One of the most important installations when you buy a motorhome or camper is the installation of solar panels. This way we can travel with our things on wheels in an autonomous, free and self-sufficient way. It is the free, universal and practical way to have the energy we need when we are on the road. That is why today we are going to tell you all about solar panels for motorhomes and camper vans.
This is a one-time installation and investment, but it is essential if we want to be totally autonomous and not depend on being "plugged in" to an area or campsite.
In Arvikon we know how important it is to know the ins and outs of the installations and types of solar panels. Therefore, we are going to tell you what types of solar panels exist and which ones can meet your needs and how Arvikon's home automation can help you to control everything related to the electrical installation of your motorhome, caravan or van.
How do I know if I need to have solar panels installed on my motorhome or camper?
This question is quickly and easily answered. If your getaways are to a static place or you usually go from area to area or from campsite to campsite and you have the possibility to be constantly connected, perhaps the installation of solar panels is not necessary.
However, if you usually move to places where you will not be able to connect, you will miss having energy to be autonomous. And how is this achieved? Well, it's easy: with the energy you store in the batteries thanks to the solar panel, you will have energy to use in your daily life.
This day-to-day life involves several actions such as keeping the refrigerator cold, charging electronic devices such as computers, cameras or cell phones, some household appliances such as a hair dryer or a capsule coffee maker and many other things.
Obviously, the more things we want to connect the more energy we will need to generate. Here is the question of how many solar panels will be necessary to install on our motorhome, caravan or camper.
Types of solar panels for recreational vehicles
Once we know what a solar panel is for and whether we are going to need it or not, it is time to explain the different types of solar panels.
The first thing you should be clear about is that all vehicles operate at 12V. Within the types of solar panels we will find a differentiation that has to do with the panel cellsThese cells have silicon crystals that are responsible for capturing the energy, according to this we can speak of plates:
MonocrystallineThe advantage is that they are composed of pure silicon cells with a homogeneous structure. Their advantage is that the yield is higher. In terms of size, this type of panels are smaller and, therefore, the most suitable if you have space problems.
Polycrystallinewhich are composed of silicon cells with impurities and heterogeneous structure. Unlike the previous ones, these are less efficient.
Let's continue talking about types of solar panels:
Flexible solar panelsThese are lighter, thinner and more flexible panels, which allow them to adapt to the surface in a better way. Therefore, they are less resistant and less efficient than rigid solar panels.
Rigid solar panelsIn contrast to the previous ones, these occupy more height and weigh more, but in exchange the performance is higher and they are more resistant to weathering. For this reason, they are the most known and installed in motorhomes and camper vans.
What you need to know to buy the right solar panel
Now that we have seen the types of panels and the advantages of each of them, let's look at the technical aspects that you should take into account in order to choose the solar panel or solar panels that best suit your way of traveling and your vehicle.
Energy you need
The necessary energy you need depends on several aspects: type of travel, day-to-day consumption, power of the solar panel and hours of sunshine you will have per day.
Let's take an example: if you are going to use the refrigerator, charge cell phones and little else, with a solar panel of approximately 150W you will have enough. On the other hand, if you are also going to use the television, make coffee in a capsule coffee maker and dry your hair with a hair dryer, you will need a plate with more power or install more than one of the above.
To calculate the daily consumption of your motorhome or camper you can do it by multiplying the W/hour by the hours of use to obtain the necessary power.
Take into account the actual performance of the board
A solar panel has an efficiency of approximately 70% of the power claimed by the manufacturer, due to the energy loss that occurs in the process.
Power captured by a solar panel in the daytime
This aspect varies greatly depending on the hours of sunshine you have per day and the season of the year in which we are. Ah! And how clean the plate is also influences. Therefore, the performance is altered according to the above.
If we have a 150W plate capturing sun for 8 hours and we take into account an efficiency of 70%: 150W x 0.70 x 8 = 840W. Knowing this you can calculate if you will need an extra solar panel.
Two solar panels or a more powerful solar panel? Well, it depends on the hours of sunshine, in summer with two plates you can have enough if you lack one. However, in winter there are less hours of sun, so a more powerful plate will be ideal.
We tell you what charge controllers are used for. This device is responsible for acting as an intermediary between the batteries and the solar panels. What they control is the constant flow of current to avoid the dreaded overloads, which prolongs the life of the solar panels.
There are two types of charge controllers, PWM and MPPT, with MPPT increasing the power output of the load by approximately 20%. We always recommend MPPT except for cost, in a motorhome where space is limited, optimizing a 20% power transformation is very important.
We know that this is a lot of information, so we are going to outline these concepts with examples to make it clearer for you:
Plates < 200 WIdeal for basic consumption especially in summer season, where part of the trip will be connected in a camping or motorhome areas. A PWM type charge regulator will be sufficient.
Plates > 200 WIdeal for high consumptions using an inverter, trips also in winter with few hours of sunshine during itinerant trips where you will not be regularly connected to the current. It is advisable to use an MPPT type charge regulator.
How does Arvikon control your solar panels?
With Arvikon's domotics you will have the control of all the electrical installation of your motorhome, caravan or camper. The revolution in the management and control of solar panels for motorhomes and camper has arrived.
With the ARVIKON control unit you will be able to:
☀️ Manage solar panels up to 300A with the module. Arvishunt.
⚡️ Drive inverter up to 4500W with instantaneous current reading with the module. Arvishunt
? Have a reading of the voltage and the charge and discharge currents of the house battery.
? Manage battery charger charging up to 400A with the module. Arvishunt.
⚠️ Have full control in real time thanks to the system's fault and warning management screen with permanent historical record
SMARTMODE ECOFRIENDLY, this Smart Mode, or automatic mode, attempts to maintain all of your vehicle's power consumption with only green energy from solar or wind panels.
Do you believe that your vehicle can be 100% autonomous and sustainable, do you dare to be part of the home automation revolution with Arvikon?