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Is It Worth Installing Solar on My Travel Trailer?

Most people who camp off-grid seem to have solar installed on their rigs. It allows them to go further and stay longer in the great outdoors. So, should you also invest in solar for your travel trailer? The cost has fallen drastically over the past few years while the cost of fossil fuels has increased. Upgrading to solar seems like the smart alternative, but it can still be pricey. Let’s take a good look at the details, so you can decide what’s right for you.

Take a Look at Your TAXA Habitat

Wiring a travel trailer for solar takes time and skill. You will likely have no shortage of people willing to complete the installation for you, but keep in mind that faulty wiring can lead to fires. Consequently, you need to trust yourself to do this properly or hire a professional.

An even better option is to get a trailer already pre-wired for solar. Lucky for you, all TAXA Habitats include solar prep as a standard feature. This means that you can simply plug and play. It will power all 12-volt systems in your Habitat. Coupled with the power of propane, that’s almost everything:

  • Smoke and gas alarms
  • Exhaust fans and air vents
  • Refrigerator
  • Furnace
  • Water pump
  • Lights

Consider Potential Solar Upgrades for Your TAXA Habitat

The term “pre-wired for solar” often tricks RV newbies. I was a victim of this, myself. Solar pre-wiring means that you can plug a solar panel into a designated port on your rig to charge your batteries. It does not mean you can use the power outlets or run the microwave when off-grid. For that, you need an inverter. Another complication is that pre-wired trailers tend to match specific solar panels—usually Zamp.

I know, I know. It’s all starting to sound like a headache, but there are easy solutions to this problem. Let’s consider the most popular options.

Add an Inverter

Pre-wired trailers might not include inverters, but manufacturers have completed almost every other step for you. Consequently, adding an inverter is usually a simple upgrade that you can DIY or hire out to an electrician. If you decide to do this yourself, spend some time learning about fuses and the correct wire sizes to ensure a safe installation.

The most significant advantage of choosing this option is creating a set-it-and-forget-it solar solution. Once you mount the panels on the roof, your work is done. The downside is that you lose the flexibility of using the solar in other adventure rigs.

Invest in a Solar Generator

When I tell people I have a solar generator, I either get an excited response or a look of confusion. There is no in-between. So, what exactly is a solar generator? It’s a power system with a built-in inverter and you can charge it via solar. These systems also accept charge via plugging them directly into shore power—just like your RV.

The best advantage of a solar generator is that you need zero technical skills to use it. In addition to this, you have total freedom of flexibility. I have used my Goal Zero solar generator in the RV and on Overlanding trips. 

People say solar generators are not very powerful, but here’s what my 1,500-watt/3,000-watt solar generator can do:

  • It powers my air fryer, electric cooktop, and rice cooker—though not all at once!
  • I can plug my travel trailer directly into it to recharge my batteries and get “house power.”
  • It powers my alarm system when I’m boondocking.
  • It powers my entire office when I’m working remotely.

Use a Generator

Imagine this. You had a long hike yesterday, and you can’t wait to sleep in on this beautiful Sunday morning. You hug your pillow, expecting another two or so hours of shut-eye. Then, you hear it: the loud ruckus of a neighbor starting up the generator. Do you want to be that neighbor?

Since being on the road, I have never used a gas, diesel, or propane generator and don’t intend to. Some parks do allow them, but many do not. Those that do tend to have time limits and quiet hours. If you’re camped in the middle of nowhere and have no neighbors, it might not matter as much. But, crowding is the name of the camping game right now.

There’s also the added hassle of storing the gasoline and running to the gas station for refills. Not only will you burn gas to buy gas, but you’ll be spending top dollar to refill your tank and fill up the generator. To each their own, but this seems like a noisy, expensive, and smelly solution to me.

Review Your Travel Style

My solar generator provides 1,500 watts of continuous power and handles spikes up to 3,000 watts. I paid $1,351.00 with tax in 2021. Before this, I had a much smaller $400 unit from Renogy. It provided 175 watts of power and a tiny battery. It served me well when I was camping for a night without the RV, but I upgraded when I realized how much I enjoyed off-grid RV living.

You will need to do as I did and take a good look at your travel style. Then, plan your solar upgrade accordingly. Here are my recommendations for the most common scenarios:

  • Monthly Stays at RV Parks: People who snowbird or live in their TAXA Habitats might take advantage of monthly stays at RV Parks. Most people recommend not installing solar for this, but I beg to differ. You don’t pay separately for electricity for overnight or weekly stays, but you usually do for monthly stays. Why not subsidize it with solar, just like homeowners do? I saw a $50 difference in my monthly bill, even with the small Renogy system.
  • Hardcore Boondocker: If you spend 80% or more of your time camping off-grid, you can definitely benefit from a solar upgrade. Camping in the middle of nowhere and being able to make my pizza and crab legs in the air fryer is a godsend. There’s no need to run back to town to get gas, no fumes in the truck, and no unnecessary noise at camp.
  • Weekend Warrior: If you only take your travel trailer out for a few weekends here and there, upgrading your TAXA solar might not be worth it. Taking advantage of the existing pre-wiring is sufficient. You can then use solar lights and other micro-solar devices to stay powered at camp.

Some people will tell you that you don’t need solar or a generator. You should totally unplug at camp. I hate to break it to these people, but some of us are not on weekend trips. We live out here, work out here, and have families who will call the cops if they don’t hear from us.

Regardless of why you, want more juice for your rig, solar is an excellent investment. Just be sure to match the size and cost to your needs and budget. Then, talk to your accountant about whether you qualify for the federal solar tax credit.