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RV Solar Systems - Clean Power

Food for Thought Part 1
RV Solar Systems - Clean... Quiet Power from the Sun!

The scope of this article is to help give you a grasp of what installing a solar system on your RV can and will do for you.

My first experience with RV solar was back in the summer of 1996. Gasoline was approaching $1.00 per gallon. I had a 32' Allegro class A that got about 4 or 5 miles per gallon towing the boat. I go fishing every weekend and the cost of gas was just killing me... so I looked for a place near my lake that I could leave the motor home and commute to the RV in a my small car.

This plan worked really well until about week three when I discover the coach's deep cycle batteries in my RV were really weak. The short 5 mile drive to and from the lake was not enough time to re-charge the coach batteries after the three day fishing trip. With the small continuous draw of the refrigerator by week four my batteries were dead. The fridge went out during the week and I lost all of my food.

45 Watt Siemens Solar PanelI started searching for a solution to my new problem. Shore power was not available in the lot where I parked my RV. The only option was a solar system. Solar systems for RV's was in its infancy back then. I bought a small 45 watt Siemens solar panel and a very primitive (compared to today's standards) Specialty Concepts Mark 3 solar controller for $600.00. The next weekend I installed my new RV solar system at the lake. Other RVer's at the lake were very interested in what I was doing.

That little 45 watt Siemens solar panel that produced 2.4 amps solved my 12 volt battery charging problem! That weekend I ran the generator long enough to top off the batteries and the short 5 mile drive back to the parking space finished off the job. From that day forward I never had low battery problems again.

To this day I still have the 45 watt Siemens (pictured left). It's now installed on its fourth RV and works like a champ. The Specialty Concepts Mark 3 still works... but it was replaced with a Blue Sky Solar Boost 3024iL MPPT controller.

Today I have a 450 watt of solar system on the roof of my 5th wheel. 450 watts is overkill for the three days a week that I'm out fishing but my goal was invert my 12 volt DC power to 120 volt AC to run my refrigerator while I'm at the lake. May thru August the system works quite well since I'm only in my trailer for three nights, then the trailer gets parked until the next weekend giving the solar system four days to get my industrial deep cycle batteries back up to full charge before I return the next week.

Come September day length starts getting shorter and the sun is lower in the sky and I find the solar system just doesn't put out the power like it did during the summer months. By late September I have to go back to powering the fridge on propane. I do save a lot of propane by running the fridge on AC power, but I could have bought a heck of a lot of propane versus the cost of all the solar equipment and the inverter. What I do with my RV solar system would not work if I lived in the trailer full time. 450 watts is just not enough power for daily usage and running the fridge.

Not a Colorado customer... Skip to part 2 RV Solar System Components

Below is a basic overview of 5 of the RV Solar Systems that we install for our metro Denver and Colorado customers

The 135 Watt RV Solar Maintainer System

The 135 Watt RV Solar Maintainer system is a top notch entry level system designed with high quality components. A 135 watt 7.63 amp Kyocera solar panel powers the system. A Blue Sky Solar Boost 2000E MPPT charge controller regulates the current from the module to the batteries. This system is a good choice for RV's with one or two deep cycle batteries.

The 135 Watt RV Solar Maintainer is an excellent system for weekend warriors as well as those going on extended trips who only use factory installed 12 volt appliances. A small inverter can be used for short periords of time to re-charge devices or power a laptop computer.

270 Watt RV Solar Super-Charger

The 270 Watt RV Solar Super-Charger system is a serious system for serious campers. This system has the ability to replace over 100 amp hours of DC power per day during the summer! Powering the system is two Kyocera 135 watt solar modules controlled by a Blue Sky Solar Boost 2512iX with the IPN remote display. This system is an excellent choice for RV's with two or more batteries.

This system gives you the ability to run all the lights you want... but don't waste your DC power. If the RV has two or more good batteries you'll never have to worry about the heater going out in the middle of the night. You can run a small inverter to power an LCD TV to watch a movie.

Watch out for cloudy weather for several days in a row! Cloudy weather knocks the output of the system way down. When this condition arises it's time to cut back on DC usage. Parking in the shade also knocks the system down.

The 405 Watt Solar RV Mega-Charger

The 405 Watt Solar RV Mega-Charger system is a real power house. We have a couple of full timers out there that are managing to live quite well on 405 watts of solar power and a Magnum inverter. We generally recommend more than 405 watts for full timers, but these folks dry camp for a couple of weeks then hit an RV park for a week or two.

The 405 watt RV solar Mega Charger system has the ability to generate up to 160 amps per day in good conditions. This system is powered by three Kyocera 135's and the Blue Sky 3024iL MPPT solar controller. We recommend that the RV have four deep cycle batteries for this system, or possibly an RV with two batteries who's owners have high day time current usage such as running a mobile home office from the RV.

540 Watt RV Solar Full-Timer System

This fantastic system was designed for the fulltimer. The 540 Watt RV Solar Full-Timer system is powered by four Kyocera 135's and charge current is regulated by the Blue Sky Solar Boost 3024iL MPPT charge controller. This large system can generate over 200 DC amps per day under ideal conditions.

The 540 system will give you the freedom to boondock forever. Unfortunately we've never figured out how to solve the water, propane and black water tank problems. With the 540 Watt RV Solar Full Timer system you can run about anything you wish with the exception of hot water heat and air conditioning. This system requires four or more deep cycle storage batteries.

The 675 Watt RV Solar Full-Timer Plus System

This solar system is inteded for full timers with big rigs and a large battery bank. The 675 Watt RV Solar Full-Timer Plus system is the largest system we can build with a single charge controller. The 675 can produce over 250 amps a day under clear skies. The 675 is powered by five Kyocera 135's. Charge current is regulated by the Morningstar TriStar 60 Amp MPPT solar controller a with remote display.

This RV system is all about energy independence. With the exception of hot water heat, the electric heating element in fireplaces and air conditioning there isn't much you can't do.