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How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run My RV AC?

Writen by Tom Hank

Fact checked by Joseph Varney

how many solar panels do i need to run my rv ac

Nowadays, solar panels are becoming quite popular among home and rig owners. This power source helps people cut down their electrical bills while not affecting their monthly usage. But how many would you need to power up an RV air conditioner?

This article will help answer the question ‘How many solar panels do I need to run my RV AC?’ and give you an insight into the advantages and disadvantages of using solar panels.

Table of Contents

In Numbers: How Many Solar Panels to Run Air Conditioner?


Most RVs nowadays use an air conditioning unit with 15 000 BTUs. For this type of AC, 3 500 watts is needed for start-up while 1, 500 watts is required to keep it running.

One of the things you have to look out for is RV solar kits. There are different kits available on the market that range from 190 watts to 570 watts. Aside from that, there are also a number of things that you need to check and consider, and you can find them in the list below.

1. Solar Array Size

Running RV AC on solar energy requires the right array size. A minimum of 1 500 watts of solar panels is what you need for an air conditioner with an output of 13 500 BTU, so if you use 500W panels, you’ll need three of them. Get a rough estimate on your AC’s electrical requirement to find the best array size for your rig.

2. Enough RV Battery Bank

You need to have a large battery bank for your rig if you want the AC to be solar-powered. Also, during the cold season or cloudy days and nights, you will generally need larger batteries than usual for your solar panels to run AC unit.

This is to compensate for the reduction in absorbable sunlight when seasons change. For example, Los Angeles, California has 5.6 peak sunlight hours on average, but just 2.8 to 4.2 hours of peak sunshine in the winter.

3. Right Inverter Size

If you’re planning on using solar panels to run your AC, you need to consider getting a huge inverter to do the job. Generally, it is recommended to have an inverter with a starting wattage output of 3 500 to 4 000 W.

One example is that an AC with a 13 5000 BTU output will need an inverter with 2 800 to 3 000 starting wattage output.

Advantages of Using Solar Panels


A solar panel is a piece of equipment that absorbs solar energy and turns it into electrical power. Over the past few years, more and more rig owners have been using solar energy to power up their RVs. Here are some of the reasons why it’s a great power source.

1. It can be used for most things.

The energy from solar panels can be converted to a power source that is usable by almost any type of appliance, whether you’re using solar power for rv air conditioner, refrigerator, or computer.

2. This is a renewable source of energy.

Our sun is a renewable energy source, so you don’t need to worry about harming the environment while harnessing its power.

3. Low maintenance cost

Another great advantage of using solar panels is that they don’t need a lot of maintenance. All you need to do is clean your PV system every couple of months, maybe four to five times a year, and you are all set to travel wherever your heart leads you to.

4. Reduce electrical costs

Last but definitely not least, having solar panels on your rig will help cut your electrical costs. Once your solar panel is installed, park your rig somewhere without shade so that it can store up a lot of energy for your trip.

Then, since you already have the energy to power your devices, you won’t need to pay much money for your electric bills anymore.

Disadvantages of Using Solar Panels

If solar panels come with an advantage, it’s pretty standard that they come with a number of disadvantages too. While these drawbacks may not seem significant for some people, others may consider them a big factor in their choice to use solar panels. If you want to know more, here is a list of the disadvantages of using solar panels.

1. Costly storage expense

If you have solar panels, you will need batteries to store the energy, and the more energy your PV system generates, the more power banks you need. In general, batteries are not cheap.

2. Costly installation

While having solar panels can help you save money in the long run, you need to consider all the expenses you will incur once you buy and install them. Solar panels are pretty pricey, and there are also many things that you need to buy, such as an inverter and a charge controller.

Installation would also be something you need to worry about, especially if you’re not the type of person to do electrical tasks all by yourself.

3. It takes up a lot of space.

If you have an RV with high electrical needs, the chances are you’ll need a lot of solar panels. Unfortunately, they can be enormous, and your RV may be too small for them. As a result, your rig may look cramped.

4. Weather dependent

Those who live in areas that are primarily cloudy or rainy all year long may not get enough sunlight for their solar panels. In this case, they cannot solely rely on solar energy to power up their entire rig.


Knowing the answer to the question ‘How many solar panels do I need to run my RV AC?’ can be helpful for rig owners who want to stay cool without contributing to climate change. They just need to be ready for all upfront expenses and make sure that their rig is big enough to install solar panels.

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