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Calculating Solar For Off-Grid Van Life

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Wanting to live off-grid is both noble and economical. No one wants to be shackled to the power company forever. Whether it’s because you don’t like spending money for a renewable resource or disagreeing with their ethics, solar panels will ensure you have all the power you need. Most guides cover calculating how much power you need for a home, but this will help you see how much power is needed for living off-grid in a van.

Tips for Saving Energy at Home or Work

Some of these tips will apply to living off-grid in a van while others will help you save power anywhere. Perhaps the best tip is to turn off lights that you aren’t using. If you leave a room, then turn off all the lights. You should use natural light whenever possible and smaller task lights for reading, cooking, or other tasks around the home.

Use cold water whenever possible. It takes a lot of energy to heat water and there are many ways to save on this. Consider using cold water when washing dishes, clothes, or taking a shower.

Unplug or shut off any appliances you aren’t using. A small amount of energy is required even if the appliance is off, so unplugging an appliance is better. You will also want to shut off your heat or air conditioner when you’re gone. No reason to keep the home temperature-controlled if you’re not around. According to the experts at Unbound Solar, “The cost of electricity can vary based on your location, with averages falling in a range of 9-22 cents per kWh. (Hawaii is an outlier at 33.82 cents per kWh, due to the need to maintain their own utility grid because they are separated from the mainland).”

Determine Watts of Solar Panel for a Van

Determining how many watts of solar panel you need requires knowing how much power you use on average. You can figure this out by knowing how many appliances you run and how many batteries you use. Solar panels will connect to your batteries when you’re in a van and you will then use those batteries to power your appliances and devices.

The next section will cover how many watts are needed for recharging your batteries, but it’s important to know how to calculate a solar panel’s overall power output. All it takes is a simple formula. You can learn more with this guide to DIY solar.

Just multiply the solar panel watts, average hours of sunlight, and 0.75 to see your daily watt-hours. You will then divide that number by 1,000 to see how many hours you get. The average hours of sunlight are usually about five or six in most areas, but some people might get more while others get less. It also depends on the season and weather.

Watts Needed to Recharge Batteries

You will want to check the amp hours, or AH, rating on your battery. Multiply this rating by the voltage to see how many watts you need per battery. For example, if you have a 12.8-volt battery with 100ah, then you’ll need 1,280 watts of power for each battery.

You get this figure by calculating how many daily watts you can expect from the solar panel and comparing it to the battery. It’s quite simple and should only require some basic math.

Calculating solar for off-grid living in your van is fairly simple. You just have to see how much power is needed from your batteries and then ensure your panels can properly recharge them.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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