Most RVs have an on-board 12v battery that is used to power on-board lights, water pump, electric brakes break-away system, a radio, and ceiling fans. The battery is charged when you plug your camper into an external electrical service – called shore power.
Without a shore power connection, however, none of the AC appliances or receptacles will work unless the camper came with an inverter. Generally speaking, only the newer, higher-end RVs came from the factory with an inverter, and even then it was likely only sized to run a residential refrigerator.
To provide power to the microwave, television, blender, toaster, air conditioner, etc. when camping without electrical hookups, a properly designed and installed off-grid power system can be retrofitted into RVs new and old. However, this process always starts by understanding what your goals are then consulting with us to provide appropriate options. Don’t worry, even if you aren’t sure what you really want, we can guide you through the process to meet your needs and budget.
Simply put, this means camping in authorized locations that have no electrical, water, or sewer hookups and generally in areas not specifically developed for campers.
Dry camping usually indicates camping in a designated camping area without electrical, water, or sewer hookups at the camp site. There may or may not be potable water spigots in a dry camping location.
In both cases, there will be no electrical hookups and your on-board power system needs to be configured to meet your usage needs. This can range from just having lighting all the way to having all the comforts of home.
There is no easy answer to this question. One small solar panel and solar charge controller can keep a charged battery charged while in long-term storage. A rooftop full of solar panels and adequate battery storage can enable running air conditioning, microwaves, etc. This is often limited to the amount of rooftop space on top of the vehicle or trailer and possibly supplemented with ground-mounted solar panels. We have even helped clients generate additional power by creating solar awnings over their RV windows. There are many options we can discuss during a free consultation.
Yes, it is very possible and depends heavily on the size of the vehicle or trailer, amount of battery capacity, amount of solar panels, size of inverter(s) installed, and efficiency of the air conditioning unit.
Roof-top units found on the vast majority of RVs are highly inefficient and consume the majority of power in an off-grid scenario. Often it is advantageous to remove the inefficient roof-top AC unit and replace it with a quiet and efficient mini-split air conditioner. These typically use about 25% of the power and run nearly silently. The cost of the mini-split is often offset by requiring fewer batteries and a smaller inverter. And, if the roof-top unit is removed, that allows for additional solar panels to run the air conditioning longer.
At Off-Grid Power Systems, we look for power efficiency options to help our clients save money in the long run and be more comfortable when camping off-grid.
Generally speaking, traditional silicon glass panels with aluminum frames are the most durable, cost-effective, and electrically efficient solution. These panels will typically last 20-30 years.
Silicon module flexible solar panels are lighter in weight, but typically less efficient and less durable. They often carry warranties of only 1-3 years. They can not be walked on and require different installation methods to make sure there isn’t too much heat build-up between the flexible panel and underlying roof.
CIGS panels are flexible, more durable, and close in electrical efficiency to traditional rigid panels. They can be walked on and adhered directly to the roof without worry about heat build-up damaging the solar panels. However, these panels cost quite a bit more than traditional panels, but have certain use cases where they are preferred to traditional panels.
Absolutely, subject to the rules where you are camping or boondocking. Most campgrounds do not allow generator usage overnight or for more than one or two hours during any 24 hour period. Running the generator can be a nuisance for neighbors who have to listen to it and smell the fumes. It can also be a nuisance and hassle for the camper. Our clients are usually looking for alternatives to running their generator or to limit use of the generator to charging batteries during the day when there isn’t much solar generation due to clouds, rain, or lots of shade in the campsite.
Generators can be used to supplement solar generation and can even be automated by the installed power system to stop and start the generator automatically based on power load, battery charge, time-of-day, or a combination of those.
This is not an easy question to answer. The most complete answer is “it depends”. It depends on the needs, goals, use, and size of any off-grid system. It also depends on whether a client prefers to install a system themselves and just wants help with sizing and answering questions or if they desire a full, turn-key system installed by us.
Systems designed and fully installed by Off-Grid Power Systems start at $10,000 including solar on the roof, lithium batteries for energy storage, and an inverter for running small ac appliances (i.e. TV, microwave, hair dryer).
Larger systems for full-time off-grid living, large motor coaches, wanting to run air conditioning off-grid, etc., will require more solar collection, power generation, and energy storage. We will work with each client to design and install an appropriately sized system for their needs.
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