No, a 100-watt solar panel is not enough for an RV, especially if you plan to use your RV for boondocking. A single 100-watt solar panel is the bare minimum required to recharge a couple of 100 amp hour batteries, but that’s only if you’re not running any appliances or components in your RV all day long. For most normal RV uses, a single 100-watt solar panel is not enough to keep up with normal demand.
Is a 100-watt Solar Panel Enough for my RV?
We received the following question from Sean…
Hello, I’m trying to determine if a 100 watt panel is good enough for anything basically. I’m considering the purchase of a new motorhome that comes equipped with a 100 watt solar panel. Additional panel(s) are apparently and option but I don’t have enough knowledge on the subject to decide whether that would be worth the $1000 extra to have it installed. Can you help me decide: a) whether it’s worth having at all b) whether the cost seems appropriate?Sean, prospective motorhome buyer
Most RV manufacturers now build their trailers and motorhomes with a single solar panel as standard equipment. These panels usually range between 100 watts to 200 watts.
A single panel of this size is not enough to keep your battery bank charged during the day, and still let you utilize your RV’s 12 volt (DC circuit) appliances and components. You will end up drawing more power out of your battery than that single solar panel can put back in.
The appliances and components that run from your DC circuit are the lights, ceiling fans, water pump, USB ports, tongue jack, and power awning. That circuit also powers the circuit boards, propane igniter, and fans, inside your refrigerator and furnace.
So, What Good is a 100-watt Solar Panel For?
It’s only good for recharging your battery bank when you’re not inside the RV all day long.
Assuming you leave the RV after breakfast, and don’t come back until sunset, a single 100, 150, or 200 watt solar panel can recharge a couple of 100 amp hour (AH) batteries, so that your DC circuit can run for the rest of the night.
However, the problem for most boondockers when it comes to these single panels, is that you’ll get cold weather, or rainy weather, and you decide to stay inside your RV all day. At that point, you’ll end up drawing the battery down faster than that single panel can keep up.
Why Do RV Manufacturers Only Give You a Single Solar Panel?
It’s because they want to advertise their RVs as being, “boondocking ready” or “off-grid ready”. Even though a single 100, 150, or 200-watt solar panel is not nearly enough for boondocking, it’s still a gray area because the definition of boondocking varies from one person to the next.
Most RV manufacturers will offer a “boondocking upgrade” or “off-grid package” that includes more solar panels and more batteries. If you plan to use your RV for boondocking, the definitely get this upgrade.
How Many Solar Panels and Batteries Should I Get For Boondocking?
We addressed this question in another article, “How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for Boondocking“. But here is the summary…
- If you have a single 12 volt battery, at about 100 AH, you should have 300 watts of solar panels, minimum.
- With two 12 volt batteries, or two 6 golf cart volt batteries, with between 200-250 AH, you should have 400 watts of solar panels, minimum.
- If you have four 12 volt batteries, or four 6 volt golf cart batteries, with between 400-600 AH, you should have 600 watts of solar panels, minimum.
Those are just bare minimums. We recommend doubling those solar panel figures for comfortable boondocking.
As for battery power, we recommend you go with at least two 12 volt 100 AH batteries, or two 6 volt golf cart batteries. The golf cart batteries typically range between 220 to 240 AH. When paired with 400-800 watts of solar panels, this set up will power your DC circuit appliances and components for a full 24 hour period. Read more about this at, “How Much Battery Power Do I Need for Boondocking?“