Solar Power Untethers RVers from Grid Power

There is a growing trend of Americans wanting to down-size and sell their homes for a different lifestyle. Huge mortgages and the burden of living in substantial debt has led people to reassess their situations. With a large portion of jobs now being done remotely due to COVID-19, people can now work from anywhere if they have an internet connection. Despite the overall economic impacts of the virus, the RV market is hot and showing no signs of slowing down.

Many people have jumped into a RV purchase without thinking about maintaining some level of comfort while on the open road. All the amenities many are used to having at home are no longer easy feats. Grid power, public water and sewer services are now the most coveted luxuries when making the switch to a mobile life. For many years RV owners have tethered themselves to campgrounds or RV parks to take advantage of grid power, water and sewer. There are some definite pros and cons to being in a campground. Obviously, the largest benefit is being able to hookup to grid power, water and sewer – if it’s a full-service campground. These campgrounds are highly desirable and are often crowded, booked up and noisy especially during the summer travel season. If a campground is booked up families are left scrambling trying to find a campground at the last minute after a long day of driving. The lack of solitude can also be a deterrent to being in a campground long-term.

There must be an alternative right? Boondocking, derived from the phrase “being in the boondocks” is a lifestyle many RV owners are adopting. The idea is to be self-reliant regarding power, water and sewer as much as possible to lessen the need to be in a campground setting. Boondocking allows RV owners to take their rigs into areas such as public BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and national forests to experience magnificent views and true solitude.

The limitations of power, water and sewer are the main obstacles to overcome when boondocking. Having a constant water source is the hardest problem to solve because of the size limitation on the freshwater tank on a RV, but most can go 2-3 days without needing to refill their tanks. Sewer can be solved by using a composting toilet or simply dumping the waste at a campground dump station periodically. Replacing grid power with another source is easy to solve. Most RV owners opt for gas generators or solar power.

Most people choose this lifestyle because of the solitude and the quiet atmosphere that is realized when boondocking. Gas generators can be noisy, smelly and it can be a pain to keep up with gas tanks and constantly worrying about a gas supply. This power source completely goes against the mindset of peace and quiet which is why many opt for solar power. Solar is a clean, quiet and safe alternative energy source. With just a few solar panels mounted on your rig, an inverter, a charge controller and a few batteries, people are amazed at how easily they can live without grid power while boondocking. Of course, systems vary based on their size, but solar systems can be sized to fit your RV application so it can meet your expectations while adventuring off the beaten path. Many times, these systems can sustain your power needs indefinitely, depending on what you choose to power.

A few things you should consider when thinking about going solar are:

  • Daily Energy Consumption – this is an average calculation of the amount of energy you expect to draw from the system daily. You can do a preliminary calculation using our solar calculator. This number will give our engineers an idea on how to size your system appropriately in terms of number of panels, battery bank size, inverter and charge controller size.
  • Space for Solar Panels – many trailers or RVs only have so much roof space for solar panels. Understand that limited space can affect your ability to produce enough power to charge your battery bank.
  • Battery Type – a cheaper option for batteries consists of Lead-Acid chemistry. These batteries need to be vented for safety reasons and normally can only be depleted down to 50%. Lithium batteries have changed the game in solar power but are more expensive. They are a safer, lighter option and can be stored inside your RV cabin. Their depth of discharge is much greater than Lead-Acid as well.

There are many other factors to consider as everyone’s RV and energy consumption are almost always different, but those are some baseline thoughts to get you started with your boondocking endeavors.

If you’re interested in solar for your RV, our team of solar engineers can help you calculate your energy loads and tailor a solar system specific to your needs. Click the button below to schedule a free consultation with our team.