Our goal was to live as simply, as minimally, and as inexpensively as possible. This meant winnowing down many of our needs to a level we could sustain. Adding a solar panel to our trailer meant that we didn’t need to limit ourselves to expensive RV parks with electrical hook ups, or run a noisy generator. We can park in the space of a traditional tent campsite, which saves us money. It also means we can boondock and still have some electrical luxuries. Take a video tour of our solar powered life!
Our 100-watt Renogy panel charges our one 12-volt deep cycle marine battery. Just a few hours of direct sun a day keeps the battery topped off. We use the battery to run our LED rope lighting, to charge our phone and computer devices, our ceiling fan (arguably the best single improvement we made to our tiny home), and an invertor for any AC appliances.
The key to using a solar panel system is minimizing what needs electricity. We can make great meals without the normal appliances you'd find in a traditional American kitchen! For coffee, we heat water and pour it into a French press, toast bread on a griddle, make waffles on an Amish waffle iron, and reheat food in a pot/pan on our 2-burner propane stove. The only electric kitchen appliance we have is a stick blender, but we can only use it when we are plugged into shore power.
Our trailer has two electrical systems: 1) 12-volt DC, which can be charged via the solar panel or a conventional car battery trickle charger, and 2) 110-volt AC shore power. When we are parked near an outlet we can plug in directly using an extension cord. Our solar panel is mounted on the custom tonneau cover on the bed of our truck and has a long extension cord. This allows us to park the trailer in the shade and move the panel into the sunshine and keep it in the optimal spot as the day changes. There are many resources to help you make a decision about solar panels.
Adjusting your expectations and staying flexible will help you stay happy. What happens when we run out of power for the night? We use battery operated "puck lights" strategically placed around the camper. Or, grab some candles and a good book, or just go outside and hang out around the campfire.