Are Solar Panels Right For You?

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September 23, 2008

Solar power is growing in popularityAre Solar Panels Right for You?
Simply put, solar power uses the sun’s energy to charge 12-volt DC appliances like lighting, stereos, TV, and other appliances. Although solar power is free, solar panels can be expensive. Are they worth the cost?

If you’re serious about exploring the back country, enjoying the solitude of desert camping, experiencing the quiet of the outdoors, wanting to cut the umbilical cord to commercial power hookups or simply shrinking your carbon footprint, then yes, solar power is right for you.

Solar systems are clean, quiet and require minimum maintenance. The main considerations are cost, space, weight and efficiency. If you’re reluctant to go solar, remember that you don’t have to go all in all at once. You can add or modify your system, and you can continue using commercial hook-ups (either as a backup plan or as your primary power source).

Solar Power Panel Sizes
The most cost-effective solar panels are larger ones (rated at 100 to 120 watts). Opt for the fewest number of panels and batteries in the beginning. You can always add more at a later time.

Since everyone’s power usage / requirements are different, you’ll need to calculate your anticipated power usage. Simply multiply the estimated hours of use by the approximate current (amps @ 12 volts) for the amp hours consumed.

Keeping Cool with Solar
There isn’t enough space on the roof of even the largest luxury coach to hold the number of solar power panels it would take to power an air-conditioning unit. However, a 750 cfm fan is rated at 2.5 amps and can easily be powered with solar panels.

How to Power AC Appliances
There are two choices for AC appliances: either use a generator or other backup power source when using AC appliances, or invest in an inverter, which will convert the AC amps to 12-volt DC output.

Energy Management
You’ll need to plan properly to keep your batteries fully charged. Some important factors about managing solar power:

– Mount your panels on the roof, near the refrigerator vent
– Aim the panels toward the sun for maximum output
– Purchase a charge controller to prevent battery overcharging
– Be resourceful and conserve energy

This article was brought to you by Good Sam RV Emergency Road Service, the leader in RV Roadside Assistance.

Leave a Reply

11 comments

  1. Steve

    For Low power air conditioning look into swamp coolers.
    They are basically the same concept that they use in buildings where using water evaporation as the chilling agent.

    They do come in vehicle and house sizes.
    The main problem with them is they don’t work well in a high humidity area.
    So where I live in Ontario Canada They are only usable on rare days.
    But if you are in Arizona you could probably make ice with the things.

    Check the Wiki explanation here.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporative_cooling

  2. Al Normand

    In Ref: Are Solar pannels for you. Our inverter changes 12 volt DC to 120V ac.
    Do we have a type “O” in this story?

  3. DENNIS CARLSON

    IN THE PARAGRAPH “HOW TO POWER AC APPLIANCES” AN INVERTER CHANGES 12 VOLT DC TO IIO VOLT AC . SMALL REVERSE ERROR THERE!

  4. I have use two 100w panels on two 5er’s for over 8 years, my converter never runs when we are in a camp ground.

  5. One thing that can offset a fair amount of the cost of your solar system is the alternative energy tax allowances available. Assuming that your RV can qualify for a 2nd home there are some really good incentives out there for investing in solar. I got back about $1,000.00 last year from my investment in my system.

  6. I’ve recently taken a fascination with green energy, especially solar panels. I’ve just set up a blog about RV solar panels, and in my quest to learn more about them to explain their practical uses to others, I’ve stumbled across your very own blog.

    It’s hard to say so much about RV solar panels, or any renewable energy application really, in just a few sentences, so it’s easy to see why you’ve dedicated an entire section of your blog to help other learn more about them.

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