Being able to generate your own power when overlanding or boondocking in the middle of nowhere is a significant advantage. Solar panels along with batteries have become much more efficient than 10 years ago. This allows you to generate power and store it for later using more efficiently. However, to generate electricity efficiently, there are few tips to make the most out of any solar to make it the best RV solar system you’ve ever used.
What Makes Up the Best RV Solar System?
- Power consumption vs recharging
- Plenty of sunlight
- Optimizing your set up
- External factors
Power Consumption vs Recharging
Looking at your electricity need is essential, most people just want to be able to recharge their phone or lights. Sure you can do more, but I recommend staying away from anything with a heating element as this will plow through electricity without giving the solar panels a chance to recharge your battery pack. Even the best RV solar system will be overwhelmed trying to operate a toaster or electric heater.
Sure you can use a solar panel without a battery pack to store the power, but there are several reasons why I suggest having one. First, you can charge stuff at night after banking your power during the day from the sun. Secondly, having a power reserve for a rainy or cloudy day that you’d use more energy than produce. Finally, a battery pack can handle the influxes up currents and volts better than your phone or tablet. Larger panels can produce enough power to jump-start a car in the right amount of sun.
Plenty of Sunlight
While rooftop solar panels are the most convent and don’t require any setup, I found that they can get blocked by trees easily in the woods. I like being able to move my solar panels easily to make sure they get the most sun without having to move my RV to get the most sun. Something like the picture below is what I recommend.
I’m sure this is a given on this type of topic. The best RV solar system I have ever seen had a platform that followed the sun only using some water and gravity. A water bladder slowly empties making one side lighter. While the other becomes heavier the solar platform begins to move from one side to the other.
This is great for boondocking because it doesn’t require power to work and the water can be used from a stream near your campsite. The only drawback to this is it takes some time to get the calibration correct. And it varies with every solar panel.
If you plan on staying around the campsite most of the day simply just reposition the solar panel every other hour or so and you’ll be fine. If you are in the desert where there isn’t any shade from trees simply leave it on top of your vehicle flat, and it will catch a lot of the sun.
Optimizing Your Set-Up
Optimizing your solar panels and set up is essential to make sure you don’t lose any power. Keeping your wires in good condition is the best way to do this. Keeping your cables wound loosely and not tightly and protecting the connectors from dirt will ensure you have the best flow of current.
Having a Solar controller is important for getting the most out of your entire system. Solar controllers protect your battery from overcharging and optimizes the amount of electricity generated vs stored based on your energy consumption.
A Nitpicky thing that won’t make a difference at all but from understanding electricity I’ll mention. Keeping wires suspended above the ground will ensure no electricity is lost to ground discharge. Lastly, use as little cable as you can, the more connectors you have or the longer the wire, the more power will be needed to reach the batter or device at the other end.
The best RV solar system can get bogged down by heat and other outside elements. Water can cause shorts in your system make sure your solar panel is on higher ground and away from streams. Having a solar panel in the sun in the cold is actually more efficient than one in the hot desert. Solar panels can get overheated causing the thermal layer to degrade and become less efficient. New solar panels don’t have this issue as much; actually, some scientists have developed solar panels that actually cool themselves in the heat.