Using A Solar Generator On An RV Camping Trip

best solar generator for camper van

Today, over 11% of U.S. households own a recreational vehicle (RV). In fact, a whopping 40 million Americans go RVing regularly. 

In the past, most RV owners carried gas generators onboard, especially those who knew they were travelling to places without power hookups.

The issue with gas generators has always been twofold, noise and pollution. 

Gas generators can emit up to 100 dB. That is the equivalent of noise coming from a construction site.

Next is the pollution. According to California Air Resources Board, the average portable gasoline generator operating at a load of 1.8 kW an hour emits as much pollution as driving a passenger vehicle for 150 miles would.

It is safe to say that RV owners who choose to camp in the middle of pristine wilderness generally try to avoid these two inconveniences in particular, noise and pollution. 

But, over the last decade, solar power has been at the forefront of innovation, and handy new machines such as solar generators have been developed. 

These devices do not emit sound nor pollution and can be recharged for free using the sun. 

While solar generators are a viable alternative to their gas cousins, there are some operating differences that RV owners will need to take into consideration.

Differences Between A Gas & Solar Generator

best solar generator for rv

There are a few main difference between the two technologies, those are: 

  • Noise emission
  • Fuel type
  • Pollution emission 

Noise emission

Gas generators make mechanical noise because of the following components, the engine, cooling fan and alternator. All of these components are needed in order to convert fuel to electricity. 

Solar generators on the other hand use the photovoltaic effect to convert sunlight into electricity. The components needed for this process emit no sound.  

Fuel type

Gas generators can be powered by gasoline, diesel, propane or natural gas. It needs to constantly burn this fuel in order to produce electricity. If this fuel runs out, your gas generator stops working, just like a car would if it ran out of fuel. 

Solar generators also need a "fuel" in order to operate. However, this fuel comes in the form of sunlight. With it, the photovoltaic effect can take place and electricity created. 

Pollution emission

Pollution emission is the direct result of the fuel type used. Gas generators need to burn their fuel in order to produce electricity. The biproduct released from this process results in smog-forming pollution. 

Solar generators do not need to burn anything to produce electricity. Instead the conversion process happens at the molecular level. 

How To Choose The Correct Solar Generator For Your RV

While the benefits of a solar generator are quite apparent, it must be noted that they do function differently than gas generators, and because of this, some adjustments in how you RV must be taken into consideration. 

For example, solar generators store energy collected from the sun. They do not create energy themselves. This stored energy can be used whenever you like. At night, the morning or even on an incredibly cold snowy day. 

However, once this stored energy is used, you will need to convert more sunlight into stored electrical energy to power anymore appliances. 

For this, you will need the sun. 

This means if you run out of energy at night, you will need to wait until the following morning before you can essentially recharge your solar generator. This is why sizing your solar generator correctly is so important. 

Solar generators are sized based on your energy requirements, if you do this correctly, you will never run out of electricity when ou need it. 

How To Size A Solar Generator For Your RV

The easiest way to size a solar generator is to make a list of the appliances you would like to power, their wattage rating and the total time you would like to use them for. 

See the example below: 

Appliance Wattage Usage Time Energy Used
X5 LED Lights 25 5 125 Wh
Portable Fridge 200 3 600 Wh
Fan 10 5 50 Wh
Laptop 60 2 120 Wh
Ice Maker 120  1 120 Wh
415 W N/A 1015 Wh

When you are done you will have a list like this. Note that to calculate the energy used all you have to do is multiply your appliances wattage by the time you will use it. That will give you energy used in Wh. 

Now, all you need to do is make sure that you choose a solar generator that is rated a a minimum of 500 W and 1100 Wh (you always want to over size slightly). 

By doing this you will be sure you will not run our of electricity when you need it. 

what is best solar power generator for a rv

Of course you could get an even bigger solar generator for example our AC200P, which is rated at 2000 W and 2000 Wh. 

This may end up being a smart solution because remember you will need to factor in recharge times. Perhaps you will only want to recharge your generator every second camping day. By sizing above your needs you may only need to recharge every fourth day (depending on your energy using habits).  

Final Thoughts

Solar generators are the perfect energy solution for RVers who want to be more friendly to their immediate environment and wan to escape the overbearing noise that gas generators produce. 

When it comes to sizing your solar generator the sky really is the limit, we have some modular systems such as the AC300 which can store over 18,000 Wh. 

Goodluck running out of electricity with this one. 

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