Van solar panels tax benefits (for US)

I’m pretty new to solar systems and just installed 3 Renogy 100-watt panels on the roof of my Mercedes Sprinter 2020. So far; despite it being winter I’m pretty happy about the performance.

I’ve been reading about the US federal solar
tax credit and was wondering whether a van conversion also would qualify for this?

Has anyone ever looked into this? I think the solar panels have to be installed and used for your residence, but a van in my driveway is kind of like part of a residence?

When I’m not using my van to travel it’s sitting in the driveway of my home. Since I have an electric car I’m able to empty the battery into my car whenever the batteries are 100% charged, so I’m not wasting any free electricity. So even though the van isn’t really my residence, I do use the power for powering things that normally my house would have powered.


I don’t know about tax credits, but I always have to laugh when people call solar power “free electricity” when in fact it is the most expensive electricity available. It fails more people than it helps, and the ongoing costs are never ending. Ditching solar in favor of an isolator, cheap batteries, and a generator for a backup has been saving me about $1500 a year that the solar was costing me in batteries, controllers, etc. etc.


"It is always cheaper and easier to conserve power than it is to make it." ~ Road Warrior

We have solar on our home and it’s been trouble-free. The panels should last 40 or more years, and the break-even point is about 8 years (fewer years if electricity rates go up). Simple arithmetic shows that we’ll get 32 or more years of free electricity. We paid cash for the solar installation, and the only thing we pay the power company is a “meter fee” of about $8 a month.

As far as a tax credit, you should consult with a tax person.


I don’t know where you’re at, but I’ve known people who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on solar, only to find their electric bills go down $10-$15/mo. Maybe it varies by location or electric company. Another big complaint I hear about often is that when the power goes out, the solar isn’t hooked up in such a way as to power their homes.


"Always avoid complicated solutions to solve simple problems." ~ OffGrid

I’m in New Mexico and our power meter runs backwards. The power that we bank (through the meter running backwards) goes toward supplying power to our house at night, and for when it’s cloudy and the panels don’t supply enough. We’ve always come out ahead. We don’t have battery backup for ours, so when the power goes out, it’s out, but that can be added. Another thing that people do, if they have an electric car, is have an electric car charger that can go both ways - it’ supplies power to the house in case of a power outage. This technology is available right now, and it works just fine.

In Germany, where it’s cloudy more often than not, they do the same thing. My son lives there and a large proportion of their electricity comes from solar.

Don’t invest yourself in misinformation put out by fossil fuel interests - they’re lying to you.

I wish Tennessee had (fair) net metering. The best the power company here does is paying you like $0.025 a kWh (wholesale price) while I still have to pay $0.10 for each kWh.

This seems really unfair to me because the electricity company then sells my excess electricity for the normal rate to my neighbors!

The only other option I could think of is making a battery myself using used car battery cells. I probably I could buy a used shipping container and use that to house the battery in a safe way (in case something goes wrong) I hope that one day they reintroduce net metering here in Tennessee again since that seems cheaper, easier, and safer than a DIY lithium battery.

That’s unfortunate that Tennessee is so anti-renewable energy. Only way to change that would be voting politicians in that aren’t in bed with the fossil fuel industry, or a change in Federal law which now may be possible with the Biden administration.

Our power bill:
Screen Shot 2021-02-08 at 10.39.15 AM


Many, if not most states are pretty bad, and many won’t even let you harvest rain water. It’s just all about greed, and changing politicians doesn’t usually help… If they’re not corrupt to start with, they soon get paid so much they become corrupt, and the public loses regardless. Politicians spend more than they’ll make to get elected, then emerge wealthy, that tells the whole story right there…

As a senior, I am very ashamed of what this country has become, and the world too. In the USA it’s the looney toon liberals that think you can spend your way out of debt, and financial responsibility. Meanwhile crime runs rampant and unchecked, and the quality of life for everyone but the criminals declines.

I think the internet is our one & only hope to bypass mainstream media & government intervention to start a grass roots movement to champion better technologies. Notice that I said better technologies, not necessarily newer technologies. The tech they promote are all based on consumerism rather than intelligence. Solar panels & electric cars are pushed by battery companies, & electric companies surprise, surprise… More consumerism instead of common sense. They profit at our expense.

Converting solar power to mechanical power, is far more efficient in cost & space than converting it to electrical power directly. A real solar powered mechanical generator the size of a suitcase inverter generator could power a whole house using a fresnel lens instead of umpteen solar panels, and be easily portable. Better tech exists if we choose to use them, and hopefully promote them. I want to believe that maybe we can turn the tide from greed into opportunity that benefits everybody. Not just vandwellers, but the whole world as we know it. If we have to break the system to fix it, maybe that’s what’s needed.


"Always avoid complicated solutions to solve simple problems." ~ OffGrid

Van Dweller, reality is in direct conflict with your statements.

As we saw demonstrated on January 6th it’s not the liberals that are the looney-tunes. The GOP seems to be the party with an overabundance of ill-informed, ill-educated, hateful, and violent lunatics.

And I think you’ve got it backwards on fiscal responsibility. For the past 40 or more years it’s the liberals who have shown better restraint in government spending while the “conservatives” spend like there’s no tomorrow. The numbers don’t lie. National debt goes way up with the GOP in power and only the liberals have been able to balance the books. Stop being fooled by the garbage that Fox News and their ilk keep shouting.

They’re lying to you.



I would love to further our discussion on politics(?) with you, if you’re so inclined, but we shouldn’t do it in this thread. Private messages would probably be best, since we’ve clearly ventured off the topic of vandwelling.

There’s been a lot of things going on behind the scenes and out of the public eye that I have been studying up on. It is disgusting, shocking, & fascinating all at the same time.


"Always avoid complicated solutions to solve simple problems." ~ OffGrid

Interesting viewpoints on this, thanks everyone. The new “scheme” where solar companies will install “free” solar panels is part of the problem. They take the place of the utility company and if there is an issue with the panels you save little, have to pay them their rate and then your electric utility too! Buying and owning outright is the way to go with solar for your house. As for the van, we are in the beginning of our build so I don’t have much experience. But I have learned that energy is expensive in one way or another and the best we can do is to limit our usage. We are planning for a couple solar panels with batteries, shore power connections and (maybe) propane.

Van Dweller, I’m not going to debate with anyone over half-baked conspiracy theories.

Back to the subject: I agree with HaNa about the solar scams - usually door to door salespeople “selling” the idea of your power bill never going up by them installing their panels on your house. You still pay them just as much as you paid the power company, but you’ll never get to the point where electricity is almost free. Buying and installing the panels, no third party except for the people you hire to install them, is the way to go. Then you own the system.

As far as van solar, I really like mine - works great.

Sorry I never intended this topic to become political. I only just wanted to know whether anyone took the IRS solar credit for a van, but I guess not.

I think we should focus on what we all have in common. Even though you could call me a liberal, we all should stop trying to live in our ‘bubbles’. Social media and TV in the end mostly care about advertisers and will show us whatever they think we want to hear. I think it’s hard to know nowadays what’s real and what not.
But there is no point killing each other, especially innocent police offers who are doing just their jobs.

And back to the topic:
Yes I only believe in owning the system yourself instead of a 3rd party who advertises with ‘free electricity’. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I even think I would probably only install it myself and not hire a company for most of the work (besides the final hookup).

First of all, sorry because I am unable to answer your tax related question. However, I want to say that solar electricity is only good if you don’t have any source of electricity. For remote areas, forests, mountains, camping etc… solar electricity is very useful. But I will not use a solar panel if I have electricity connection in my house. Because the cost of battery replacement is very heavy…