Maybe you are thinking about getting an Rv, or maybe you have one and you’re looking into getting a generator or a solar panel.
Knowing the pros and cons of buying a solar panel vs a generator for an Rv is important.
Below we’ve outlined a short, but to-the-point list of the pros and cons of each power system, plus a brief summary of what each is and who they are suited to.
Let’s get to it…
Solar Panel vs Generator For An Rv: Which To Use?
What’s Good About Solar Panels?
- Clean sustainable energy which is good for the environment
- Free to run once you install or set up
- Doesn’t smell like a generator might
- Completely quiet in operation compared to a generator
- Can buy extras like solar generators which allow you to store DC to use whenever you like
- Can be used with an inverter for AC power
- Can complement a generator as a supplementary system
- Can get portable solar panels which don’t require installation at all i.e. they can be used and positioned however you like, then connected to your system
What’s Not So Good?
- Not as much power as a generator
- Can’t handle high energy consumption – heating/cooling and high energy appliances like a microwave, oven, toaster, stove, hair dryer, air-conditioner and washing machine.
- Drip charges over the course of a day – slow charging
- Needs sunlight to charge (cloudy days and nights are an issue) – dependant on the weather and amount of sunlight available
- Up front installation cost or purchase cost
What’s Good About Generators?
- More power than a solar system – can handle high energy consumption such as heating/cooling
- More reliable that solar – not dependant on weather
- Quick and instant charging – you don’t have to run your generator for long to get your charge
- Come as a traditional generator, or an inverter generator for AC appliances as well
- Can be used with a solar system
What’s Not So Good?
- Upfront cost to purchase – can be expensive
- Continuous running cost to purchase fuel/gas
- Leaves carbon pollution in the environment
- Can smell like fuel – gas fumes are not pleasant
- Can be noisy to operate – annoying for you and those around you
- Some public camping spots don’t allow generators for noise reasons
So, Which Is Better For You – Solar Panel, or Generator?
The average Rv would probably have a combination of 12 volt lighting which might be LED, a pump for water, a small TV or radio, and a small DC operated fridge.
If you have this sort of set up, solar by itself should be fine for you if:
- You have 1 or 2 12 volt DC Rv batteries
- You have a well informed solar panel setup (you do your research, and get a manufacturer’s as well as an installation professional’s advice) – this article might help with estimating your solar panel requirements
- You use your devices moderately
If you have any AC appliances, you could consider getting a solar panel sine wave inverter. And, even if you find yourself concerned about running out of power, you could consider a solar regenerator – which would allow you to store backup energy.
However, you would almost certainly get a generator if:
- You are heavy on you energy consumption, or use heating/cooling and high energy appliances alot like a microwave, oven, toaster, stove, hair dryer, air-conditioner and washing machine.
- You spend most of your time in areas with little sunlight
- You absolutely need reliable and fast power
Can You Use A Solar Panel Setup, and A Generator Together?
Yes, you can.
In fact, a lot of people with generators are starting to use solar panels to supplement their generator usage – or just using solar panels themselves.
Solar panels top up your batteries during the day while you’re parked or driving, and sometimes you might not need to use your generator at all.
If for some reason your batteries don’t fully charge during the day due to a lack of sunlight, or you have to use your high energy devices – you can get out the generator.
You might like to read more about the different types of portable/off grid solar panels, which you can do so in the guides below: