RVing across the country has always been a dream of mine. As I write this article my children are still quite young but I hope that within the next ten years the wife and I can purchase an RV for ourselves and start cruising around the country visiting places I’ve always wanted to. One of my wife’s dreams is to live off-grid. To not be connected to any power source at all except your own. There are many RVers out there today that do this already. It is known as dry-docking or boondocking. It has gotten quite popular in recent time. These folks want the ultimate nature experience. They want self reliance.
No matter how dedicated you are to dry docking chances are you are going to need some kind of power source eventually. Some folks rely on the batteries on their RV. When the batteries charge has been drained they start their RV up and move onto somewhere else. In most cases this could give you two days of solid dry docking. With batteries you are still limited to that two, maybe three, day window. Another option is to bring a generator with you with its own fuel source. The problem with these though is that they can be very loud and they eat fuel. So you are now limited by the amount of fuel that you bring. Not to mention the noise can kill the mood of the camping adventure. There is one more solution though folks that many people are turning to. That is solar power.
Solar & Wind Power
Over the years solar power has become more and more popular. It is a green an energy efficient way to produce power. It also allows you to go truly off-grid when boon-docking. If you think about it even when you are relying on generators you are still reliant on having a constant fuel source of gasoline, diesel, or propane. With a solar system all you need is the sun. It truly gives you freedom to live that off-grid lifestyle.
These systems come with a set of solar panels which then feeds into what is known as an ‘Amp Controller.’ These are also called ‘Charge Controllers.’ These controllers prevent your batteries from overcharging. For those of you who do not know, overcharging can completely ruin your battery, so it is a good protection to have. When purchasing a solar system there are two types of controllers to choose from. The first is known as pulse width modulation charge controller (PWM) and the second is maximum power point tracking charge controller (MPPT). The MPPT is more efficient and the better choice over the two but it is more expensive, so it is a matter of preference.
Along with choosing what type of charge controller you want you also need to figure out what size charge controller you need for your application. These sizes, or power levels, are calculated in amps. To successfully charge your batteries using solar power you need to ensure your charge controller has more amps then your solar panels and battery combined. To determine this all you need to do is divide the watts of your solar panel by the number of volts in your batteries. So, for an example let’s say you have 1 twelve volt battery and 100 watts solar panel. The formula becomes 100 watts / 12 volts = 8.33. So, by using that 8.33 number we know that our charge controller has to have amperage of 9 or above. If you had 2 twelve volt batteries then you would multiple the twelve volts to get a number of twenty-four volts and so on and so on.
While the 9 amp charge controller will get the job done in the above example it may be worth your time to invest in a larger charge controller in case you want to increase the wattage of your solar panel down the road. I’ve always been a firm believer that it is better to buy bigger with room to expand then to buy the smallest size and have to end up buying it all over again when it does come time to expand. In this example solar kit from Amazon we can see that it comes with one-hundred watt solar panels and a thirty amp charge controller. This gives you plenty of room to expand your solar panels if you wish to down the road.
There are even some folks out there that have opted for using wind turbines to power their motor-homes. These wind turbines work the same as the solar system. They come with a charge controller as well. The only real difference is that the turbine needs to be setup and they are NOT meant for travelling. Wind turbine power is something I would recommend if your RV is mostly stationary on your land. They are not legal to operate while driving and it can be a hassle to have to set them up each time you stop. This is why it makes the most sense if you are living out of your RV on your land. You also need to ensure that you have enough wind to support it.
It is not all roses and sunshine when it comes to using solar power folks. Getting these power supplies setup can be a hassle especially if you are going to be changing camping location every few days. Along with the setup you will notice that these are far more expensive then your standard generator. Lastly, like it or not there will be times where the sun isn’t shining. It could be a rain storm. It could just be an over cast day. Whatever the reason is you should expect some days not to provide you with a maximum charge.
When it is all said and done though folks I like the idea of solar power. It gives you an environmentally friendly option for power. It allows you to go off-grid without having an environmental impact. If there are days where you cannot get full power due to overcast then so be it. You take it in stride and hope for a better day tomorrow. After all, no one said that going off grid would be easy, now did they?
Thanks for reading,