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Solar generators (aka solar power stations) makes it easy to run devices and appliances in an emergency. But do they have enough to power an RV with appliances? Yes, but you have to make sure the generator has the right specifications.
A 1200W solar generator can run 100 amp hours of RV appliances a day. This is enough for most RV users, and you can always add more power by installing solar panels or batteries.
What Solar Generator Size Does Your RV Need?
There are three things you need to do. Calculate the generator size, determine your power needs and how much solar power you will use
Daily appliance watt usage = solar generator size
If your RV appliances consume 1200 watts a day, a 1200W solar generator is the minimum required.
Solar generators, including the powerful Eco Flow 1260W EF Delta are similar to batteries. They can charge solar panels and store energy. Generator capacity is measured in watts compared to batteries which are in amps.
Add the total watts consumed by your appliances and you have the generator capacity. If the appliance usage is in amps, use this conversion:
amps x volts = watts
Add up all the appliances you want to run on solar. If it is 100ah, that is 1200 watts.
100 amps x 12 volts = 1200 watts
We are using 12 volts because that is commonly found in RVs. But you can go with 24 volts if you want. You can also try these steps if you want to install a solar generator for a mobile home.
These calculations are for your daily power needs. In our example, 1200 watts is the minimum requirement. You can get a larger generator if you want some reserve power.
Calculate Daily Power Requirements
So in our example your RV uses 1200 watts or 100 amps a day. But there are a lot of variables to consider here.
For instance, a 12V coffee maker might use 650W an hour. But that is for an hour of use. If you just drink coffee once a day, the power consumption will be lower.
Adding up the total wattage gives you the generator size required to run all those appliances at the same time. You probably won’t do that often, but it is better to have additional capacity.
Obviously appliance usage varies from RV to RV. Even the same motorhome will probably see differences in their daily power consumption. Get the monthly average and use that to guide you.
The basic rule to remember: if the appliance wattage is greater than the generator size there are two options. Get a larger solar power station or reduce the number of appliances you use.
Surge Watts and Running Watts
Solar power stations have a surge watt capacity, usually double its running watts. A 1200W generator might have a peak capacity of 2400W. This is often, but not always the case. Check the specs to be sure.
If you have a 1200W solar generator with a 2400W peak capacity:
- The total appliance load cannot exceed 1200 watts.
- An appliance with a surge demand of 2400 watts or less can run on the generator.
- A 1200W load with a surge demand above 2400 watts will not run.
- The surge capacity is only good for a few seconds. Running for extended periods could overload the system.
Even if your solar generator is large enough to power appliances, you need solar panels to recharge its energy. A combination of the two should be enough to power your RV on a daily basis.
What Solar Panel Size to Use with Solar Generators?
Solar panels are available in different sizes, with 100 watts to 300 watts the most common for RVs. Several factors affect solar power output including the weather, temperature and many others.
Solar panels produce about 30 amps per 100 watts. If you consume 100 amps a day, it will take 400 watts of solar power to replenish the generator.
Solar generator capacity are usually in watts so calculating the size is straightforward.
Daily power usage = solar panel size needed
If you consume 1200 watts a day, a 300W solar panel can recharge a solar power station in 4 to 5 hours.
In an ideal scenario the solar panel will produce 300 watts an hour and give you 1200 watts. But changing weather and efficiency can lower the output. The more sun hours the faster the charge time will be.
Sunlight availability is the biggest factor here, and recharging will take longer during cloudy days. That is why it is better to oversize a solar array to make up for cloudy or rainy days.
How to Use Solar Panels and Solar Generator Together
Let’s look at this scenario. You have a 1300W solar generator and a 600W solar array. Your daily power consumption is 1200 watts.
Your solar system has a power usage monitor built in. Using that you’ll be able to tell when your power usage is the highest. Usually it is in the day and reduced at night when you sleep.
What you can do is run the solar generator from late afternoon to evening. When the sun comes out, recharge the generator with the solar panels.
With a large array, there will be enough power to replenish the battery and run appliances. Depending on the weather, you might need just 4 to 5 hours to recharge the generator. Then you can use the entire solar array to run your RV.
In this example you recharge the generator and run some appliances at the same time. With a 600W array it should be enough for both.
You can set aside 300 watts for the generator and another 300 for the appliances. While the generator charges you will be limited to 300 watts an hour appliance usage. Get a larger solar array if that is insufficient.
What Solar Generator Features to Look For
Solar generator or power stations have a lot of different features. Only you can decide what are essential since RV needs vary. However the following are a must regardless how much time you spend in your RV.
- Capacity. Look for the continuous and surge capacity. These are the same as running and surge watts. For safety, get a generator that has at least 10% more capacity than what you need.
- Solar panels. Some of these generators have a built in solar panel. You can connect other PV modules onto it. Even those that have a solar panel will allow you to connect on easily.
- Charge time. No long winded explanation needed here. The faster the charge time the better.
- Outlets and adapters. The more adapters and outlets, the more you can make use of the generator.
- Weight. A large, heavy generator will take up a lot of space in your RV. Look for a combination of power and portability. But you have to decide which is more important.
- Warranty. The warranty is clearly important. Unlike solar panels where the warranty is good for decades LNK, they tend to be shorter for solar power stations.
Tips For Using Solar Panels and Solar Generators in an RV
Everything starts with planning. You have to calculate how much power you use and go from there. Do not scrimp on your power consumption. Use the appliances as you normally would so you can get an accurate gauge.
Add at least 10% to the solar generator and panel size. This is something you will hear often with solar power. Whether it is solar panels, generators, inverters, batteries or charge controllers it is better better to have some extra power.
If you have not already, buy energy efficient appliances. Even the best solar generator will not last long with a older appliances. The fact is that modern appliances use less power and are more suited for RVs.
Setting up an RV solar system is not that difficult. But do make sure all the cables are secure, otherwise there could be problems. Consult a professional installer if you are not sure.
You would sometimes see people debating which is better, solar panels or generators. But you don’t have to choose between the two. You can combine them and get the best results.