Taking advantage of solar power is a great idea for using energy responsibly, and can be ideal for use in RV travel! It is great for the environment, is an excellent self-sustaining power source, creates much less noise than generators, and can cost less than conventional electricity after initial costs. There is no doubt that solar panels can make RV travel convenient, especially while boondocking, but there is debate on whether having your solar panels tilted versus horizontal on your RV’s roof proves to be most beneficial. So which positioning is best? There are many factors that we will take a look at!
There are a few things to remember when considering the placement of solar panels on your RV. Realistically, a solar panel works at its highest efficiency when placed 90-degrees to the sun. When this angle is less, your solar panels will get less direct exposure to light and generate less energy. A few things can affect these angles, including your latitude, which season of the year it is, and the placement of your solar panels. Also, as a general rule, it is best to have your solar panels point south toward the equator where the sun is closest to the Earth. So with these things in mind, which placement is best for your RV?
Horizontal Solar Panels
Having your RV solar panels installed horizontally can have some definite benefits, depending on your travel schedule and your maintenance needs. As mentioned before, solar panels are at their highest efficiency when they are angled 90-degrees to the sun. Typically, this happens naturally during the summer months. With the sun directly overhead most of the time, it creates the perfect angle for optimal energy absorption without having to tilt the panels. Physically speaking, another benefit of horizontal solar panels is that you don't have to move them. They reduce the need to climb onto the top of your RV to shift their position, which in turn, reduces risk of personal harm and damage to your rig.
Unfortunately, the biggest drawback to using your solar panels horizontally is that they can reduce their efficiency by up to 40 percent when sun changes angles. This change starts in the fall and continues throughout the winter. While that is a drastic decrease in efficiency, it is important to note that if you are a seasonal traveler who travels primarily during the summer, this won't be a concern as you should always have peak energy capabilities! If you travel year-round, a possible solution is to install more solar panels, which are costly and more expensive than many solar panel tilting packages. Even with more panels, chances are you still won’t regain maximum energy capabilities. Another downfall is that you will need to carefully consider the placement of your RV when parking it in relation to maximum sun exposure. Furthermore, you might find that you experience power fluctuation, as solar panels may overheat more easily when installed horizontally.
Tilted Solar Panels
When you get down to it, the biggest appeal of tilted solar panels for the roof of your RV is the adjustability. For those of you who use your RV year-round, or change location often, you may not be at an ideal position during an ideal season. Adjusting your solar panels for optimal light absorption can raise your amp efficiency anywhere from 35 to 50 percent! Knowing which angle is best during any given time of year and altitude can be tricky, but there are plenty of websites and apps that can let you know the best angles for your particular location! Another perk of installing tilted solar panels on your roof is that it provides better access to your RV’s roof for cleaning and maintenance.
Tilted solar panels don’t come without drawbacks, however. Raising your solar panels will make them more susceptible to the effects of wind and weather, and they can sustain damage if these conditions become too extreme. Likewise, you will always want to make sure you have secured your panels in their flat position before travel to prevent them from being damaged or ripped off your RV. And as solar panels can be a costly addition, it will make for one expensive mistake!
There are plenty of pros and cons when considering horizontal versus tilted solar panels on your RV roof, but it really boils down to personal preference! Your travel time frame, location, and patience level can determine which is better suited for your needs! What’s your preference? Leave us a comment and let us know!