Air conditioning units in an RV can quickly eat up the power from your onboard generator, leaving you struggling with the scorching temperatures or constantly having to refuel your generator to run all your appliances.
Many RV owners have asked us whether it’s possible to run an RV air conditioner with solar power to help preserve their generator’s power and also to keep costs down to a minimum.
The answer is yes, it is possible to run your RV air conditioners with solar power, however, how efficient it is to do so will depend on several factors.
To find out more, keep on reading!
How To Power Your RV Air Conditioner With Solar Power
Running your air conditioner from solar panels isn’t as simple as just plugging it in and connecting some wires.
There are a handful of components required to be able to efficiently run your air conditioner from your solar panels.
- Solar Panel Array: This is the group of solar panels you’ll have installed on the roof of your RV. This will convert the sunlight into usable energy to power that’s stored in the battery bank to power your AC unit. The more solar panels you have installed on your RV, the more power you’ll be able to generate in a shorter time.
- Battery Bank: The battery bank is where your generated power from your solar panels will be stored and the larger the battery bank, the more power that will be available. Lithium batteries are the best options as they require little maintenance and are lost for a longer time, but will require a larger upfront cost.
- Inverter: Direct current (DC) energy comes from your battery bank but your air conditioner may require alternating current (AC) energy and an inverter will be required to convert it.
When it comes to installing solar power on your RV, one size does not do it all and whether the system will be capable of running your air conditioner will depend on the size of your solar panel array, the size of your battery bank, and also if your inverter is the right size.
How To Install Solar Power Panels Onto Your RV
You can choose to install your solar panels onto your RV yourself, or you could also ask a professional to do so when you buy them to ensure the installation is correct.
There are two types of panels you can use, flexible or rigid ones.
Rigid ones will be screwed into the roof of your RV using a drill whilst flexible ones will use an adhesive material to stick it to the roof’s surface.
If you’re opting for flexible panels, you’ll need to ensure your roof’s surface material is compatible with adhesive material.
Trialing Solar Panel Positions
Lay out your solar panels on the roof of your RV where you’ll think you’ll want to install them and ensure there are no obstructions that could shade the panels.
You’ll also want to make sure no vents or roof doors aren’t blocked by the solar panels.
Try to position them as near to your battery tank as possible to avoid excessive wiring hanging on your RV.
Securing The Hardware
Once you’re happy with the position of your panels, secure the mounting to your RV roof. If they’re rigid panels or use an adhesive sealant if they’re flexible panels.
Install Your Panels
The next step is screwing your solar panels to the mounting hardware and avoiding screwing through and damaging the panel itself.
Organize The Wiring
Run the wires from the solar panels into the battery tank in your RV through a vent or a pipe, or you can choose to drill a new hole.
When the solar panels are connected to your RV’s battery tank you’ll need to run a wire to the RV’s electrical panel or the inverter for the AC side of the panel.
The Pros And Cons: Running RV Air Conditioner With Solar Power
There are benefits and drawbacks to running appliances and other central systems with solar power, some of which will need to be considered before you decide to install them onto your RV.
- Reduces electricity costs - Reduces refueling costs of generator or an external electrical source costs
- Helps you stay off the grid - As you won’t have to plug in or refuel as often, you’ll be able to stay off the grid and avoid going off track following your itinerary
- Renewable energy source - As long as the sun is present you’ll have solar energy and it can be used all over the world
- Low maintenance - They only require some cleaning once or twice a year depending on your traveling and the climate of where you live
- Initial set up costs are high - Acquiring solar panels are not cheap and the installation process and additional equipment needed come at an additional cost
- Can be unreliable - Solar panels rely on direct sunlight and if you hit a bout of cloudy weather then you could be without AC for a few days
Is Installing Solar Power To Run RV Air Conditioners Worth It?
If you have a small RV with restrictive space on your roof, then you won’t be able to install an adequate amount of solar panels to be enough to operate your AC efficiently.
Those who live in their RVs who are taking frequent trips in their RVs (we’re talking every other weekend) may find they benefit from installing solar panels on their rough as it’ll keep their fuel costs down and prevent them from having to constantly roam back into civilization to top up on fuel.