Solar on the RV was something that we dreamed of before hitting the road, but had so many questions. Was it affordable? Was it worth the cost? Is it going to power everything I need it to power or is it better to just run an inverter generator instead? These had been just some of the questions that had lingered before we hit the road. Ultimately, we decided to wait and see if we even needed it since we hadn't boondocked one night before becoming fulltime RVers. We had only watched others on Youtube have epic off-grid experiences. We wanted to make sure it was something we liked doing before making that experience investment.
Fast Forward a Year
Our first year on the road we decided to dip our toes in boondocking or "dry camping" a few times. It was a bit stressful at first since we didn't really know what we were doing and just figured we would learn as we go. We never did more then a 1 or 2 night stay at a time. This all came to an end in early 2021 when we descended down from the Pacific Northwest out to Quartzsite, AZ. We had a friend that we met up in Oregon at a Thousand Trails and he reached out to ask if we wanted to do some boondocking in Arizona. It just so happens the Quartzsite RV Show was going on around that time, so we decided to try-out boondocking for a week or so. We had previously picked up a Zamp Portable Solar suitcase and a battery monitor for those Harvest Hosts over-night stays, but we really did not expect to make it an entire week in the desert. On our way down south, we scouted out a few RV Parks to pull into if we needed them. To our surprise, we ended up spending a few months in the Arizona desert after having our new solar setup installed. This was all because, by luck, we ended up crossing paths with Aaron from JonesN2Travel, who also owns a business called The Mobile RV Tech
Aaron originally came out to help our friend with his RV. He custom made some heavy duty battery cables and fixed a few other things. We got to talking about solar and getting an estimate. At this time, I had reached out to a few other companies as well to get quotes. We really started enjoying those Arizona sunsets and could also see the benefits of having a legit solar setup for future Harvest Hosts stays as well.
After talking with Aaron, we decided he was the person we wanted to have install our solar setup. His quote was reasonable compared to others and he put together a system that was not over-kill, but also gave us room for growth. By the time we completed the install, we had a well balanced setup and are able to live comfortably while off-grid with very little use of our inverter generator.
We opted to go with all Victron components. We wanted everything to talk to each other and be accessible from just one app. We also opted for Lithium batteries. We picked up our 3 Lion Energy Lithium UT 1300 batteries, on sale, directly from the manufacturer at the RV show. If you are not able to make it to an RV show, I would recommend checking out The Mobile RV Tech for battery and component pricing. Since our install, Aaron has launched an online store for the do- it-yourself kind. It's also a great way to request a quote.
We went with 4 - 200 watt panels on tilting brackets. This gives us a total of 800 watts on the roof. We also incorporated our 140 watt portable Zamp panel that we already had for those days we need a little extra charge or are under trees. After using this setup for a while now, we feel it meets our basic energy needs while camping off-grid. In time, we wouldn't mind adding a few more batteries to the setup, just to give us a little more time if we happen to have a cloudy day or two. Three Lithium batteries can easily get our family through the night, with us on our devices and even running the furnace. It usually takes 4-6 hours of sunlight ( depending on how we park) to get the batteries back to 100%. This is with us also using the coffee maker and living like normal. Adding a few extra panels on the roof would definitely speed that process up. But we always have our inverter generator with us anyways, so if we have a cloudy day, we just plug in and have the batteries topped off quickly.
Overall, for the price we paid for our solar setup, we feel it has already started paying for itself fairly quickly. Just on our visit to Moab, when we visited Arches and Canyonlands National parks, we spent 14 consecutive days boondocking. If we had been in an RV park there, we would have been looking at spending close to $80 a night. That alone saved us over $1000 and we had epic views to wake up to every morning.
Important to note, we still run our inverter generator in the warmer months for the air conditioning use.
Overview of our Setup
Installed in our Grand Design Reflection 312 BHTS
3 - Lion Energy UT-1300 Lithium Batteries
4- 200 watt panels
1- Victron Multiplus 3000
1- Victron 150/70 MPPTS Solar Charge Controller
1- Victron Battery Monitor
1- Victron Lynx Distribution box
multiple other miscellaneous parts
If you have questions on our setup, please feel free to ask them below. Check back often as we will be breaking down our setup even further in future blogs.