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Solar Power for Your Boat & RV

Solar electric power is ideal for mobile power when traveling, camping or sailing. When the vehicle engine is not needed, batteries are still fully charged by sunlight every sunny day. Solar electric charging allows full time living with rarely ever needing outside hookup or generator. The power requirements are a lot less in RV and marine living than a conventional home, because the living space is limited and, unlike most homes, the RV or boat has already been carefully engineered for utmost energy efficiency. The cost of solar equipment to recharge the coach batteries is easily kept to the lower range of solar power systems. 

SOLAR CHARGING EXPLAINED: Solar modules sized about 20" x 40" each are attached securely on the roof for full sun exposure. You need enough solar modules to replace each day, the amount of power you use each day.  A typical module costs $350 to $800, and produces 20 to 35 amp-hours charge on a fully sunny day. The total number needed depends on your power usage.  It also depends on where you are located, the season, for how many hours of sun you receive each week. RVs use anywhere from 1 to 6 solar modules.

10 gauge wires connect the modules to a charge control mounted flush in a cabinet wall inside. This small device automatically stops the charge when the batteries become fully charged, and should have meters to show you the progress of solar battery charging. From the charge control, wires lead direct to the batteries through a fuse. This is all of the solar charging system.  

MORE WAYS TO USE THE AVAILABLE POWER:  Usually an inverter is added to a mobile home or boat, to change battery power into standard household type AC electricity so you can plug in a computer, vacuum, larger TV and satellite system, power tools, and other appliances. Small portable inverters costing less than $100 will operate some items, but these have quality and durability intended just for occasional portable use. Inverters sized for 600 to 1500 watts are a common mobile choice, because these will run small appliances including computer equipment, large televisions and satellite receivers, vacuum cleaner, handheld power tools, and smaller microwave ovens. If a clothes washer or larger microwave oven are included, an inverter rated 1200-2500 watts might be best.

Many inverters are called standby inverters, which means they also function as a battery charger and automatic transfer switch when power is provided from an outside source, either shore power or a generator. A standby inverter senses when connected to outside power, and switches that power through to your outlets and appliances while also re-charging the battery. When outside power is disconnected, the standby inverter automatically switches back to producing AC power from the energy stored in the batteries. Appliances, lights and outlets always have AC power from the most appropriate source available. 

Click here to obtain detailed instruction on how to wire a standby inverter into an RV.