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How To Choose A Solar Generator For RV Use?

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Solar generators are becoming an increasingly popular option for RV owners who want to get off the grid and stay at more remote camping locations. Unlike traditional RV generators that run on propane or gasoline, solar generators provide a clean and quiet way to generate power using only energy from the sun.

rv solar generator - Growatt

For RVers who enjoy boondocking in nature without hookups, a solar generator allows you to stay off-grid for days or weeks at a time. These portable power stations store electricity in an integrated lithium battery and can recharge via solar panels. This gives you the freedom to camp anywhere under the sun without worrying about running a noisy gas generator or searching for an electrical outlet.

In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at what exactly a solar generator for an RV is, how the technology works, and what to consider when choosing the right solar generator for your RV's power needs and budget.

What is an RV Solar Generator?

An RV solar generator is a portable, all-in-one power system that allows RVers to harness the sun's energy for off-grid power needs. It consists of a lithium battery bank, solar charge controller, inverter, and solar panels - all integrated into one unit.

Unlike a full RV solar power system which requires installing panels on the roof and wiring into the RV's electrical system, a solar generator is completely self-contained. It can simply be placed outside to charge via the sun and then brought inside the RV to plug appliances and devices into it.

The built-in inverter converts the DC power stored in the battery into standard AC electricity that you can use to run small appliances like a mini fridge, TV, CPAP machine, or electronic devices. Larger solar generators may even be able to handle bigger loads like an air conditioner for a few hours.

Solar generators for RVs range in capacity from about 100 watt-hours to over 2000 watt-hours. The size you need depends on your power requirements. But essentially, it serves as a silent, renewable, portable power station perfect for off-grid RV adventures.

Types of RV Generators

There are a few different types of generators that RVers can use:

Built-In Generators

Many motorhomes and some travel trailers come equipped with built-in generators. These are typically powered by gasoline, diesel, or propane. Built-in generators are convenient since they are part of the RV, but they do produce fumes.

Portable Generators

Portable generators can be gas-powered or dual fuel powered. These need to be transported separately from the RV and hooked up when power is needed. While portable generators can handle powering appliances, they require fuel to operate.

Solar Generators

Solar generators are completely different since they rely on the sun. They contain solar panels, a charge controller, inverter, and battery. The solar panels charge the battery during the day. Then the inverter converts the DC power from the battery into standard AC power to run devices and appliances. A key benefit of solar generators is they produce no emissions.

Can You Power an RV with a Solar Generator?

A solar generator can power an RV, but it depends on your specific power requirements and which appliances you need to run. The solar generator needs to be properly sized for your RV's electrical load.

Can You Power an RV with a Solar Generator?

Smaller solar generators, around 500-1000 watt hours, are best suited for charging phones, laptops, lights, and other small devices and appliances. For an RV, you'll likely need a larger solar generator with at least 2000 watt hours to power things like a mini fridge, TV, and some basic cooking appliances.

For running high-draw appliances like an air conditioner or microwave, you would need a very large solar generator with 3000+ watt hours. The power output from the inverter also needs to be sufficient, often 2000W or more for an RV air conditioner.

One limitation is that solar generators rely on battery capacity, so can only supply power for a certain period before needing to recharge. Running an air conditioner or other large appliance will drain the battery much faster.

Overall, solar generators can be a good power source for an RV, but it's important to match the solar generator capacity and features to your specific electrical requirements. Understanding your power needs will ensure you choose the right size.

What Size Solar Generator for an RV?

Choosing the right size solar generator for your RV depends on calculating your electrical needs and power requirements. Here are some tips:

  • Make a list of all the devices and appliances you want to run in your RV. This includes lights, fridge, microwave, TV, laptops, phones, etc.

  • Look up the wattage or amps required for each device. This spec should be in the user manual or on a label on the appliance.

  • Add up the total wattage needed to run everything at once. This is your total load.

  • Choose a solar generator that has an inverter capacity 20-25% higher than your total load. This provides a safety buffer.

  • Prioritize the devices you absolutely need to run. Get a solar generator that covers these essentials at a minimum.

  • Consider peak power needs like running a microwave or AC, not just continuous wattage.

  • Buy the largest capacity solar generator you can afford, even if it's more than your basic needs. This allows for future expansion.

  • An average RV might need 1000-2000 watt solar generator. Big rigs may need 3000 watts or more.

Calculating your electrical requirements is a key step in choosing the right size solar generator for off-grid RV living. Overestimating is better than undersizing!

Pros and Cons of Solar Generators for RVs

Solar generators offer some key advantages but also have some downsides to consider:


  • Quiet operation - Unlike noisy gas generators, solar generators run silently which is ideal for camping and RV parks.

  • Eco-friendly - Solar power produces no emissions, so it's better for the environment than fuel-based generators.

  • Low maintenance - No engine or fuel to maintain, just keep the solar panels clean.

  • Multiport charging - Most have multiple charging ports to charge multiple devices.


  • High initial cost - The upfront cost is more than a gas generator. Savings come over time.

  • May not power large appliances - Limited capacity may not run AC, fridge, etc without additional solar panels.

  • Need sun to recharge - Output depends on amount of sun exposure to the solar panels.

  • Can't run continuously overnight - Stored capacity is finite, unlike a gas generator.

So in summary, solar RV generators provide silent, eco-friendly power but at a higher initial cost. Their output is more limited than fuel generators.

How to Connect and Charge a Solar Generator?

Connecting and charging a solar generator for RV use is straightforward. There are a few different ways to power and charge a solar generator:

  • Direct Connect - Most solar generators have multiple outlets to plug devices directly into the unit. This allows you to power and charge phones, laptops, small appliances like a mini fridge or CPAP machine. Simply plug your devices into the AC outlets, USB ports or 12V car outlet on the generator.

  • Solar - The solar panels that come with the generator can be set up outside your RV in direct sunlight. The panels will charge the built-in battery throughout the day. Many models include foldable solar panels that attach directly to the unit for easy charging while stationary or driving.

  • AC Outlet - When you have access to shore power at an RV park, you can recharge your solar generator by plugging it into a standard 110V AC outlet. This is the fastest way to top up your solar generator battery if sun is limited.

  • 12V Car Outlet - While driving your RV, you can use the 12V car charger outlet to charge your solar generator battery. This allows you to keep it topped up for off-grid dry camping.

Solar generators make it simple to get power while off the grid. Take advantage of the multiple charging options so you have enough stored power whenever you need it.

How to Connect and Charge a Solar Generator?

What to Look for When Buying

When choosing an RV solar generator, there are several key features to consider:

Battery Capacity

  • The battery capacity indicates how much energy it can store. More capacity means more devices powered and longer runtimes.
  • Look for lithium batteries that are lightweight, long-lasting, and efficient.
  • Choose a capacity that meets your power needs - often 1000Wh or more for RV use.


  • Solar generators come with multiple ports like AC outlets, USB ports, 12V car outlets to plug in devices.
  • Look for a model with enough ports for your needs and the ability to charge multiple devices at once.
  • RV and household outlets are useful to directly power appliances.


  • An advantage of solar generators is portability, so weight is an important factor.
  • Look for a lighter model in the 30 to 60 lb range to move around easily.
  • Wheeled models can help transport larger capacity generators.


Are solar generators noisy?

No, solar generators are virtually silent in operation. Unlike gas generators, they have no engine or moving parts that make noise. The only sound from a solar generator may be a quiet fan humming. This makes them ideal for RV camping and off-grid living where you want peace and quiet.

Can a solar generator run an AC?

It depends on the capacity of the solar generator. Smaller units may only be able to run an AC for a short time or not at all. Larger 1000+ watt solar generators can run a RV roof AC, but runtime will be limited compared to using shore power. Calculate your AC power needs before buying.

Can I plug my RV into a solar generator?

Yes, you can connect a solar generator to your RV to power appliances and devices. Use the 30A RV outlet if available, or connect to the battery bank. Ensure the solar generator has enough capacity for your RV's electrical load. You may need multiple solar generators for higher energy needs.

How long do solar generators last?

With proper care and maintenance, a quality solar generator can last 5-10 years or more. The lithium batteries are rated for thousands of cycles. Limiting depth of discharge and avoiding extreme temperatures will extend battery lifespan. The overall generator lifespan also depends on factors like usage and climate.

What size solar generator should I get for my RV?

Calculate your RV's typical daily power needs and buy a solar generator that meets at least 50-80% of that. Prioritize essentials like fridge, lights, and phones. For full RV power, consider multiple solar generators or a whole house system. Aim for at least a 1000Wh capacity generator for basic RV needs.


Solar generators provide a convenient and eco-friendly power solution for RVs. They allow RV owners to go off-grid and camp in more remote locations without having to run noisy, gas-powered generators or be tied to electrical hookups.

The key benefits of using a solar generator for an RV include their quiet operation, lack of emissions, and portability compared to standard generators. Solar generators can be charged via solar panels or the 12V outlet while driving, giving RVers access to power even when boondocking far from civilization.

While solar generators may not be able to power large appliances like ACs on their own, they provide a clean and sustainable source of electricity for smaller devices and appliances. This makes them ideal for RV owners who want to reduce their environmental impact and reliance on fossil fuels while enjoying the freedom of RV travel and camping.

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