Ditching the Generator for RV Solar

We admit it. We are a huge converts. Since we began using solar power and a pure sine wave inverter, we hardly use our Honda EU2000i generator anymore when we boondock. We camp mostly at higher elevations where summer temperatures are cooler and in the winter here in the desert, so we really have no need to run the air conditioner anymore. We’ve also removed the amperage eating microwave from the camper.

Living in the sun drenched southwest, the solar power/inverter combination can’t be beat. Our 240 watt solar power system keeps our two 6 volt, 220 amp hour batteries topped off on a daily basis, so we no longer need a generator. As for our 110 volt AC power needs, our Morningstar Suresine-300 pure sine wave inverter is more than sufficient. It can power our video and satellite system and keep all of our laptops and cell phones charged with power to spare. Better yet, the solar/inverter combination requires no fuel and generates no noise. When we boondock we want to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. That’s part of the appeal. Nothing ruins the ambiance of camping in the wild more than a running generator, especially the teeth-rattling industrial ones like you get from Harbor Freight.

If you’re still lugging around a 46 pound or 120 pound generator you should consider going solar and installing an inverter. First, you won’t have to worry about it getting stolen. You’ll also save on weight and space and if you have any neighbors, it will make them happier, too. Numerous threads can be found on RV internet forums complaining about inconsiderate RV owners running their generators day and night. But it really comes down to one thing. If you need to run a high wattage device like your air conditioner, coffee maker, or hair dryer, then sadly, you’ll need to run your onboard generator or haul a portable unit with you. However, if it’s just the TV and satellite system that you’re powering, then a small inverter will be more than sufficient to power them and keep you and your neighbors happy.

About Mello Mike 661 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert, he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 2013 Ram 3500 with a 2021 Bundutec Roadrunner truck camper mounted on top and holds a Ham Radio Technician License (KK7FKQ).

16 Comments

  1. We have solar but run one battery and no inverter. By the time you add another panel, another battery, the inverter and all that goes with it you are more than likely over weight compared to a generator or at least close. We love our 160watt system running one battery and have never needed anything else. We do need to run AC once in while and it seems more and more these days we need AC. We did not order our Northstar with an AC or microwave. Never have a need for a micro but the AC was did go back an install. Luckily we prewired for it. We also travel in bad weather and endless cloudy days at times and love to boondocks. Gen is the only solution. Run a small Honda 2200 off propane so never bring extra fuel. We have two propane tanks in the camper. Then we can store the sen inside the back of the truck and never outside. It’s a great system.I would love to have only solar but it doesn’t make sense for us. We don’t run th even very much but it’s nice when we need it.
    Enjoy the adventure.

  2. Go Power! sells awesome solar setup's that come complete (minus the battery bank). Lance Campers installs Go Power! systems on their campers as a factory option. $720 option got us 160 watts installed.

  3. I love my solar – I have two 135 watt panels, and two golf cart batteries, and I only use my generator to make coffee and when I use the microwave or hair dryer. I DID use the generator during the extreme heat to run my A/C, though. Hopefully that won't be necessary very often.

    It's really nice to be able to go off the grid and know I can live comfortably. And since it's all paid for, rent can be ZERO whenever I want.

  4. We purchased just one 130 watt solar panel and 2 six volt batteries six years ago. And love it, gets a lot of use while boondocking in the southwest winter months and even home in Ontario Canada on a few occasions as well. The on board Onan in our coach is there just for backup now occasionally if the sun's not shinning for a few days.

    • Solar is great, but it is nice to have a backup genny for rainy or overcast days. You may want to consider adding another solar panel. The basic rule is to match the panel wattage with the amp hours. You have 220 amp hours with your two batteries, which means you should have at least 220 watts to keep your batteries completely topped off. I would especially consider this upgrade with where you live in the north.

    • Hence why I have a Champion generator, I find Honda's to be extremely expensive, much like Solar Panels.

      Solar would need to come down to being able to get a higher quality charge controller and 500-1000watts of solar capacity that could yield at least a 75% efficiency rate for close to $400 before I would find it a financially feasible investment for my budget range.

      Till then, I'll still be off running old open cage Champion generators to charge my battery bank :).

  5. Yer more than welcome to donate that nice Honda to the Redneck Express, allowing me to retire my trusty Champion 1200/1500 watt to backup power duty for my chest freezer :p.

    I'm still waiting on Solar to reach a financially viable price point, and a greater than 15-20% average maximum efficiency before I start investing in it.

    Right now, the high watt/dollar price tag keeps it in the novelty area for my own personal budget.

    • LOL, Matt. I'll be keeping the generator for my preparedness needs and those rare occasions when the sun doesn't shine here in AZ.

      As for solar, if that's your efficiency point you may be waiting a long time. It's amazing how effective my solar system is and I don't even have top of the line equipment. If price is a concern then you can certainly buy lightly used solar panels and PWM charge controllers for a fraction of the cost.

    • Would fraction of the original cost be down to around 5-10% of the original price (Assuming a rough original cost of around $2000 for a 300 watt array and controller)? 🙂 Now that would get me some panels on the roof :).

  6. I've wondered if using portable fans instead of an A/C would be an option sometimes. Would one of the portable fans run off the solar panels?

    • Sure, Bonnie! You could run either 12v or 110v portable fans the latter using an inverter. You'd be better off, however, using a 12v fan since they use less power. Either way, they are actually running off of your RV batteries. Solar panels just keep the batteries charged.

  7. We do not have solar but we do boondock about 6 weeks a year. Solar is perfect in Arizona but not necessarily in the northern states even during the summer. We've gone back and forth regarding solar but still not sure if we'll do it. However, we rarely use the generator on our motorhome and carry the quieter Honda 2000 with us. We try not to be close to others when boondocking with solar panels but if they complain about others using generators then they just aren't far enough out.

    • Good thoughts on location. Tilting solar panel mounts will be needed to maximize their effectiveness during summer months at northern latitudes. They also help those who like to camp in AZ during the winter months.

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