Solar Generator Kits for Life on the Road

-

Finding the perfect solar generator for your RV, camper, van, whatever, can either be really hard or really easy. Building one from scratch is more of an endeavor than most are ready for. Solar generators on the other hand are all-in-one units that are no more complicated than plugging a solar panel into a box with a battery and power outlets. This post will explore how to pick the right size solar generator kit that will empower your time on the road.

What’s in a solar generator kit?

The main things at work are the solar panels collecting sunlight, a solar charge controller that optimizes the energy, and a battery to store it in. A solar generator bundle includes all of these, with the solar charge controller and the battery combined in the same unit. This unit containing solar input, a battery, and power outlets is called a portable power station as a standalone product, and when combined with solar panels is called a solar generator.

ecoflow ecoflow river pro 110w solar panel 2 28355719233609 1024x1024@2x

RIVER Pro

+ 110W Solar Panels (x2)

720Wh Capacity
600W Output
4-8 hours
Full Recharge
200W
Solar Input
11.4×7.1×9.3in Solar Generator
16.5 x 20.2 x 1in Solar Panel (folded)
ecoflow ecoflow delta mini 110w solar panel 3 28548844847177 1024x1024@2x

DELTA mini

+ 110W Solar Panels (x3)

882Wh Capacity
1440W Output
3.75-7.5 hours Full Recharge
300W
Solar Input
14.9×7.2×9.4in
Solar Generator
16.5 x 20.2 x 1in Solar Panel (folded)
ecoflow tech ecoflow delta 160w solar panel portable power 3 28346738737225 1024x1024@2x

DELTA

+ 160W Solar Panels (x3)

1260Wh Capacity
1800W Output
3.5-7 hours
Full Recharge
400W
Solar Input
15.7×8.3×10.6in
Solar Generator
16.5 x 26.8 x 1in Solar Panel (folded)
ecoflow ecoflow delta max 160w solar panel 4 28483290857545 1024x1024@2x

DELTA Max

+160W Solar Panels (x4)

2016W
Capacity
3400W Output
4.25-8 hours Full Recharge
800W
Solar Input
19.6×9.5x12in
Solar Generator
16.5 x 26.8 x 1in Solar Panel (folded)
1 1638772112456

What size solar generator kit should I get?

To make things simple, we’ll look at three things: Available space, how many watt-hours you can’t live without, and how many solar panels you’re willing to invest in.

Available space

What might be the starting point to work backward from for many road warriors is how much room they can dedicate to an off-grid power solution. Watt for watt, portable power stations are more compact than 12V battery setups, so it may not be a problem for motorhomes and camper trailers that want to replace them. For vans and tear-drop trailers, how many solar panels and what size battery you need may be determined by space. Below are the dimensions for four of the best solar generators for RVs – though add a little space for airflow.

ecoflow ecoflow river pro portable power station 28357301534793 1024x1024@2x

RIVER Pro

11.4 x 7.1 x 9.3in

ecoflow ecoflow delta mini power station 28388738334793 1024x1024@2x

DELTA mini

14.9 x 7.2 x 9.4in

ecoflow ecoflow 110w solar panel solar panels

110W Solar Panel

16.5 x 20.2 x 1 in Solar Panel (folded)

ecoflow tech ecoflow delta power station portable power 28357408161865 1024x1024@2x

DELTA

15.7 x 8.3 x 10.6in

ecoflow ecoflow delta max power station 28357579931721 1024x1024@2x

DELTA Max

19.6 x 9.5 x 12in

ecoflow ecoflow 160w solar panel

160W Solar Panel

16.5 x 26.8 x 1 in Solar Panel (folded)

What you can’t live without

Find the watts (W)

Take the electronics you can’t live without – say a laptop, Wi-Fi hotspot, lights, coffee maker, and a skillet – and add up their watts. There are lots of ballpark figures on the internet, but it’s more accurate checking the watts printed somewhere on the product. Better still is going through your normal routine and using a wattmeter so all of the power losses are accounted for. You’re in luck if you already have an EcoFlow portable power station because it shows energy input and output on its screen and app!

Find the watt-hours (Wh)

Just multiply the watts of a device by how many hours you plan to use it for.

Device WattsHours UsedWatt-hours
Laptop 50W3 hours150Wh
Wi-Fi Hotspot 10W4 hours40Wh
Lights 40W4 hours160Wh
Coffee Maker 500W0.1 hours50Wh
Skillet 1500W0.2 hours300Wh

While this adds up to 700 watt-hours, it doesn’t mean you’ll need a 700 watt-hour battery or that you’ll need 700 watts of solar panels, as you’ll see in the next sections.

Picking a solar battery

If you plan to use 700Wh throughout the day, you won’t need a 700Wh battery because you’ll be creating energy as you consume it. But, there are several reasons to get a battery that’s bigger than what you plan to consume in a day. One of those reasons is that it’s not ideal to use the battery from 100% to 0% all the time, and you’ll get more miles sticking to the 80% to 20% range or 60% of the total capacity. Consuming 700Wh from the 720Wh RIVER Pro would age the battery faster than if you had the 1260Wh DELTA, not to mention that it wouldn’t offer a “rainy day fund” for days when there isn’t much sun.

ecoflow ecoflow river pro portable power station 28357301534793 1024x1024@2x

RIVER Pro

720-1440Wh Capacity
x2 110W Panels 4-8 hr
x1 160W Panels
6-12 hr

ecoflow ecoflow delta mini power station 28388738334793 1024x1024@2x

DELTA mini

882Wh Capacity
x1 160W Panel
7.5-15 hr
x2 160W Panels 3.25-7.5 hr

ecoflow tech ecoflow delta power station portable power 28357408161865 1024x1024@2x

DELTA

1260Wh Capacity
x2 160W Panels 5-10 hr
x3 160W Panels
3.5-7 hr

ecoflow ecoflow delta max power station 28357579931721 1024x1024@2x

DELTA Max

2-6Wh Capacity
x3 160W Panels 5.5-11 hr
x4 160W Panels 4-8.5 hr

Picking solar panels

Find the output watts:The rated output you see on your solar panels (e.g. 110W or 160W) is what you’d get in an ideal scenario, and in all actuality, you should be happy with getting about 70% of the number on the box. For example, linking four EcoFlow 160W solar panels (640W total) generates 2000Wh after about 4 hours in great conditions but potentially twice as long when it’s overcast. The only way to be sure is real world tests, which you can see in the table above.
To get 700Wh of solar for the devices mentioned earlier, compare it with RIVER Pro to gauge how many panels it would take to get that many watt-hours. Keep in mind that 12 hours between sunrise and sunset doesn’t equate to 12 hours of usable solar energy. People in Arizona may be able to just get by with just a single 160W solar panel, but two 110W panels would be a safer bet for most people. How much the panels generate also depends on you.

Read our portable solar panel guide for more info.

leofoureauxmagcsbke038unsplash 1640073793891

Getting the most from your solar panels

  • Environment: Obviously much of this is up to the whens and wheres, but make sure panels are outside, not partially shaded, and not dirty.
  • How often you adjust the panels: The carrying case for EcoFlow portable solar panels doubles as a stand that can be angled early/late in the day and lie flat around noon. Occasionally adjusting the panels to face the sun as it moves throughout the day will bring in more watt-hours.
  • Efficiency: An MPPT solar charger is now the standard replacing the less-efficient PWM. All EcoFlow solar generators use MPPT so that fluctuations in lighting and other conditions won’t throw a wrench in the works.

Let’s get your questions answered

Can you power an RV with a solar generator?

Chances are, your shore power cable isn’t the same as a regular wall outlet – the prongs are diagonal. Even with a dog bone adapter, the amperage supplied by a solar generator might not be high enough to run bigger appliances. All of the portable power stations in EcoFlow’s DELTA series output 20A, which might slide for a 30 amp RV if you have an adapter, but not for 50 amp. DELTA Pro, our flagship portable power station, has both a 20A outlet and a 30A outlet, meaning you can power everything in your rig with solar energy.

Check out this post for more on how portable power stations can integrate with your RV.

Can I use solar panels and solar generators from different brands?

Yes, given a couple of things: the panel’s connectors and output. Finding a cable that links your solar panels to your solar generator should be fairly easy since most panels use solar panel connectors. However, matching the solar panel’s output to the solar-powered generator’s input has nothing to do with brands. Below we’ll go into if or how many panels you can hook up.

What size solar panel can I connect?

Let’s start with: Can you even connect one? Some solar panels output too much for a small solar generator to handle. Check a solar panel’s output volts, amps, and watts and compare it with a solar generator’s solar input (different from AC input).

If a solar panel’s output current (amps) and power (watts) are above what an EcoFlow solar generator can input, the excess will be wasted but won’t damage the unit. Excess voltage can, however, and should be within the stated range. Pretty straight forward? Well, great, because when you connect two panels in series* the voltage doubles, triples when you connect three, and so on. Amps don’t change. In the above example, three 160W solar panels (21.4V × 3 = 64.2V) would be just inside DELTA’s maximum input (65V); a fourth would be too much.

*Likely what you’ll be using. It means panels are connected directly to each other instead of Y-shaped adapters.

Is solar better than a generator for RVs?

Solar is quieter and cleaner, with the only drawback being how much energy can be produced in a day. Solar can be the clear winner for those who invest in enough panels and batteries to meet their daily energy consumption.

Can a solar generator power an RV fridge?

Yes, but the problem isn’t about power, it’s about capacity. RV fridges consume around 1,000 watts a day (maybe less if it’s a small one): 5 peak hours of sunlight you’d need 200 extra watts of solar panels if your inverter and solar panels were 100% efficient. Since they’re not, two 160W solar panels could be enough to run a fridge assuming you have a battery with enough capacity to get you through the night.

Can you put solar panels on the roof of your RV?

EcoFlow has a solar panel suction cup kit that lets panels be attached to very smooth surfaces like the roof and side of an RV or van. Just be sure to stick a reminder on the dash!

ECOFLOW
ECOFLOWhttps://www.ecoflow.com/
EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.

Share this article

Popular posts

RELATED POSTS

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here