Solar Systems

Caravan and motorhome solar panels.

One of the major advantages of caravans and motorhomes is the freedom they give and help you to get away from it all. Unfortunately, most caravans and Motorhomes still require a mains hook up to charge the battery and keep all the 12 volt system running. If you would prefer to go to quite CL sites, or just park up in the middle of nowhere you will need another way to keep your battery charged, the best way of achieving this is to install solar panels.

With solar panels providing your electricity, you can go anywhere. And yes, they do work very well even in the less-than-tropical British sun! Although solar panels do involve some financial outlay, the savings they give you to make mean this is well worthwhile. More freedom, cheaper pitches, what’s not to like about solar panels? If you’re considering making the switch, or are just interested in learning a bit more about this greener power source, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for our comprehensive guide to solar panels for caravans and motorhomes.

Types of solar panel

There are currently two main types of solar panel available – thin film and crystalline (glass panels). Both are officially known as photovoltaic, or PV, panels.

Thin film PV panels (flexible panels)

Thin film PV panels (flexible panels) are produced by spraying a thin layer of semiconductor material onto another surface (like the silvering on the back of a mirror). Typically, a thin film solar panel will last around ten years, which is far less than the average crystalline panel. However, solar technology is constantly improving and hopefully soon they will be able to match the twenty-year lifespan of crystalline panels. Thin film panels are generally significantly lighter than glass panels but are usually more expensive.

Crystalline panels (glass panels)

Crystalline panels (glass panels) come in two types – mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline. On Mono-crystalline panels, each module is formed from a single silicon crystal. However, while they are the most efficient for their size, they are also the most expensive. The most common panels are Poly-crystalline and made from many small crystals. The difference in efficiency means that you will need a dimensionally larger poly-crystalline panel to generate the amount of energy you need. It is worth noting that the difference is quite negligible when it comes to powering a caravan or motorhome, your choice of panel type will probably come down to the physical dimensions rather than the type of panel.

How to choose the right solar panel

It’s important to spend a decent amount of time researching motorhome solar panels before making a purchase, as buying the wrong panel for your requirements is likely to be a waste of money and will not provide the required power. We can work out how much power you require with some simple checks, the easiest way to find out your requirements is to bring your vehicle in, and we will see how much power you are using.  We can then work out your requirements and supply a solar system that will replace your usage.

Regulators and charge controllers

There are 2 types of solar regulator, the cheap ones and the good ones.  We recommend Victron MPPT charge controllers, cheap solar regulators do not compensate for panel shading causing your solar yield to be greatly reduced.  By fitting a good MPPT charge controller you can increase your yield by up to 45%.

Caravan and motorhome solar panel top tips:

  • When using a crystalline solar panel, remember that even the tiniest shadow can affect the amount of power generated. Always ensure as many cells as possible are in direct sunlight.

  • Glass or plastic will dramatically reduce the amount of power produced by a solar panel, for example putting a panel inside your vehicle windscreen, meaning it could take up to three times as much sunlight to recharge your battery. Again, you should always make sure as much of the panel as possible is in direct sunlight.

  • Position your solar panel to catch as much of the midday (strongest) sunlight as possible. This is normally directly overhead during the summer, but you will need to re-position the panels at other times of year.

  • Remember that your battery needs to be kept in excellent condition to be able to produce enough energy. Maintain and replace the battery as needed to ensure optimal performance. Click here to find out more about batteries.

  • If your caravan or motorhome is under warranty, be aware that fitting a solar panel may invalidate it, unless the work is carried out by the manufacturer’s authorised agent

  • Replacing inefficient halogen bulbs with LEDs can make a huge difference to the amount of power you use and, therefore, the amount you need your solar panel to generate

  • Remember that pollution, dirt, traffic dust and bird droppings can prevent sunlight from reaching your solar panel. Clean your solar panels regularly with warm water and dishwashing soap to remove grime and keep your panels as efficient as possible. If you notice a drop in the amount of power produced, cleaning the panels is one of the most common and most easily rectified problems.

If you have any questions please contact us and we will be happy to help.