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Northern Arizona Wind & Sun has been selling solar electric systems since 1979 - one of the oldest solar companies around. An "RV system" (small boat and cabin systems are practically identical) can mean different things to different people. After you have read this page, you might want to take a look at our "RV Solar - Frequently Asked Questions" page. 12 volt DC fluorescent lights are available, and a few other 12 volt appliances, such as ceiling fans - but as a general rule, 12 volt appliances are often of poorer quality and much more expensive than standard household appliances. Battery needs will vary considerably but generally around 200 to 225 amp-hour capacity is considered the minimum for all but small RV's and trailer campers. Contrary to popular belief, two 6-volt batteries in series (golf cart size) are not better or any more reliable than a single large 12-volt, or two 12-volt batteries in parallel. Gel-Cells: Some folks have had good luck with gelled cells, but our experience has been rather mixed. You can get an approximate idea of how much battery you need (in amp-hours) by figuring out how many watts you need per day, and assuming that your batteries should be able to supply at least twice that much (you don't want to run your batteries totally dead). Small inverters are pretty reasonable, and will handle light loads - for example, a 75 watt inverter is enough to run small notebook computers.
Most built in converters that come factory with the RV will charge the batteries at about the same rate as 1 to 2 panels (3 to 10 amps), and usually have pretty poor regulation and charge characteristics (There are a few exceptions - some RV's are now coming with decent chargers, such as some of the Magnetek).
It is best to mount any panel with a very slight tilt, 5% or less, so that you don't get standing water on the panel, and so that any rain will wash off the dust. The total cost can range from around $400 for a small "starter" system, up to $4,000 or more for a large system with a sine wave inverter. The total energy output for this system is about 1600 watt-hours per day, which should run most standard RV lights and appliances with no problem, and will allow the use of small AC appliances.
There are two things to consider before buying a system for an RV - is it worth it, and why is it worth it?
The most obvious factor is the cost of the system - solar is not cheap, and may not be for everyone. I own a small cabin cruiser, about 25ft in length and I must say that it is a great pleasure.
Cabin cruisers are very beautiful and useful boat, but the bet thing is that they are easy to build by yourself.
Aluminium small cuddy cabin boat, View aluminum cuddy cabin boat, allheart Product Details from Qingdao Allheart Marine Co., Ltd. You’ll enjoy two large beds, a refrigerator and microwave, air conditioning, a stand up shower with toilet and a wonderful open air flybridge. It might be just a small 5-watt panel that keeps the battery charged up between a few trips a year or over the winter.

If all you have is lights, a small TV, and the usual gizmos that come built in, around 80 to 130 watts of panels and a good heavy duty deep-cycle battery will probably do the job. Most RV's have some kind of inverter, ranging anywhere from the 250 watt or so for occasionally running small items, up to 4000 watt pure sine wave with a built in battery charger. At one time, there was some truth to the notion, because 6-volt golf cart batteries were the only commonly available deep cycle batteries. Large inverters should be as close to the battery bank as possible to avoid high cable costs and voltage drops. To figure watts, just multiply volts times amps - so a 12 volt light that pulls 3 amps will use 36 watts, and a 12 volt battery that can supply 100 AH will supply 12 x 100, or 1200 watts (however, if you pull the full 1200, your battery will be dead, so figure at least a 50% safety factor, or 600 watts). An inverter large enough to run the microwave (800-1200 watts) or coffee pot might run $500-$1100. Many put out too high a voltage after the batteries are charged, and will fry the batteries if left on continuously.
Tilting mounts are available, and will give you about a 10-20% power increase under ideal conditions. It will save you generator fuel, wear, and maintenance - but probably not enough to be money ahead.
Me and my family use it a lot and it’s a great boat for short sea trips with my family in the summer. I found them while searching the internet for new designs, as I am planning to build an new cabin cruiser that will be a bit longer.
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For someone living in one full time, it can mean 900 watts of panel (or all that will fit), a large battery bank, and an inverter. You can reduce your power requirements, and the number of solar panels needed by switching to DC fluorescents, such as the "Thin-Lite" 12-Volt fluorescent lights - these put out the same light as incandescent, but draw less than one-third the power. If you plan on running an inverter for a microwave, coffee machine, vacuum cleaner, or other standard AC appliances you will need more, probably around 200 to 400+ watts of solar panel. While you might "need" 800 amp-hours of capacity, if you only have room for half that, you will have to be more careful with your power usage. Regardless of which arrangement or size you use, it is important not to mix old with new batteries in a set, or to mix different types (especially gelled) with other types. One problem with gelled cells is that they are much more likely to be damaged by overcharging. With a small 250-800 watt inverter, they can run TV's, computers, and most other small appliances. Since they have such a low output, it can take many hours or even days to fully recharge a large battery bank, it might take about 30-50 hours to recharge a single 200 AH battery bank from a small converter. However, most people find that the hassle of getting up on the roof and setting the mounts and making sure the RV is always parked so the panels can face due south is more of a hassle than it's worth unless you are going to be in one place for a long time. Other things to consider is that solar is very quiet, and if installed correctly, is very low maintenance.
I modified my boat so I also have an refrigerator mounted on the deck (to keep the beer cold ) and a small TV inside so I can watch a movie at night with my wife. Sure, if you want only the best plans than you should consider a little more advanced but even more beautiful designs here. What could be better than clean nature and peaceful water around you?Float cabins are a big part of Coastal British Columbia history.

Nearly all solar panels are designed to withstand water and salt spray use, and all but the smallest have a 20 to 25 year warranty. If the age difference is more than a year between old and new batteries, it could cause problems - and more than 3 years usually a definite "bad thing". Most RV's and boats are happy with inverters in the 800 to 2500 watt range, with 1000 to 1500 watts being the most popular. The sound of a generator running in the wilderness or late at night in a camping area can get very annoying, and it is prohibited in many areas. On Powell Lake, float cabins were inexpensive hunting and fishing getaways for paper mill workers.
Wind generators are common on sailboats and for remote homes, and we have sold a few to RV folks that tend to park a while. Most RV house battery systems should end up with around 200 to 600 amp-hours or more of battery storage capacity. With the panels, batteries, inverter, and other things needed for full time living a complete system might cost around $1800 to $5000. It might sound strange to have both, but the solar system saves having to run the generator all the time just for small loads, battery charging, or short-term heavy loads such as a microwave.
It tends to make some folks very upset.To find out if this is right for your situation, you need to figure out how much it will cost you to run the generator.
An average generator will probably cost about $1 per hour to operate: if run for 6 hours per day for one year, that would be about $2000, counting only fuel costs.
Cabins have registered water leases and we pay property taxes.This small cabinet has his own garden and two floors for living. The most popular sized system consists of 150 to 300 watts of panel, a set of four to eight 6-Volt deep cycle batteries, a charge controller, and an 800 to 1500 watt inverter. With many hybrid systems you can also use the generator to charge the solar system batteries through the inverter, in case you get a few cloudy days. At that cost, you would just about break even at twelve months with the system shown above. An inverter should ALWAYS have a fuse or breaker between the battery and the inverter - this is usually a "class T", or JJN or R type fuse (DC breakers are pretty expensive).
The solar panels also ensure that the batteries remain at peak charge if the RV or boat is not used for long periods of time. You may only run yours for an hour or two a day - if so, the payback (considering only the money) will be longer. A hybrid system, especially for boats, can also consist of wind generator and solar panels. To many, the noise, hassle, and fumes that generators produce is often far more important than just the dollar cost - although modern generators are much quieter than older ones, it is still a factor.
As a rough rule of thumb, 130 watts will cut the need to use the generator charger about 60 to 80%.

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