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Monday, 11 July 2016 16:09

Solar Power 101 for Your Motorhome

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Adding a solar power system to your motorhome will give you plentiful, continuous power for your offsite excursions. Understanding how the system works will help you get the right system for your motorhome and give you enough knowledge to troubleshoot your system if it isn’t working properly. Whether ordering a new motorhome with solar capabilities or installing a system on your current RV, solar power can give you hours of quiet, free electricity.

Basics of a Solar Power System

solar power kitThe key component of a solar power system, the solar panels, is what creates the power to charge the bank of batteries that store energy for your use. Producing a maximum voltage of 17 to 21 volts, panels provide enough voltage to charge a twelve-volt battery. Solar panels are usually affixed to the roof and have mounting brackets that hold them flat or mounts that enable you to lower them when underway. Mounting brackets can be affixed that give you the ability to align them with the sun for optimum performance.

Although panels can be mounted flat, they tend to build up a lot of heat that lessens their performance, while adjustable panels are more effective.

The remainder of the system is comprised of a combiner box that combines the power of two or more solar panels, circuit breakers, and a charge controller that reduces the voltage coming from the panels to the batteries. This keeps the higher voltage solar panel from overcharging your batteries. An inverter is used to convert the 12-volt power of the batteries into 110-volt power for your onboard appliances and other electrical devices.

How much Power do you Need?

What you want to power up when on your off grid treks, and for how long, will determine the number of panels and batteries you will need for your solar power system. Measured in amp hours, a 100 ah battery should, in theory, provide one amp of power for 100 hours, two amps for 50 hours, 3 amps for 33 hours, four amps for 25 hours and five amps for 20 hours and so on. You will need to consider the number of amp hours used per day to determine the number of solar panels and batteries needed, based on projected energy consumption.

To give you an idea of usage consider the following. One light used for four hours can consume six amps of power over that period. Likewise, 45 minutes of water pump usage can burn through another 3.75 amp hours. Two hours of TV programming can use another eight amp hours, and clocks and led pilot lights can use two amp hours. This doesn’t seem like much but when added together you have used 31.75 amp hours of battery power, which means that one 100-amp hour battery will only power your motorhome for about three days because you are depleting the batteries capacity by 32 percent, every day.

If this is all of the power that you need, then that is great because one battery, using a one-panel solar recharger will be the least expensive route for you to take and provide ample power for your use. If you need more power more solar panels and batteries will need to be added to your system. If you also have a generator on board or spend your time at Cypress Trail and other motorhome resorts, you will not need as much capacity as those who like to spend their time in the boondocks.

Solar Power Motorhome FAQ

Can you do it yourself?

There are many aftermarket solutions for motorhome solar power systems and if you are handy with tools, you may be able to install your system yourself. For those who prefer professional installation, solar power systems are an option on many new motorhome models and available for installation on your current RV.

Are you powered up?

Every amp hour requires one-half watt of solar power for a recharge and in order to get that wattage, you will require full sun. The scenario of 31.75 watts of power usage will require 63.5 watts of solar input to maintain fully charged batteries.

Affordable Alternative

Motorhome solar battery charger systems that produce 100 watts can be found for under $200, and the money that they save you on fuel for your generator will return that expense quickly.

Motorhome solar battery charger systems that produce 100 watts can be found for under $200, and the money that they save you on fuel for your generator will return that expense quickly.

Read 3410 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 October 2016 14:22