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4 Common Myths About RV Solar Power

Before you dive into the world of RV solar power, it helps to have a working knowledge of how solar power works—and how it doesn't. If you're new to solar power, you may be thinking, "There can't be much to it, right? It's just sunlight! The sun does all the work!" But there's more to it than you think.Now, that doesn't mean you need to know the nitty gritty details of how solar panels operate when photons from sunlight hit photovoltaic cells, and so on. The science behind it doesn't matter as much as a practical grasp of the topic. Below, we'll clear up some common myths and misconceptions about RV solar power.Shop Solar Power or read on below.
To see us break down how solar power works, check out the video above!

Myth #1: Solar Works By Powering My Appliances

When many people first imagine a solar-powered RV, they assume the solar panels directly power an RV's appliances. In reality, however, solar panels charge your RV batteries, and the batteries in turn supply power to the appliances. Think of your RV battery like your gas tank and your solar panels like a jerry can. Your can will keep filling up your tank, but if you use fuel faster than the can can replenish it, you'll eventually run out. You want to make sure your panels provide enough energy that your batteries won't become depleted.Understanding this concept is important when determining how many solar panels you need. The right number of panels for you will depend on the capacity of your batteries and what it takes to keep them charged. To determine how many solar panels you need, check out our article How Much Solar Power Do I Need For My RV?
Solar Panels Myth Vs Reality

Myth #2: I'll Never Need Anything But Solar Again

Solar power can be great for camping off-grid, leaving a small environmental footprint, and reducing your costs. However, don't assume that you can stick a solar panel on the roof and never worry about power again. We wish it were that easy!In reality, solar power is just one possible source of power for an RV. The four main sources of RV power are:
  • Solar power
  • Shore power
  • Generator
  • Alternator (with or without battery charger)
The truth is, even after you install solar panels, it's unlikely that you'll never use anything else to juice up. If you're boondocking, you'll most likely have to run your generator on cloudy days, or to run your power-sucking A/C. And if you're parked at a campsite that provides hookups, you'll want to use them for maximum efficiency. Think of solar power as just another tool in your arsenal—one that allows you peace and quiet along with the freedom to roam.
Goal Zero Solar Panel

Myth #3: Solar Panels Work For Everyone

It's unlikely that anyone in the history of RVing has actually found a solution that works for everyone, every time. Solar power is no different.There are plenty of reasons that solar power makes a great investment—it allows you to go off-grid, grants you more freedom than generators, can be cost-efficient, and provides green energy.That said, there are also situations in which solar power just isn't a wise investment. If you live in a particularly rainy or hot climate, solar panels won't be as efficient as they would be in mild, sunny weather. Or maybe you're looking to save money, but you wouldn't break even if you sank the cash into solar.For help figuring out if solar power is right for you, check out our article 4 Reasons Not To Use RV Solar Power (And 4 Reasons You Should).
Goal Zero Solar Panel

Myth #4: Solar Panels Work Alone

You could plaster solar panels to your roof if you like, but solar panels are only part of what makes your system work. Alone, they won't do you much good. A typical solar setup looks something like this:
Solar Panel Components Diagram
The main components include:
Briefcase Solar Panel
Solar panels - Obviously, these are important. Your RV is not a plant. It can't photosynthesize. Solar panels are necessary to convert sunlight into energy.
Go Power Battery
Battery bank - Your batteries are also vital. The energy that your panels produce has to go somewhere. We recommend investing in a battery monitor to keep track of how much power you use and upgrading your battery bank if needed. If you want help deciding which batteries to buy, check out our video on the subject here.
Go Power Charge Controller
Charge controller - Did you know your batteries can overcharge? To protect your batteries and regulate the amount of power they receive, you'll need a charge controller (also called a solar controller). Most solar kits come with a charge controller included.
Power Inverter
Inverter - While not strictly required, we recommend purchasing a solar kit with an inverter, or purchasing an inverter separately. Solar panels produce DC power, so inverters are necessary to run items such as televisions, microwaves, computers, and other electronics that run off of AC power. When choosing an inverter, you'll want one that can handle the largest device you want to run.
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Related ArticlesRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated on: 2/8/19

Keith D.


I have a factory installed Furrion solar plug on the exterior of my camper. when I use my camper I connect to a generation, but when I am not using the camper I would like to have the solar panels keep my batteries charged so I can keep the refrigerator running. Would the solar panels need to be disconnected while the generator is running if they are connected via the Furrion plug? Thank you

Etrailer Expert

Jon G.


You shouldn't have to disconnect your solar panels from the plug you're talking about. Typically in your kind of setup there is a control panel or smart charger that is able to separate the different types of power being used for the RV. Do you have a control panel where you can see the state of charge for your batteries?



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