Solar panels for your motorhome or campervan - poll feedback

Thank you to those members who gave us their thoughts and feedback about solar panels for your motorhomes and campervans.

The feedback told us that solar panels are already used and owned by 86% of the responders. Of this 77% have just one panel, whilst 17.9% have two and nearly 3% have three panels.

The fixed rigid solar panel types are the most popular with our motorhome and campervan owners, with only 8.6% having the stand alone, portable versions.

Rather than installing the solar panels yourself, most of you have had them fitted by the manufacturer or they were part of the motorhome or campervan when you bought it.

We asked those of you that don't have solar panels whether this was something you were planning to install on your motorhome or campervan in the near future. 

The answer resulted in a 60:40 split, with 60% of those thinking about getting some, and some definitely planning to do so. The 40% of respondents who indicated they were unlikely to purchase solar panels were opposed to the idea for reasons such as:

"Too little sunshine in the UK!"
"I can survive for 3 days without solar panels."

Some people had concerns about whether they would see a return on their investment:

"Having them on my house for over ten years, the saving on electricity has been minimal."
"I wouldn’t recover the outlay. I’d reconsider if they became both more efficient and more effective."
"Waste of money. All I need is a leisure battery!"

There were other concerns about making an investment into solar panels some of which were: 

"Cost, connection, lifespan."
"Is the cost of the panels worth the saving on EHU costs?"
"Whether a portable panel located inside windscreen will keep the vehicle battery topped up whilst in storage over winter."
"How to integrate with the existing power system. If attaching might cause damp issues to van. The fact that solar panels can’t be recycled."
"Advice on size. What will it support? How to install."

Those of you who have purchased one or more solar panels have invested varying amounts on this green energy solution.

We asked our members who had solar panels either installed on their motorhome or campervan or who used portable, stand alone versions, what influenced them to buy and use solar panel/s?

We enquired whether your motorhome or campervan insurance policy includes your solar panels. Almost 39% of respondents said yes, which is excellent news but 55.6% were not sure and 4.7% said that their policy didn’t cover it.

If you have - or are thinking of getting - solar panels, make sure they will be covered by your motorhome or campervan insurance policy. The Club's Motorhome and Campervan Insurance covers manufacturer-fitted panels as part of the vehicle, subject to any excess that applies. After-market or portable panels are normally covered within your contents cover, but it's always worth checking. Do call the Club on: 01342 649 919.

For any of you who are unsure, do check with whoever you insure your motorhome or campervan with, as you don't want to lose money if your solar panels are stolen or damaged.

Finally, we asked our members for their own insights into solar panels, so that they could pass on their own experiences and advice about them. However, we do want to point out that we haven’t verified these recommendations, so would suggest that you conduct your own research to determine what is best for you.

"During winter, ours won’t supply enough to keep the battery fully charged. We get about 6-7 hours daylight mid-winter."
"Keeping the battery topped up is a good idea. A well maintained battery lasts longer. With the right battery backup you can just leave it to do its work. Also very good for off-grid."
"Buy a van with them already installed!"
"Go as big as possible and fit more than one leisure battery where possible. You can never have enough power."
"One 135 watts solar on the roof and two lithium batteries 90Ah gives us up to 4 days off-grid between May to September."
"Go for the biggest wattage you can afford. If fitting it to a smaller motorhome or campervan consider a flexible panel bonded to the roof to eliminate wind noise when driving."
"Get them, they are well worth it."
"Do your research - there’s a lot more to it than you may think."
"Cover the top with panels, as many as you can afford."
"Fit as much as you can, the sun does not always shine. Pair your panel/s with a lithium leisure battery."
"Had my van for 8 years and panel keeps leisure batteries topped up all year."
"Great way to keep your batteries charged, also if you cannot use a cable at home to keep them charged and good for a couple of days with electricity."
"Research solar controllers. Particularly focus on ease of use, for example the ability to smart-charge without needing to adjust settings if used for charging both habitation and vehicle/traction battery especially in winter."

One member commented on a couple of the points that were raised; "Is there enough sun to generate solar power in the UK?" and "Can you win, re: cost versus benefit?".

The answer to both was an affirmative YES. Yes you can win cost versus benefit and yes there is enough sun, perhaps with the exception of the December and January months. The feedback we had was from one of our caravan owning members but we felt that this information was very valid and too interesting not to share with our motorhome and campervan owners as well:

"I did the installation myself after watching MANY YouTube videos about it. And learning a lot about all the electrical factors. I used Renogy controller and Renogy Inverter. I have 5 panels, each can deliver 120w in perfect conditions. 4 of the panels keep the lithium 100Ah battery at max so there is plenty of 12v for every evening. The 5th panel keeps a “PowerOak” 500Wh pack charged fully and this then charges all my devices and rechargeable torch, shaver, vacuum cleaner etc. I’m not a mechanic or anything but after lots of research I figured I could do it myself and save a lot of money which I spent part of the savings on the tools I needed. During the day, from about 7am in the summer, the solar panels run the fridge via the inverter, and at about 6pm, I switch the fridge back to gas. I tour full time and I save a lot by only ever needing pitched with no EHU (approximately £5 a day saving). The extra gas I use is less than the savings on electricity, so all in all I am "winning". I am off-grid for 10 months in the UK. Only in December and January have I had to hook up to EHU.”

Published in July 2023

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