Portable Solar For Motorhomes, Recreational Vehicles And Camping Trailers

Categories: Solar PV Panels.

Portable Solar Panels For Motorhomes

When you are choosing a reliable alternate source of power, solar energy is the best choice. The number of portable solar power systems being used are increasing by the day.

Portable solar panels for motorhomes and recreational vehicles are the preferred energy choice for many happy campers.

There are good reasons why solar power should be installed in motorhomes and recreational vehicles.

solar panels for motorhomes

Motorhome Powered By Solar Panels

Using  portable solar panels for motorhomes increases your holiday freedom to select destinations that aren’t connected to mains power. You still need to choose to access a fuel station along the road but when you have solar power that is the extent of the restrictions. Solar power is a quiet energy generation system while the sun shines, so you can maintain the environmental purity of your campsite and reduce your carbon emissions by not using a portable generator at that time.

Portable solar panels for motorhomes need no fuel other than sunlight to operate. The maintenance of portable solar panels for motorhomes is limited to occasionally cleaning the panels and checking connections. There is a financial aspect of installing a solar system on your RV. The purchase of panels involves a one-time expense but there are immediate benefits reaped over a number of years and the trips that follow.

A typical portable solar panels for motorhomes system consists of solar panels, batteries, monitoring and controlling devices. The higher the number of solar batteries connected to the panels, the more appliances that can be powered by the system.

So, typically the first step in the process of assessing  a portable solar power system for motorhomes is to estimate the daily power that the motorhome would use. That will depend on the appliances and devices installed in the motorhome.

The following video shows how to install solar panels on a RV.

Checking The Energy Consumption Needs

As a recreational vehicle user and motorhome owner you will need to know the operating power consumption of the vehicle. You need to calculate the power consumption of every appliance in watt-hours/day.

The picture below gives a sample of the energy consumption breakup of devices generally used in a motorhome.

Based on your lifestyle as a camper with these appliances:

portable solar panels for motorhomes

Energy Consumption Of Devices In A Motorhome

You need to factor in the occasional use of some appliances, like a vacuum cleaner or a hair dryer, in these calculations. Also, some appliances when not in use are in sleep mode, and they still consume some power.

Solar System Components

There are four basic components that constitute the solar power system of a motorhome. They include the solar panels, charge controller, inverter, and storage batteries.

solar electric language

Solar Panels

There is a variety of solar panels available to choose from. Their main difference is in the solar cell materials used. The most popular solar cell material is crystalline silicon which makes two of the most popular types of solar cells; Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. The latter is more efficient and is priced higher than the Polycrystalline cells.

Another type of solar cells is the thin-film solar cell (TFSC) called Amorphous, which come in flexible shape but lower efficiency than crystalline silicon.

An additional feature you must consider when selecting the solar panel for the motorhome is the portability. You might choose the portable solar panel for motorhomes or the rooftop solar panel. For smaller vehicles, portable solar panels are an ideal choice. You wouldn’t choose to park your camper in the sun once you reach your campsite unless you’re camping in the peak of winter.

Generally you would prefer parking the RV under shade and putting out the portable solar panels for motorhomes in the sun. These panels give you the chance to place them a few meters away from the vehicle in full sun. The installation costs for these portable solar panels are minimal, and they do not need the sort of framing required for roof mounted stationery panels.

Solar panels come in various sizes so you can buy a size that suits your vehicle's needs. Some solar portable panels have legs attached, so that you can easily adjust the angle at which you want the panel to be set. You should be adjusting the position of the solar panel from time to time toward the sun’s position to get the maximum sunlight. Some panels can be folded to fit into a small storage space. Portable folding solar panels are a popular choice for use with motorhomes.

portable solar panels for motorhomes

Portable Solar Panel For A Motorhome

The solar panels that are fixed onto the roof of the motorhome or RV are rooftop solar panels. It is feasible to have roof-mounted solar panels for larger vehicles. However, you cannot easily adjust the position of such solar panels frequently, yet they are preferred by some campers. They are convenient when installed and removing them from the vehicle for charging is no hassle.

Whichever solar panel you choose, it is recommended to get the installations done by a professional. The roof mounted solar panels need to withstand strong headwinds and constant vibrations while the vehicle is on the move. For those reasons they need to be attached to the motorhome securely.


A charge controller connects the solar panel energy source to the energy storage batteries. The controller ensures that the batteries do not overcharge. It does that by limiting the rate of charge to the batteries.  

This device provides a protection against drainage of power and shuts down energy flow when the stored power goes below fifty percent. Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) controllers provide an even more efficient way of power generation by converting the solar energy into an optimum voltage for the batteries used.


The inverter turns the low-wattage DC power into AC power or diverts DC to the batteries.  Most appliances run on AC power only.

Batteries / Storage

A motorhome usually runs on at least one 12-volt, lead-acid battery. When using a solar system, three more batteries are added to generally provide 280–340 amp-hours (AH) of capacity. Another option is to use 6-volt, golf-cart style of batteries with four of them set up in series to provide 440 AH of capacity.

Lithium-ion batteries are more efficient in energy storage but have a higher price for this efficiency. Lithium-ion batteries are lightweight as compared to lead-acid batteries, have a greater depth of discharge and a longer life.

Solar Power For Camping: The Price of Freedom

If you install a 600-watt portable solar panel system, it can generate enough energy for the daily electric consumption of the motorhome. A 600-watt motorhome solar panels system that gets full sunlight for six hours a day is capable of generating 3,000 watt-hours of energy.

Factor in the fact that few days would get a hundred percent sunlight for all these six hours. Remember that you will experience some system inefficiencies as well so it might be only 2,400 watt-hours. You can ramp up the wattage anytime by adding panels and batteries.

Portable Solar Panels

You need not change the inverter and the controller to support the additions to the system. Solar power systems are available in kits, which include panels, a system monitor, wiring, connectors, mounting gear, controller, and inverter. It costs around $3,500 to $4,500 for a typical best RV solar panel kit set-up, but this initial investment can be recouped in a few years, depending on the motorhome usage.

Click on the button below for one option that can get you started.

A refrigerator is an appliance that uses  the most watts a day. To ensure you do not need to run the refrigerator on a generator you must add enough capacity to run a 200 watt RV refrigerator for 24 hours per day which would be 4800 watts/day, for a system total of around 6,600 watts/day.

Another solar power kit that is popular for RVs and trailers is the 300W 12V Renogy RV Solar Kit.

This kit can be installed on the roof of your RV and silently recharges your batteries so you can enjoy the outdoors without any added noise. Solar panels also allow you to run limited low watt electrical equipment without a power hookup. ​

The 300W 12V Renogy RV solar kit includes three 100W 12V Monocrystalline Solar Panels, an Adventurer 30A PWM Charge Controller, a 30 ft 10AWG MC4 Adapter Kit, a 16 ft 10AWG Tray Cable, two pairs of Branch Connectors, and three sets of Z Brackets for mounting.

The 300W Renogy RV solar is big enough to use during a weekend getaway or a road trip. 

Get To Break-Even With A Portable Solar Panel For Motorhomes

Saving from using your portable solar panel for motorhomes typically means saving money by using it in place of a fuelled generator. An average generator uses a half-gallon of gas per hour with the average price of a gallon of gas in the U.S. being $2.54.

Using a generator for four hours a day results in a daily expense of $5 for gas. If we suppose you invested $4,000 on the best portable solar panel for camping and used solar instead of using gas for 4 hours per day, you would reach a break-even point on your solar investment after 800 days of use. That number of days of continuous use is equivalent to 2 years and 2 months.

Once the break-even point is achieved with the portable solar panels for motorhomes, the solar energy is free. The only other cost payable would be the minimal maintenance cost in the form of replacement parts. The lead-acid batteries need to be replaced after about five years of use. Remember that the fixed caravan solar panels can be used for more than 4 hours per day as well these RV solar panel kits can be charging batteries while it is moving or stationary.

You might need to use a gas generator on rainy days or during extended cloudy periods with low sunlight. If your motorhome is expecting to run an air conditioning unit or start electric motors in the daytime, you may need a generator. Operating an air conditioning unit in a motorhome requires a lot of power so it is difficult to run AC for any length of time even with an optimum sized solar system.

The Road Ahead For Solar Powered Vehicles

The portable solar power motorhome is just one phase of vehicles using this energy. The next phase will see cars and other transportation using solar as well.

Tesla is planning to launch an electric semi and Cummins has already come out with their electric semi.

Boatmaker Hinckley Co. is the pioneer in the field of the first fully electric luxury yacht in the world, which can reach up to 43 kph (27 mph) and has a range of 64 kilometers (40 miles). Eviation Aircraft has launched an all-electric, zero-emissions prototype aircraft with a range as high as 965 kilometers (600 miles) with a seating capacity of nine passengers.

This is a frontier for a disruptive technology opportunity. We continue to be amazed by portable solar panels for motorhomes, vehicles, boats and planes. Motorhomes are only the beginning of this sustainable solar electric revolution.

Recommendation & Wrap Up

I like the Renogy Solar set up for its portability and ready power. This solar panel is perfect for traveling. It’s a big plus for me having a mobile power solution when I am ready to rest. The power from Renogy set up can be ready in a few minutes when you are out and stop for a break. Pull out the package, unfold the panels, orientate them into the sunlight and plug in the power users. I have presented two power solutions to choose from; the 100W solar briefcase and a 300W solar kit for RV.

Our best pick for a 100W portable solar suitcase panels for your motorhome is the Renogy Solar Eclipse with charge controller. 

Our best pick for a larger solar kit for your motorhome is the 300W 12V Renogy RV Solar Kit.

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  1. Sure, solar power is strength. You get solar power anywhere. Thus, you could make your off-grid life more active and energetic. In addition, you contribute something to the world’s strive for alternative sources of energy. Good article. Well done.

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