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SolarTown Learning

Solar Applications for Recreational Vehicles and Boats

08-31-2009
Category: RV and Marine

Dispose of Your Noisy Generator and Experience Clean, Renewable Power on Your Outings

If you take your recreational vehicle to a camp site, or take your boat out onto the water, you still need electricity to charge electronics such as radios, GPS systems, fish finders, and other portable equipment. You may also require power for direct use with televisions, small appliances, and lighting. And if you are out in the wilderness, attempting to enjoy a quiet evening listening to the birds, when your generator turns on, whining and groaning and blocking out the sounds of nature, you may want to consider clean and noise-free alternatives: solar RV panels or solar marine systems.

With solar, you can supplement and sometimes even replace noisy generators that run on dirty fuels (such as diesel, gas, and oil) by swapping outdated systems for new solar energy systems. They are the practical, cost-effective solution for those looking for renewable power in remote locations that's low-maintenance and odor-free.

But can solar RV panels or solar marine applications really compete with conventionally-powered generators that use regular fuels? In many circumstances they are capable of replacing old generators altogether (depending on the size of your collectors, of course). The differentiating factor is that where a fuel generator requires the costly replacement of fuel whenever tanks are empty, a solar system will collect and store energy in batteries all day, making it available on demand when it is needed. This article reviews some of the marine and RV applications for solar energy.

Many Solar-Powered RV and Marine Product Choices

Whether you're looking for a single solar panel to run a few small appliances or a total solar kit, there are options suitable for every situation. Choose from a variety of solar products that will help you achieve environmentally-friendly travel without the challenge of fluctuating fuel costs and messy operation.

  • Flexible solar collectors: Suitable for both RV and marine applications, flexible solar panels are pliable, portable, lightweight, and versatile, allowing you roll or fold-up your solar equipment and take it with you anywhere you go. They are made by applying a thin film of silicon (a superconducting element) onto a flexible substrate, allowing them to fold and bend. These panels can charge AA, AAA, 6 volt, and 12 volt batteries as well as laptops, cell phones, and marine and RV equipment. You can find these portable modules under SolarTown's solar electronics section of the store.
  • Panel solar collectors: With traditional solar panels, you can power your electronics and appliances directly, maintain boat batteries in storage, or store energy for use as back-up when you need it. These systems can be portable or mounted to your RV or boat depending on your preference and/or solar energy availability.
  • Complete kits: Get everything you need to power-up sustainably with a RV solar kit or a marine solar system that includes panels, batteries, inverters, mounting accessories, RV or marine charge controller, and everything else you need to get started.

Some Differences Between RV and Marine Applications

Although both mobile and stationary installations require similar equipment (except for the inverter in marine systems) and some systems are interchangeable, there are some subtle differences between RV solar systems and marine solar systems. Solar for boating often requires more rugged construction to enable it to withstand the rigorous open-water elements. They are therefore made with more durable materials that resist sun damage, breakage, and water infiltration.

A mobile or marine-use system will also require a floating ground to prevent ground faults when plugging the inverter into the grid. You should therefore be careful to purchase the right system for your chosen recreational needs.

Some Constraints of Solar Energy

Remember that solar does come with some constraints that you should take into consideration. Keep the following factors in mind when choosing solar for your RV or marine needs:

  • Capacity of solar RV systems: If you've got an air conditioning system in your RV, it likely uses a good deal of energy. The requirements of these intense energy users are sometimes beyond the capacity of a solar RV system, so an alternate power source may be required.
  • Available solar energy: As with any solar energy system, the availability of solar energy will have a significant impact on the amount of electricity you're able to generate. Choosing a location that affords the greatest solar exposure for your solar system is therefore key.

Even with some of these constraints, if you are on your boat or in your RV and there is not an electrical outlet in sight, you will appreciate the power of solar energy. Fuel-powered generators were traditionally a good solution to mobile energy needs, but today, there's a new, cleaner option for the environmentally-minded outdoors person.


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