Fun in the Sun: Powering Your RV with Solar

Living in Portland, Oregon, the sun is not something we take for granted seeing how we average only 144 sunny days a year. When the sun does decide to shine down and grace us with its presence, we get out there and soak it up (with appropriate SPF of course.)

So I’m sure you can imagine the lack of sympathy I have for my friend, a pilot who lives in the Portland area, who due to the economy was recently transferred and is now based out of Los Angeles where they have on average 291 sunny days a year.  Even though he’s living in an RV in the LAX parking lot 3 weeks out of every month, I’m pretty sure I’d trade places with him, at least for a little while.

On his last visit home, we got to talking about life in the RV and the sudden demise of its generator. With a family at home in Portland and a second “household” (RV-hold?) in L.A. to support, he’s been looking into the most cost efficient way to power the RV appliances and miscellaneous gadgets like his computer and cell phone. He asked what I thought about going solar. Given there’s no shortage of sun in Los Angeles, especially on an airport tarmac, it seems like a no-brainer. I told him I thought it was a great idea, and here’s why.

First of all, solar panels are quiet, unlike a generator. Nothing can ruin the peacefulness and tranquility of the great outdoors quite the roar of a generator coming to life as campers start their morning coffee. In the case of my friend who’s living at an airport, I’m not sure the noise factor is as relevant, but if you’re using your RV in a campground, your neighbors will thank you.

In addition, solar panels require little to no maintenance (the occasional removal of bird “bombs” aside) and because there’s no gasoline, diesel or kerosene used as there would be with a generator, there’s no pollution or emissions generated, so mother nature will thank you, too! 

Some people may argue that solar panels are too expensive and noise and pollution benefits aren’t worth the additional cost.  However, today’s solar panels are really cost competitive. If you’re in doubt, consider this: a gas powered generator can run anywhere from $1500 – $3000 (or more depending on the size of your RV and energy needs).

For roughly the same price you can purchase an RV solar kit which comes with everything you need to get started including the panel, charge controller, inverter, roof mounts, and cables. And if you find you have greater energy needs, additional solar panels can easily be added.

Probably the biggest incentive for people considering a switch to solar is the substantial long term cost savings on fuel. Those having already made the switch estimate they save around $500 a year by not buying gas for their generator. So all things considered, assuming an equal life span of 5 years for both a generator and solar panels, you could see a total savings of nearly $2500 by installing solar panels on your RV. If you’re in the market to upgrade or replace your RV’s generator, consider going solar; by going green you can save green, too!

RV Solar Kits

Posted in Solar.

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