an solar panels power an RV air conditioner

Can Solar Panels Power an RV Air Conditioner? A Detailed Answer

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Can solar panels power an RV air conditioner? If you are exploring the outdoors in an RV, you must have thought about using solar panels at some point. Will the power be enough for an air conditioner? Can they run a TV? How do I know if it’s worth it to install them on my roof? These are all excellent questions, so let’s talk about them.

Can Solar Panels Power an RV Air Conditioner?

The benefits of using solar power for RV air conditioner are apparent. You’re taking care of your environment, cutting costs by living off the grid and saving money in the long run. It just seems like a no-brainer!

Can you run RV AC on solar? Yes, you can. Let’s talk about the working method of solar panels before diving into details on how much energy is needed to power an air conditioner.

an solar panels power an RV air conditioner
Photo: Andrey Armyagov / Adobe Stock

Solar Panels in RVs: How Does It Work?

Solar panels are used to convert the energy in sunlight into electricity. The process is not simple, but we don’t need to get too technical here.

The solar panel converts photons from light into electrons which flow through wires and create direct current (DC). This current is then stored in a battery, which you can use to power your RV appliances.

The power storage is actually a collection of batteries known as the “battery bank.” Since the solar power directly converts into DC, the battery pack can supply electricity to all 12V DC electronics in the RV.

However, an AC unit runs on 120V AC electricity. Not only does it need more electrical power but also an inverter to convert the DC into AC. The inverter must go between the AC electrical outlet and the battery pack.

Can solar panels power an RV air conditioner? Yes, but the solar system’s size will depend on how much energy you consume while camping. If you only plan on running a small refrigerator and some lights, then you can get away with a smaller set of solar panels. But an air conditioner needs more electrical power, thereby a more extensive setup.

solar power for rv air conditioner
You will need a large setup for running an AC unit. (Credit: Motor1)

How to Choose the Best Solar Panels for Your RV?

Although there are many different solar panel systems for RVs, they all basically fall into two categories: portable and installed.

Portable solar panels are the most popular type because they’re easy to set up and remove. They usually consist of a few small panels that can be attached to your RV’s roof or towed behind it.

Installed solar panels are more permanent, but they also take up more space and are usually only used by larger motorhomes.

Can solar panels run RV air conditioner? Here’s the kicker: you cannot use an air conditioner with portable solar panels because they just don’t generate enough electricity! The maximum output is closer to 100 watts per hour – which means that it could take several hours of direct sunlight to power a small AC unit.

On the other hand, installed solar panels can generate enough electricity to run an RV air conditioner (as well as other appliances). They usually come in kits that include the panels, inverter, and mounting hardware.

So, can solar panels power an RV air conditioner? Yes, it can, but you will need a powerful solar system. For an RV solar system, you may need to replace the battery pack every few years, but that’s nothing compared to the amount you’ll save on your utility bills.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run My RV AC?

For running RV air conditioner on solar, you need to carefully calculate the energy requirement of the system. A standard RV AC system has a 13,500 BTU rating. Some units in larger trailers have a higher rating. In that case, you have to adjust the power consumption rate.

Now, figure out these variables to calculate the power that the solar system needs to generate.

Find out the amp requirement

You need to determine how many amps that AC unit is drawing from the electrical source. Check the appliance’s owner manual or the RV’s user manual (if the AC is factory installed). Some air conditioners have an LED screen showing the amps it’s using.

Average running time of the AC unit

To calculate the correct power consumption of a solar powered RV air conditioner, you also have to think about its average running time per day. If you keep the 13,500 BTU system on for 4 hours a day, its daily consumption will be 600 Ah.

can solar panels run rv air conditioner
Long hours of direct sunlight is necessary for running an AC. (Credit: General Leads)

Available hours of direct sunlight

If you receive at least 5 hours of full sunlight every day, your RV has to have a solar setup that can produce 120 amps continuously during those five hours.

The number of solar panels

You will need to install solar panels that can produce at least 1728 watts of power. This calculation is applicable for a 13,5000 BTU RV air conditioner and given that the solar panels will receive at least 5 hours of direct sunlight each day.

The formula is 120 amps x 14.4 volts = 1,728 watts

If you want to run other appliances besides the AC unit, you have to find their amp requirements and add that to the equation.

Another important step is choosing the battery pack. You have to use a pack that can store that amount of energy. The battery has to have 650 Ah capacity for this AC unit mentioned above.

Final Thoughts

Can solar panels power an RV air conditioner? Yes, it can. You need to figure out the correct solar setup that can power up the air conditioner and other appliances (if necessary).

Solar panels are a great way to power your RV and save money on utility bills. Not only do they provide a continuous stream of renewable energy, but they also help you take care of the environment!

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