DIY's Our Van Resources & Tips

Should I Get Solar Panels for my Campervan?

August 6, 2018

Yes! I would recommend solar panel for all campervans as it’s a freely available power source which will keep your van batteries topped up ready to provide power when you need it.

Campervan Solar Panels

What types of Solar Panel are there?

There are 3 main types of solar panels available for campervans/motorhomes.

  • Rigid – these are solid panels with brackets that attach to your roof. They can be quite chunky – the first ones we bought for our van were a good inch or two thick. These can also be tricky to fit to a curved roof, as there’s no felxibility to them.
  • Flexible – these are usually low profile solar panels and can be bent around a curved roof. You can simply glue them to a roof with silkaflex adhesive. They’re usually just as efficient as a rigid panel, but can be a bit more expensive.
  • Portable – these are great if you don’t have the roof space for solar panels, but still want to make use of all that solar energy. They pack up and can be stored inside your van – great for smaller vans! The only downside to these, is unless you’re parked up at a campsite for the day, they might get stolen if you’re out and about.

What do we use?

We have 2 x 100w low profile flexible solar panels on our van and one of the most important parts of our power system. Take a look at our “Do we need mains hook up in our van” post where I explain how and why we don’t need any type of external power hook up. They’re perfect for being off the grid, but honestly, if you plan to connect to mains hook-up each night, then you probably won’t need any.

Price

The price of solar panels is slowly lowering. I think we paid about £200 for our setup, however if you went for a single panel you could easily get away with £100, even cheaper if you go for a lower watt setup. For the price we paid I am very happy with the outcome and believe the price of the panels will pay for them self in maintaining our batteries, piece of mind and it will keep maintaining the batteries voltages which should extended the leisure batteries life.

Leisure batteries like to be maintained at a set voltage, this helps to extend the live of the battery. A solar panel with a charge system will do this for you.

Pro’s and Cons

Here is a list of the benefits we see:

  • Free power source during the day
  • Seems to continue working in cloudy weather (not as efficient but still does something)
  • Keeps batteries maintained
  • Can connect multiple panels together to increase your capacity
  • Power is one less thing to worry about
  • If the vehicle is in storage for months you know the batteries are going to be charged when you pick it up
  • Offgrid camping / wild camping
  • Completely self-sufficient with the correct setup (in terms of power at least)
  • They are environmentally friendly – much better than having a generator or running the engine!

And the cons:

  • They struggle to keep up with very high energy appliances over a long period of time
  • They can take up a lot of room on your roof which could be used for things like storage/seating
  • They generate less power during the darker winter months or on cloudy days

Do you have solar panels? Got any suggestions or negatives? Post them in the comments below.

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