What Will A 100-Watt Solar Panel Run In An RV?

A 100-watt solar panel is compact and cheap, making it one of the most popular panel sizes for an RV.

If you’re wondering what this tiny 100-watt panel can run in your RV, you have come to the right place.

It’s important to note that energy production matters more than power output regarding solar panels. Because of this, we teach you how to calculate a 100-watt solar panel’s estimated energy production (in kWh) of a 100-watt solar panel.

Moreover, we take you through several examples to demonstrate what a 100-watt solar panel can run in an RV — will it be able to run a refrigerator or even an AC?

Let’s find out! You may be pleasantly surprised by the energy you can get out of this little panel.

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How To Calculate The Energy Production Of A 100-Watt Solar Panel

Calculating a 100-watt solar panel’s energy production is relatively easy, thanks to solar calculators.

Energy production depends on three key variables:

  • Solar irradiation at your location (number of peak sun hours (PSH)
  • Local temperature
  • Solar panel orientation

A peak sun hour (PSH) is defined as 1 hour of full solar irradiation (1000W/m2) under which the power output of the panel reaches its maximum value (100W for a 100-watt solar panel).

We can accurately predict the average PSH anywhere on earth thanks to empirical measurements and satellite data collection. For example, in California, it varies between 5 and 7.5h. This means that a 100W solar panel in this area can produce between 0.5kWh and 0.75kWh per day.

However, this figure is inaccurate as it does not include system loss, such as the temperature effect.

Please note: High temperatures negatively affect the power output of a solar panel.

We recommend using a complete prediction model, such as Solar Global Atlas, for more precise estimation. Go to their website and enter your location; you’ll find multiple pieces of information, the most relevant being the PVOUT (Specific photovoltaic power output).


Calculation Time

Multiply the PVOUT by the power output of your solar panel to get the daily energy production:

Daily energy production formula.

Let’s do the math for a 100W solar panel in California (PVOUT= 4.9kWh/kWp)

100W= 0.1kW

4.9kWh x 0.1= 0.49kWh

A 100W solar panel will produce 0.49kWh per day on average in California.


100-Watt Solar Panel: Energy Production Vs. Power Output

As previously mentioned, energy matters more than power when it comes to solar panels. 

Power can be increased by an inverter whose job is to convert DC into AC increases power, whereas the solar panel solely produces energy.

For example, a 100-watt solar panel can produce 0.5kWh in a day. The panel does not immediately use this energy. Instead, it first travels to the battery. In the end, the battery will power the load via the inverter.

0.5 kWh is enough to run a 1000W appliance for 30 minutes. Therefore, you could run a 1kW appliance for 30 minutes with only one 100-watt solar panel!


Energy Production Of A 100W Solar Panel In An RV (All U.S. States)

A 100W solar panel on an RV in the U.S. will produce a daily average of 0.4 kWh.

This figure varies between 0.5 kWh for the most favorable states (Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada) and 0.33 kWh for the least sunny states (New York, Washington, and Connecticut).

That’s a 50% energy production difference for the same solar panel!

Look out for your state in the list below:

U.S. StatePVOUT average (kWh/kWp)100W solar panel production per day (kWh)
Alabama 40.4
Arizona4.90.49
Arkansas 4.10.41
California4.80.48
Colorado 4.40.44
Connecticut 3.40.34
Florida 40.4
Georgia 40.4
Hawaii3.60.36
Idaho 4.40.44
Illinois3.90.39
Indiana 3.80.38
Iowa 40.4
Kansas4.50.45
Kentucky 3.90.39
Louisiana 4.10.41
Maine 3.60.36
Maryland 3.90.39
Massachusetts 3.80.38
Michigan 3.60.36
Minnesota3.90.39
Mississippi 4.10.41
Missouri 40.4
Montana 40.4
Nebraska 4.40.44
Nevada 4.90.49
New Hampshire 3.70.37
New Jersey 3.90.39
New Mexico5.20.52
New York 3.40.34
North Carolina 4.20.42
North Dakota 4.20.42
Ohio 3.70.37
Oklahoma 4.40.44
Oregon 4.30.43
Pennsylvania 3.50.35
Rhode Island 3.90.39
South Carolina4.30.43
South Dakota 4.20.42
Tennessee 3.90.39
Texas 4.40.44
Utah 4.60.46
Vermont 3.40.34
Virginia4.10.41
Washington 3.30.33
West Virginia3.60.36
Wisconsin 3.80.38
Wyoming 4.60.46

Can A 100-Watt Solar Panel Run A Refrigerator?

It may surprise you that a 100-watt solar panel can run a refrigerator in an RV throughout almost every U.S. state (except Alaska).

Now, this won’t be your family-size refrigerator, but you’ll still be able to enjoy a cool drink and preserve your fresh product simultaneously.

We have established a short list of different refrigerator models alongside their daily energy use; our findings are based on the data collected for the Energy Star program:

Refrigerator modelRefrigerator volume (cu.ft)Average daily consumption (kWh)
DOMETIC – C40S21.10.29
Frigidaire – EFR1071.60.43
TACKLIFE – MPBFR1611.60.44
IGLOO – IRF16RSBK1.60.48
Avanti – RMRC17X1.70.49

We discovered that a 1.6-1.7cu.ft refrigerator with a tiny freezer uses an average of 0.45kWh daily. A 100W solar panel will run this type of refrigerator in sunny states such as Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

For all other states, a 100-watt solar panel in an RV will only run a 1.1cu.ft refrigerator.

Related Reading: RV Solar System (Complete guide to going off-grid)


Can A 100-Watt Solar Panel Run A Freezer?

In most US states, a 100-watt solar panel produces enough energy to run a small freezer for 24h.

Here is a short list of freezers with their usable volume and daily energy consumption:

Freezer modelVolume (cu.ft)Average daily consumption (kWh)
Avanti – CF24Q0W2.50.37
Sylvania – SFRF434-WHITE3.50.42
Hisense – FC34D6AWE3.40.47
Sylvania – SFRF452-WHITE  5.10.47
Arctic King – AC35ESKCR1RCM  3.50.48

The 2.5 cu.ft model from Avanti is the only freezer a 100W solar panel can run in most U.S. states.

Larger freezers (up to 5.1 cu.ft) can be powered by a 100W solar panel in the sunny states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Utah.


Can A 100-Watt Solar Panel Run An AC?

In short, a 100-watt solar panel does not produce enough energy to run an AC.

We found out that the AC with the lowest consumption is the Koolking — KWH051CE1A, with a cooling capacity of 5000 btu/h and energy use of 0.850kWh per day.

This is almost two times higher than a 100W solar panel’s average energy production in the U.S.

If you’d like to run this type of appliance, we recommend using at least a 200W solar panel that produces twice the energy of a 100-watt solar panel.


Can A 100-Watt Solar Panel Run A TV?

A 100-watt solar panel will have no problem running a TV, even larger models up to 64.5in.

We assumed that the TV is ON 5 hours a day; the rest of the time (19h), it is on standby mode.

Below is the daily energy consumption of 4 TVs with sizes from 32in – 64.5in:

TV modelSize (in)Average daily consumption (kWh)
NEC – E657Q64.50.39
PHILIPS – 50HFL6214U/2749.50.38
Panasonic – TH-43CQ2U430.31
NEC – E328320.12

We demonstrated earlier that a solar panel’s average daily energy production is 0.4 kWh in the U.S. — from 0.33 kWh per day in Washington state to 0.52 kWh per day in New Mexico.

Consequently, in most U.S. states, you’ll be able to run a TV with a 100-watt solar panel.


What Will A 100-Watt Solar Panel Run In An RV?

A 100-watt solar panel is perhaps the smallest panel size for an RV, but don’t dismiss it as a useless gadget. It can run a TV (18in), power a fan, led lights, charge your mobile devices, and even run an RV water pump!

First, we’d like to remind you that a solar panel alone cannot run appliances. Solar panels produce DC electricity, whereas your devices only use AC electricity.

As such, you must use solar panels in combination with a solar charger, batteries, and an inverter to create a complete system capable of powering RV appliances. 

We’ve established that a 100W solar panel produces 0.4 kWh on average in the U.S. Keeping this in mind, we searched for the most common RV appliances and tried to meet the 0.4 kWh limit. Here are our findings:

AppliancePower (Watt)Hours of useEnergy (kWh)
TV 18in1050.054
electric fan4050.2
LED light -2*5W1050.05
Mobile phone2020.04
RV water pump7545 min0.056
  Total0.4

As you can see, the electric fan is the most energy-intensive appliance. However, use it for only two hours, and you’ll be able to charge a laptop with your savings.


Ultimately

The key to autonomy with an RV is a quality solar battery. It should have a capacity large enough for at least 2 days of use.  


Final Thoughts

The 100-watt solar panel is the most popular size because it is cheap and compact. 

Although its power output is relatively low, it can still produce a decent amount of energy in a day: 0.4 kWh on average in the U.S. With 0.4 kWh, you can already run multiple appliances in an RV.

Surprisingly, we discovered that a 100-watt solar panel could power a small refrigerator or a freezer in most U.S. states. 

Remember that energy production matters the most, as it can be stored in a battery and later converted to AC electricity via an inverter.

Our final advice: know your energy and power needs and choose your solar panel accordingly while remembering that solar panel generates energy and inverter supplies power.

Romain Metaye

Romain Metaye

Dr Metaye has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Ecole Polytechnique, France. He is a renewable energy expert with more than 11 years of experience within the research world. During his career, he supervised more than 150 projects on clean energy. Off-grid smart systems, solar energy, battery and the hydrogen economy are among his specialties.

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