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All Things RV,  Boondocking,  Newbies,  Preparing to RV

RV Electrical Myths: Busted!

Have you seen all the RV electrical myths floating around on social media? After we installed Battle Born lithium and solar, we saw a lot of myths popping up in our social media comments. There is a lot of misinformation floating around and I thought it was time to set the record straight. So let’s do a little RV power myth-busting!

Myth 1. Everyone Needs Lithium and Solar

It really surprised me to see that a lot of people think they need lithium batteries and solar to be a full time RVer. This is simply not the case. Many RVers prefer to stay in campgrounds with full hookups and do not like to boondock. If your preferred camping style includes full hookups, then you don’t need to make a huge investment in lithium or solar. Your current batteries will take care of all your needs. You may not even need a generator. Don’t let other people pressure you into upgrading a system that already works for you. 


Myth 2. Lithium is Required for Solar

Battle Born Batteries

We saw this a lot after we completed our solar install. People even were upset because we didn’t add the cost of our lithium upgrade and solar upgrade together. We left the costs separate intentionally.

Solar panels and lithium batteries are not a package deal. They are separate, and you can choose one or the other or both. Many people install solar panels on their roof and never upgrade their lead-acid or AGM batteries to lithium. These systems do very well off grid.

Before you decide on either solar or lithium first assess your power needs. What are your power goals? How much power do you use each day? How often will you boondock? How long do you plan to be off the grid at a time? How big are the power draws of the appliances you plan to use when you are unplugged? Answering these questions will help you figure out if upgrading is the right choice for you.

Not sure what battery is best for your RV and your RVing style we can help you with that. Check out RV Batteries: Which is Best for You?


Myth 3. You Must Install Solar First

RV electrical myths, RV solar, You, Me & the RV

We saw this debate a lot. Some people swore that lithium had to be installed first and others swore solar had to be installed first. The truth is it doesn’t matter which install is first or if it’s done at the same time. Choose the upgrade based on what is best for you and how you will utilize your power. 

We Chose Batteries First

More power was our priority, so we chose to upgrade to Battle Born lithium long before we installed our solar panels. We weren’t even sure if we would install solar. Our onboard generator does a great job charging our batteries.

RV batteries: lithium, AGM, led acid. Which RV battery is best for you?

Our goal with the lithium install was to be able to use any appliance, no matter how large the power draw (not including the A/C) without having to use our generator. Our coffee pot was on the top of the list. We like to wake up to a fresh pot of coffee.

Before our Battle Born install if we were boondocking we had to wake up, turn on the generator, turn on the coffee pot and wait for coffee. I hated all that noise first thing in the morning. I prefer silence and coffee for my morning ritual. It was really bad if we were in a place with generator hours that didn’t start until 8 am! No coffee until 8 am! I don’t function without my morning cup of joy! (Yes, that was joy, not Joe!)

Solar battery installation, You me and the rv

There are many reasons why people may decide to invest in solar on their RVs. Here are some of the reasons why we added solar to Ruby’s roof.

  • We love to dry camp
  • We love to dry camp in silence!!
  • Solar is better for the environment
  • Less money spent on diesel
  • Once we recoup our investment, we will save money every time we boondock

Sharing is Caring. Feel free to share this image on Pinterest! Thanks!

RV electrical can be very confusing. We bust 7 different electrical myths to help you understand RV power.

Myth 4. Fill Every Square Inch

The amount of solar or lithium you need is not based on the square footage. Before you spend any money on upgrades conduct a power assessment to determine how much solar or lithium you need.

What appliances do you use when you are unplugged. If you avoid big draw items while boondocking, you may need less lithium than someone who still uses coffee makers, hairdryers, and instant pots. Like me! The goal is to purchase just what you need to live the way you want in your RV. 

If you go out and just start filling the empty space you may spend way more money than necessary. Lithium and solar are investments and you don’t want to invest more than is necessary to live comfortably.


Step by Step RV Power

Myth 5. You Can’t Have too Much

When planning your solar or lithium upgrade, the amount of solar must make sense for the number of usable amp-hours of your batteries and vice versa cialis pret

Let me explain what I mean. Imagine if your batteries were an empty 8-ounce glass and your solar panels were swimming pool. It would be overkill to fill the empty glass with a swimming pool of water. That amount of solar would be a waste of money because there is nowhere to put the power harnessed by all those solar panels.


Myth 6. You Can’t Have too Little

You also don’t want to have more battery capacity than you could ever fill with your solar panels. Imagine if your batteries were an empty swimming pool, and your solar panel was an 8 oz glass. You solar would never be able to fill those batteries even on the brightest of days. 

If you need help assessing your power usage, some companies will help you. Battle Born is one such company. If you are planning to upgrade to Battle Born lithium, they will help you figure out your needs. 


Myth 7. Solar Powers the Residental Fridge 

RV Power Diagram, You me and the rv,
RV Power Diagram

As you look at the RV power diagram above you will see the energy from the solar panels is deposited into the batteries. The batteries will power the electrical devices in your RV while boondocking. So when you ask how much power is needed to power the fridge you are really asking how many batteries (amps from batteries) are needed.

To better understand RV power and the diagram above head over to RV Electrical: What You Need to Know.


RV Electrical Myths

RV electrical can be confusing. I hope busting these myths will clear up some of the confusion.

Please post any myths you have heard in the comments below. It might clear up confusion for others.

Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully we will see you on the road someday.

Phil & Stacy

Author: Stacy, You, Me & the RV, ALL RIGHT RESERVED 2020

8 Comments

  • Avatar

    David Isham

    Hey Stacy and Phil,
    My girlfriend and I have been huge fans for about the last 6 mos.
    Wanted to let you know I fell victim to almost every myth you wrote about.
    We live in CA and I’m a disabled vet so we get to stay in CA State Parks for free. CA State Parks do not have hookups. The problem we were trying to solve was to be able to run my girlfriend’s CPAP machine 8-9 hours a night. I had 2 ea 110 Ah AGM batteries. After a night’s use they would be dead the next morning and I would have to run my generator approx 4 hours to charge them back up.
    Myth number 1: I need solar
    Really I only needed to upgrade my battery bank.
    I ended up buying 850 watts of Zamp Solar panels. Victron 712 battery monitor. Victron 3000 watt inverter. Victron 60 amp solar controller. 4 ea 100Ah Battle Born lithium batteries.
    Parts totaled approx $8000. I paid a custom RV shop approx $6000 (120/hr) for the install. I know that sounds like a lot for installation but the craftsmanship was incredible. They did an incredible job that I am very satisfied with.
    That being said my solar system cost almost as much as my trailer is worth. I have a bit of buyers remorse. I have the most awesome solar system money can buy.
    But remember my original problem was to be able to run my girlfriend’s CPAP machine for 8-9 hours a night. My solution was like dropping a nuke on the target when a 500lb general purpose bomb would have fulfilled the mission.
    There were so many other options to solve the CPAP problem and I got sucked up in the “I need solar,” myth that I didn’t really explore all alternatives. Anyway I hope some of your followers will read this and learn from my mistake and not fall into the trap that solar is the only answer to their power requirements.

  • Avatar

    Michael Meehan

    Thanks for the post. It;s great info. Pixie and i are still looking to do both solar and Batteries at some point. Most likely we will do Batteries first and save up for solar next year. We want to spend a majority of our future camping in state parks, natl Parks, BLM and Corps of Engineers. Most of the spots we are looking at don’t have electrical hook-ups and like y’all we like quiet and solitude.

    thanks for the info.

    Mike & Pixe Meehan

  • Avatar

    C Dan Tarpley

    A potential subject to educate the rest of your followers. When we bought our 5th Wheel we chose not to go with an onboard generator. As we slowly build our Boondocking capabilities (batteries, solar?, etc), we decided to add a portable inverter generator to our arsenal. The unit (Westinghouse 4500i) worked fine, but could not get through our EMS (Progressive Industries EMS- PT50X) due to an Open Ground fault.

    I think I figured it out (unit has a floating neutral). Now I’m waiting on the plug to arrive from Amazon.

    Here is what I found.

    www.rvtravel.com/rv-electricity-generator-neutral-bonding-basics/

    noshockzone.org/generator-ground-neutral-bonding/

    Thanks for all you guys do to entertain and educate the rest of us!

    P.S.- We started our Full Time journey a month ago today!

    C. Dan

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