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 240 Volt battery charger to maintain the battery when connected to the electricity grid.
However, in a remote location (like most National Parks) 240V 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 (Watt-hours)
To determine the daily power usage you need to sum up the equipment you want to run. You can use our solar system design calculator to ease this task.
Desired level of autonomy (how long before you start driving?)
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 an excellent battery charger under the bonnet.
Design constraints of the vehicle (roof size, battery compartment).
Compare the available roof space to common solar panel dimensions. Also, lead-acid batteries, even valve regulated ones, need to be in a vented area – which means not in the cabin.
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 three solar systems based on the assumption that your vehicle remains stationary for extended periods of time. Displayed prices are in Australian Dollar and include GST. Additional charges will apply for cabling, fusing, installation accessories and labour (if needed).