Most campers can boondock comfortably on a full time basis with 600 watts of solar on their RV. This assumes they also have an adequate battery bank to power most of the things they need need. How much solar you will need for your RV depends on where you plan to boondock. But for the most part, 600 watts of solar is adequate for most campers.
How Much Solar Do I Need for My RV?
Figuring out how much solar you will need for your RV to boondock comfortably for days or weeks at a time starts with how many people you have. Two adults with a child and a pet can get by quite well with just 600 watts of solar panels on the roof. In fact, the same family can boondock comfortably with less, perhaps 400 watts under conservative power use.
How Many Batteries Will You Need?
Solar panels is just half of the equation. You also need an adequate battery bank to store power for when the sun goes down, or during times of cloudy skies.
A good rule of thumb is 100 amp hours of battery capacity for every person in the RV. The average boondocking couple has about 200 to 240 amp hours (AH) of battery capacity. That’s usually either two 12 volt batteries, or two 6 volt batteries.
Boondocking families with four or more people will likely want at least 400 AH of battery capacity. That’s usually done with four 6 volt batteries, or two 12 volt lithium batteries.
600 watts of solar can recharge four 6 volt batteries in a day easily. But that’s assuming the RV is not being used during the day. If a family plans to remain with the RV all day, everyday, using lights, fans, water pump, and other accessories, you may need more solar power. If that family can at least spend one day a week away from their RV all afternoon, just to let the batteries fully charge, 600 watts is enough. To be on the safe side, bump it up to 750 to 800 watts of solar.
Read more about this at, “How Much Battery Power for Boondocking Will I Need?“
Can You Run Your Microwave and Instant Pot with 600 Watts of Solar?
It depends on how much time you need one of these appliances to run. Most microwave use is limited to no more than five (5) minutes, which will do fine with 600 watts of solar and just 200 AH of battery. However, Instant Pots are generally ran for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, and can run your batteries down before your cooking is done.
Thus, if you need to run your Instant Pot, either double your battery capacity to 400 AH, or power it with a generator.
Most boondockers have a generator on hand. At the very least, get a single 2,000 watt inverter-generator for the times when you need to cook something 30 minutes or more.
My RV Came With a Single Solar Panel, Is That Enough?
No. A single panel, that produces 150 to 200 watts of power, is not enough for boondocking several days or weeks. A single solar panel is just enough to recharge a battery bank for one night at a Walmart parking lot. RV manufacturers do this just to tide you over as you travel from one RV park to another. It’s not meant to provide with you continuous power for several days of boondocking.
If you want to run your air conditioner from solar and batteries, read our article, “Can I Run My Air Conditioner on Battery Power?“
What About Those Boondockers with 1,500 to 2,000 Watts of Solar?
These are the guys who want to power their air conditioning units from their battery banks. They also have about eight or more lithium batteries (about 800 AH). They run their stove tops from battery, their heater from battery, their refrigerator from battery, etc… They’re solar geeks who see it as a challenge to run everything from the sun.
The average boondocker doesn’t do this. For one, it’s extremely expensive. Each lithium battery is about $1,000.00. The average 200 watt solar panel is about $200.00. And then there’s the wiring, the connectors, the charge controller, the battery monitor, etc. etc., to go along with it.
If you’re just looking to cut costs from running your generator, 600 watts of solar with 200 AH of battery capacity seems to be what 80% of the boondockers out there rely on.