Since we plan to do a lot of back country camping, we wanted to get a solar set up for the travel trailer. Our trailer came pre-wired for up to three solar panels. We debated how many panels to get and ended up going big and getting three of the 160w Zamp panels. This gives us 490 watts of solar charging with the 10w panel that came with the trailer. We also upgraded the single 12v battery with two 6v batteries to give us longer lasting power.
Of course having this power is only good if you can use it how you want to use it. The way they set up most travel trailers is for the batteries to only power the most critical stuff. They are mostly set up to be plugged in somewhere, which is probably how most people use them. The batteries will power the fridge to run on gas, the lights, the water pump, the heater control, the TV, the radio and a few usb or 12 volt plugs. If you want to use the microwave, the AC, or the wall outlets for anything you are out of luck unless you plug in to shore power or use a generator. We didn’t want to use a generator due to the noise and having to store it somewhere. So the other option was to install a power inverter.
A power inverter basically takes the 12 volt DC power from the batteries and changes it into 120 volt AC power for the trailer. So when the inverter is on it is almost like the trailer is plugged in to shore power. The only difference is that the power is limited by the wattage of the inverter and amount of energy stored in your batteries. In our case we installed a Xantrx Freedom XC 2000 inverter which will run up to 2000 watts. So we can power just about everything in our trailer off the batteries and the inverter with the exception of the A/C. The inverter came with a control panel that we installed in the trailer to easily turn on and off the inverter. When it is off the trailer runs off the batteries as normal under a 12 volt system. When we turn it on everything is running off the 120 volts.
We have been testing it out and it works great. So far we have been able to keep our batteries pretty full with the three solar panels. Every day the panels either completely recharge the batteries or come pretty close. We have been able to use the microwave, running a vacuum to clean the carpets, powering the laptop and more.
Up til now most of our trips have been pretty sunny, so we haven’t tested it out in cloudy or rainy conditions yet. We may have to be a little more conservative with our power usage when we do have these conditions. Overall though, it should work out great for us.