Marine and Auto Solar Power
Think that solar power is just for homes? Think again. Boats, RVs, camper vans, and many other vehicles can also benefit from the right solar power solutions. However, it's essential to be aware that there are many differences when installing solar to one of these applications compared to a standard solar power system on a residential home. If you're interested in adding solar power to an RV, boat, or other vehicle, here's what you need to know about finding the right solar solution.
In case you didn't know, the number of solar panels required in a system is based on how much power you need to generate for your application. Because RVs, boats, and the like use less power daily than most homes, your mobile solar power system will naturally be smaller. This means fewer solar panels, a less powerful inverter, and—the best part—a lower cost for the entire system.
This lower cost is a significant reason that owners often invest in solar for their RV or boat before adding it to their homes; it's simply a more realistic expense for them to shoulder than a full-sized residential system.
Finding Space for Your Panels
Though these applications require fewer panels, finding the space for installing them can be tricky. RVs typically have their solar panels mounted to their roofs; however, you'll need to ensure that you're not blocking any vents or other important rooftop features with the panels. Additionally, you'll need to take extra care if you hope to haul any luggage or gear on your RV's roof and ensure that your panels are not damaged. Thin, flexible solar panels are often a good option for a flat, easy installation that allows you to use a rooftop luggage rack on your RV.
Finding the space for solar panels on a boat can be a bit trickier. Not all boats have a roofing or any other kind of sturdy shading on which to mount solar panels. In these cases, a simple addition of a flat, foldable arm on your boat's railing can be a good option. This will allow you to add and position a solar panel to keep it in more direct sunlight, which helps to maximize the panel's efficiency throughout the day. Alternatively, adding solar panels to the boat dock to charge batteries may be more convenient.
Benefits of Solar for Boats and RVs
The primary benefit of adding solar to a home is to reduce or eliminate electric bills. That changes quite a bit when you're mounting your panels on a boat, RV, or other modes of transportation.
The primary benefit to consider is having access to electricity everywhere you go. With a boat, your electricity comes from your motor and boat battery. If the motor is not running—say, if you're quietly fishing in the middle of a lake—you might be able to run your stereo and other onboard features for a short time. However, just as with a car, this will eventually drain your boat's battery, and you won't be able to start it when you're ready to head for shore.
Similarly, RVs can power their accessories with their engine's battery, or they have the option of connecting to shore power when they're at an official camping ground. Those camping grounds, however, charge a premium for spots with shore power, increasing your costs while limiting your options of where you can comfortably camp. Adding solar power to your RV allows you to have electricity in your RV anywhere you choose to park it, without concerns about running your battery dry.
While some boaters and RVers may use a gas-powered generator as a form of backup power to deal with these hang-ups, solar power is a far better solution. Solar will typically cost you less in the long run than a generator powered by fossil fuels. Solar panels are quieter and more environmentally friendly and don't require you to continue purchasing fuel for your generator.
Additionally, solar panels can help keep that engine battery charged. Even if you only purchase a small solar kit to maintain a battery charge, you can gain the peace of mind that you'll never be left stranded in the middle of the lake or the woods.
Beyond Solar Panels
If you're new to solar, it's important to note that you need far more than solar panels to complete your system. You will also need an inverter and charge controller. An inverter is responsible for converting the DC power generated by your solar panels into the AC electricity used by most of the accessories you'll find in an RV or boat. If you want solar power to charge your engine or housekeeping batteries, a charge controller may be required to regulate voltages to these batteries.
A charge controller does just what the name implies—controls the amount of charge that can flow into your engine or solar storage batteries if you're using them. Without a charge controller, you run the risk of overcharging and damaging your batteries, which is especially concerning if your engine battery gets overcharged, as it can leave you unable to start your motor. While some might consider a charge controller optional, it's generally not a risk you want to run, and it's far better to include it in your system's design.
Get the Right Solar Equipment and Support
If you're interested in adding solar to your boat or RV, you may be surprised by just how easy it can be—with the right help. The PowerStore, Inc. team can help you find a solar kit that meets your power needs and provide you with the support you need to install the system properly. Or, if you prefer, we can direct you to a professional installer who can help you. Contact us today to learn more about our wholesale marine and auto solar equipment.