One of the latest changes overtaking the RV industry is a new way to create solar power that doesn’t attach panels to your camper roof but instead uses the awning surface to capture the sun’s rays.
You may have questions about adding solar panels to an awning while allowing it to open and shut properly while providing shade and protection from the rain. But one company has perfected the system, and I’m here to share all the details.
If you’ve been considering adding solar power to your RV, this new product may be just what you need, so stay here to learn more!
Disadvantages Of Tradition RV Solar Power Systems
Traditional solar power systems for recreational vehicles come in two versions.
The first option was purchasing and installing panels on the RV roof and then upgrading your house battery bank to store the power. You will also need to upgrade or add an inverter to your RV to convert the 12-volt energy stored in the battery to 110-volt energy to run RV appliances and devices.
The second option is to use a portable solar power system where the panels sit on the ground at the campsite. Then, you hook wires up to the house battery bank to store the generated power.
The problem with these two systems is that neither is very convenient or practical for many RVers.
One issue is that smaller RVs rarely have the space on their roof to mount enough panels to create sufficient energy to run more than a few lights.
Short Class C motorhomes, pop-ups, campervans, and teardrops are some RVs that are difficult to mount panels on, especially when there are air conditioners, vents, and other components to work around.
Even larger RVs with roof-mounted solar panels may only be able to generate some of the power the owner needs to boondock comfortably. Lastly, every RVer worries adding holes in the roof to mount the panels only increases the chance of water leaks in the future.
Freestanding solar panels require you to store them in a safe place in the RV during travel and need time to set out, hook up, and charge up the batteries. In addition, trying to maneuver around the panels on a small campsite can get frustrating.
How an RV Solar Awning Works
Using the top surface of an RV awning to capture power from the sun makes sense, but finding a way to keep a standard awning fully functional was a challenge that the California company Xponent Power overcame.
By using the skills and experience of top solar and RV industry experts, Xponent Power uses the most modern solar technology available to develop Xpanse, an innovative solar RV awning.
The glass-based panels are rugged and shade-tolerant, so they will perform reliably for years without fail.
Xpanse is a market-ready retractable awning about 16 feet long and extends around seven feet. In addition, the awning length can be customized downward in 3-foot increments to fit on smaller RVs.
The unit can be installed on most RV models and operates automatically with the push of a button.
The Xpanse awning unrolls to expose rows of thin, highly-efficient rectangular panels that can produce up to 1200 watts of power you can store in an appropriate-size RV battery bank.
The panels act as an awning “material” that creates shade underneath, so you can continue to use your outdoor RV patio space as usual with protection from the harsh sun or light rains.
The awning retracts into a neat, fully-enclosed housing that protects the unit during travel or through inclement weather events.
Xpanse by Xponent Power: Wind-Tolerant Solar Awning (Video)
Pros and Cons of the Xpanse RV Solar Awning
The Xpanse awning has benefits and disadvantages to consider when deciding if this is a good option for your camper.
Xpanse RV Solar Awning Pros:
– Withstands Wind Better
The Xpanse solar awning design can withstand winds up to 45 miles per hour, which can damage standard fabric RV awnings.
When high-wind conditions arise, the awning slightly retracts, which opens up small gaps between the panels, allowing wind to pass through, so the awning does not sustain damage.
When the Xpanse solar awning senses wind speed exceeding the limits of the design, the awning will automatically fully retract. This feature is a boon for RVers who may be out for the day when a storm suddenly rolls in.
– Installs Easily On Most RVs
Mounting options for the Xpanse mean you don’t have to remove and replace your existing RV awning to use this unit. Instead, you can install it on the opposite side of your travel trailer or motorhome or even mount one next to a current awning if you have a long Class A motorcoach or fifth wheel.
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Using the Xpanse awning also keeps your roof accessible, so you can easily clean it or repair rooftop components without worrying you’ll damage roof-mounted solar panels.
– Choice of Wattage Production
The Xpanse awning comes in three wattage levels (1,200W/1,000W/800W), so you can match the energy production to your needs.
– Works In Conjunction With Existing RV Solar Power Systems
If you want to increase the solar power capacity of your RV, you can integrate the Xpanse into your current system. While you’ll need to ensure your battery bank can handle the extra energy storage, wiring the Xpanse into your existing system is straightforward.
– Allows Off-Grid Camping
Off-grid camping trips can become much more comfortable with the Xpanse RV solar awning. The amount of power the awning generates can run plenty of appliances, so you can get rid of that noisy and stinky RV generator and enjoy silent, clean, renewable energy.
Xpanse RV Solar Awning Cons:
– Xpanse Requires a Hefty Initial Investment
The cost of professional installation of an Xpanse Solar RV Awning is around $10,000. However, once in place, the awning should provide years of abundant, free energy that will allow you to camp anywhere on and off-grid.
The company has installers across the US and plans to offer financing to help RVers afford the Xpanse, and many people will qualify for extra savings by using the ITC Tax Credit.
– Not Solid Like a Standard Fabric RV Awning
The solar awning has clear sections around the panels that let sunlight pass through. Unfortunately, this light transfer means anyone sitting under the awning will not be in full shade, which could be problematic for some people.
The design of the solar awning could be more rainproof. While the awning can deflect light rain, it won’t block a heavy downpour as a fabric awning can.
Where Can You See The Xpanse Solar Awning In Person?
If you want to see and test out the Xpanse Solar Awning, the company offers demonstrations at RV trade shows and has samples at select RV dealerships. Contact the company through their website at xponentpower.com to find a location near you.
You can use an innovative RV solar awning to improve your camping experience by generating clean solar energy to power your RV appliances and devices. With a self-contained RV solar power system, you’ll never have to worry about shore power failure at campgrounds, and you can travel as far off-grid as you like.
RVing is all about the freedom to roam and explore the beautiful USA, and an Xpanse Solar RV Awning can give you the power you need!
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide