RV Solar Panels- Build a Savings Account for Electricity
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Solar panels, specifically photovoltaic panels, convert sunlight into electricity. The electricity generated by the panel is stored (banked) in your coach’s battery for future use. In this situation the solar panel is replacing a generator, vehicle engine, or electric hook-up as a way to charge the batteries. This results in less use of fossil fuel, less noise pollution, and less odor, not to mention creating a power supply when there are no other options!
Retrofitting solar panels onto an RV’s standard electrical system is a technical project, but not overly difficult to achieve. There are variables, depending mostly on the coach’s factory installed equipment. There is the physical mounting of the panels to consider, as well as the integration of the charging and switching equipment into your existing electrical system.
Granted, RV roof structures are typically not designed for heavy loads, however they are sometimes constructed with AC units, antennas, ladders, racks, etc. Our recommendation is to consult the RV manufacturer or reputable RV service company to better understand this aspect of solar installation.
The same is true when integrating the solar electricity controller into your battery charging system. This is typically not extremely challenging for a skilled technician, or advanced DIY’er. However, this is a critical step when designing and building a system. A “Charge Controller” is a small computer that determines when to charge the battery, and what charging source (solar, house, vehicle, or generator) is best utilized at the time.
When buying equipment we recommend choosing a comprehensive system that takes into account all of the variables mentioned above, and matches the system with your coach’s existing equipment. This is also the time to “size” the system for required electrical output.
Solar panel electric energy generating capacity is measured in watts. Watts are used to determine the electrical capacity or output of many household devices including microwave ovens, light bulbs, and blow dryers. Understanding how much energy you require, and comparing that to the cost and complexity of a solar system, is the starting point in determining the surface area of the panels, or number of panels needed. The end result is usually a compromise between cost, physical conditions, and basic requirements.
There is also an option for a portable solar system. Typically these systems are not fully integrated into your coach’s electrical system. They are stored in a carry case or compartment, and put into use as needed. They don’t have the convenience or output of an integrated and rigidly mounted array, but do work well for their intended purpose.
Solar systems are available through a number of manufacturers and retailers. Online stores such as www.rvroofandwall.com also offer options.
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