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:
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.
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:
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:
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
- RV (and Marine) Solar Power Made Simple - Overview of how solar power works on an RV or boat + small & big system designs
- Is RV Solar Power Affordable? - 3 solar power designs for RVs and boats, including parts lists and actual costs
- Which Solar Panels To Buy? - What's Best: Flexible or Rigid Panels? 12 or 24 volt? Mono- or Polycrystalline? And WHY?
- Installing Solar Power on a Sailboat - How to overcome the unique challenges of solar power on a sailboat
ARTICLES ABOUT OUR INSTALLATIONS
- Wet Cell vs. AGM Batteries PLUS Wiring Tips – Why we upgraded from Flooded to AGM ~plus~ Best Wiring Practices!
- RV Electrical System Upgrade – Which batteries, converter and inverter we upgraded to after 8 years off the grid, and why
- How Much Inverter is Enough? – What happened when we accidentally killed our big inverter
- Kyocera Solar Power Showcases Our Sailboat’s Solar Installation – “Sailing Groovy On Kyocera Solar Power”
BATTERY CHARGING TUTORIAL
- RV and Marine Battery Charging Basics - How do batteries get charged and what is the best charging method?
- Converters, Inverter/Chargers and Engine Alternators - No two battery charging systems do the job the same way.
- Solar Charge Controllers - A detailed examination of how three popular solar charge controllers work
- Solar Power and Shore Power Combined! - What happens when you run two charging systems at once?
SOLAR POWER TUTORIAL
- Solar Power Tutorial 1 - Basics - What makes up a solar power system and how does it work?
- Solar Power Tutorial 2 - Weekend/Vacation Systems - Everything needed for small "Weekending" and "Vacation" systems
- Solar Power Tutorial 3 - Full-Time Systems - Describes the design of a "Full-time" system
- Solar Power Tutorial 4 - Solar Panel Selection & Wiring - Design considerations for solar panel selection and wiring
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:
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