How do solar panels work on a camping trailer and why even install one? Well, solar panels have become a very popular camper trailer and RV upgrade, especially for those who like to camp remotely, away from hookup sites.
So, instead of being at a camper site, you can park anywhere and make your own electric energy — with the condition of having access to natural light. Solar panels are more expensive than just a propane generator, but they are not polluting, they don’t emit an unpleasant smell, they are quiet, and they can work while you drive.
Solar Panels on a Camping Trailer: The Breakdown
The system that provides the trailer with all the electrical energy you need consists of these components:
- Solar panels
- Solar charge controller
- Inverter remote
- Shore power
- AC breaker panel
- Transfer switch
- Battery converter/charger
Solar Panels and Batteries
Solar panels generate direct current (DC) that’s stored in the battery. The power consumption depends on the size of the battery. The more electrical energy you plan on using up, the bigger the battery you’ll need.
Solar Charge Controller
The solar charge controller is the crucial component that’s important for the battery’s life. When the battery is empty or it hasn’t been used for a while, the solar charge controller provides the full current flow from the solar panels to the battery until it gets fully charged. Once it is replenished, the controller limits the current flow. Therefore it won’t come to an overcharge, and the battery will stay healthy.
The battery has a 12V DC output so, if you want to use anything that’s powered by AC (Alternating Current), you’ll need an inverter. It transforms the DC from the battery to 110V AC that all of the appliances in your home use. For example, the fridge, the air-conditioner, the hairdryer, the laptop charger, etc.
Because the inverters also consume power, they should be off if they are not in use. However, they are usually not that easily accessed, so they need an inverter remote that can turn them on and off from a distance. It is also insurance that the battery will have a longer lifespan.
Since the solar panels are usually just an upgrade, and you need the power source when there’s no natural light outside, the camper has to have a shore power outlet. It’s the outlet for the AC hook up at the camper sites or from the propane generator.
AC Breaker Panel
The AC breaker panel is the camper’s power distributor. It connects to the transfer switch to provide electrical energy either from the battery or the shore. What’s more, it prevents circuit overloads.
When you hook up on the shore, the transfer switch will automatically select shore power to feed into your AC breaker panel safely. It prevents dangerous power back feed. In other words, it basically tells the AC breaker panel where to draw power from.
It converts the AC input from the shore to DC output. You use it to charge the battery when you are not using the solar panels.
It’s not just the solar panels that do all the work. There is a whole system behind this magical invention for the campers. But, as you can see, it’s not that complex or hard to understand. It’s just a few components that are connected together to make your camper trailer feel like a real home.
We hope that we have answered your questions about how solar panels work on a camping trailer, and that you’ll consider upgrading your little portable home