Solar Power in Recreational Vehicles
Camp anywhere – with Solar Powered Caravans or Motor Homes
Most modern caravans or motor homes have a 12 volt or 24 volt battery system ex factory. These systems are charged by the vehicle's alternator while the engine is running and often incorporate a 230 volt battery charger to maintain the battery when connected to the electricity grid.
However, in a remote location (like most National Parks) 230V is rarely available. Without an alternative power supply, running a generator or the engine is the only way to re-charge the batteries which of course spoils the desired benefit of camping remotely.
Solar panels are an excellent way to keep your batteries charged while enjoying the serenity. Solar modules are quiet, don't smell, last for 20 years or more, require hardly any maintenance and - these days - are very affordable.
We sell both 12 volt and 24 volt (nominal) solar panels to match the RV's battery voltage. The panels come in various shapes and sizes to suit most vehicles/installation areas.
Portable Solar Panels
For smaller vehicles we recommend portable solar panels. Ideally, you park your camper in the shade for comfort, and place the solar panel a few meters away in full sun. The installation costs are minimal (if any) and you do not need framing. As mentioned above, solar panels come in various sizes to suit any storage area. Some solar panels have legs to easily adjust the angle (legs can also be retrofitted). To get the most out of your panels you can adjust the position a few times a day – tracking the sun. Some panels are foldable and have a carrying handle.
Roof Top Solar Panels
If the vehicle is large enough the solar panels can also be mounted to its roof. While manual tracking is more efficient than roof top installations, veteran campers often prefer the stationary option – mostly for sheer convenience and peace of mind. It's vacation time after all.
As the solar panels will have to withstand strong head winds and constant vibrations, we highly recommend a professional installation. Rainbow Power Company has over 20 years experience in retrofitting motor homes or caravans with solar power. View some photos.
Read more about solar systems for motor homes.
Calculate your Motor Home Power Usage
To calculate how much power you need you will need to determine following:
Daily power usage
To determine the daily power usage you need to sum up the equipment you want to run. Our calculators (available for all our systems) make this task quick & easy.
Desired level of autonomy
If you want to camp remotely and stay put for extended periods you need a larger system than those who drive around a lot (the alternator is a powerful battery charger). Our system examples are based on 3 day autonomy.
Design constraints of the vehicle
Compare the available roof space to common solar panel dimensions. The cheapest panels are often also the biggest ones. Furthermore, battery compartments must not only be big enough but be vented to the outside.
While added as last point to this list, it could be the most important one to answer.
Retrofit your campervan with extra power
We compiled a few off-grid solar system for different vehicle types & sizes (vans/trailers/caravans, buses or trucks) based on three days autonomy (assuming no sunshine or other charging source for 3 full days). These examples are meant as a preliminary guide only. The examples are for complete systems but do not include cost for cables, framing and installation.
For an accurate quote including installation and cable cost we need to see the vehicle. Once you've reviewed a system design that was based on your power needs and budget, we have to determine whether it physically fits into your vehicle. Drop in when you are in our beautiful town. There is a camp-ground next door (with swimming pool in summer); or you can set up camp in our backyard if you are happy with basic facilities (compost toilet). Best to book in an appointment for a detailed quote.