You will need about 600 watts of solar for your RV in order to boondock comfortably for several days in a row. This is assuming you have an adequate battery bank to power most of the things you need. How much solar you will need also 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 to boondock comfortably in your RV for days or weeks in a row, 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, if ground panels were involved. Ground panels can be tilted and turned to maximize absorption.
How Many Batteries Will You Need?
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 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. Most boondockers do not get more than four of these batteries because of how heavy they are. If you need more batteries, make the switch to 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?
You can run these appliances with 600 watts of solar and two 6 volt batteries. However, you will also need an adequately sized power inverter. A power inverter converts 12 volt DC power to 110 volt AC. Most microwave ovens found in RVs require 1,000 watts of power. The medium sized Instant Pot also requires 1,000 watts of power. This means you will need a 3,000 watt inverter to run them both at the same time.
Why a 3,000 watt inverter and not a 2,000 watt? This is because inverters consume power in order to convert power. The average inverter requires about 15% of the power needed to convert. So, if you need 1,000 watts of AC power, you will need 1,150 watts total. 2,500 watt inverters are hard to find. Inverters generally step from 2,000 watt models to 3,000 watts.
You can still get by with a 2,000 watt inverter as long as you do not run both the microwave and Instant Pot at the same time.
Most boondockers, however, rely on a generator to run high-draw appliances. Generators in the 2,000 to 2,200 watt range are the most popular.
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.