When considering the use of solar on your campervan conversion I would encourage you to consider the type of camping you plan on doing. Are your adventures always taking you to campgrounds with electricity? Are you exploring the National Parks, National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, State park campgrounds, private campgrounds with electrical hook ups, dry camping on the road catching a few hours of sleep at rest areas or Walmart parking lot? Your answers to these questions will determine if solar is an option you want to consider on your campervan.
Solar is not a must have by any means, however; depending on how you plan on using your campervan adding a solar system will make your travels easier in regards to power management and may also save you money.
Save money? Yes, Solar “may” save you money- deep cycle batteries are meant to be charged and discharged many times. The life of your batteries depend on multiple factors, one such factor is how low you run your batteries down prior to charging. Deep discharges below 50% will likely shorten the overall life of your batteries. This being understood, having solar keeping your batteries topped off when your campervan is not running or when you are not plugged into shore power may help lengthen the life of your batteries. Considering the high cost of high quality AGM or Lithium batteries, solar may not be a bad investment providing more power for you to use and also help keep your batteries healthy and last longer.
The other place cost may be reduced and enjoyment increased is by using campsites without electric hook ups, some of the best sites are away from the power-pole and also cost less per night in most cases.
What about the generator? Well, if it was my campervan I would consider the fact solar in most cases will cost ¼ of the cost of an underbody Onan Generator at installation. Generators come with a warranty of a couple years where solar cells are warrantied for 15-25 years depending on the manufacture and type of cells. Bonus with solar - you have no noise, no maintenance, does not need exercised and they do not run out of gas.
Can my entire Campervan run on solar? No not likely, you have a limited amount of space to mount solar panels thus a restricted amount of wattage is available to be obtained from the sun. Think of it like this, you can run nearly anything from your batteries and inverter. A solar set up is charging your batteries. If you are using less power than power coming into your “campervan electrical grid” your good to go, if you are using more than is coming into your grid, such as running an air-conditioner, your solar set up will make your battery reserve last longer but not indefinite.
With the above being understood and the way the majority of campervan travelers use their camper-vans, an aggressively high wattage solar system is not always needed. However a 150w or so solar system to keep your basic functions such as refrigerator, LED lights, vent fans etc. functioning round the clock is a wise choice.
The more power coming into your “Campervan Electrical Grid” the less you will have to monitor and manage your power and the more opportunities to non-electric camping spots you will have while using the amenities of your campervan.
Bottom line: Is solar worth the cost? Most likely yes, especially if adding it at the time your campervan is being built. Adding solar to your Campervan from the manufacture is not as expensive as you think.
Give DLM-Campervans a call to discuss solar as an option on your Campervan.
651-285-7089 or 507-382-9446