My wife and I like to travel in our newly acquired 2007 Dodge Sprinter shuttle bus. I picked the van up for $15,000 with a bad piston and cylinder head. We went ahead and yanked out the passenger seats and installed a nice set of Amish made RV furniture. I was able to find a knife bed, dinette and two captains chairs for $2300 shipped.
After a few shake down cruises, we decided that we needed a microwave, and electric tea kettle. In lieu of starting up a noisy generator to heat water, we decided to purchase an entry level solar system. I then went about googling solar systems and determining the best entry level combination. I settled on (2) 100 watt solar panels $300 shipped , (1) 30 amp solar charger, (2) 235 amp hour 6 volt golf cart batteries ($200 budget batteries ) and a Xantrex true sine wave sw 2000 inverter $355 shipped . So, for about $900 our power needs while travelling are met.
Dont bother with a cheap modified sine wave inverter. They will not run a microwave very well . The best deal on golf cart batteries is at Sam’s club. If you have the room, (4) Sam’s Club batteries in series parallel would be awesome. Anyways, I think this is the best combination for the money.
When the sun is out, one can operate an electric tea kettle and microwave several times a day without running the batteries down. If it is overcast, the solar panels cannot keep up as well with only two golf cart batteries, hence, the suggestion for 4 batteries. One can also purchase a Xantrex alternator kit which ties the vehicle alternator to the solar batteries when the ignition key is in the on position. This would have the tendency to wear the alternator brushes prematurely.
If a person wants a premium system, a set of (2) American made 270 watt Solar panels will cost about $600. A premium 40 watt solar charge controller might cost $115. Four Sam’s club batteries $400 and the Xantrex Prowatt SW2000 $350. This system would cost at least $1500. We are talking 540 watts of solar power and 470 amp hours of batteries which could run a 1200 watt microwave, a $98 dollar 5000 BTU A/C unit , or a 1500 watt heater. But, for inverter longevity, it is best to run the smallest most efficient appliances available. There you have it.