How many solar panels are needed for a caravan?

The number of Romanians who own a caravan or choose to spend their holidays on four wheels is increasing from one year to the next. Certainly the pandemic we went through influenced this trend, during which the caravan represented an excellent alternative to spend a relaxing holiday in the middle of nature, at the sea or in the mountains.

If you own one or more campers or are thinking of buying one, you’ve probably wondered if a solar panel system would be a good investment to cover your electrical needs while on vacation or hiking.

In this article we will show you how to calculate the number of solar panels for a caravan, but also what other components you need

How do solar panels produce energy for a caravan?

Solar panels for caravans function like any other photovoltaic panels, consisting of silicon solar cells. Silicon is an excellent semiconductor of electricity while maintaining an electric imbalance, necessary to create an electric field.

How many solar panels are needed for a caravan?

Just like with solar panels for homes, the number of solar panels, inverter power, and the number of batteries for a caravan depend strictly on the consumption needs.

To answer this question, the simplest way is to make a list of all electrical appliances (consumers) you use when you are on vacation with the caravan, along with their power expressed in watts. By knowing the total power of all consumers, you will determine the capacity needed for the solar panel system. It is not necessarily important to know the exact number of panels required but rather the ratio between the total system power and your consumption needs.

After creating the list of consumers, estimate the approximate number of hours each appliance is used during a typical day. The calculation is straightforward:

Device Power x Number of hours used = Consumption in watts

By calculating the total, you will find out how many watts you consume on an average day and the power that needs to be generated by the solar panel system.

To help you, below is a rough list of the most common consumers in a caravan and their approximate consumption:

Consumeraverage consumption
Refrigerator30-40 W
Laptop100 W
Electric oven1300 W
Coffee machine1100 W
Toaster 600 W
Fan120 W
12 bulbs9 W

The best solar panels for a caravan

Monocrystalline panels are the most recommended, not just for homes but also for caravans, due to their efficiency, especially considering the limited installation space available in this case.

You might have heard of the existence of flexible panels (monocrystalline or polycrystalline) that are thinner than traditional panels and can bend up to 30 degrees. However, traditional panels are still more efficient and durable.

Other necessary components

In addition to solar panels, you will also need the following components:

  • Solar Controller: Its role is to protect the batteries by controlling the power they receive. Among the two models available on the market, MPPT is recommended over PWM due to its higher efficiency.
  • Solar Batteries: They store the energy produced by the solar panels. Lithium batteries are generally more expensive compared to gel batteries, but they are more powerful and have a longer lifespan.
  • Solar Inverter: Its role is to convert the direct current produced by the panels into alternating current (220V or 240V), which is then transmitted to the fuse box and distributed to electrical consumers.
  • Fuses: They distribute electricity to the appliances and accessories in the caravan, protecting the cables from power surges or other malfunctions.