The first RV equipped with a generator was the Gypsy Van, built in 1915 by Roland R. Conklin’s Gas-Electric Motorbus Co. RV generators have been indispensable since. But many people now use solar panels and batteries to power their RVs. So, can solar fully replace an RV generator?
Solar can fully replace an RV generator only if the conditions are ideal. You’ll need enough solar panels to generate sufficient wattage, batteries to store and deliver the required Ah (amp hours), and timely recharging of the system using AC, DC, or renewable energy.
The ideal conditions aren’t solely about RV solar systems, the specs of the various components, or your total off-grid energy requirement. Solar power is still an unpredictable renewable energy source. Read on to know more about whether solar can fully replace an RV generator or not.
Instances When Solar Can Fully Replace an RV Generator
Suppose your RV is a Class B motorhome, also known as a campervan. The floor length of such an RV is likely to be around 18 feet to 28 feet (5.5 meters to 8.5 meters). Most Class B vans or RVs require a generator with a capacity of 2,000 watts to under 4,000 watts.
If your Class B campervan needs up to 2,000 watts of power, solar may be able to fully replace an RV generator. However, you’ll need a setup like the ExpertPower 2.5 kWh Solar Power Kit (available on Amazon.com). The kit has all the essential components, including the following:
- 4 x 100 watts monocrystalline solar panels.
- 2 x LiFePO4 100 Ah (1280 Wh) batteries.
- 30 A MPPT solar charge controller.
- 3,000 watts pure sine wave inverter charger.
However, there are two caveats.
- Such a solar power system doesn’t generate anywhere close to 2,000 watts of power per hour, so delivering that much or higher for several hours is a non-starter.
- The setup generates and stores energy only during the day, unlike an RV generator that can run anytime, irrespective of ambient or outdoor conditions.
Having said that, the 4 x 100 watts mono solar panels can harness up to 3,200 Wh or 3.2 kWh of energy in 8 hours of an impeccably bright and clear day. The 2 batteries can store ~2.5 kWh of energy, which can power small RV fixtures for hours and most medium appliances for a while.
Such a system cannot run an air conditioner or heater for hours. For example, if an RV cooling or heating system draws around 1 kWh of energy, the batteries of ExpertPower with a full charge will be drained in 2 hours or so.
The two batteries combined can deliver 200 amps for 1 hour or 20 amps for 10 hours. If an RV uses up to 25 amps per hour, such a solar setup may fulfill the energy requirement for a night. But the real-time power generation of the 4 solar panels is limited to only 400 watts per hour.
So, even when the sun is up at the perfect angle for the panels and the weather isn’t overcast, you won’t get to draw 2,000 watts per hour. Nor will the two batteries get charged beyond the total 2.5 kWh capacity.
The only way you can expand such a setup is by installing several more solar panels and many or larger batteries to constantly deliver 2 kWh for the entire time the system won’t generate any energy. Such large-scale installations are similar to a small solar farm, not fitting for an RV.
Therefore, there are only 2 instances when solar can fully replace an RV generator:
- Your solar panels operate in perfect conditions, and your RV uses up to 20 amps per hour for the system to sustain your energy needs for 8 to 10 hours.
- Alternatively, you use AC (grid) or DC power from an available source to recharge the 3,000 watts inverter charger hooked up with the solar setup.
Scenarios When Solar Cannot Fully Replace an RV Generator
Solar cannot fully replace an RV generator in the following scenarios:
- You have a Class C RV requiring a 4,000 watts generator.
- You have a Class A RV demanding 6,000 watts or more.
- Your RV has 2 or more air conditioners, a trailer, etc.
RV generators have a capacity range of 2,500 watts to more than 12,500 watts. Solar panels and integrated systems, including charge controllers, batteries, and power stations, do not have the capacity to either generate or deliver 4,000 watts to 12,000 watts per hour.
Even if you consider the likes of Bluetti AC200P Portable Power Station (available on Amazon.com) that includes 3 x 200 watts foldable solar panels, the energy capacity is still only 2,000 Wh or 2 kWh. Such systems can, at best, power the lights and run your small devices, such as smartphones and gadgets.
Supplement Solar With an RV Generator and Vice Versa
More than a century after the integration of generators into RVs, the combo is still invincible. But you can certainly use solar as a supplementary power source, especially if you wish to harness renewable energy.
Suppose you have the Champion Power Equipment (available on Amazon.com) for your RV, a portable inverter generator rated for 4,500 watts. You can supplement the mid-sized Champion with the Jackery Solar Generator 1000 (available on Amazon.com), which includes the Explorer 1000 power station and 2 x 100 watts panels.
You may have something like the Westinghouse iGen4500 Portable Inverter Generator (available on Amazon.com) rated for 3,700 watts with a peak delivery of 4,500 watts. In this case, you may need the more powerful Jackery Solar Generator 1500 (available on Amazon.com) that includes the Explorer 1500 and 4 x 100 watts solar panels.
The Explore 1500 power station in this kit has a running wattage output of up to 1,800. Also, you can use multiple sources to recharge the power station, including the following:
- Car or RV outlet
- Grid or wall outlet
- Solar panels on the RV
If you have a Class A RV with significant cooling and heating needs, you should consider the likes of the DuroMax XP12000EH Generator (available on Amazon.com). The powerful RV generator is rated for 12,000 watts and can run on gas or propane. DuroMax has generators rated for up to 15,000 watts.
Solar cannot fully replace an RV generator yet, whether the setups are fixed-mount or portable. However, solar can definitely coexist with an RV generator, and many people prefer that because it reduces the dependence and use of diesel, gasoline, natural gas, or propane.
- Cummins Inc: RV Generator Electricity Basics
- Renogy: What Can I Power With a 100 Watt Solar Panel?
- Cummins Inc: What Size Generator Do I Need to Power an RV?
- Thor Motor Coach: Class B Motorhomes
- Thor Motor Coach: Class C Motorhomes
- Thor Motor Coach: Class A Motorhomes
Share this Post