Solar panels are a great addition to your camper, especially if you are traveling to remote locations where you will not have access to an electrical hookup or if you just want to be more environmentally friendly. But how much solar power does it take to run a camper?
The average camper uses around 4,000 watt-hours of solar power, which is enough to power your lights and small appliances, but nothing too big in your camper. Otherwise, you can use a meter or manually calculate how much solar power your camper needs to run daily.
This article explains how much solar power is needed for a camper and how you can calculate how much power your camper will need. I will also explain how to choose the right solar panels for your camper and the benefits of using solar power on your camper.
Calculate Power Used in Your Camper
Every camper will require a different amount of solar power to completely power everything. The amount of power needed depends on the appliances in your camper and how much electricity you need to power them. There are two ways you can determine how much power you use in your camper: use a power meter or calculate the power manually.
Use a Meter
The easiest way to figure out how much solar power you need for your camper is to get a meter to figure it out for you. A meter will determine how much power your camper and the appliances in it are using. There are two great options (available on Amazon.com) for these meters depending on your price range:
- Victron BMV-712 Battery Monitor: You can use this monitor with an app on your phone to determine how much battery is used and how much battery power you need. You can also see the voltage, the power in your battery, and the current power consumption on the screen of the meter.
- Makerfire 200A Watt Meter Battery Consumption Monitor: This is a more budget-friendly option, but you will have to use it with each of your appliances separately and add the total power used by each one separately.
After you use one of these monitors to determine how much power your camper is using, you can figure out how much solar power you need to power your camper.
Calculate the Power Manually
If you do not want to use a meter, you can manually calculate the amount of power you use in your camper every day.
Consider all your appliances, find the number of watt-hours each uses, then multiply it by the number of hours you use it for each day. For example, you might have a tv that you use for three hours per day or a microwave you only use for one.
The number you calculate for each appliance is the daily watt-hours. Then, you can divide this number by 12, which results in the daily Ah consumption. The daily Ah consumption gives you the amount of power you need your solar panels to supply daily to power your camper and everything in it.
Choosing Solar Panels for Your Camper
After calculating the power you need for your camper, you can pick out solar panels to match. Before you do this, be sure that you consider everything that uses power, like phone chargers, laptops, and hairdryers.
If you can, round up a little to account for anything you forgot or add later. In general, a 4,000 Wh solar power system should run the appliances and lights in your camper.
To add solar power to your camper, you need solar panels, a solar inverter, a charge controller, and a solar battery.
Explorist Life has a Youtube video that explains the parts you need to add solar power to your camper:
If you are unsure about what kind of solar panels will work best with your camper, you can reach out to the manufacturer of your camper and see if they have any recommendations for what fits best.
They might even be able to help you with the installation if you do not want to do it on your own.
You can also find someone online with a similar camper and see what solar panels they use. This method is best if you have a small van or custom camper where help from a manufacturer is not an option.
For example, All About RVs have a Youtube video detailing their RV solar system:
You want to be sure that you get solar panels made for an RV, not residential solar panels. Residential solar panels are too big for an RV and will be hard to install on your camper, especially if you have to install them on the roof.
Benefits of a Solar Powered Camper
While it may seem like a lot of effort just to determine how much solar power you need for your camper and then choose one that supplies the power you need, there are many benefits to having a solar-powered camper.
- You will have power anywhere you have sun. You do not have to worry about being near an electrical hookup for power. You just need to park your camper in the sun, and your solar system will do the rest to power the camper, even if you are camping somewhere remote.
- Saves money over time. Even though you need to invest some time, effort, and money into adding solar power to your camper, you will save money in the long run since you do not have to pay for electricity.
Solar power is a great addition to your camper, and there are multiple ways to determine how much of it you need for your camper to run.
You can use a meter or calculate it manually, then get a solar system that supplies you enough power. Installing solar power in your camper is well worth the effort to have power wherever you go.
- RV.com: A Complete RV Solar System Install
- CNET: Solar panel buying guide for RVs, campervans, and travel trailers: Everything you need to know
- Camping World: RV Solar Panels & Solar Kits | Outdoor Power
- YouTube: Basic Solar Parts Needed for a DIY Camper Van or RV Solar Install
- YouTube: RV Solar Simplified! Simple RV Solar Setup.
- Camping World: Is Adding Solar Power to Your RV Worth It?
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