Solar Generators for RV Camping: a Complete Guide

Solar Generators for RV Camping: a Complete Guide

When you live off-grid, it’s hard to find a solution that can power up your lifestyle wherever you are.

There are many options to choose from, including gas generators, inverter chargers, solar generators for RVs, and more. But how do you know which solution is right for you?

We recommend RV solar generators that you can use almost anywhere, whether:

●You are living in your RV, camper, or similar accommodation.

●You need an emergency backup power supply for your essential devices.

●You are looking for an easy-to-manage uninterrupted power supply (UPS).

●You need an off-grid main power supply for your home, boat, or camper.

A solar generator for RVs is very convenient to use in many situations because of its simplicity, portability and ‘plug-and-play’ capability.

In this article, we answer the following questions:


Let’s begin.

What Is An RV Solar Generator?

An RV solar generator is an all-in-one device used to provide power in the absence of power from the grid.

Think of an RV Solar generator as a composite device formed from a combination of devices you normally find working separately.

The devices combined into a solar generator unit are:

1. Inverter

2. Converter

3. Batteries

4. Charge Controller

5. Solar Panels

Together the above devices form what we know as an RV solar generator.

The advantages of combining all these devices into a self-contained unit are:

●Portability.

●Ease of use.

●Ease of installation.

As previously mentioned, RV solar generators are used in a variety of situations. That’s why different people call them by different names. For instance, some people may call RV solar generators:  

●Solar Powered Generators

Solar Power Stations

●Solar Power Boxes

●Solar Generators for Campers

●And more

NOTE: Solar generators without solar panels are sometimes called power stations, power boxes, power banks, etcetera. All these terms refer to the same device type.

How Does an RV Solar Generator Work?

Solar generators provide power, which is normally used in places and times where there is no power supply from the grid.

But how does an RV Solar Generator achieve this?

Firstly, An RV solar generator needs to charge its battery pack before use. Charging happens in one of two ways (some generators can use both methods simultaneously):

1.Using solar panels or car batteries, which supply DC (direct current) power that is regulated by an internal Charge Controller.

2.Using an AC power supply that is changed into DC (direct current) power for batteries by an internal Converter.

Secondly, After or during charging, the generator can now take the DC (direct current) power stored in the batteries and convert it into AC (alternating current) power using its Inverter. This is the power used by most home appliances.

 

Recommended Reading: Unscrambling the Alphabet Soup of Solar Terminology

What Are The Different Types Of Generators For RVs?

Here are the different types of generators you can use on your RV:

1. Traditional Gas Generators: This is the classic generator that runs on gas or petroleum to generate AC power. The AC power comes from the alternator. Some RVs have built-in generators that draw fuel from the RV's gasoline tank.

2. Inverter Generators: This is an improved version of the traditional gas generator. The inverter generator has more stages in its electricity generation than a regular gas generator. Firstly, an inverter generator also uses an alternator to generate AC electricity. However, unlike their older cousins, the inverter generator further refines this AC power by converting it into DC power and inverting it back into cleaner AC (alternating current) power. 

3. Solar Generators: A newer kind of generator that is designed to run on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. In essence, portable solar generators are fully-functional solar systems that you can carry and use anywhere, wherever the need arises.

Can You Power An RV With A Solar Generator?

Yes, a solar generator can power an RV but the solar generator's power output and battery capacity must be able to accommodate your RV's total needs. Failure to do so can incapacitate the generator and stop it from working correctly.

While it's true that you can power your generator with your RV solar generator, I think the better question is if it’s possible to completely power your RV with a solar generator without relying on shore power for recharging?

The short answer is yes! It’s possible to power your RV 24/7 using only your solar panels and solar generator.

But to make a self-sufficient RV solar generator system you need to know two things:

1.How many Watts do all your RV devices need (total Watts)? : You can calculate this by adding each device's Watts usually found on the device’s label. If the device has no Watts label you can calculate it by multiplying the device’s Voltage and Current (Watts = Volts x Amps).

2.How many Watt-hours does your system need (total Watt-hours)? If you know each device’s Watt rating, you can use that knowledge to calculate the total Watt-hours your RV system needs. You can calculate Watt-hours by multiplying each device’s Watts by the number of hours you plan to use that device each day (Watt-hours = Watts x usage hours). Once you do this, you can calculate the total Watt-hours needed by summing up all the devices’ Watt-hours.

Armed with this knowledge, you can deduce:

*The size of your inverter: The size of your inverter (measured in Watts) should be around 120% of your total Watts. To calculate what inverter size you need, multiply the total Watts needed by 1.2 (Inverter size = Total Watts x 1.2).

*The battery capacity or size you need: To calculate the battery size(measured in Amp-hours, Ah), take the total Watt-hours calculated previously and divide that figure by your RV’s battery bank’s voltage (mostly 12V). For the best performance, multiply the result by 2 to get the optimal battery capacity (Battery capacity = 2 ( Total Watt-hours / Battery Voltage). Suppose your Watt-hours were 1500Wh and battery voltage was 12V. In that case, your optimal battery bank size should be 250Ah. Renogy solar generators also give you the option to expand their battery capacity.

*The number of solar panels you need: To find the number of solar panels you need, divide the Total Watt-hours used each day by the product of the number of peak sun hours and your chosen solar panel’s wattage (Number of Solar Panels = Daily Total Watt-hours / (Number of Peak Sun Hours x Solar Panel Wattage) ). Suppose your total Watt-hours are 4000 Wh, your area’s peak sun hours are 5, and the solar panel’s wattage is 100W,, the number of solar panels would be 8 panels at 100W each (No. of Panels = 4000 / (5 x 100) = 8)

If you are having trouble with all the calculations, you can try using our online solar powered calculator to better gauge your needs and expected solutions.

Note:

-Check your solar generator’s solar power input rating. Make sure you don’t exceed it when connecting your solar panels. 

-Ensure that the voltage rating of your solar panels, solar generator (inverter and batteries), and any other external batteries is the same. If it’s a 12V system all the components should be rated for 12V usage.

-Account for the starting power requirements of some devices (e.g., fridges) when calculating the daily total Watts.

Can You Charge An RV Battery With A Solar Generator?

Yes, it’s possible to charge your RV’s battery using a solar generator. But first, let’s talk about the two types of batteries you will find in RVs:

1.House Batteries: Deep-cycle batteries that are designed to steadily discharge and safely withstand many discharge-recharge cycles without suffering damage from repeated low Depth of Discharges. These batteries are usually Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM), Lithium-ion ,or Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries. House batteries are used to power the RV’s many electronics.

2.Starter (Chassis) Batteries: Unlike house batteries, starter batteries are not designed for steady discharges but rapid bursts of energy discharge that gets the engine running. They are usually lead-acid batteries similar to the ones you find in smaller vehicles.

Now that we know the different types of batteries, let’s talk about their charging methods.

For the most part, the two types of RV batteries charge using many of the same methods.

That’s why the easiest method to charge both types of batteries with a solar generator is to connect your solar generator to your RV using the same method you would use if you were using shore power.

In other words, the best method is to connect to the solar generator using the generator’s 30A socket via the RV’s grip power port. Once your RV is powered by the generator, the RV’s onboard Converter will start charging the batteries.

Here’s a step-by-step procedure to connect an RV to a solar generator:

-Step 1: Power off unnecessary electronics in your RV’s that are power hungry, e.g., air conditioners.

-Step 2: Start your solar generator.

-Step 3: Connect the solar generator, using its 30A socket, to the RV. If the generator doesn’t have a 30A socket, find a 15A to 30A adapter and use that for connections instead.

-Step 4: Check if the circuit breaker for your RV’s converter is on and working. You can find it in the RV distribution panel usually labeled ‘CONV’.

-Step 5: The RV batteries should be charging now. 

For the best results when charging either type of battery, your solar generator should be capable of over 3000W of power supply. We recommend the LYCAN 5000 power station which has a large 4.8kWh capacity and a 3500W pure sine wave AC output.

What To Look For When Buying A Solar Generator?

Here are the six things you need to keep in mind when looking for a solar generator for your RV:

1. Battery Storage Capacity: Your solar generator's battery setup should be able to store enough energy to power up your devices when there's no incoming power from your solar panels or shore power supply.

2. Inverter Type and Size: Firstly, check if the inverter in your solar generator is a pure sine wave (PSW) inverter instead of a modified sine wave (MSW) inverter. PSW inverters can run most devices without any issues like an shore power supply. In contrast, MSW inverters have trouble powering up delicate or demanding devices like TVs, radios, and air conditioners. Secondly, the inverter in the solar generator should be able to supply enough power to satisfy your continuous and surge requirement.

3. Expandability: The solar generator may be able to meet your needs now. But that may not be true in the future. So you need to buy a generator whose capacity is expandable to give you more energy storage and durability. Adding another battery can also help you store that excess energy from your solar panels that would otherwise go to waste.

4. Number of Battery Life Cycles: Different batteries have different life cycles. Some batteries can last 500 life cycles, 2000 life cycles, or over 3500 life cycles. If you want a long-lasting solar generator, buy one with at least a 2000 life cycle battery that can last from 5.5 to 10 years.

5. A 30A Socket Outlet: Your solar generator for campers or RVs must have a 30A outlet if you plan to use your stove or other devices that need a high current. A generator with a 30A outlet is also easier to connect directly to your RV. 

6. Number of Ports: The RV solar generator should have a variety of plugin ports that provide a wide range of connectivity for your devices. Examples of necessary ports are USB ports, a cigarette lighter port, 110V ports, etc.

What Size Solar Generator Do You Need?

Three things help determine what size of solar generator you need:

1. How do you want to use it? (backup power supply, uninterrupted power supply, or main power supply, )

2. Where are you going to use it? (home, mobile RVs, boats and campers, or backpack camping)

3. What are you going to power with it? (heavy-duty or lightweight electronics)

Sometimes a combination of the above factors determines the size of your generator.

For example:

● If you want a generator that can be used as your main or uninterrupted power supply and power up heavy-duty devices, you need a big solar generator like the LYCAN 5000 that’s over . 

● If you want a generator you can carry in your backpack to charge your phones, torch, or laptop, you need a lightweight generator like the PHOENIX 200W OR 300W..

● If you need a backup power supply that can sustain your essential electronics during emergencies, a generator like the PHOENIX 1000 generator will do just fine.

Pros & Cons Of Portable Solar Generators

Pros of Solar Generators

Silent: Unlike a regular gas generator, a solar generator doesn’t make a lot of noise so you can use it with minimal inconvenience to yourself and everybody else.

No Need To Stock Fuel: There’s no need to risk carrying a large stockpile of gasoline for your generator. Solar generators can recharge wherever you are using either solar panels or shore power.

Portable: Just like a regular gas generator, an RV solar generator is easy to carry to wherever you want to use it. You can easily load it into your truck or RV and bring it out when you want some power.

Eco-Friendly: Solar-generated energy produces less pollution than the combustion of fossil fuels. So by using solar technology, you are doing your part for the environment.

Ease of Installation: Installing and running a solar generator is easy because you don’t have to worry about sizing your inverters, installing fuses, and so on.

Ease of Use: Using a solar generator is as easy as flicking on a switch or pressing a button. There’s no need to limber up and crank the generator every time you want to use it.

Cheap to Use: You get to enjoy free, self-sustaining energy once you have bought and set up your solar generator and solar panels.

Cons of Solar Generators

● High Initial Cost: Bigger solar generators that can be used to reliably power up homes and other accommodations can be quite costly. The price can range anywhere from $1000 to over $5000.

● Limited Energy Storage: You have to use the limited amount of energy stored on your batteries wisely and consciously when there’s incoming power.  

● Slow Recharging: Recharging your solar generator will take anywhere from an hour to a few hours depending on your power source arrangements.

● Solar Panels Don’t Work at Night: You have to rely on the limited energy in your batteries during the night.

Check out this article for more info on the benefits and drawbacks of solar generators..

How To Connect A Solar Generator To An RV?

There are a couple of ways you can connect your solar generator to your RV or its devices:

●Through your Shore Power Port: If the generator has a 30A outlet, you can connect your RV directly to the generator. If the solar generator doesn't have a 30A socket, you will need a 15A to 30A adapter to hook up your RV to the generator.  

●Connecting to a Socket or Distribution Panel in Your RV: This method is not recommended for the average RVer. For the sake of safety, we recommend hiring a qualified electrician to wire the generator to your RV's distribution panel.

●Plugging Individual Devices Into Your Solar Generator: This comes in handy when you don't want to power your whole RV but only a few select devices. For example, suppose you only want to power the fridge without losing energy to non-essential devices. In that case, you can plug the fridge into the generator.

How To Charge A Portable Solar Generator?

There are three ways to charge your solar generator:

1.Using Power From Your Solar Panels.

2.Using Shore Power.

3.Using The Cigarette Lighter Car Socket.

Oftentimes, it’s up to you to choose the option that’s available and most convenient to you.

But keep in mind that larger solar generators do not charge well using a car socket. Only smaller generators like the PHOENIX 200 POWER STATION can charge using the cigarette lighter socket.

Bigger solar generators need either shore power or solar panels to charge well.

If you want a long-lasting, fast-charging solar generator, consider buying the LYCAN 5000 POWER BOX that can charge using both solar panels and shore power at the same time.

The video below explains some of the basics of charging your solar generator.

 

If you think the cables accompanying your Renogy generator don't match your setup, check here or get in touch with us..

To round off this section, you should remember that a generator's charging speed depends on your power source. So your power source should meet the required ratings for charging but at the same it should never exceed the solar generator's maximum power rating trying to speed up charging.

Is A Solar Generator For An RV Worth It?

When you consider the ava alternative power solutions for an RV you will likely conclude that buying a solar generator for an RV or camper is worth it.

Why do we say so?

 

●Firstly, a solar generator is silent and has zero emissions. So you can enjoy power in your RV without disturbing the peace and tranquility of nature or your neighbors.

●Secondly, installing a solar generator is much easier than installing a solar system composed of independent units.

●Thirdly, a solar generator enables you to enjoy your RV lifestyle to its fullest potential. How? By reducing energy costs, increasing mobility, and providing power 24/7 365 days a year.

Best Solar Generator For RV Camping

If you need a solar generator for your RV camping trip, we recommend the portable PHOENIX series, including PHOENIX 300, 500, 1000, etc. The newly released PHOENIX 500 comes equipped with the latest fast recharge technology, a 495Wh lithium-ion battery pack, and an 800W pure sine wave inverter. It can power up to 8 electronics simultaneously and support 3 recharging options including AC, solar and car charging. For more information, you can check out on the PHOENIX 500 product page. The portable solar generator will take care the electricity needs of yours and your friends’ perfectly.

 

Best Solar Generator For RV Air Conditioner

Do you have trouble finding a solar generator that can power your RV air conditioner for a decent length of time?

You are not alone. Most RVers that don’t believe there’s a solar generator that can support your A/C for hours don’t know about the LYCAN 5000.

The LYCAN 5000 can support different heavy-duty electronics, including:

●Air Conditioners.

●Heaters.

●Washing Machines.

●And more...

The image below shows how long the RENOGY LYCAN 5000 solar generator can support the following devices on a full charge.

As you can see, the LYCAN 5000 is the best solar generator for an RV air conditioner.

Alternatively, if the LYCAN 5000 is out of your budget but you still want a solar generator to run your air conditioner, consider buying two PHOENIX 1000 power stations and connecting them in parallel to double their lifespan and power.

If you like this article and find the information helpful we would appreciate a social media share and like.

We recommend you bookmark this page so you can revisit this information when you need it.

Thanks for reading.


Read more:

It's Easy To Install A Solar Panel For Your Shed - Renogy United States

What does a DC to DC battery charger do? - Renogy United States

Effectively Charge Your RV Batteries While Driving - Renogy United States

Lightweight Solar Panels: Maximizing Solar Energy Wherever You Go - Renogy United States

Off the grid meaning: Is it possible to live 100% off-grid? - Renogy United States