Do you crave an adventure? Are you the kind of person who’s sick of leading a sedentary lifestyle? Being in one place for a long time can be a drag. If you long for open roads and solitude then it might be time to take the old RV for a spin.
Of course, you wouldn’t want to just leave on a whim. There are preparations that need to be made. These will create the platform for a trip that will actually deliver what you’re looking for. The biggest concern when it comes to using an RV, is powering all the equipment you’ll need to sustain yourself.
Most of us are too used to certain comforts to go completely off the grid, and embrace nature. The question then becomes how you will power the electronics in your RV. Generators have been a longstanding favorite, but many individuals are more environmentally conscious these days.
As a result, solar panels have become a popular alternative. In this guide we’ll take a look at how to install solar panels on an RV. You’ll be out and about in no time.
What You’ll Need
You’re probably itching to get started, but before we begin we have to take care of some preliminary matters. Here is a list of items you’ll need to complete the installation successfully:
- Solar Panels – this one is fairly obvious
- Batteries – solar energy is not available all the time. You’ll want to store it somewhere for use at night. This is where batteries come in.
- Monitor – allows you to keep an eye on how much energy is left in your batteries, and plan accordingly
- Solar charge controllers – these protect your batteries from charging more than needed
- Inverters– Solar panels provide direct current power, and your appliances need alternating current power. The inverter makes this conversion.
- Cables – these are needed to make connections between the panels and the batteries
Apart from the above, you will also need to make certain calculations before you begin. These include estimating your energy needs, drafting a budget, and selecting an appropriate system based on these considerations.
The first step in the process is a thorough inspection of the RV roof. Solar panels are tricky to install, and if the roof has significant damage on it, your installation could be delayed. If you discover damage to the roof, consider fixing it before you begin the job.
Pro tip: Many people install solar panels on their RVs, so your RV salesperson would probably be able to help you out in this regard. Ask them questions about the roof before installation.
If you begin the process without inspecting and correcting problems with the roof, you may have to restart the whole exercise. This will cost you time, money and man-hours. It is also important to remember that solar panels are delicate, so it is probably a good idea to assemble them on solid ground and then install them on your RV’s roof.
Planning – Design and Measure
The next step in how to install solar panels on an RV is to take measurements of your roof. These will tell you just how much functional space you have to complete the installation. You’ll be able to see obstacles more clearly and figure out placement more accurately. These measurements allow you to see how much space the system will take up on the roof.
Once this step is complete, it’s time to design the layout. The key to any successful project is a good blueprint. You don’t need an actual blueprint though. Just grab a piece of paper and plan out the arrangement of the panels. This will help you carry out the installation without a hitch.
With all of the previous steps out of the way, let’s get down to the actual installation. You’ll want to begin by attaching the supporting structure. This is known as the mounting hardware as well. It ensures that the panels are held securely in place. Remember, you’ll be driving around so there will be significant turbulence.
Use a drill to bore holes in the panels. Then place brackets on top of them and affix them securely with nuts and bolts. Inspect the structure once to make sure this is done properly. Once complete, you can place the panels on top of the structure.
Depending on the kind of panels you have – they can be either rigid or flexible you’ll have to use screws or adhesives, respectively. Once the panels are affixed, you’ll have to drill into the roof to gain a way into the cable entry plate. Once you mount the entry plate for the cables onto the roof, the cables can go through it.
Next you’ll move on to the charge controller monitor. Install this inside the RV. Connect your cables to the charge controller, while making sure that the wires are not too long. Long wires create inefficiencies.
You’ll put a breaker between the charge controller and the panels. You will also install the DC fuse between the controller and the batteries.
Connect all the solar panels to each other. You will be left with two loose connections at the end. Connect them to a cable and run them through the cable gland.
With that, your installation should be complete.
Our Final Thoughts
Performing DIY installations can be a challenging but rewarding experience. What really helps is having the best equipment and advice available. Now that you know how to install solar panels on an RV, you might want to know where to buy the items necessary. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.