If you’re the type of person who likes to head out into the woods and spend some time completely off-grid, an RV is definitely a good investment. That said, the RV alone is not going to cover all of your needs. You’ll also need some way to get electricity in order to power your appliances and stay comfortable.
In many cases, a generator works just fine for any off-grid electricity needs you might have. That said, if you boondock often, and especially if you do so for extended periods of time, you might want to look into getting a solar setup for your rig.
How Much Does It Cost to Install Solar Panels on an RV?
There are a few different benefits to having an RV solar setup. These include:
- No need for shore power
- No need for a noisy generator
- No fuel required
- Little maintenance involved
- Fewer carbon emissions
- Cost-effective if used often
In order to determine if putting solar panels on your RV is something you want to do, you’ll probably want to know the answer to the frequently asked question, “How much does it cost to install solar panels on an RV?” In this article, we will discuss just that.
Solar-Powered RV Price
The first thing you’ll need to figure out when determining how much RV solar panels cost is exactly what you’ll need to fulfill your needs. For this reason, we often hear RV owners ask, “How much solar for my RV?” The answer to this can vary from person to person.
In this section, we will discuss some options and give you the typical solar panel cost for RV motorhomes and trailers.
Run Some Things
Those who wish to run everything except the fridge, microwave, and air conditioner should be happy with a 400-watt system. These individuals will still need a small generator in order to run the refrigerator off a separate, generator-charged battery.
A system like this will cost around $3,500–$4,500 total. This includes all installation components.
Add Some More
The next step up is an 800-watt system, which can run all of your small appliances while giving you some leeway to work with. Unfortunately, you still won’t be able to run an air conditioner or fridge, and microwave use will be limited with this kind of system, meaning a generator will likely still be necessary.
A system like this will cost around $4,100–$5,700 total. This includes all installation components.
All Except The A/C
For those campers who need a refrigerator, we recommend adding an extra 400 watts by installing a 1200-watt system. This will allow you to run pretty much anything you like aside from the air conditioner, provided you watch your usage when using appliances that consume a lot of power.
Having a solar setup this size pretty much removes the need for a generator, though you might still want to have one on hand for emergencies.
A system like this will cost around $4,700–$5,700 total. This includes all installation components.
Run It All
If you want to be able to run absolutely everything using only solar power, you will need a system that produces around 21,500 watts per day. Unfortunately, this is difficult to do well, as you will likely run out of room on your roof. Therefore, we recommend heading far north in the summer or heading to a campground if you absolutely need to run the air conditioner.
Assuming you can find a way to install it, a system like this will cost somewhere in the ballpark of $9,500–$10,500 total. This includes all installation components.
RV Solar Installation Cost
Now that you have an idea of how much solar panels for RVs cost, it’s time to discuss RV solar installation. If you are at all handy, you should be able to install your solar panels and other system components on your own.
In order to do this you will need all of the following:
- Charge controller
- Mounting gear
Charge Controller and Inverter
Some solar kits include a charge controller, inverter, and/or mounting gear, but not all of them do. Be sure to check carefully to see what your kit includes and what you will need to buy separately.
Inverters turn the DC power produced by your solar setup into AC power. They are necessary to put any of the electricity produced to use. These range in cost from $150–$350 or more.
A charge controller ensures your batteries don’t become overcharged. It also prevents battery drainage by shutting the system down if the batteries get too low. These can be found for under $100.
Batteries are one of the most expensive of the installation components, and won’t be included in any kits. There are several types of RV batteries available, with prices ranging from $100–$1200.
Flooded Electrolyte Batteries
These are the most common deep-cycle RV batteries. They require some maintenance, including refilling water reservoirs and cleaning away corrosion. That said, these are the most affordable RV batteries and they handle hot weather and fast-charging well.
Gel batteries are more expensive than flooded electrolyte batteries. However, they last longer and don’t require any maintenance. The biggest drawback with gel batteries is the fact that they don’t tolerate fast-charging well.
Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) Batteries
These batteries tolerate fast-charging better than gel batteries. They also last longer than traditional flooded electrolyte batteries. That said, they are the most expensive option and can really up the solar-powered RV price quickly, especially when you need a large battery bank.
Once you decide which batteries are best for you and have all of these parts gathered, you should be able to install your system and get solar power to your rig before your next big boondocking getaway. Just imagine how much fun you’re going to have escaping the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life and steeping yourself in nature while maintaining the comforts of home!