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Solar Power for Camper Van: Installation and Cost

Solar power is no longer confined to houses and commercial spaces. Rapid uses of solar energy take the technology to a campervan or other RV.

Have ever imagined an independent power source on the campervan?

A solar power-powered campervan will enable you to reduce fuel consumption and provide green energy on the go. You can use solar power for all the activities of the vehicle.

You will get access to more gadgets and devices with sufficient power.

Besides, it is the best alternative to generators and the battery will get instant power from the sun.

You can do a lot of things on the campervan like at your home when you will install the solar system on the vehicle.

In this writing, we include everything related to solar power installation on a campervan.

We present the energy measurement, the number of solar panels, installation process, and costs for solar systems with a campervan.

Let’s get started and explore more.

Can You Power Camper Van On Solar Power?

Power Camper Van On Solar Power
Power Camper Van On Solar Power

Yes, you can power a campervan on solar power. Solar energy is powerful enough to run all the appliances and devices that you will use on the van. So, solar power for camper van is a valid idea.

In general, the campervan contains several electrical items including lights, fans, mini-refrigerator, power bank, hot shower, and more.

For instance, if you have a campervan without a solar panel, you can not run all the devices simultaneously from the vehicle’s battery. An independent power system like solar energy enables you to get additional power outdoors.

On the contrary, you need continuous power for some devices like a wifi router/booster, cooling system, interior lights, and more. Solar energy helps you to run all the devices and make your camping smooth.

So, there are no limitations when it comes to running a campervan with solar energy, you will get additional power if you make your next camping plan to remotest places. It is a flexible power solution for your outdoor recreation.

How Many Solar Panels Do You Need For Camper Vans

It depends on the size and number of appliances of the campervan. If you have a large or medium camper van, it requires the same power as a small home. An average sized campervan requires 4-6 solar panels. If you use 300 or 500 watts solar panels.

To find out the number of solar panels, you have to decide the power consumption first.

Another important thing is that you don’t need excessive energy to run a solar-powered camper van. The reason is that you don’t use all the devices at the same time.

For example, when you turn on the fan and take a rest on the bed. You don’t need to power the oven on the induction cooker.

Similarly, you can run the toaster or electric kettle during the morning, when you don’t need to run the LED lights.

So, it is a significant part to find the average energy consumption rate that is similar to your daily needs on a campervan.

Answer Before Building Your Solar Camper Van

As we discussed in the above paragraph, the number of solar panels depends on the power consumption of the camper van.

If you have a long list of appliances and devices that you want to use in the camper van, it will need more power to operate.

But, really you can reduce the energy consumption and number of appliances. More clearly, you have to cut off some devices to save energy.

So, ask yourself and select the less important devices. You can disconnect them for a certain period.

What will change? The total power structure of the solar system will be changed after applying this calculation.

You will need fewer solar panels and there will be a chance to put less pressure on the roof of the vehicle. Decide to install solar on the system.

8 Steps Install Solar Power for a Camper Van

Before doing and installing anything, a proper plan will give you a perfect workflow. It is also applicable for converting your campervan into a solar system.  

A step-by-step guide will help you to understand and complete the process accurately. In the below paragraphs we present the general and technical steps of solar panel installation on the camper van. 

Calculate Your Needs 

Calculate Your Needs for Camper Van
Calculate Your Needs for Camper Van

What do you want? What is the energy consumption rate? 

Yes, the above questions are more important than buying a solar panel and it is the first step of installing solar panels. You have to calculate the needs first wherever you install the solar system. 

This calculation can be divided into three simple parts. 

First, you have to find out the needs and consumption. You can make measurements of energy consumption by calculating the power of devices that you have installed on the camper van. Then make a draft for average energy needs per hour. 

During this process, exclude the devices that you don’t use at the same time as other devices.

Second, find solar panels with the same power production system. There are different types of solar panels with distinct power production capacities.

The final step is to compare the size and number of solar panels with the roof of the camper van. Remember, different companies offer various solar panel sizes with the same power.

Your responsibility is to find the most effective solar panels with the smallest size and the same power. 

Check If You Can Install Solar Panels On Campervan Roof 

Check If You Can Install Solar Panels On Campervan Roof
Check If You Can Install Solar Panels On Campervan Roof 

There are two popular systems for installing solar panels on campervans. The first one is to put the solar panels on the roof of the vehicle permanently.

On the other hand, you can take the solar panel with you and put it on the ground when using it. That means it will be a portable solar panel system.

The first option is perfect for large campervans and independent power sources. You will get a complete power solution to run different devices.

The problem is that when you want to remove the solar panel, it will be costlier and requires too much technical work.

On the contrary, the portable option is best if you want to use the same solar panels for other purposes too. But, the panels will acquire more space in the vehicle.

Comparing the features and advantages, rooftop solar panel installation is best for the campervan.

It is up to you and you can check the best option for your RV.

List Out The Equipment To Install Solar Panels on Campervan

List Out The Equipment To Install Solar Panels on Campervan
List Out The Equipment To Install Solar Panels on Campervan

The installation process is the same as the residential buildings. But, you need some extra equipment to ensure a quality installation on the top of the campervan.

The primary equipment is a solar panel, charge controller, power inverter, cables, battery, and installing materials. 

The solar panel will receive the power from the sun and convert it to electricity. You need other additional devices such as screws and nuts to set up the solar panels. 

The charge controller receives the power and sends it to the battery. The battery will store the power for further use and you can charge the power bank, run an LED lights fan from the battery when sunlight is unavailable.

With the power inverter, you can convert DC power to AC power. It is required because you can’t run some devices on DC electricity.

Furthermore, cables and solar panel holding equipment are also included in the list.

Purchase

Buy solar panels from a recognized supplier and find the best brand for the campervan. Some specialized companies manufacture solar panels for vehicles.

It will be better if you purchase solar panels from them. But, you can also use regular solar panels for campervans.

Wherever you purchase solar panels the efficiency and durability are important. An inefficient solar panel will be a burden to produce sufficient energy.

On the contrary, the solar panels on the campervan will move and you will use them at different locations.

So, a strong and durable panel will ensure safety along with long-lasting usability. Buy solar panels that stand out with quality, production, and durability.

Install Solar Panels 

Install Solar Panels for Camper Van
Install Solar Panels for Camper Van

Installing solar panels on camper vans is not easy and simple as residential solar systems.

It is technical enough and you have to hire a professional who is an expert in solar panel installation for vehicles.

For some campervans, you have to change the interior part and install new devices.

Similarly, the roof needs to be made suitable for solar panel installation. You need exact measurements, and equipment to make it flawless.

The cables and other devices should be kept in a perfect place. You have to ensure that it takes a standard place and doesn’t’ acquire a large area of the interior.

Connect The Equipment

Connecting the equipment is a little bit technical when installing solar systems in a campervan.

There is separate connectivity that comes from the vehicle and it is already installed by the vehicle manufacturer.

So, you need a specialist worker who can connect solar power and vehicle power simultaneously.

You have to connect the solar charge controller, battery, and panels consciously to make them more productive.

On the contrary, the connection needs multiple outputs for several devices and extra connecting cords for outdoor usage.

However, a good connection will ensure safety and keep everything secure while using solar power in the campervan.

Test Out The Output Energy 

Test Out The Output Energy for Camper Van
Test Out The Output Energy 

You have invested in solar power. It is time to check the output of solar energy. You can calculate the production hourly or daily.

However, it depends on sunlight and how much energy you are getting. In general, an efficient solar panel needs more than 6 hours of sunlight to produce energy for the whole day.

You can compare the production by consuming electricity by different devices. It will help you to understand the standard energy production rate of the solar system.

Besides, you have to test the output in DC and AC electricity because different devices require alternative powers.

Complete Your Installation

If you are satisfied with the output and the setup of the solar system on the campervan, you can complete the installation with a final inspection.

Make sure that everything is connected securely.

Now, you have to ensure the rearrangement of the vehicle body, you changed during the installation.

A complete installation will provide sufficient energy during the day and store additional energy on the battery.

Your vehicle is ready now and you can enjoy the next outside camping with this powerful campervan. It is important to run scheduled maintenance and check the connection and devices regularly.

How Much Do You Need To Spend To Power Your Camper Van On Solar?

Are you looking for a cost-effective power solution for your campervan? Yes.

Solar power is the best solution and after a single investment, you will get power at least for 25 years.

It is said that solar panels remain but the vehicle will be unable to run.

The cost and number of solar panels depend on the energy consumption. As much energy is needed, it would be more expensive.

Let’s have a look at the possible installation costs.

Energy Needed (Per day)How Many 300 Watt Solar PanelsHow Many 500 Watt Solar PanelsSpend on Others
(Inverters, Batteries,…)
Total Cost
1500 watt2 panels1 panels $2000$2500
3000 watt3 panels2 panels$2500$3200
4000 watt4 panels2 panels $3000$4800
5000 watt4 panels 3 panels $3000$5200
Cost to go solar for your camper van

The table only contains the cost for the solar system battery and inverter. You have to spend more on the vehicle reshaping, installation, and power checkup.

Wrapping Up

Finally, you get a perfect estimation for the solar panel installation on the campervan. If you follow these steps and hire a professional, the installation process will be easier and more effective.

Depending on the power consumption and production, you have to decide the activity on solar power during the comparison.

Without a scheduled operating system, you can not run all the devices at the same time. But, it is possible to power maximum devices at different times.

Enjoy the time with your family and friends without power interruption even outdoors.