How Your Camping Lifestyle Effects Your Solar Power Needs

Your Camping Style will be the biggest factor in determining the sizing of your Solar panel(s) and your battery bank or if you even need to spend the money on these items. For example: if you  are living full time in your Scamp and are boondocking (dry camping without utilities) 95% of the time you are going to need a very robust system on your Scamp or Molded Fiberglass RV in order to provide continuous electrical power to fulfill your power needs. Conversely, if you prefer to stay in campgrounds 95% of the time, then you may not need a solar system at all (maybe a larger battery [or battery bank] is all you really need, if that). Also, weather will factor into your decisions on whether you need to add additional power options to your trailer. If you are a fair weather Scamper and don't need to run the furnace then you most likely can get by with less upgrades to the power systems. Cold weather Scampers will require more robust power solutions.

How you use your Scamp/Molded Fiberglass trailer now, verses how you will be using it five years from now, can also be a factor in determining your current and future power and solar needs. For example, you may currently be using your Scamp/ Molded Fiberglass trailer for weekend getaways and short vacations. If this is the case, you might consider these two initial steps:

  1. Changing incandescent lighting to LED and reducing power consumption. This is discussed more in-depth in section 2: Reducing power consumption - LED Lighting
  2. Upgrading your battery bank. Upgrading your battery bank can double (or more) the time you spend Scamping/boondocking without needing to recharge your batteries (depending on your usage and the efficiency of your electrical systems). This is discussed more in-depth in section 3: Choosing the right battery solution for travel trailers.

If, in five years, you plan to retire and use your Scamp/ Molded Fiberglass trailer for either full-time or full-time/part-time living then you could wait to install the Solar panels till closer to your retirement. This approach has the added advantage of spreading the cost of installing your Solar system over a few years rather than having one large initial expense and also taking advantage of technology that will be available in five years.

Weather will also affect your Solar system. First, if you are Scamping in an area that is predominantly overcast you will need to oversize your Solar panels to generate more electricity with less sunlight. Secondly, if you are in an area where you need to run your furnace at night (often) you might need a larger battery bank to accommodate the overnight draining of your battery by the furnace fan (if you have a fan on your heating system).

Costs and time will also figure into your solar solution. Installing a new Solar system on your Scamp/Molded Fiberglass trailer can be expensive, however, there are ways to mitigate the costs and/or spread the expenditures out over a few years. By analyzing how you Scamp (now and five years from now) you may be able to upgrade your Scamp/ Molded Fiberglass trailer to Solar one-step-at-a-time. For example, the next time you need to replace your battery review the battery section and upgrade to a more robust solution. This will allow you to increase your boondocking days without spending too much extra money (after all, you had to replace the battery anyway).

To increase your boondocking days even further, you can consider using portable charging solutions, generators, portable solar solutions. These options are discussed in section ??. This way you get the benefits of charging technology right away without breaking the bank.

In short, your Scamping lifestyle will be the biggest factor in designing and sizing your Solar solution or power options, so, take time to consider how you will be using your Scamp/Molded Fiberglass trailer while you are planning your Solar solution and storage system.

Contributed by SOI Lifetime Member ManWithAVan

Step 2 - Reducing Power Consumption - LED Lighting