Our Battery Monitor Choice
I prefer the Victron BMV-712 because I want to be able to view, connect, and adjust settings via bluetooth with the free app on my phone. I also like to know the temperature of the battery bank. Since Victron componets network, the Victron charge controller is able to connect with the BMV-712 and use the battery temperature for more efficient charging.
Victron BMV-712 via Continuous Resources:Victron BMV-712 via Amazon:
Are Portable Rv Solar Panels Worth It
If you have minimal power needs, are a total newbie to solar power, or like the adaptability and portability of free-standing panels, they are definitely worth it.
Portable RV solar panels are a great way to get your feet wet when it comes to using solar power and can be a stepping stone to a full RV solar install, which is especially great if youre on a budget!
Before we went big on solar, we used a small 100W portable RV solar panel suitcase, and made a video review of it watch below:
There are lots of options available on the market, and you can .
Routing Solar Panel Wires
**do not connect the wiring to the panels until all the wiring is routed and the electrical connections are made at the charge controller**.
The panels can be wired together in a series or parallel configuration using the factory MC4 connectors. MC4 connectors typically come standard on the wiring of commercial solar panels. They are positive locking which prevents them from accidentally coming apart and they are also water and weather resistant.
If you are choosing to wire your panels in series you can simply plug one connector into the next and install male and female connectors onto the long wiring running to the charge controller.
If you are wiring your solar array in parallel then using some MC4 Y connectors or branch connectors is a simple solution. Simply run all the positive wires into the Y connectors. From there you will need to install the male and female MC4 connectors to the long wires going to your solar charge controller.
To minimize power loss larger gauge wire is best but it can also be harder to bend, strip and crimp as it gets larger so it should be sized to the system being installed.
For our installation we used two #8 American Wire Gauge copper wire conductors, one red and one black protected with wire loom, a black plastic cover used to protect automotive wiring harnesses.
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Fiberglass Roof Solar Panel Installation
If your RV roof is made of fiberglass, you luckily do not need to drill holes into your roof to mount your solar panels.
Simply apply VHB Very High Bond tape, which will be almost impossible to remove when applied correctly.
Youll still want to install the appropriate mounting bracket to your solar panel. Then you will map out where the bracket feet will land, clean the roof and foot with alcohol, wait for it to try, and then install the VHB tape per the instructions.
Once everything is set, your panels will be unmovable and the great news is youll have no additional holes in your roof to monitor for leaks.
This method works whether you have tilting or non tilting mounting hardware.
If youre installing flexible solar panels, the same process applies in the section above simply glue them to the RV roof using the adhesive recommended by the panel manufacturer.
Series Or Parallel Solar Panel Wiring
When you have more than one solar panel in your solar array, you have to decide how to wire them together.
Either in parallel or series, or a combination of both.
There are pros and cons to each method.
- Don’t know the difference between series and parallel wired circuits? Here is the Wikipedia article that explains this, so I don’t have to.
When wiring solar panels in parallel, the amperage rating will combine, but voltage won’t.
Voltage will be limited to the lowest Vmp rating of an individual panel .
When wiring solar panels in series, the voltage will combine, but the amperage won’t.
Amperage will be limited to the lowest Imp rating of an individual panel .
Wiring solar panels in series will increase the voltage of that string, without increasing the amperage.
This allows you to use smaller gauge wire for the home run, or make the home run longer without having to increase the wire size.
As explained above, MPPT controllers like higher voltage inputs, so this could be a good thing.
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Pros Of Using Solar In The Rv
The pros definitely outweigh the cons.
- To offset the hefty upfront costs and perhaps the most standout feature of RV solar panels is its free electricity for life.
Now thats an investment that keeps on giving. Lets point out a few key benefits:
- Once-off payment in exchange for an unlimited power supply.
- Easy and low-cost maintenance.
- Smell and noise-free.Compatible with all household appliances.
Series Vs Parallel Wiring
The second important concept is the difference between wiring components in series vs. parallel. This is important for your battery bank, as well as the solar panels themselves. Each method has very specific effects on the overall system as well as specific pros and cons for the overall operation of your system.
Batteries in Series. Batteries wired in series should always be of the same volt and amp-hour ratings. Mixing batteries in a series configuration with different properties will lead to imbalances which will eventually damage your batteries. When wired in series you add the voltages of each battery in the series to get a total series voltage. So two 6 volt batteries wired in series will output 12 volts. The amp hours are not additive. So two 6 volt 200 amp hour batteries wired in series will output 12 volts with 200 amp-hours of capacity.
Solar Panels in Series. Solar panels wired in series behave like batteries wired in series, but you dont have to worry about balancing issues with mixed panel arrays. Like batteries, the voltages of panels in series are additive, but the current is not. So two 12 volt solar panels that produce an operating current of 8 amps wired in series will output 24 volts with an operating current of 8 amps.
The major advantage of series wiring is that because the current is not additive you can build a larger array with lighter gauge wiring. Lighter gauge wires are cheaper, lighter, and much easier to work with than heavier gauge wires.
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Calculating Energy Generation And Storage Needs
A decent assumption is that a 100-Watt solar panel will generate on average 350 Watt-hours of power per day. However, this will vary significantly by location and time of year. This article by Mortons on the Move explains a way to get a more accurate result by using PVwatts.
Youll also need to know how many batteries youll need to store that amount of power! One 100 ah 12volt Battle Born battery has about 1200 Watt-hours storage capacity.
Keep in mind that your solar panels will only give you the stated number of Watts under perfect conditions. Perfect conditions = direct sun pointing directly at the panel. On a rainy day, you wont get 100 Watts from your 100-Watt solar panel. If youre parking in the shade, you wont get 200 Watts from your 200-Watt solar panel.
Its also challenging to estimate the amount of power youll use on a given day because days are different. You may be outside all day today enjoying nature, and fall into bed and watch 15 minutes of television tonight. Tomorrow could be a rainy day, and youll stay inside your RV, do a lot of work on your laptop, and watch a couple of hours of television in the evening. So estimating high is usually a good idea!
How To Install Solar Panels On Rv In 5 Easy Steps
Are you wondering how to install solar panels on RV? Note that RV solar panels are typically designed to provide sufficient energy to recharge a few larger kitchen appliances or small gadgets.
Installing one or more solar panels on your recreational vehicle can undoubtedly offer you more freedom and enjoyment for your outdoor adventures. It can help you save money in the long run, and of course, minimize your overall carbon footprint.
In this post, well tackle the required equipment for the entire setup process. Well also provide you with detailed procedures for properly setting up a solar panel on your RV. So, please read on.
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How To Install Solar Panels On An Rv Everything You Need To Know
Installing one more solar panels on your RV can add to the sense of freedom you experience when you set out for your next RV adventure. By embracing solar power, you can take your RV to remote locations that would not be accessible before you had a reliable source of off-grid power. Not only can solar panels give your RV off-grid capabilities, adopting solar power can save you money and reduce your overall carbon footprint.
Why Should You Install Solar Panels on Your RV?
While it is possible to carry foldable solar panels and set up a temporary solar power system each time you park your RV, fixed solar panels will save you time and frustration. By mounting solar panels on the roof of your RV, you will no longer have to worry about positioning and wiring solar panels each and every time you stop for the night. Not only that, if you install solar panels on the roof of your RV, they can charge at all times, including while you are driving.
How Can We Help?
If you are unsure how to install solar panels on your RV, campervan, or motorhome, you have come to the right place! We will go over everything you know and even recommend some convenient and high-quality pieces of solar equipment that you can use to get the most out of your mounted solar power system.
Experiment To Determine How Much Power You Need
The best way to figure out what your needs are is to just go do some dry camping for a few days while measuring your power usage. This is an essential first step to figuring out how much power you need while out camping.
To get an accurate indication of your state of charge, you will need a good battery monitoring system . Without one, youll simply be guessing and probably guessing wrong. Keep in mind that the battery voltage or level gauge that came with your RV with will NOT give you an accurate measure of your battery state-of-charge .
There are several good quality RV and marine battery monitoring systems worth considering.
Heres what you do.
Try to get through a good 24 to 48 hours before you need to recharge. Everybodys needs are different, but having enough battery capacity for at least two days is a good benchmark to start with.
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Connecting To The Solar Charge Controller
The wire needs to reach the location of the solar charge controller which is ideally located as close to the batteries as possible. Locating the charge controller close to the battery is best because it will reduce any voltage loss in the wiring.
Once the solar charge controller is installed in its final location connect the wiring coming from the solar panel to the input terminals of the charge controller. The terminals will be marked with the words Input, From Panels, or oftentimes just have a small picture of a solar panel pointing to them. Be aware of the polarity of the terminals and connect the red wire from the solar panels to the + terminal and the black wire to the – terminal.
After connecting the input wiring, connect the output wiring of the charge controller to the battery terminal wiring. I connected my charge controller to the input of the inverter which connects directly t the batteries. It was the shortest path and allowed me to use the large gauge wiring between the batteries and the inverter to also carry the charge to the batteries.
Solar Panels Are A Great Alternative To Generators And Rv Hookups
- RV hookups in trailer parks. Basically, it’s a charging station.
- Generators which use gasoline, diesel, or propane.
- Alternator, which is built into the engine of an EV and charges the battery while you are driving.
- Solar panels. They are a great addition to an alternator, as they supply you with energy when you stop along the way. They became a solid alternative to RV hookups and generators since they produce no sound or smell, require almost no maintenance and pay for themselves over time.
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How To Use Portable Solar Panels On Your Rv
Everyone is talking about RV solar power these days. From Instagram influencers to YouTubers with massive solar power setups , its easy to be inspired and want to take advantage of making your own power from the sun.
But what if the upfront costs of a major RV solar install are too much for your camping needs? What if installing and managing such a technical solar power system seems too complicated and daunting?
If this sounds like you, we have good news! You can still enjoy the benefits of solar energy through affordable and beginner-friendly portable RV solar panels.
How To Install Solar Panels On Rv To Increase Resale Value
Whether youre interested in fitting solar panels on your RV so that you can recharge without using gas or so that you can go fully off the grid, putting new panels on your recreational vehicle is a great way to increase your vehicles resale value.
Most RV owners dont have the slightest idea about how to install solar panels on an RV, however. The prospect of electrical work can be frightening, and the technical skills involved during installation may seem unduly complicated.
As it turns out, it isnt very difficult to increase your RVs value by installing solar panels. In this article, youll learn all about how to install solar panels on your RV and learn a bit about the implications of adding solar panels for your RVs resale value.
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Should You Leave Your Rv Plugged In All The Time
It is a common misconception that you should leave your RV plugged in all the time while camping. This actually has a negative effect on how long your battery will last, and it can decrease its lifespan. You should only plug in your RV when you are actively using it for showers, appliances, or charging batteries. When youre not using your RV, its best to unplug it and let the batteries run down. This will help keep your battery in good condition.
Where To Put The Solar Controller
We discuss solar controller location in more detail below, but here is a quick summary:
You generally want to put the solar controller as close to the RV’s batteries as you can. Kelly’s RV batteries are on the tongue, as is the case with many travel trailers.
We installed the solar controller in the forward baggage compartment, which is close to the batteries while being protected from the weather.
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Mounting The Solar Panels
We had already measured out on the roof where we would be placing the solar panels, but there’s really no comparison for actually getting the panels up there and maneuvering them. The 100W panels aren’t too heavy so it’s easy to do, but Dan’s ladder helped a lot since then someone could stand at the side while another was up on the roof.
Based on our measurements, and verifying by placing the panels, we found we could fit 10x 100W panels on our roof! Far more than we needed – for now, at least! We chose the locations for these four panels, electing to mount them near the front of the roof where they would least likely be shaded. Once they were all in position, we carefully mounted each panel, one by one.
This was by far Diana’s least favorite part as it meant screwing holes into the roof. The Renogy brackets come with sturdy-looking self-tapping screws, and our roof has a thick plywood layer underneath. But each bracket takes 4 screws, there are 4 brackets per panel, and we were installing 4 panels – that means 64 holes in the roof!
The process was the same for each one: tilt the panel to one side and put a strip of butyl tape under the bracket, then lay it carefully back down and screw in the 4 self-tapping screws. Tilt the other way and repeat until all four brackets are taped and screwed.
While we had the Dicor out, we sealed around the bottom of the AM Solar Roof C-Box too.