One of the major concerns for RV adventure seekers is the power source for their motorhome. How much solar energy do you need to power the RV? With the increasingly high population of people adopting the mobile lifestyle, there is a lot of information about van life or motorhome living. Depending on the size of the Caravan, the power requirements differ.
In this article, you will have an answer to your question: whether a 200-watt solar panel can provide sustainable power to your Caravan. Read on to understand whether caravan solar panels are worth it.
How Many Watts are Sufficient for Running a Caravan
Caravans come in different sizes and features. Therefore, the power consumption varies depending on the size of the RV and the electrical appliances you use inside. A 200-watt may not be sufficient if you have a large motorhome. Usually, large sized caravans come with larger appliances that require more power to run. To have sufficient power to run such appliances, you will probably require four 200-watt solar panels to satisfy your energy need.
A small-sized motor home is easy to manage, especially with the energy requirements. You only need one 200-watt solar panel to power the whole van and the appliances.
What Appliances Can You Operate with a 200- Watt Solar Panel?
You must understand that 200-watt is not sufficient to run larger solar projects or larger appliances. A 200-Watt solar panel is sufficient for running smaller devices such as charging phones, batteries, coffee makers, laptops, LED lights, a radio, LCD TVs, a mini projector, and a microwave. In addition, the 200-watt solar panel can power a small-sized 12V fridge.
To accurately determine the amount of power you need to run your motorhome and the appliances to use, you should calculate accurately the amount of electricity they consume.
Breakdown of the Appliances You Can Use on 200-Watt Solar Panel and How Long
- 2X LED Lights - 5 hours
- Charging phone / tablet / drone - 3 hours
- Laptop- 3 hours
- TV- 2 hours
- Electric Fan – 2 hours
- Coffee maker – 2 hours
- Microwave oven – 2 hours
Using the solar lights with their in-built panels: will significantly lower the amount of energy consumed. The solar lights are portable and highly-efficient thus suitable for camping and RV use.
How Many Batteries Are Required with a 200-Watt Solar Panel?
There are two major factors to consider in deciding the battery capacity you need for a 200 Watt solar panel.
- Enough capacity to power the appliances in your caravan.
- Enough capacity to store all the solar energy tapped by solar panels throughout the day.
Generally, a 200 Watt/ 12V solar panel that gets a minimum of sunlight 5 hours a day is capable of producing up to 1000Wh a day. The amount of power is capable of charging a 100Ah/12V battery and two 50Ah/12V batteries which are parallel wired.
If you are using lead-acid batteries, you need 200Ah of battery capacity, and a 100Ah battery capacity if you are using a lithium battery. However, the best battery to use is a LiFePO4 battery due to increased safety features, long life span, high charge rate, and low discharge rate.
Factors Affecting the Output of Solar Panels for Caravans
Several factors affect the solar panels’ power output are:
- Weather conditions
- The season
- Time of the day
- Whether the panels are clean
- Tilting of the angle of solar panels
For instance, on a sunny summer day and where there is no shading, the solar panels will generate maximum watts. During summers, the sky is clear with strong sunshine compared to winter days.
Midday is the perfect time of the day when the panels generate maximum watts. Even on a perfect summer day, the panels generate less power than before or after midday. Due to this reason, you will need a lifePO4 battery to bank some of the power for later use.
Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries are rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries that can hold power for future use. The batteries have increased power output, reduced weight, fast charging, and longer life.
The Power Output of a 200-Watt Solar Panel During Different Times of the Day
6 am to 9 am
0 W to 50 W
5 pm to 7 pm
50 W to 0 W
9 am to 11 am
50 W to 170 W
3 pm to 5 pm
100 W to 50 W
11 am to 1 pm
170W to 200W
1 pm to 3 pm
200W to 100W
Another factor that affects the output of the solar panel is the dimensions. The roof of the Caravan has limited space. Measure the size of the roof and that of the panels before making a purchase.
Generally, a 200-watt solar panel has dimensions of 65 inches’ x 39 inches for a residential model and 77 inches’ x 39 inches for an industrial model. The size of the panels depends on the number of watts intended to produce.
Tips for Getting the Most from Your Caravan Solar Panels
Solar power panels are low maintenance and sustainable. However, although minimal, every system requires good maintenance and proper handling to last and serve you longer.
If you want your 200 Watt solar panels to serve you effectively and for long, here are some tips:
1. The Panels Must Stay Clean
One of the simplest yet effective ways to maximize your solar panels input is to keep them clean. Dirt builds up on the panels, especially if you are off-roading most of the time. The dust and dirt block the sun from hitting the photovoltaic material, thus affecting the solar panel input. To clean the panel, use a sponge or a mop with soapy water, gently wipe out the dirt and use a hose to rinse the panel to get rid of loose dirt and soap residue. Also, check under the panels to ensure no dirt or debris is blocking the airflow.
2. Place the Solar Panels in a Strategic Location
Positioning the solar panels on your caravan is crucial to its input. Install the panel where it can receive maximum sunlight without obstruction. Keep the panels angled towards the sun for optimal performance.
3. Use Energy Efficient Appliances
Another trick for sustainability with your solar panels is using energy-efficient appliances. Using energy-efficient appliances can significantly reduce power consumption and also extend the longevity of your caravan solar panels.
In addition, consider replacing the incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs. You should also consider changing the electric appliances to propane appliances. Also, buy appliances with an energy star rating.
4. Understand the Capacity of Your Batteries
Understanding the battery capacity of your batteries will guide you in using your solar generator. It is important for you to understand how much power your battery can store; and how much you are using. Monitor your battery levels regularly and make adjustments accordingly.
5. Ensure You Have a Backup
Have a backup in case the solar panels for your caravan fail to provide enough power or the generator breaks down. Have extra batteries and a back-up generator.
How to Install and Set-Up of the Solar Panel On Your Caravan
Solar panel installation on the caravan is scary to most motorhome owners. But, you don’t have to be sacred. The installation process is not complicated. Also, contrary to what people think, you don’t have to drill holes on your precious vehicle.
Solar panels for caravans enable you to be energy independent and to stay off-grid for the longest time possible.
Things you need for the installation.
- Solar panels
- Portable power station
- Strut channel
- Adhesive tape
- DC wires
- Wire stripper
The installation depends on the type of the solar panels, whether it is flexible, rigid or portable. If you are installing the rigid panels, you will require drilling holes on the roof of your RV. The flexible panels require only adhesive tape to secure at the roof of your van.
If you have portable solar panels, no installation is required. Portable solar panels allow you to move and transport them conveniently. Simply plug and play, and you’ll have constant solar energy flow to your power station.
If you consider buying the solar panels and other solar components from a reputable brand. One of the reliable and affordable 200-watt solar panel is the BLUETTI PV200 Solar Panel | 200W.
The BLUETTI PV200 Solar Panel is an excellent option if you are looking to reduce carbon footprint while having sufficient energy to power your caravan. It is durable, foldable, and provides excellent conversion efficiency (up to 23.4%). You can also use it with other BLUETTI products to create your own off-grid system.
A 200-watt solar panel is an excellent addition to your caravan, providing a number of benefits and advantages. The solar panel is a great source of clean and renewable energy to keep your life moving normally on the go or when camping.
A 200-watt solar panel perfectly balances power generation and space requirements, making it suitable for caravans and RVs. However, before installing the panels, you must assess the size of your caravan, the power requirements, the cost-effectiveness, and the weather conditions. That way, you can determine if a 200-Watt solar panel is sufficient to power your caravan.