Flexible Rv Solar Panels
Flexible solar panels are made flat cells that are molded with a layer of protective plastic on top.
Because they dont have a frame, they are low-profile and can bend to shallow curves such as a camper van roof. It also makes them lightweight.
The softer plastic on these panels is more prone to getting scratches on the surface. However, due to this flexible nature, they are less likely to crack from a large impact.
Bending the panels too much tends to cause issues with internal connections and even shorting out between the cells.
However this has been improving on a yearly basis in the industry. Because of these issues, the warranty on flexible solar panels tends to be significantly shorter than rigid panels.
Flexible panels in general are more limited to sun exposure because theyre not free standing. Their positioning is determined by the surface that theyre attached to.
- Low profile
- Prone to scratches
- Shorter lifespan
Solar panels work best when the whole panel is getting consistent light. With flexible panels, the more you bend the panel, the less efficient it will be because part of the solar panel will be getting less direct light.
Flexible solar panels are best for:
- Someone trying to go stealth camping
- When the only available surface area is significantly curved
- Someone who does not want to do a lot of construction or drill holes in the roof
Battery Monitor & Bus Bars
To monitor your battery levels you will want to add a nice battery monitor. The ones built into most RVs are terrible and often only give you a voltage reading. If you turn something on in the RV, that voltage could drop and give you false reading. Since you are swapping out your batteries or upgrading them, adding a battery monitor & bus bars is a no brainer. I recommend buying your batteries, battery monitor, & bus bars at the same time. This monitor will give you a reading of how full your batteries are, and it is a nice easy percentage similar to what your cell phone battery monitor shows you.If youre not aware, a bus bar is basically a metal bar with some terminals to connect multiple devices with wires. They make life so much easier to add components to your DC system later. So since you will be working in the battery area, I suggest you go ahead and buy at least one for the negative and one for the positive side of your DC system. This will help when you go to add an inverter, or solar, or even some USB plugs as you will already have a spot to tie them into the battery bank and battery monitor. Shunts are typically measured in the amps they can withstand so when you do your audit and learn what your power needs are it should give you an idea of what size bus bars you will need.
Battery Monitor & Bus Bar Install Basics
Lessons Learned When Installing Solar Panels On My Van
In this installment of RV Mishaps, we learn what can happen if you opt for a cheap solar power solution.
Welcome to RV Mishaps, a content series written by RVers about problems theyve encountered on the road, how they solved them, and lessons learned. Have a mishap story of your own that youd like to tell? Send us an email at.
After spending hours watching YouTube tutorials online, I felt ready to tackle the most ambitious project yet on my Roadtrek campervanrevamping my solar power system. But things quickly began spiraling out of control.
The metal brackets for the three new Renogy solar panels I purchased didnt contour with the curve of my vans fiberglass roof, no matter how much I tried. And my new $1,250 170ah lithium battery didnt slide into the battery compartment as expected. I couldnt even begin to think about wiring the system.
Three years earlier, more experienced RVers had warned against flexible panels and most of the reviews I read were lukewarm at best, but when I saw an Amazon sale offering 100W flex panels for $100, I couldnt resist purchasing. The three panels were flat and sleek and didnt draw attention when stealth camping. I also thought I could save money without the bulky rigid panels killing my gas mileage. Now, all the naysayers predictions had come true.
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Will You Wire Your Camper Solar Panels In Series Or Parallel
Choosing the best solar setup for you not only affects the components needed but how efficiently you can squeeze every last drop of juice from the panels.
Theres no one size fits all answer to this question though.
It covers mixed panels too and includes an interactive calculator to find the most efficient setup for your array.
Connect The Cables To The Charge Controller
Install your charge controller monitor panel inside the RV.
Youll notice you have one meter of positive and negative cables each. The connector is fitted.
In most cases, this cable is shorter, and you might need to extend it. A longer cable can reach the solar controller easily.
But, ensure your charge controller and fuses are close to the battery to keep the cables short.
Wire size is very important, the shorter the wires, the more youre able to avoid voltage loss.
Link the connector cables to the solar breaker. Usually, the breaker goes between the solar panels and the solar charge controller.
Next, install the DC fuse block between the solar charge controller and the batteries.
Read Also: How Much To Add Solar Panels To Your House
* Please Review Before Starting The Course*
The video above is a complete overview of our current solar system which is NOT shown in the Solar Basics Series below. The solar course was filmed over several months while we still had our small Itasca class c back in 2018/2019. Our current solar system parts are listed in this article, they are also all available in one easy spot here:
On top of this free information we now offer solar consulting and installation services! All the information is easily found on our solar business website: -Thomas
Size Your Camper Solar Panel System Needs
Consider your ideal set up when calculating the size you need.
If the calculation results in a system too big for your vehicle, it will help you reassess what is important or look for alternative solutions to reduce your electric demands.
You can check out our complete set of electrical calculators for RVs and campervan conversions to help size your entire solar setup.
Need help & advice with your electrical setup?
Join Our Facebook Support Group
Read Also: How To Design Solar Power System
Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Solar Premium Kit
Price: $799.99 Buy Now
Renogys 400 W solar kit is a great all-around starting point for RV solar. Image source: Renogy
Renogys 400 Watt solar kit gets our pick for best overall RV solar kit. It comes with four 100 watt monocrystalline solar panels which have a 25-year production warranty and an efficiency rating of 21%.
The kit also includes a 40 Amp MPPT solar charge controller, four Z-Brackets for mounting, and Renogys Bluetooth module, which lets you monitor and manage the system from your smartphone.
- With 400 watts of power, this kit will cover much of your energy usage
- Easy-to-follow instructions make DIY installation a breeze
- High efficiency
- Solar panels, solar charger, cabling, and brackets included
- Fair price
- Large, might not have room for four panels on roof
- Cables might not be long enough for larger RVs
Parking In The Shade Can Be Tricky
On a hot summer day, youre probably dreaming of parking the RV in a nicely shaded campsite out of the blistering hot sun. However, if you have installed solar panels on your roof, they wont generate nearly as much power if they are not getting direct sunlight.
Portable solar power units might give you the best of both worlds IF you dont need tons of power. Its often easier to set up since it doesnt require drilling holes in your roof. Quality portable solar electric systems are made by Renogy, Acopower, and Eco-worthy. Goal Zero also makes portable power stations, to use with their solar panels. Whats nice is they have a built-in inverter and outlets for your electronics. Do you already own rooftop panels? Check out this easy mod from Do It Yourself RV on how to make them portable.
How Many Panels To Power Your Rv
The majority of RV solar panels have a wattage of between 100w and 400w. The total wattage for a system might be 800w.
Therefore, the crucial question is what this wattage can power.
Lets see what the 800w can power in your RV. If you have five hours of direct sunlight in a day, then youll produce 4,000wh daily.
5 x 800 = 4,000Wh
Lets say you want to power a fridge whose daily consumption is as follows:
300W x 24 hrs = 7,200Wh
This means you wont be able to keep the mini-fridge running an entire day.
But, if you want to use smaller devices such as a lightbulb, a TV, or a laptop, you can if their daily consumption rate is as follows:
TV 200 W x 3hrs = 600Wh
Lightbulb 75 W x 6hrs = 450Wh
Microwave 800 W x 4 = 3200Wh
These calculations give you a rough idea of how many solar panels you need: four 200-watt panels.
How to Calculate Your RV Solar Power Needs
Do You Really Need Rv Solar Panels
While RV solar panels are great, they arent necessary. In fact, most RV campers probably dont need solar panels – if you spend most of your time camping on campgrounds with power hookups, then RV solar panels probably arent right for you.
But, for all of the boondockers out there, RV solar panels are a great, cost-effective investment. Boondocking is when you camp off-grid, outside the amenities of campgrounds, including electricity. In this case, RV solar panels can come in handy. They allow you to keep your batteries charged, and you can charge additional batteries for backup power, as well.
Also, because the solar panels slowly charge your batteries, they can end up prolonging your RV battery life. Plus, unlike conventional generators that you may use to help power your RV, you dont have to worry about buying propane for every trip. Once you invest in RV solar panels, there are almost no additional operating costs unless equipment needs to be replaced.
Learn more: Pros and cons of solar generators
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Install Solar Charge Controller & Dc Breakers
Our trailer came âpre-wired for solarâ, but it assumes that your battery is installed on the trailer tongue. We needed to extend these wires into our electrical bay and install the solar charger plus two breakers – one on the input and one on the output. The input breaker protects the wiring but also gives us a convenient switch to disconnect incoming solar power if we need to. If the solar charge controller shorts on failure, it would short across the battery so itâs important the output is fused.
We chose to install the Victron MPPT solar charge controller and DC breakers under the bed, next to our batteries, inverter, etc. As with some of the other components, I mounted these on the back wall using double-sided VHB tape and self-tapping screws. Ensure both DC breakers are open .
The wiring in our trailer also assumes that the solar charge controller will be mounted above the bed, near the front cap of the RV. There is an access panel in the cabinet here, and behind the access panel are some wires. One pair of wires comes down from the rooftop combiner box, and the other pair of wires extends down to the electrical bay. These are 8 AWG wires, but I was able to securely splice them together using two 6 AWG butt connectors and some adhesive lined heat shrink tubing.
Our solar charge controller is now installed, protected by breakers on the input and output sides, with wires running all the way to the roof.
How Much Does An Rv Solar Installation Cost
Just like in the case of a home solar system installation, the cost depends on several factors. For example, your power needs and the amount of space you have. Besides, the more batteries and panels you use, the higher your cost will be.
In general, the cost can be from $500 and $700 and above. Larger solar installations can go up to $2,000. But, over the years, solar prices have dropped. Also, most solar panels have a warranty of over 20 years, making them a worthwhile investment.
Further, in the US, you qualify for a solar tax credit of up to 30% of your solar system. But, this only applies if you install and have the panels running by 2023. With such benefits, it means the solar system will pay for itself in the long term.
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S On How To Install Your Rv Solar Panel
Solar panel for RV roofs has been a trend for most RVers because of its economical benefits. Not only does it saves you more than the enough RV power you need, but makes you utilize the power from the Sun.
Here are your 6 Steps to Install your RV Solar Panel:
Remember that in most RVs the white wires are the negative ones, meaning the ground while the black wires are positive ones. On the solar panel regulator there is a red wire and w black wire. The black wire is the negative connection and the red wire is the positive connection. Once done, you can tell yourself Done like a Pro.
Get more of these from fraserwayrv
With solar panels on your RV roof not only is it safe and reliable but is also low in maintenance. Enjoy its benefits and more as you take your road trip to contentment with the whole family.
Angle Of Solar Panels
A tilt mount will allow you to adjust rigid solar panels to face the sun directly during sunrise, sundown, and when the winter sun is low in the sky. If you have the budget and space, tilt mounts can increase your solar power capacity by as much as 25%, as long as you adjust them properly. Portable solar panels are already tilt-mount by design!
Flexible solar panels cannot really be individually tilted unless you mount them to a frame- effectively making them a rigid panel.
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Measure The Roof Space
To get an idea of how you will lay out your solar system and the space it will take, use the panels cardboard packaging. Place the boxes as you would the panels.
However, note that the cardboard boxes are slightly bigger than the panels.
One key consideration when mapping the roof is to avoid stuff that might block your panels. These items could be your RVs air conditioner or even the TV antennae.
How Much Power Can I Get What Can I Run On It
There are several factors that determine how much power your system can create, store and turn into usable electricity. In order to simplify this, we will break it down into three parts. First, the solar panel itself. Second, the battery. Third, the invertor.
Solar panels come in a huge variety of sizes and capacity to harness the suns power. Ideally, you want a panel set up that will be able to charge your batteries fully every day. If you are unable to charge your batteries before every use, at some point, you will run out of the stored power in your batteries because you will be using it faster than you are creating it.
One car battery has the potential to run almost any household device, the question is, for how long? The number of batteries you have will determine the length of time you will be able to run your electronics.
As I said before, stored battery power is in DC form and must be converted to AC in order to run your electronics. In order to do this you will need an inverter. The size of your inverter will determine how much AC power you can use at any given time. Some inverters only have the capacity to invert enough AC power to charge a phone while others have enough to run your whole house.
Check out the section, What do I need to install, for more detail.
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What Are The Different Types Of Mounts Available
When using them on an RV, there are many different kinds of mounts, including screw-mounts, brackets, and just silicon sealant alone, with no additional tools needed.
You should consider that drilling or the screw into the roof can cause damage, so its best to do some research about this online before attempting anything yourself!