Monitoring the RV Solar Power Inverter setup

The Costs of RV Solar Power

Total RV Solar power information at your finger tips. Part of a battery managment system

Total RV Solar power information at your finger tips. Part of a battery managment system.

Since we launched our new website in the late Spring of 2016, Precision RV has received a lot of inquiries about having solar installed on RVs across the country.  Thanks everyone, for getting in touch!

The common theme we’ve found in the contacts we’ve received is a pretty simple one.  “What’s the cost of solar for my RV?”  It’s a legitimate question that requires some explanation.  You see, the costs of RV Solar Power will vary depending on what you want to do, what type of RV you have, and the budget you’re looking to work with.  When you walk into a RV dealership you don’t ask, “What’s the cost of a new RV vehicle?”  There are tent campers, fifth wheels, tow trailers, class A, Class B, Class C, Buses, etc.  There are a variety of options and features.  And when shopping for RV Solar you’ll quickly learn there are many options as well.

So we’ve put this special post together for you to read before you contact Precision RV.  We want to make sure our customers are aware of the options available to help you in your decision process.

RV Solar Basics – What goes into your system

What does a Solar Power system for your RV entail?  There are some basic items required, and for some installations, a few not so basic items.

  • Solar Panels – The solar panels are the start of your system.  They collect energy from the sun and send it into your RV as DC power.  Your RV uses both DC and AC power.  Panel costs vary depending on manufacturer, power output, and size.  The more power you use on a daily basis the more watts you’ll need coming in from your solar panels.  How much power you can generate will depend on the number of panels, and total watts you put on your RV and what those panels produce for the time of year (winter or summer).  For instance, if you can only fit 6 panels on your roof, and each panel is 100 watts, then you will have 600 watts on your roof.  If you installed 6 panels rated for 160 watts each you could produce 960 watts.  Of course, higher end panels will cost more than lower end ones.  Price Range:  Hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the number of panels and their rating.
  • Solar Charge Controller – After you’ve collected power from the sun it needs to go somewhere.  The next step is putting a solar charge controller into your RV.  The controller regulates the amount of power coming in from your panels to your battery plant.  Controllers have different ratings, and depending on how much energy you’re collecting, you may need more than 1 charge controller.  Good controllers will ensure a longer life for your RV batteries.  There are pulse width modulation (PWM) and maximum power point tracking (MPPT) controllers.  Some have factory presets for the charging profile while the better MPPT will be fully programmable and have temperature compensation.  They’ll also offer a remote so you can see how your batteries are doing and the power coming into your system.  The price of solar charge controllers depend on manufacturer, rating, and the number of controllers you’ll need.  Price Range:  Hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the number of controllers required.
  • RV Solar Battery Plant – The options for RV Batteries have gotten better over the years.  The cheapest batteries out there are flooded lead acid batteries.   AGMs (Absorbed Glass Mat Batteries) offer lower  maintenance than your standard flooded batteries.  and are more efficient while being able to be placed most anywhere. They are of course heavier, and more expensive.  Finally, Lithium Ion Batteries are available for RV power plants.  They last much longer, are more compact, lighter in weight, offer a higher level of usable output, virtually lack voltage drop, are more expensive, require a Battery Management System, and need to be temperature regulated.  The benefits when paired with a high quality solar system are many.  The batteries you choose will depend on your needs and your budget.  A few hundred Amp Hours on an AGM Battery plant will be much cheaper than a few hundred Amp Hours of Lithium Battery storage.  And if you go Lithium you’ll also require a Battery Management System, increasing the price.  Price Range:  Hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on total Amp Hours needed and type of batteries.
  • Inverters – An inverter is not required for your RV Solar Power system.  Inverters take DC power from your batteries and can turn it into AC power (your standard sockets that you plug your coffee machines, microwaves, air-conditioners, and more into).  For some customers, having DC power from the batteries to the house lights, DC / propane fridge / furnace / LP water heater, is enough.  For others, they want AC power throughout the coach for normal consumer items (coffee machine, hair dryer, toaster, blenders, microwave, TV and more, and that’s where inverters come in). The latest inverters offer hybrid features and can run air-conditioners and heat pumps.  The amount of power available through the inverter will depend on the inverter’s rating, and the battery plant you have available to provide the DC power to the Inverter.  Price Range:  Hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on manufacturer, rated output, and specialty features like hybrids.
  • Miscellaneous Items – Solar panels will need mounting hardware.  The power cabling from the panels to your controller and batteries needs to be high quality.  Many pre-installed wiring systems aren’t up to the job.  Power shunts need to be put in place for battery monitors.  Subpanels for the inverter is often needed. Custom battery compartments might be necessary.  A myriad of small items are often overlooked when people plan their solar power systems.  All of these items have associated costs.
  • Battery Management Systems – For those opting to use Lithium Ion Batteries, you’ll definitely need a BMS.  The BMS will provide information about the state of your Lithium Ion RV Batteries.  It will keep the cells balanced.  The BMS will track power usage, charge, prevent overly discharging, and protect the batteries from temperature extremes and more. Price Range:  Hundreds of dollars.

RV Solar Specialist

Precision RV has been helping RV’ers create custom power solutions for many years.  We’re known for our expertise with all types of RVs, and we’re specialists when it comes to Lithium Ion RV Batteries.  Every system we install is planned with our clients, and every one is a custom solution.  Some customers want to be able to “boondock” off-grid for weeks or months on end.  Others just want to offset their power usage while camping for a few days at a time.  We don’t have a cookie cutter kit or one size fits all solution.  That’s because each of our customers is unique, and we treat them as being unique.

So then, in answer to your question about the final cost of your RV Solar power system we have this answer.  It depends on what you want to do, how you want to use the RV, the size of your rig, and your budgetary constraints.  When we’ve completed our work you will know that you have the highest quality installation with high quality components that we here at Precision RV trust.

A quality system will run in the thousands of dollars.  High end installations using lithium ion batteries can easily go above $10,000.  It all depends on what you want the system to power, and your goals for your solar solution.  Bottom line, we’ll need to have a few conversations to make sure that the solution we offer fits all of your needs.