You might have an RV or camper of your own, and you’re toying with the idea of adding solar panels to it. The question that might be running through your mind, right now, is whether installing them on your camper trailer would really be worth it in your situation.
Solar panels will save money in the long run, but they’re not for everyone. RVwithTito goes over some of the benefits as well as the drawbacks of using solar power with your camper.
Pros and Cons of using solar panels with your camper
One of the biggest benefits of using a solar panel system is that you’re not limited to where you can camp. RV camper parks are great, but sometimes people get the itch to go off-grid and tow their camper somewhere scenic.
While you can certainly use a gas generator to run your appliances, you run the risk of annoying others around you with a noisy piece of equipment. You also won’t have to store extra gallons of gasoline in order to run the generator.
Solar panels are cost-efficient, but they’re not always the best choice. It’s an expensive system, and could take many years before you actually see the savings you’re making.
Another huge drawback to solar panels is the ability to access the sun. The panels absorb sunlight, which will then charge the batteries you use to run your appliances. When there’s an overcast day and there’s no sun available, you’re out of luck. You will have to resort to a backup plan to charge the camper’s batteries.
What would your savings be?
Imagine, for a moment, you camp 12 weeks out of a year’s period, which would be 84 days. Now, going off letsgosolar.com’s example of $40 a night to rent a spot at an RV park, you would spend approx. $3,360 just for the park rental fees that year.
How much savings you see will depend on the cost of the system you have installed on your camper. If you purchase one for $5,000, it would take around a year and a half to break even. After two years, you would start to see the savings.
If you purchased a basic system that costs around $2,000 to $3,000, you could see the savings within the first year. However, if you buy a higher-end product that could cost around $10,000 to $15,000, it would take many years to recoup your savings.
Of course, this is just a basic view of your savings. Other factors to include would be the gas for a backup generator, if you have one, and maintenance fees to keep the solar panels working in tip-top shape.
When you should use solar panels
According to letsgosolar.com, there are three types of campers. Only one of those three would benefit from a solar panel system. The first one they mention is the “Weekend Warrior,” which is when campers take their RVs out only on weekends or vacation trips. Since they camp only a few times a year, it would take decades to recoup the money invested on a solar panel system.
The next group of campers is the “Full Timers.” These are the ones that camp out a lot, but they use one of many RV camping sites where electricity is always available. Buying a solar panel kit for their camper would not make sense when it’s just as cost-efficient to plug it in throughout their stay.
The “Boondockers” are the ones that take camping to a whole new level. They take their RV to remote places, or areas where electricity isn’t readily available. They also plan several trips throughout the year. This group would benefit the most from a solar-powered system. Boondocking campers could possibly see the savings much sooner than others would.
Solar panels are worth it, but only if you camp a lot and you go to remote places where electricity isn’t readily available. For those who like to camp off the grid on weekends or special occasions, a portable solar panel system that you could get for $200 to $300, could work for you.