Skip to Content

10 Reasons Your RV Doesn’t Need Solar Power

10 Reasons Your RV Doesn’t Need Solar Power

10 Reasons Your RV Doesn’t Need Solar Power

Solar Powered RVs are all the rage in 2022. If an RV doesn’t come with solar pre-installed, it’s very likely “solar ready.” But, is this solar trend really going to benefit your RV travels?

More importantly, will solar power save you money?

Even though both of our camper-trailers have included solar power, today we’re talking about all the reasons you DON’T need solar for your RV.

Let’s dive in!

1. Where Are You Camping?

If you like living the “RV Park Life”, solar power isn’t really needed. RV parks provide ample power for all your electric needs.

Sure, you may need to camp overnight at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel en route to your destination, but a simple 12v battery system should provide enough power for one night. Additionally, an overnight stay or two probably doesn’t justify the financial burden of a solar system.

Pro Tip: Here’s how to legally camp at Cracker Barrel.

2. Class B Life

Even though Class Bs are quickly jumping on the solar train, these RVs require it the least. Every time you turn on your engine, you’ll be recharging your battery system. A long travel day will easily fill you up to 100%.

This is similar with Class A RVs. However, in our experience, Class A owners move at a much slower pace (making an organic battery recharge less likely).

Class B owners most often use their RV as their “daily driver” – allowing recharge on a regular basis.

3. You Don’t Mind The Hum of an Inverter Generator

We’ve always preached that there’s no shame in using an inverter generator (if you follow common courtesy rules). An inverter generator will provide enough power to run your RV AC and cost much less than a solar system.

These type of gennys start around $450. Additionally, gas prices are still relatively inexpensive. This combo can offer you a week of power for $20.

Not a bad price!

IMG_3557

4. If You Need AC

If you’ll be camping off-grid in a hot climate, 99.9% of the time your RV solar system won’t be able to keep up with your cooling needs.

By chance your system can keep up, it will cost at least $20,000 to get that kind of power installed. Even over time, this won’t come close to the economic price of a generator.

It’s mostly a myth that solar power can run an AC unit for an extended period of time.

5. You Don’t Want To Buy Lithium

If you think lithium batteries are too expensive, you probably shouldn’t invest in a solar system.

Sure, a few deployable panels are great for keeping your lead-acid batteries topped off…but if you’re wanting a real solar system, you need lithium batteries.

Here’s the reason: lithium offers more usable power per battery and weighs less. A 100 amp hour lead acid battery can only provide you 50 amp hours of power before you begin to potentially damage the battery.

A 100 amp hour lithium battery can essentially be brought down to 100% without harming the future life cycles.

To simplify it, 100 “useable” lead acid amp hours will weigh around 110lbs. While 100 “useable” lithium amp hours will weigh about 31 lbs.

That’s a big difference when if comes to an RV’s carrying capacity.

6. If You’re Unsure, You Don’t Need It

Before installing an RV solar system, you’ve got to be sure to want (and need) it. Even if you want to boondock most of the time, try it with a generator first.

The $450 generator will cost a lot less than a solar set-up (and you can easily resell the generator to recoup your cost).

If you realize you love being off grid and you hate the hum of the genny, bite the bullet and buy solar. If you can live with that gentle hum, don’t worry about it.

7. If You Like Rustic Camping

If camping to you means disconnecting from it all, solar won’t be a great addition. This usually applies to weekend campers longing to escape the daily grind.

We totally understand this mentality! Solar power may, in fact, tempt you to hop on the internet or watch TV.

If that sounds like you – keep it rustic and stay away from tech!

8. They Can Make Your RV Hotter

An RV roof covered with black solar panels will soak up a lot of heat. This heat bleeds into your unit and can keep it 5 to 10 degrees warmer than without solar.

It’s an unfortunate byproduct of installing solar.

If you’re camping in the desert during the winter, this added heat may be nice. However, during those hot summer months, the extra heat will be unwanted.

9. They Can Reduce MPGs

Another side effect of mounting solar panels is the potential for worse miles-per-gallon on travel day. There are a few ways MPGs become lower after a solar install.

First is the added weight. A large solar set up can add 100s of pounds once its all installed.

Additionally, depending on how they’re mounted, the aerodynamic ability of your RV can become worse.

10. Installation is Expensive

If you don’t have the skills to install a solar system by yourself, hiring professionals is really expensive.

It’s an issue of supply and demand.

Lots of people want solar installed. Most of them can’t safely do it themselves. And, there aren’t many professionals out there that know how to do it.

Installing solar on an RV is much different than on a house. And, RV service centers are already working on large back logs.

Be prepared to pay a lot and wait a while for completion.

When Does Solar Power Make Sense?

If you enjoy the amenities of power and love camping off grid, solar can be the perfect compliment to your RV lifestyle.

We love free camping – especially when its super quiet! Solar power allows us to have ample energy while off grid without making a peep.

Our system includes 500ah of lithium batteries and 640watts of solar. We use a Victron 3000 inverter to supply 120v power. This system will allow us to operate off grid indefinitely (when is at least partially sunny). We can also get a few hours of AC use out of it daily.

22 RV Boondocking Tips for 2022 - Drivin' & Vibin'

Tuesday 18th of January 2022

[…] Keep in mind: Here are 7 reasons you don’t need RV solar power. […]

Darrell Patterson

Saturday 11th of December 2021

I use a 200 watt suitcase solar charger that folds up and easily fits in my car, taking up little space and adding little weight. It easily recharges my batteries in about 3-4 hours and the cost was around $475. I also have a 2000 watt generator that I use sparingly (when I need A/C or the weather is nasty). The solar was not that expensive. I lock my panel to the trailer with a super hardened chain, cable lock and padlock to discourage theft. So far so good and I am a happy camper. Lithium is next on the agenda, then I'll be set.

André

Friday 10th of December 2021

I work full-time in my rig as I travel the country. I am ready to throw my overhead a/c unit in the garbage because the sound level is unacceptable for 50+ hours per week usage. Thus, I've just installed a 30.5 SEER residential mini-split heat pump (ac/heat).

Next are four solar panels that will provide 1760W of power (rated); the heat pump at maximum requires 1500W but my small 23ft RV won't need high power ever. Others who have done this show about 600W sustained is all that's required.

So, solar combined with a 5.1KWh battery will be plenty.

The compressor and evaporator of the mini-split are astonishingly quiet. Not having a generator running: more quiet. I'm boon docking in beautiful locations to have quiet and this strategy is going to give me that.

John Buch

Friday 10th of December 2021

When you say “inverter” generator, are you speaking of the generator that comes with most RVs or are you talking about a portable one you buy? I am a newbie and proud of it! Thanks for your time. JB

Randy Dolff

Friday 10th of December 2021

Im a newbie 4 years but origanal 2 wet batteries installed new electrical site now boondocking no problem yet , vehicle charges them driving,all led lights inside. Thinking insulating is the way to go, did all outside walls and slide 1-1/4" strayfoam and A/C unit . Keep cool in summer hopefully warm in winter.Your Canadian 🇨🇦 fans...👍🐴🙂

%d bloggers like this: