    Are RV companies starting to offer them as options?

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  • Kate

    My hubby-to-be and I are looking at doing the traveling nurse gig via a fifth-wheeler. Ideally, we would like to be on solar power to the point of not needing electric hook ups at all. However, we also know that we know nothing. Is our goal even possible? If so, is it feasible? Help please!

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      • Linda

        My DH and I have just bought a 2015 Miramar 34.3 and we have NEVER RVed before. We are completely green. I have noticed that no one mentions the Fridge running on solar. We will need to run ours 24/7. Does anyone do that? Will solar do that?

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          • LInda

            Jason, thank you so much for responding. I am enjoying your website immensely! yes, we have a res fridge. don’t know what 400ah is, but we have 4 batteries, a built-in inverter and generator. My DH is getting advice from people who don’t have solar, telling him we don’t need it. i’m hoping your info will convince him otherwise. We’re taking 4 cats along, too!

  • CJ Sterling, RN

    Need help– I want to dry dock–I am so confused on products–// and what I really need–I have a 37.5 Montana with 2 airs-2 TV’s-computer-micro/ ect.–I work 7p to 7a- and I have 3 dogs — from solar plus wind turbo to generator (propane) batteries–what do I need to set up and were do I go to buy?

    reply
    • Hey CJ! Start by reading some of the boondocking posts on this page: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/rvin They will help get you up to Wild Camping speed! Oh, and forget the whole wind turbine thing. We have looking pretty deep into and its not a viable option yet for RV’ers. Maybe one day soon.

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  • db

    Since you changed vehicles to Roy did you get more or bigger batteries?

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  • Pauly K

    Hey Jason,
    Pauly here and I am curious, we just bought a 40 ft 5th wheel with two ac units. What is the amount of watts needed to allow our rv to run on solar. I know the ACs are 13500 btu we have been looking at generators but thought if we can solar it we will consider it as well.
    Thanks bro
    Pauly

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  • Reed Cundiff

    We have 1,420 W of solar, 9.7 kW-hours of lithium ferrophosphate batteries (LFP) set as 54 V batterypack (four 14.5 V battery sub-packs), and 4.0 kW pure sine-wave inverter. We have run the 1.5 kW air conditioner on our Open Range 337RLS for 3 hours during mid-afternoon insolation. The roof is about maxed out but things are working extremely well. We have had system since first of June and have not hooked to line power yet. Dumped the 50 amp cable and are now set to use only 15 amp extension cord through batteries(to inverter and converter from 54 V to 12 V). We spent last three winters in Yucatan and Belize and this simplifies using uncertain voltage Mexican power (Belize was excellent) since the surge protector was off more than it was on.

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  • Greg Seed

    Ok all heres my take on your shading issue, lift the panels up about 7 to 8 inches on sturdy mounts, Unirac makes some that work nicely. Here is another piece of magic advise, not to sound too much like Bob but remember Watts in should equal Watts out. Design systems accordingly and take actual measurements of what you use and most importantly what your system can produce. Whith the proper measurements you can find and fix inefficiences and have a kick butt system.

    Safe wiring,
    Greg

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  • Hi Jason – I applaud your enthusiasm for solar! Many people don’t realize that, as long as their system is designed correctly and they have also focused on power conservation, they can power everything in their RV off solar power (however, if you think you require A/C, that’s still pretty tough). I had a Sprinter camper van with 200W of solar on top (Grape Solar panels from AM Solar, good-quality panels that are now available from Lowe’s, Costco, Home Depot), and with our 220Ah battery bank, it gave us enough power to cover all our needs. A couple technical points:
    a) The flexible, thin solar panels that everyone is salivating over are amorphous panels – their efficiency is currently 8-9% (compared to 16-20% for mono/polycrystalline), and their power output degrades over time, so really not a good choice, pick conventional mono/polycrystalline instead.
    b) If you want to use solar panels on your RV, read the solar panel warranty fine print – most solar panels are NOT warrantied for RV/mobile use, a couple of exceptions being Kyocera & Grape Solar panels.
    c) A permanent, non-tilting fixed installation is the easiest way to have solar on your RV. Yes, you will lose some power over having tilt mounts, but you won’t ever forget to lower your panels! Also, you need to have some air space under the panels, panels glued/screwed flat to the roof will get super-hot, and the hotter the panel is, the less power it generates.
    Anyways, kudos to you guys for doing RV solar! It’s pretty easy to even build a camper van and do solar on it yourself, like some of the folks who’ve built their own camper vans shown in my DIY Gallery: http://www.sprinter-rv.com/diy-gallery/

    Greg

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  • I’m really looking forward to options where v3solar’s new tech can be mounted on the top of RVs. It will lower the footprint and give more consistent power throughout the day. http://v3solar.com/#4

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  • Jason
    Thanks for this great tutorial. I printed it out so I can reread it and try to glean all I can.

    Thanks!

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  • Lets think outside of the box. If your rolling LARGE in a 43 foot Bluebird you have lots of roof space to attach panels, taking into account handy Bob rules, and powering your rig. With a 10Kw Gen and a 2 mil rig the whole Green thing might be a little moot but Hey Hey L.A.! Seriously though the market has roll up units that are better than the tough glass units. Better in many ways. Lighter, out of the way of dropping golf balls, bird strikes, and HEY HEY I now live in BC; SNOW!!! That stuff gets heavy, and how many installers balance the plane of the panel to destress the weight load? Heck most are still using 10 guage wire (not cable) to run down to the basement of the house. So when you’re parked and looking out toward the rolling surf, rushing brook, or alpine medow you’re sitting under your awning. Why? to keep the sun off your bean and beer. So why not toss up the roll out panels on top of the awning, secure the sides, and plug your 4 guage cables into the molex (plug) that is connected to your MMPT controller?

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  • vicky

    Hello! I have a question being new to solar, but I want it! What about this situation: it’s summer, in the southwest US and you want to leave the RV in the shade for the day. Is there an efficient way to have portable solar panels attached to the RV battery bank with a long cord, so you can have the panels in the sun but the RV remaining in the cool shade under some trees?

    thank you for sharing this information,
    Vicky

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    • Rubin

      Add more solar panels until they adequately shade your RV. You can’t sell back to the grid very easily in an RV but you can mine bitcoin.

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  • I agree with the above comments. I installed a complete solar charging kit…but only for a trickle charge to keep the batteries up during storage or out at our farm. It was a Battery MINDer 15W solar kit with built in controller to avoid over charging.

    Not a big deal…but was what I needed. Thanks for the article.

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  • We had solar on both our past RV-homes (110w on our 16′ Tab, and 200w on our 17′ Oliver), and loved it. In both setups, we were able to go fairly indefinitely off grid while keeping our laptops and cellular data cranking along.

    We’re currently deep in research for putting solar on our bus conversion in the most efficient manner while still keeping the cool retro look. It’ll be a project for sure.. but so looking forward to getting back to independent power! We’re aiming to get 500-1000w up there somehow.

    We do have the base of the system built – a 500 AH lithium ion battery bank (http://www.technomadia.com/lithium) that we’ll probably expand out to 1000AH, and a Victron 3000w inverter.

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    • Hey Cherie! We always love hearing thoughts from our technomads!

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  • Don M

    A good educational site is http://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/

    He would have a fit if he saw the shading on those panels. Obviously the Vesta roof is crowded and the upper side panels pose a real problem when locating solar panels away from shading.

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  • Dick E.

    Jason, most RVers I know buy an inexpensive panel to charge their batteries. Here in the SW, many are free-standing … but they generally can’t do much more than provide a trickle charge to the batteries. For serious boondocking for a week or two, you really need to first determine how much power you really need … to avoid breaking the peaceful silence by running your generator for hours at a time.

    Two things: First, my previous RV, a 2007 29′ Trek was perfect for boondocking. I had installed 4 panels (600 watts total) of solar, along with 4 AGM batteries (440 Ahrs), and a 45A Multi-Point Tracking Charge Controller. The Trek came with a 2000W Magnum Inverter. The panels were laid out on the roof to avoid any shading by other roof components (e.g., the A/C) and I had portable bars that could elevate the panels to a 45 degree angle … both are important for optimum efficiency.

    Second, I now have a 2011 Monaco 32′ Vesta like you. I haven’t installed solar on the Vesta yet. A major reason is the 1200W inverter with only one circuit which powers the TV and the Microwave. If it can’t power the receptacles, that’s a problem for me (although I do have a small 200W inverter for the cig-lighter). I understand the 2013 Vesta models have the 2000W inverter with two circuits (good call). I got a Monaco quote to upgrade my inverter and wiring ~ $3500 (no tradein).

    The only other thing I’ll mention is that in the SW, almost any solar system will deliver acceptable performance. Not so for latitudes above 45 degN especially in the spring and fall (forget about winter). I took the Trek all over Canada and to Alaska boondocking all the way (it’s even better in Canada).

    But it’s not just the panels and inverter … it’s also the charge controller (ideally with multi-point tracking ability or equivalent) and the batteries. All components need to be compatible to avoid the weakest link syndrome.

    My Vesta is not ideally suited for boondocking but it does fit our current lifestyle. The Vesta has what some call ‘functional elegance.’ Everything has a consistent high quality (low maintenance), but unlike many motorhomes at the same price point, the emphasis is more on functionality than glitzy mischief.

    I bought the components from http://www.amsolar.com in Springfield, OR (about 43 degN). Their site also has a pretty good ‘education’ section.

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  • Are those prices accurate? $1020 for a medium system & $12,000 ish for heavy? That seems like a big jump.

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    • I think the big price increase is due to 4 extra solar panels and the puresine inverter. One things for sure: solar isn’t cheap.

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    • It is a big jump. I designed that system to be extreme. 6 modules and a 2000 watt inverter. The inverter is a Pure Sine, so the power output is clean. You can use modified sine inverters which are cheaper, but not all of them are created equal, they can fry electronics in a matter of seconds.
      Keep in mind, these systems are for sale, but maybe you need something a little different. No system should be sold as a one size fits all. Every system I have done has been tailored to fit.
      Clay

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  • Jim

    A key to solar system performance is having correct storage capacity. We have four 230 ah batteries and two 125 watt panels. SW USA using all we want including furnace, charging three computers, cameras, phone, and using lights we fall behind 10-15 ah per day from full charge. So must run generator awhile after a week or two in winter. Summertime we’re good.

    Jim
    http://Dreamstreamr.com

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    • Thanks for sharing Jim, it seems like you are happy with your investment?

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  • Ha! I don’t know what this does but you need it! That is my favorite part! Good info on having the panels off the roof to keep them cool. I never heard that before.

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    • Yea Brent, I know some technical stuff but one things for sure I’m not mechanic or engineer! Ha.

      reply

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