RV Solar Power Installation Tips – Escapees Magazine

RV Solar Power Installation Tips

Escapees Magazine Nov/Dec 2015 Issue
Article by Emily and Mark Fagan

The Nov/Dec 2015 issue of Escapees Magazine is featuring our article about installing solar power on an RV.

For us, solar power is by far the most valuable upgrade we have done to our rig, as it has given us unlimited freedom and spontaneity in our travels.

This article is the second part of a two-part series on solar power systems we wrote for Escapees (the first, RV Solar Power, appeared in the May/June 2015 issue.

There are a lot of little bits and pieces that go into a solar power installation but none of them are hard to understand.

This article presents a general overview of some of the things to consider when you tackle a solar power installation, including how many panels to buy, which sizes and types make the most sense, how to wire the panels on the roof to the batteries in the basement, where to place the batteries in the rig and how to wire the batteries to the solar charge controller.

The editors at Escapees Magazine have generously allowed us to share the article here:

RV Solar Power – The Installation Process

WHAT ARE THE BEST COMPONENTS FOR AN RV SOLAR POWER INSTALLATION?

Many people wonder which specific components they should buy for an off-the-grid RV or marine electrical setup, and there are many great systems and choices on the market, from pre-designed kits to individual parts.

For beginners, weekenders and vacationers, a portable solar power kit may be all you need to get started without taking on the challenge of a full-blown installation. I sure wish there had been such a system when we first started living full-time in our 27′ travel trailer.

For full-time RVers looking for a solution that has been pre-designed, a kit from Go Power or Renogy may work well.

We have been very happy with polycrystalline rigid panels, and would go with 24 volt panels on any future installations, however folks with space constraints or rounded roofs might prefer panels that are 12 volt and/or flexible.

We offer more details on the ins and outs of choosing solar panels in this post:

Which Solar Panels to Buy – Flexible or Rigid? 12 or 24 volt? Mono- or Polycrystalline?

We love our Outback solar charge controller, although our Schneider Electric (Xantrex) unit on our boat was fine, just less sophisticated. The Morningstar (TriStar MPPT) solar charge controller is also very popular and has an enthusiastic following.

For batteries, AGM is definitely preferable to wet cell (flooded) batteries in many ways, although they are much more expensive. Our Trojan Reliant AGM batteries have performed well. There is more info on choosing batteries here:

Wet Cell vs. AGM Batteries + Wiring Tips

Our Exeltech inverter is a work of art designed by the manufacturers of the inverters that power the International Space Station. Exeltech inverters generate the best regulated sine wave output over the widest DC input of any inverter on the market today, and they are often used to power sensitive medical equipment. An Exeltech inverter is far more expensive than many other brands of pure sine wave inverters, but because it is the heart of the AC electrical system when dry camping, it is a worthwhile investment for anyone tha plans to boondock a lot.

Magnum inverter/chargers are also very well thought of, and the installation is a cinch. Since our Exeltech inverter does have a built-in battery charging component, we rely on an Iota Converter and Charger on the rare occasions that we pllug into shore power via our portable gas generator or electrical hookups.

For further reference, we have lots of articles related to solar power and RV / marine battery charging on this website:

OVERVIEW and INTRODUCTORY ARTICLES

ARTICLES ABOUT OUR INSTALLATIONS

BATTERY CHARGING TUTORIAL

SOLAR POWER TUTORIAL

ESCAPEES RV CLUB

Escapees Magazine is published by the Escapees RV Club, a unique club dedicated to the needs of full-time and long-term RVers. Founded in 1978 by pioneering full-time RVers Joe and Kay Peterson, this unusual organization serves all RV travelers with a top quality mail service, a network of discounted RV parks, a variety of methods for campsite ownership and long term rental, special interest groups, training events, rallies, travel excursions (RV and otherwise), adult day care, insurance guidance, a directory of boondocking sites and more.

We are proud to be counted among the regular contributors to this outstanding magazine. If you’re a SKP and have never seen Rainbow’s End, the national headquarters for the Escapees RV Club located in Livingston, Texas, check out our blog post from our visit there last year:

Rainbow’s End – Escapees RV Club Headquarters

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One thought on “RV Solar Power Installation Tips – Escapees Magazine

  1. Thank you for these RV solar power installation tips. My husband and I just took our nice RV out camping the other weekend. We absolutely loved the experience, buy we also realized that we used a lot of energy to power our RV. We are very interested in installing solar panels on our RV. It’s good to know how many panels to buy and how to wire the panels on the roof to the batteries.

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