Converting your RV to solar power is an investment and like any other solid investment, it’s going to cost some money up front. While it may be costly in the moment, converting to solar power will save you money in the long run and cut your emissions down in the process.
The total cost of RV solar panel installation will range anywhere from $1,000-$10,000+ depending on your needs. You also need to factor in if you want it done professionally. RV warehouses and installation companies may offer deals so that’s something to keep in mind too.
The number of solar panels, mounting equipment, and possible professional installation costs all need to be kept in mind when determining the total cost of your solar power system.
While it may seem financially costly to go solar in your RV, doing so comes with many other benefits:
- You end up saving money in the long run. If you use solar energy regularly, you’ll end up saving money because you have less-to-no need for propane and fuel.
- You have no need for fuel. Using solar energy means less gasoline and other non-renewable resources. This means few greenhouse gas emissions and a cleaner environment.
- You don’t have to worry about noisy generators. RVs that use propane generators get pretty noisy. Solar power, on the other hand, is virtually silent.
- They’re easy to maintain. It’s so easy to clean solar panels and you only need to do so once every couple of six months or so.
Cost Of Solar Panels
If you haven’t yet purchased your panels, use an energy calculator to determine how many panels you’ll need. This is where you decide whether you want to go full or partial-solar. Many RVers who choose to go partial-solar utilize three 100W solar panels for their solar power. However, if you choose to go full-solar, you’ll need to spend more money to get more wattage.
Once you’ve calculated your required wattage, you need to decide how many panels you want and the wattage range of each panel.
Cost Of Installation Components
Along with the actual solar panel, you’ll need the installation components to successfully mount it to your RV. These components can be bought separately but there are plenty of full kits available that come with panels and components as well.
When sold separately, installation components like mountain brackets, entries, and cable wires range in price from $5-$30. If you prefer to buy your components separate from your solar panels, here’s what you’ll need:
- Mounting brackets
- Bolts and screws
- Weatherproof cable entry plates (to protect against the elements)
- Solar connectors
- Wire crimpers
- Spanner wrench
If you aren’t much of a DIYer, hiring a professional may be your best bet for installation. This is a costly undertaking so hiring a professional ensures you won’t break what you spent your hard-earned money on. Not to mention you won’t risk losing any warranties that came with your panels to begin with.
Professional solar installers know how to install efficiently and effectively, taking one more thing off your plate here. The tricky thing with solar professionals though is they’re typically full time RV travellers too so it may be difficult to track someone down.
Depending on where you live or plan to travel, there may be a local business that specializes in solar panel installation. You may decide to get a quote done and configure that into your total installation costs.
Your total installation cost won’t just include the solar panels and mounting equipment but it’ll also include extra RV batteries or lithium battery upgrades. Lithium RV batteries tend to last longer, so many RVers choose to upgrade so they don’t have to worry about energy drain as often.
A good rule of thumb to have is that for every 300W of solar power, one 12V battery will suffice. So if you use 1200W of solar power total, it’s smart to have four 12V batteries total. Quality RV batteries typically cost anywhere from $500-$1000.
How Many Solar Panels Do Most RVers Use?
The general consensus among RVers is three 100W solar panels. However, if you plan to convert to full-solar, you will need much more wattage than this amount.
How Do I Find A Professional Solar Installer?
Take some time to look up different companies in your area. Solar energy is still a relatively new concept, so there aren’t many brick and mortar shops yet. You’ll find that many solar professionals are also full-time travelers and don’t stay in one place for very long.
Do I Have To Install Solar Panels To The Roof Of My RV?
Not necessarily. While this is the route most people take, you can also purchase portable solar panels that can mount to the back or sides of your RV. Keep in mind though, your solar panels will absorb the sun’s light much easier on the roof than they would in a different part of the RV.
Is It Legal For Me To Install My Solar Panels By Myself?
Currently, there aren’t any laws against installing RV solar panels if you aren’t a professional. As a matter of fact, DIY RV solar panel installation is quite popular in the RV community. It may be smart to do this job with a friend so you can be sure each panel is securely installed.
RV solar panels may be an investment but knowing the costs ahead of time make the decision to go solar a little less intimidating. Whether you decide to DIY or go with a pro, the panels themselves, the installation equipment, and possible labor costs all need to be taken into consideration when calculating cost.
But remember, knowing the size and energy needs of your RV is the biggest factor in determining your final total.