Millions of Americans enjoy travelling and camping in their recreational vehicles (RV’s) every year. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, 8.9 million American households own RV’s: that’s 8.5% of all US households! Families use their RV’s to travel long road trips in comfort, and to enjoy the beauty of scenic natural areas, without having to sacrifice the amenities of home.
Among these amenities, are the uses of electric lighting, heating, cooling, and appliances. As one may infer, these electrical devices use great amounts of power! RV’ers therefore often have to find a place to plug in to the electrical grid. This is sometimes possible in commercial campgrounds, but what about “out there”, in the sort of wild natural vistas that many RV owners bought the vehicle to travel to in the first place? Gas powered generators are one option, but those come with costs and limitations of their own: you of course need gasoline, the generator can be noisy and disruptive to other people and animals, and it can be a pain to keep running. Luckily, there is another option:
RV solar panels are a great solution for anyone’s electrical needs, whether on the road, or at a campsite. These panels save money in the long run compared to gasoline or diesel generators, are easy to set up and use, and are better for the environment.
How do RV solar panels work?
You may ask, what exactly are these RV solar panels, and how do they work? These solar panels are photovoltaic, (as opposed to thermal forms of solar power,) meaning that the light photons hitting the panel’s special light-absorbent material create electrons, which can be harnessed like electricity from any other source to do work. An RV solar panel looks like a shiny black rectangle, sometimes flexible, sometimes not, with grid patterns across it. The panel is made of a mix of one or more semiconductor materials, (often silicon,) organized into connected “cells”. This grid of cells has a positive side, and negative side, just like a battery. When light from the sun strikes the cells, electrons are knocked loose, and if you connect conductors to the positive and negative sides of the solar panel, you have a complete electrical circuit. Photovoltaic cells began as Space Age technology, to allow NASA scientists and engineers to power satellites and space probes over long periods of time. Decades later, that same technology is adapted and safe for use in everything from watches, to, yes, your recreational vehicle!
Where can I find RV solar panels
RV solar panels are surprisingly simple to set up: there is an abundance of helpful tutorials on Youtube, and there are solar power companies with trained professionals ready to help you install your new solar system. Many camping gear websites now sell RV solar panels alongside their conventional gas powered generators, and there are dedicated retailers of mobile solar panels, such as “Go Power!”. 100 watt solar panels are available for about $700, and there a variety of solar panels available for a variety of needs. They can range from 2 watts, all the way up to 260 watts or more, depending on your RV’s energy needs.
Imagine the freedom
Imagine yourself as the proud owner of a well-equipped and fuel efficient recreational vehicle: you can travel across every highway in the country, visit scenic locations far from home, and engage in outdoor sports such as fishing, without giving up the amenities of a comfortable bed, climate control, or electric overhead lighting. Now imagine, that all that freedom and convenience is easier on your wallet, and easier on the environment, than the average experience RV owners have. Your secret? RV solar panels. Free, clean, quiet, and convenient power, thanks to NASA-developed technology. Still curious? Why not visit your local camping/outdoor shop to learn about different portable solar services, including their RV solar panels!