How to run a caravan air conditioner off solar power

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caravan air con and solar power

Everyone loves the idea of being self-sufficient. If you are travelling with your caravan then having a self-sufficient option for running your caravan air conditioner can be very useful. This blog will show you how to run your caravan air conditioning off solar power.

The Pros and Cons of Caravan Solar Energy

If you are researching solar panels for you caravan, you are probably fairly familiar with solar energy. Most people recognize the benefits the come with solar energy. However, some may not realize the cons associated with them. Here’s a list of both.

Some advantages to caravan solar energy:

  • It’s a renewable energy source. Solar energy is 100% renewable. As long as the sun is present, solar energy is possible and can be used throughout all parts of the world.
  • Reduces the cost of electricity. Energy needs are taken care of with solar energy and therefore, you are not required to pay for electricity.
  • Diverse applications. Solar energy can be used for a variety of things. It is possible to use it for any electric purpose. It is also capable of heating.
  • Low costs for maintenance. Solar panels do not require you to maintain them very much. If you clean them off a couple of times a year, you will be set.

Some disadvantages to caravan solar energy:

  • The cost. To buy solar panels, the initial price is very high. You will also need to pay for the inverter, batteries, wiring, and installation.
  • It is weather dependent. If you come from a place like me, where it is always cloudy and rainy, solar energy will not be very reliable.
  • Storage is expensive. Batteries can be charged throughout the day so that the energy can be used during the night. Either the solar energy is used right away, or it is stored.
  • It uses up a lot of space. With high electricity needs, you will have high solar panel needs to get the most sunlight possible. Solar panels require a lot of space.

Solar electric power systems in caravans and traditional homes are similar and the same principals apply.

How Solar Panels Power an Caravan Air Conditioner

It is technically possible to power an caravan’s air conditioner using a solar panel. To generate sufficient power, however, you will need a lot of solar panels and electrical upgrades. Another device is called a “Soft Start”. However, most caravan owners won’t go that far. If you’re willing to build a large enough system to allow caravan solar panels to power an air conditioner, then continue reading this article.

First, the basics of solar power systems

It takes a lot of effort to design a system that uses solar panels as a power source for your caravan. This becomes more complex when solar panels are required to power caravan air conditioner units. This will help you to understand how it works.

It is not as simple as you might think to use solar panels for your caravan’s power source for an AC conditioner. Before the power can be used to run the A/C, there are several steps. These are the steps that must be taken from beginning to end.

  1. Solar Panels. solar panels allow particles of light to liberate electrons from atoms. This allows for electricity flow.
  2. The caravan battery bank. This energy is transferred to the battery bank. Every ounce of power is available once the battery bank has been charged.
  3. 12V DV side on caravan’s electrical panel. These batteries can be transferred to the DC power side (there are a DC side and an AC side).
  4. Inverter. A battery supplies direct power to an inverter. The battery supplies 12 volt DV electricity to the inverter. This energy is converted into AC electricity by the inverter.
  5. AC Side Panel. The inverter transfers energy to the AC side. After that, the AC side receives electricity.

All the capabilities of an caravan powered system can be achieved when the solar panels provide the energy. All powering problems can be solved by the batteries. The problem comes when we have to size the batteries.

Are You able to run A/C with your solar power system?

The most important thing to consider when deciding how your caravan’s solar power system will work with it is its size. There is no one size fits all. Calculate your caravan’s solar power requirements in kilowatts. These steps will help you determine the size of your caravan’s solar power system.

  1. Multiply this number by 1,000 to get 1,00 Watts in 1kW.
  2. Determine the wattage of any solar panels that you are interested in.
  3. Divide number 1 by 2.

Your caravan’s solar panels should be able to power your A/C. The three components that need extra attention are your inverter, battery bank and solar array.

1. The Right Size Solar Array is Essential

Solar panels can be used to power your air conditioner. They must produce a lot of electricity. Some air conditioners require 2.5kw. Your solar panel system should have at least 3kw power to run the air conditioner continuously.

Your air conditioner will need 750 Ah of power per day if you plan to use it for 5 hours per day.

This calculation does not take into account any other appliances that require power. These figures only include the energy required for air conditioning.

The solar panels must generate 107 amps every day to meet this requirement. This is only if the day is clear and sunny. With overcast weather, more is required.

1.500 watts is all you need to power an air conditioner with 13,500 BTUs.

2. Do you have enough Batteries?

150 Ah would be required for additional things when an air conditioner draws 150 amps.

In order to use the battery bank in cloudy weather or at night, it must be substantially larger.

Instead of having at least 300 Ah it would require at least 700 Ah. This makes it possible for the caravan battery to continue working through night and in cloudy conditions.

3. Is your inverter the right size?

An inverter is required to allow solar panels to power an caravan conditioner. An example of this is a 13.500 BTU air conditioner that requires an inverter with a starting wattage between 2,800 and 3,000 W. This will keep it from going out of control. You can also see:

For a 7,000 BTU caravan AC conditioner, 1,700 Watts is needed for start-up and 600 once it’s running.

A 10,000 BTU RV air conditioner requires 2,000 watts to start up, and 700 once it is running.

A 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner requires 3,500 watts for startup and 1,500 to run once it is running.

What about soft start systems?

An A/C Soft starter is a good option if you don’t want to spend on an caravan solar power systems that’s bigger than average. This will enable you to use a smaller inverter for your caravan’s cooling system.  Learn more about soft starters here

Is it worth the effort?

This question can only be answered by you. Every caravan owner has a unique answer. It all depends on how big your caravan is. It all depends on the size of your caravan. If it isn’t large enough to house an caravan solar panel system, then air conditioning with caravan solar energy is unlikely to be an option. This is unless you want an A/C Soft Start system.

In Summary

Yes, solar panels can power an caravan air conditioner. However, this requires more than just the panels. You can have air conditioning everywhere you go if you’re willing to do the math and spend the money.


Andy Sullivan

Andy Sullivan

A lover of all things outdoors, Andy is an experience camper having traveled the east cost of Australia multiple times and countless trips throughout New Zealand.

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