Tesla offers a wide variety of solar power and storage options, which many people decide to take advantage of for homes and other buildings. Many RV drivers are interested in possibly using this technology to improve the power consumption and retention of a mobile home, but the process does not come without its challenges.
It is possible to add Tesla solar panels to an RV, but Tesla Solar and Powerwall were never designed for moving vehicles and are not supported for road use. Converting power is difficult, and any installation will be out of warranty and likely not installed by a professional.
While many challenges come with adding Tesla Solar to an RV, it does not come without its benefits. Having good solar panels on an RV can help power electricity efficiently and ultimately save money in the long run. To find out more about adding Tesla Solar and if it is worth it, continue reading.
Installation and Conversion Come With Some Difficulties
Adding solar panels to the top of an RV is a great idea for anyone looking to generate additional power and support basic electric appliances throughout their vehicle. However, adding solar panels can be a large undertaking, and this is especially true for solar panels that were designed for the home instead of the road.
Tesla’s solar panels are designed and manufactured for use at home, not on an RV. This means that they are larger than RV-designed panels, installed differently, and convert power at a different rate. While none of these qualities bar Tesla solar from being used on an RV, they do make it more of a challenge.
If you wanted to expand the system and include a Powerwall, Tesla’s energy storage device, things become even more complicated.
Larger Panels and Installation
The larger sized panels of Tesla solar fit well enough on any average roof, but many RVs may struggle to accommodate their larger size. If the top of your RV is small or very rounded, installation may quickly become cumbersome.
Extra powers or batteries inside the RV are also likely to become necessary, making general installation even more challenging. While the panels will generate more energy, all of that needs somewhere to go. Some other RV owners turned to another Tesla offering for this instead: batteries from Tesla’s cars. They can be purchased second-hand and support a variety of the features of solar panels. For a look at how people have done this, check out this video.
Adding a Powerwall to store energy for long periods will also up the challenge of installation. While it is theoretically a great idea, there are some issues with it. Tesla’s Powerwall is large, especially for a mobile home. Finding the space for it is almost certainly going to be an issue for all but the largest RVs. Additionally, Tesla only offers Powerwalls through certified installers, who are only qualified to add them to homes. Thus finding a way to add one to an RV seems almost impossible.
All of this comes down to one central point: Installing Tesla solar panels instead of a regular RV option means more power for a more significant inconvenience. This is most amplified during the installation, and that is before covering what the necessary power conversion may mean.
Most RV batteries and solar panel kits run on 12V batteries, meaning that they all work nicely together. No converters are necessary, and power from solar can be used for any part of the RV. However, Tesla Solar – as with almost any house-based solar panel – operates on a 24V charge.
Without getting into the specifics of electricity too deeply, this means that the power coming from the solar panels needs to be converted into something usable by the RV. Otherwise, the 24V line from the solar panel would overcharge and burn out the batteries in the RV, causing significant issues and possible damage to the whole system.
Reducing the operating voltage of Tesla’s batteries also means less power available overall, as the whole system’s efficiency is significantly reduced. Using batteries that are not compatible with Tesla’s solar panels is simply not an option if you want the panels installed, so ultimately, the rig will be losing efficiency. You can read here for a more technical look at how the conversion works.
Not all hope is lost, however. Converters are commonplace and can easily be purchased and placed into a rig for this express purpose. Alternatively, there are RVs that already natively run on 24V batteries, meaning that no power conversion is necessary. While this is certainly something that those looking to use traditional solar panels need to be aware of, it is not a problem that cannot be worked around.
Tesla Does Not Officially Support RV Installation
As the direct use case for Tesla’s entire solar and power line is for stationary, traditional homes, they do not officially support installing any of their products into an RV. This means that using Tesla’s solar panels or Powerwall is much more complicated and comes with a few downsides:
- Any warranty is void
- Official installation is impossible
- Finding any installation help will be tough
- Finding the product will be difficult
No Warranty or Installation Help
The lack of warranty or official support for the solar panels may seem like a minor issue to some people, but that is likely to change if any issues arise with their use. Having access to a replacement or repair warranty is great peace of mind, especially for purchases as large as solar panels.
Because the solar panels will not be installed in a supported way (such as the top of a traditional home), Tesla is not required to honor any part of the warranty. Basically, this quickly translates to being stuck on your own as issues or questions arise. Adding a bit more of a problem is that there is no way the installation will be done by a professional. If you are unsure of what you are doing, it is possible to accidentally ruin the panels or another part and be out all of the invested money.
This will, sadly, be the case with almost any traditional solar panel, regardless of manufacturer. Unless it is directly stated that they are intended for use in an RV, you will lose the coverage. The specifics of the warranty can be found here.
Finding the Solar Panels
Actually purchasing the solar panels and supporting equipment may be the largest issue on this list with adding Tesla Solar to your RV. Finding the solar panels new from Tesla is something that almost everybody struggles with thanks to high-demand, but your purchase request is almost certain to be denied if Tesla learns that you plan to add them to an RV.
The primary way to purchase Tesla solar panels is through an officially licensed installer. Sadly, this is also an issue, as the typical deal here is that they also do the installation. Of course, this is not really an option for RV users, so you once again are likely to lose out on the panels.
This leaves one other option. Purchasing used Tesla solar panels is the best way to get some for an RV. Otherwise, the various red-tape in place is likely to put a hold on the solar-powered RV dream. Keep an eye out for a good deal or anyone replacing their solar panels. Thankfully, only one or two are likely enough to comfortably power an RV, so the process may not take too long.
Adding Tesla solar panels to an RV is certainly possible but is often more expensive and complicated than simply choosing an existing RV solar panel kit. Using Tesla solar panels requires power conversion, extra space, and personal installation, which can quickly get complicated for people who are not adept with electric components.
Tesla also does not officially allow the use of Tesla solar panels or equipment on RVs, so there is no supporting warranty or installation. Those who push through these issues are often left with more than enough power to power their RV; it just takes a bit of extra effort.