One question we always get asked is, should I get solar panels for my campervan? and our answer is always yes, you absolutely should!
Solar panels are a great way to power your camper van. They provide you with clean, renewable energy that you can use to run your appliances and keep your lights on.
If you can make the most of getting a free source of power then we believe it’s worth the investment, especially when you are on the move and travelling all the time and may not have another suitable power source.
There are however a few things to consider when choosing solar panels for your camper van. You’ll need to consider things such as the size of the panel, what type of panel to choose and also the cost. Hopefully we can give you the information you need in this blog post to choose the perfect solar panels for your campervan.
Are Solar Panels on a Campervan worth it?
Solar Panels are able to provide an eco-friendly source of power, they’re very versatile in their installation, plus they can offer a great return on investment too.
Solar panels work by harnessing the sun’s energy and converting it into electrical power. This solar electricity can then be used to run various appliances and lights within your campervan.
One of the great things about solar power is that it’s completely renewable. Unlike fossil fuels, the sun’s energy is in infinite supply and will never run out. Solar panels are also very low maintenance, meaning once they’re installed, you can pretty much forget about them.
Another big plus for solar panels is their versatility. They can be installed on the roof of your campervan, or on a separate stand if you prefer. This means that you can position them to maximise their sun exposure, regardless of where your van is parked.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of all though is the financial return you can get from solar panels. The initial investment may be quite high, but over time, you’ll make this back – and then some. Solar panels typically have a lifespan of around 25 years, so they really are a long-term investment.
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly way to power your campervan, solar panels are definitely worth considering. With so many benefits, it’s no wonder they’re becoming increasingly popular.
But which solar panels should you get? Keep reading to find out more information on the different types of solar panels.
What Types of Solar Panels are Best for a Campervan
There are three main types of solar panels you can use for your campervan or motorhome, these are:
Rigid Solar Panels: A rigid solar panel is a type of photovoltaic (PV) module which is designed to be mounted on the roof or on the top of a campervan. The main advantage of this type of solar panel is that it can withstand heavy snow and other forms of weathering, thus prolonging its lifecycle and increasing its overall efficiency.
This type of solar panel is ideal for those who live in colder climates and who want to live off-grid as well as for any campervans travelling through landscapes with heavy snowfall.
While these panels are not recommended for use where there are high levels of humidity, they do allow you to power your campervan even when there’s no sun in sight.
Flexible Solar Panels: Flexible solar panels, also known as rollable solar panels, are a new and promising technology. They are created from polycrystalline silicon on a thin flexible substrate made of PET or PP plastic.
They can be rolled up like carpeting or fabric and stored in an easy to carry case. Once they are unrolled, they can be attached to the roof of a vehicle with Velcro strips that run along the edges of the panel so that it is held down firmly on top of the car’s surface.
Flexible solar panels were designed specifically for people who might need emergency power in their campervan or motorhome. There is still more research needed before these items will become more widely available on the market and cost less money. They are currently fairly expensive when compared with traditional rigid PV modules which have been around for many years longer than this new design has been developed.
Portable Solar Panels: These are really for people who can’t add solar to the roof of a campervan but still want to make use of the suns power. These can be folded out and placed on the ground, great for people who only need a small amount of power and great for smaller vans.
What Solar Panels do we have on our Motorhome
We have 480W of solar power and we have 2 panels, one is 360W and the other is 120W. We had an idea that we wanted around 500W of power to ensure that we had enough for what we needed, which is to go off-grid as much as possible and also work remotely in our motorhome. This is why we tried to get as close to that as possible with 480W, and the two panels that we have are the ones that fitted best on our roof space.
An exact list of the equipment that we got for our solar set up is –
- 1 x 360W Solar Panel
- 1 x 120w Solar Panel
- 1 x Victron Energy SmartSolar MPPT 100V 30 amp 12/24-Volt Solar Charge Controller (Bluetooth)
- 2 x CraigSolar.co.uk Solar Cable Pair of 5M 4mm2 cable Red/Black with Mc4 plugs attached
- 2 x Solar Double Cable Entry Gland
- 2 x Mounting Bracket X4 (WHITE) CraigSolar.co.uk
If you’re thinking about how much solar you need, check out our full post on this where we have contacted van life YouTubers to find out about their solar panel set up – What size solar panel for my campervan
Understanding your Power usage
Your leisure battery produces 12V to power your campervans electrics, so to work out how much power it will drain from your campervan batteries, take its power rating and divide by 12.
For example, a 19W iPhone charger draws a current of 19W divided by 12V = 1.583A. If you left this on charge for 4 hours a day you would need to work out that 1.583 x 4 = 7Ah, so this is what you’d need every day from your battery to power that single iPhone charger.
So, this is a great way to work out the biggest items that will be drawing the most power on a daily basis and see how much power you might be consuming.
Campervan Power, energy and capacity
Power in watts (W) = current in amps (A) x voltage in volts (V)
Energy in watt hours (Wh) = power in watts (W) x time in hours (h)
Battery capacity in amp hours (Ah) = energy in watt hours (Wh) / voltage in volts (V)
Can you fit Solar Panels on a campervan?
Solar panels can be fitted to any campervan, regardless of size or shape. They can be installed on the roof, or on a separate stand if preferred. This means that you can position them to maximise their sun exposure, regardless of where your van is parked.
Installing solar panels is generally a fairly straightforward process. However, it’s always best to get professional help to ensure that the job is done properly. This is particularly important if you’re not confident in working with electrical wiring.
We decided not to take the risk with installing our own solar panels as we were not confident with electrical wiring and had never done anything like this before. We were heading off on a long European trip and didn’t want to take the risk of us not installing them correctly and then not getting any solar power whilst we were away, so this is why we decided to get a professional to fit ours.
If you do decide to install solar panels yourself, be sure to read the instructions carefully and follow them to the letter. Also, make sure that you have all the necessary tools and equipment before you start.
With solar panels, you can power your Campervan and enjoy clean, renewable energy. Choose the right size and type of panel for your needs and be sure to compare prices before you buy. With a little research, you can find the perfect solar panels for your campervan and start enjoying your free power!
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You can take a look at some of our other van life posts which include lots and lots of hints and tips on all things van life here – Van Life – Travel Information, Hints, Tips and Advice (threeasabird.com)
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I have always wanted to travel and luckily I always got to travel to some amazing countries while I was growing up with my family and this really encouraged me to continue this and get out into the world on my own when I was older.
My goal growing up was really to see as much of the world as I could, but then I started going to work and really concentrating on my career and travel took a back seat. I still tried to get away a few times a year but I always knew there was an end goal which was to travel as much as possible.
So I got my head down and worked as hard as I could as an e-commerce manager. I have always been techy, I love computers and websites, so that’s where it gave me the idea to start this blog and also have my own web design agency. If you want to check it out or need any help then please take a look rrwebdesign.co.uk (shameless plug there)
But after covid, we both knew this was now the right time to take the leap and go and see the world after being trapped inside our house and working from home for a couple of years. We realised more than ever that you only get one life and you really need to make the most of it and do what you love!