UK households are projected to face an increase of 80% in their energy bills. Inflation predictions expect the UK to hit 22.4% in 2023 with the rising energy costs.
Travelling in your motorhome this year, whether full-time or occasionally, might seem like an ideal option to escape the rising costs of residential energy expenses. Yet, motorhomes can take a large chunk of fuel costs and venturing off-grid means you might also have to bring along fuel generators.
Motorhome solar panels are a cost and environmentally friendly way you can get outdoors and save money. Luckily, we are here to tell you more about how you can make this happen.
In our complete off-grid solar panel guide, we will go over how these solar panels work and the best type for your motorhome. Keep reading on for more information!
How Do Solar Panels Work?
You have likely already heard of solar panels and have a general idea of how they function: through the sun. Let's dive into their components a little deeper.
Each solar panel contains several photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells are the core function behind converting particles of sunlight into electricity. While the process seems simple enough, the amount of electricity generated can differ on any given day based on:
For example, spring to fall typically result in longer days and more sunlight. However, there are other day-to-day considerations, such as cloud cover and local landscape.
Direct sun exposure is not as prevalent as you may think since it passes through clouds, dust, air molecules, and more. Cloudy days can reduce solar energy by almost 100%, so it is crucial you consider the weather and location when buying an RV and solar panels.
Benefits of Solar Energy
One of the primary benefits of using solar panels for your campervan or RV is the ability to travel off-grid. RV solar panels carry many similar benefits as residential, such as:
- Reduced overall energy costs
- Renewable energy source
- Lower installation and production costs
- Storage and generator options
- Low maintenance
Over time, your solar panels will degrade, but most are equipped with warranties and have better durability than other electrical systems. In a campervan or RV, you don't always have the luxury of booking sites with electrical hookups.
You have two options: pay higher prices or live without electricity. If you aren't near a place with RV hookups, you are also limited in the regions you can travel to. Motorhome and campervan solar panels are ideal for individuals and families who want adventure with environmentally friendly electricity options.
Types of Solar Panels
There are two primary types of solar panels: roof tiles or ground set-up. Roof tiles are commonly used on residential or commercial buildings. They are strategically placed on roof areas that receive the most direct sunlight year-round.
In an RV or campervan, you don't have that luxury. You are constantly on the move, and it becomes less of a necessity to have roof installation. The downside of using roof solar panels is you have to be more mindful of where you park or camp.
Do you sacrifice optimal solar energy for a nice shaded spot? The other option is ground set-ups.
You are probably less familiar with these systems, but they can be ideal for the adventurer at heart. These types of solar panels are easy to pack on the go, foldable, and can be arranged anywhere there is a relatively flat surface.
Unlike residential panels, you won't be mounting your ground solar panels. Yet, there are several other advantages of ground solar panels, like:
- Improving roof space/usage
- Improved efficiency
- Easier to install
Rather than hiring a professional for installation and maintenance, portable ground units are more manageable as a DIY camper. Ground solar panels can also be more efficient than rooftop panels by 10% to 45%. Lastly, it leaves room on your roof for additional storage or racks.
What Size Solar Panel Do You Need?
When looking at solar panels for camping, you obviously don't require as much energy as your home. You also have to debate whether you want to live fully off-grid or use solar panels and generators as a backup energy supply.
The most common portable ground solar panels will range from 120 watts to 350 watts. The higher the wattage, the larger the unit, on average.
For example, the BLUETTI PV350 solar panel folds up into 35.6 x 24.1 x 2.5 inches (90.5 x 61.3 x 6.5 cm). This makes it easy to tote around in the car or motorhome and only weighs 30.61 lbs. While your solar panel size and watts affect how much electricity you generate, you can also use a solar generator.
In terms of energy, solar panels use kilowatts per hour (kWh). This stands for one kilowatt of energy over the course of an hour and will fluctuate drastically based on your geographical location. At BLUETTI, we compared London and California based on the PV350.
Since London is much further north and prone to cloudier days, the annual system output is anywhere from 250 to 320 kWh. In California, the number increases to 536 to 577 kWh.
What Are Solar Generators?
Solar generators are also known as backup power systems. They are portable and easy-to-carry units that can charge various electronics. A solar generator works through a few simple steps:
- Collecting solar energy via solar panels
- Storing excess energy into batteries
- Using an inverter to convert to usable energy sources
When considering solar panels for campervan travel, you can't neglect generators. They supply additional energy not directly used by the solar panels. They utilise lithium batteries that help supply energy during power outages or travel.
Unlike other generators, you won't need to carry additional fuel, making it an excellent option for greener energy sources. In return, this also makes repairs fewer and further between, improving maintenance and upkeep.
Additionally, these generators are much quieter than fuel-operated ones, making them ideal when trying to enjoy nature's sounds while powering your fridge or electronics. Lithium batteries are arguably your best option when choosing a battery to store energy. Some of the benefits of using high-quality batteries are:
- Longer life cycles
- High rate discharge
- Higher performance
- Improved safety
Ultimately, your solar panels need something to connect to that can power your devices and appliances. Combining solar panels and generators offers free sources of energy after upfront costs.
It also reduces greenhouse emissions and prevents food waste by allowing you to power your refrigerator and store leftovers. Lastly, using solar-operated generators means you are using durable machines that should last 25 years or longer, which is nearly five times the average life expectancy of fuel-operated generators.
Are Battery Expansions Worth It?
Battery expansions connect to your generator and allow for additional outlets and plugs. You can charge these extension batteries with your solar panel or car outlet. If you have a larger motorhome or are travelling with a group of friends or family, you may find the expansion packs worth the cost.
Do You Need Motorhome Solar Panels?
There are two primary types of motorhome travellers: full-time and casual use. Solar panels can benefit both groups by offering clean, renewable energy sources that can last for decades and save you money on additional fuel costs.
For remote adventures or people who live full-time in their motorhome, solar panels are essential for off-grid where other energy supplies are few and far between. Your other options are using backup fuel generators or running your appliances off car batteries.
Fuel generators can be costly, noisy, and dangerous if not handled properly. Running appliances off your motorhome's battery is not meant for long-term use and can also eat into fuel costs.
Along with backup batteries, think about purchasing LED lights for another environmentally friendly approach to remote living or camping. LED lights use less energy and are more durable than other lights.
How To Clean Your Solar Panels
You will want to clean your solar panels regularly to help with efficiency. Dust and dirt are two culprits limiting how much energy your panels produce.
The easiest way you can clean your solar panels is by running cold water over the top. For heavier cleaning, try using pressurised hoses or soft-bristled brushes.
How To Find Motorhome Solar Panels
When investing in motorhome solar panels, you need a reputable company with excellent online customer reviews. You may also want to prioritise costs, portability, and ease of maintenance.
BLUETTI offers several high-end solar panel products perfect for use with motorhomes, campervans, and for other outdoor uses. All our solar panels are foldable, lightweight, and durable. We supply several generators and backup batteries to fuel every type of motorhome and recreational vehicle that is ready to hit the road this summer.
Check out our products today to get started!