Most Important Things to Know About Solar Power for Your Van

Living off the grid, taking the roads less traveled, and experiencing the thrill of absolute freedom! Sound like a dream? If you’re nodding your head in agreement, then you’re in the right place. But let’s take a minute. Do you realize how solar power plays a pivotal role in this off-grid adventure?

Let’s dive headlong into this sunlit subject, shall we?

Why Solar Power for Your Van?

van solar system

Freedom is the essence of van life. Yet, along with the freedom comes the responsibility of being self-reliant. Power generation is one such responsibility. And what better way to generate power than the sun itself? Solar power, after all, is a renewable, eco-friendly, and cost-effective solution. But you might wonder, why exactly solar power?

With solar power, you’re ensured a continuous energy supply. It keeps your lights, your refrigerator, and your essential van life luxuries up and running. You’re not tethered to the grid and have the liberty to park anywhere without worrying about power connections.

Sounds like a deal, doesn’t it? But before we proceed, let’s make sure we understand the basics.

The Basics of Solar Power Systems

Before you start purchasing solar panels willy-nilly, it’s crucial to understand how a solar power system works in a van. A basic solar power system includes solar panels, a charge controller, a battery bank, and an inverter.

Solar Panels

Solar panels capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. When choosing solar panels, pay attention to the watts they generate. Higher wattage panels generate more electricity, but also require more space. Assess your van’s roof size before making a decision.

Charge Controller

This is your battery’s best friend. The charge controller regulates the voltage coming from the solar panels to prevent your batteries from overcharging.

Battery Bank

The battery bank stores the electricity generated by the solar panels. How much storage you need depends on your power usage. For most van lifers, a 200-400Ah battery bank will suffice. Need help deciding? Here’s a comprehensive guide to Electricity in Your Van: Everything You Need to Know.


The inverter converts the stored DC power in your battery into AC power for your appliances. Keep in mind; inverters consume power to operate. A power-efficient inverter is a worthy investment for the long run.

Getting your head around all these components might seem like a daunting task. But once you’re through, you’ll be a step closer to a self-sufficient, eco-friendly van life.

How to Size Your Solar Power?

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s move to the next important step – sizing your solar system. This step involves some math, but don’t worry. You won’t need a Ph.D. to figure it out.

The first thing you need to do is determine your daily power usage. Once you have this number, you can size your solar panels, battery bank, and inverter accordingly.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: Calculate the total power consumption of all your appliances and then add about 20% more for a margin of safety. The result is the amount of solar power you need.

Need a more detailed guide? Dive into this beginner’s Guide to Solar Power for Van.

Solar Power Installation: DIY or Professional Help?

Once you have all your components and your calculations ready, the question arises: Should you do it yourself or hire a professional?

If you’re someone who loves DIY and aren’t afraid of a little electrical work, you can definitely install your solar system. We even have a list of Best DIY Projects for Your Van to guide you through the process.

However, if the thought of handling wires and drilling holes in your van’s roof terrifies you, it might be best to leave it to the professionals. The additional cost will be worth the peace of mind.

In conclusion, solar power is a game-changer for living off the grid. It empowers you with self-reliance, gives you freedom, and contributes positively to the environment. So why not soak up the sun and power your van life?