A travel trailer solar panel can be a good stand alone, or complimentary charging system.
Depending on how much power you use in your travel trailer/camper trailer, there are some great benefits to going solar.
Solar is free and clean energy once you set it up, and even the set up cost can be cheaper than buying a generator outright.
Having said that, you do want to take into account the fact that a solar panel does require sunlight to be available in order for charging to occur.
From more spacious camper trailers to smaller trailers just for sleeping – let’s look at some great tips for travel trailer solar charging:
Tips For Choosing A Travel Trailer Solar Panel
1. Consider the size of your travel trailer/camper trailer
Firstly, consider the size of your travel trailer – but mainly, how much power will it be using?
Do you have 2 fridges, lighting, a microwave, lights, a TV….and, basically a set up that will chew through power in 2 seconds?
If you fit into that category, you will probably need several 100 Watt or higher panels, and probably a generator + plus some type of inverter of AC form of power.
Or, do you on the other hand have just a few appliances like say a fridge, lights and a few smaller handheld devices?
If this is you, you might be able to use a small solar setup of say 2 x 100 watt panels, and perhaps a regenerator/DC storage battery to power your whole trailer.
But, rather than just look at the number of appliances and your usage, look at your battery requirements as well. Which brings us to the next tip…
2. Consider how many batteries you have to charge in your camper trailer, and their type
Solar panels usually connect up to your camper trailer via cables or connectors.
The most common method is using anderson connectors (which a solar panel like the Go Power! Folding Solar Panel has) – that connect straight in through a power output/input near the tow bar of your trailer.
Some trailer might allow you to slide some batteries out from the side of the trailer and charge them in other ways.
Regardless, assess how many batteries you have to charge, their voltage, and whether the batteries will be charged in the same system i.e. charged in a bank.
It’s very important that for each charging circuit, you have a solar panel setup (sending the power) that is rated for carrying the charge.
A standard 12 volt battery will need 13.6 volts to be fully charged – and a standard portable 100 watt 18 volt solar panel should be capable of charging 1 in a day with over 6 hours of direct sunlight – but this is only a guide, not a guarantee.
Of course there are deep cycle vs. starter batteries, batteries with different Ah, and different voltage batteries to consider as well.
As an estimation, you can read this guide for more information on how many solar panels are needed for a 12 volt battery.
Once you have a good idea of your battery requirements (number, total voltage and Ah as main indicators), you can then look at getting the number of panels and size of panel that suits your use.
*NOTE: always seek a professional opinion if required, and read manufacturer’s instructions for batteries, panels etc. when making a decision
3. Consider the size of the solar panels, and the type of panels you want to get
If you’re serious about an adequate quality solar system for your travel trailer, there are probably two types of portable solar panels to have a look at:
- Folding Solar Panels – the larger 120 Watt panels
- Rigid/Solid Solar Panels – 100 Watt and above solar panels
For any type of travel trailer, you wouldn’t want to look at anything less than a 100 Watt panel, unless you plan on having multiple 50 watt panels.
Rigid solar panels will need to be mounted to your trailer – usually the roof – with brackets, and are usually great value for money – being able to get a starter kit for an affordable price.
A large folding solar panel on the other hand will be able to be unfolded from a carry case, and folds out with a metal stand onto the ground.
The good thing about a folding solar panel is that there are models that come with Anderson connectors to plug straight into your tow bar input, and can be bought with cables and plug ins separately.
Both are good portable options.
If you are unsure of the size of panel – aim for around 80-120 Watts as a start, but contact a solar panel company rep if you’re unsure.
4. Consider the setup you have is good for a basic solar setup
Common parts to a basic/starter solar setup are:
A panel, or several panels
Connectors to plug into the junction box
A solar controller rated for the number of panels, and watts/voltage going through the circuit
Cables to connect from the controller to the batteries or batteries input/output
Obviously the batteries
Other extras and accessories are fixings, brackets, an assembly tool, LCD display monitor,