Many would-be full-timers wonder if RV solar systems are worth the money. Whenever anyone has asked me my thoughts on the subject, my standard answer has always been “It depends on your lifestyle.” That feedback was easy for me to give; after all, there hasn’t been a day that my husband and I RV’d without it. I really didn’t know what it was like to live without solar, until now.
When we installed solar on our first RV in 2007, it was a given that we would go camping in far-away, off-the-beaten-path places. As former backpackers we loved being off-grid and away from crowds, so we budgeted for a rooftop system that would enable us to live and work from anywhere as full-time RVers. Our system paid for itself in about two seasons and over time we ended up boondocking more than staying plugged in at RV parks.
Last fall, however, it was a different story. Our new RV didn’t have solar on the roof top and we had to learn to go without it for a few months while saving enough money for our ideal system that would enable us to run our satellite Internet dish (a real power hog), our laptops and maintain an adequate comfort level while dry camping. You might be asking, “What about a generator?” Well, we do have a Honda super quiet generator for backup power, but it’s not inside the RV and to pull it out of the pickup truck is a real hassle, especially when you’re on the move.
In October as we embarked on our new RV’s fast-paced maiden voyage from our summer spot in Colorado to our winter destination in Southern California, learning to live without solar was not fun for us. Because we work from the road, we always need power even if we’re only stopping for a night, since we need to check in with our business matters. With our first RV’s solar system, we could do this from anywhere – truck stops, WallyWorld, city parks, you name it. But this time around we were forced to travel from one RV park to another. As we moved from Point A to B, we felt like we had an invisible tether tying us to the grid. This power dependence was so far from our feeling of total freedom and never ending possibilities that life as a full-time RVer gives to us, we absolutely hated not having solar as an option.
Today if someone were to ask me if they should get solar for their full-time RV, I would without hesitation tell them “Yes!” – especially if their RV is like mine and lacks room for an on-board generator. Even if you buy a bare bones solar system, you will always have the option of pulling over wherever your heart feels free. Installing solar on your RV roof allows you to do all those things you want to, where you want to, when you want to. Without that option, you will always be forced to go from one RV park to another, paying for rent even in places where you’d rather not be. To me, that’s not freedom, that’s drudgery. Save up for your solar system and you’ll be so glad you did.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.