RV Solar Panel Installation Overview


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As we spend a fair amount of time boondocking (camping without hook-ups), solar panels have given us the freedom to enjoy the peace & quiet of remote locations without running our generator too much.

Since we already installed our panels on the RV (7 years ago), this is just an overview of our set-up, as opposed to a detailed tutorial.

We show the general layout and components of the system, including the panels themselves, the wiring and the solar controller. We also talk about the benefits of including a simple and inexpensive tilt kit, which allows tilting the solar panels up in the winter, when the sun is lower on the horizon.

Our first RV had two panels, which were permanently fastened flat to the roof, so they couldn’t be tilted. We’ve learned a lot since then, and the new panels are tilt-able, and also use thicker 6-gauge wire to reduce loss along its length.

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37 replies
  1. timothy790110
    timothy790110 says:

    if you added 4 more holding brackets, you could tilt them in the other 2 directions as well. you'd need longer tilting bars though. Have you actually said anywhere what your solar setup is?

    Reply
  2. Good X RVn
    Good X RVn says:

    When you stored your RV what did you do to manage the solar panel output? Is it as easy as turning off the panels at the charge controller? The reason I ask is that I am considering solar panels for my new Class A but use the RV only part time. What happens when the panels are providing power that is not needed? I see many charge controllers typically have large heat sinks.

    Thanks for he great video content.

    Joe

    Reply
  3. Michael Doherty
    Michael Doherty says:

    Where did you get your mounts? I like the big thumbscrews. I bought a new trailer and need new mounts like your! Please reply and let me know where you bought them! I had titling mounts on my last RV and it had standard small thumbscrews and they were hard on the fingers. Also, regarding wire size, if you install modules in parallel, you need much larger wire than if you wire the panels in series. You have save money and use much smaller wire if you wire in series. However, you must have the right controller in order to be able to do that.

    Reply
  4. outbackeddie
    outbackeddie says:

    I have been shocked by the prices of solar panel tilt kits that I have been able to find on line. It seems to me that I could just go to Home Depot and buy the things I need for about $10. I don't need anything fancy – just something to angle my two panels about 45 degrees in the winter. Your video is going to save me a nice chunk of change. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. RV Legal Eagle & Paws
    RV Legal Eagle & Paws says:

    Ordering a Newmar 2018 Bay Star 3401 with some specials. They have a pre-solar wiring option with I think 8 gu wiring from the roof to the battery bank (4 6v batts). Am trying to get just a 2' conduit instead with a pre-installed chase wire (thank you). Any other "solar" special wiring I could ask them to do in the build as a special? Plan on 3000 hybrid inverter/charger, 750w panels, 4 6v batts with option to get lithium on solar charge controller. Any advice?

    Are your panels wired in series or parallel?

    Am also getting the wifi Ranger installed as an option which goes in the AV box by driver. Will have to add we-boost and am think about asking for another 1 1/2 ' conduit from the roof to the LR TV cabinet with a case wire to install it there:). Is there any issues about placing the wifi and we-boost antennas close to each other? Oh and how would a CB antenna figure into the mix …interference or no?

    Know it is a lot to ask but you guys are pretty good at this:)

    Reply
  6. Andy Brand
    Andy Brand says:

    I did mine using Z-Brackets and flat top on my roof. It was fairly easy once i got going, but starting was a bit scary because i wasn't sure if it would work. I've bought over 12 panels and by far, the best are solarworld and LightCatcher Solar from eBay.

    Reply
  7. Lee Barker
    Lee Barker says:

    It's funny I was subscribed a long time ago kind of scrambling to to cover my basics on this new Rv thing. I am am commercial door guy welder fabricator wood worker handy man in general but electricity stumps me for now you make it very easy to get the concept thank you my wife brought me back to your channel because she is getting excited about this new life we are planning for cheers

    Reply
  8. Lee Barker
    Lee Barker says:

    Ok there is so much to learn we are about 5 years away from this but thanks to channels like this it gives me insight as to what we need and for that we are so grateful thanks geeks

    Reply
  9. Jeff G
    Jeff G says:

    Hello I have a 1993 Fleetwood Tioga 28 foot Class C Motorhome. There is A Solar Indicator Red LED Light on my interior Coleman A/C Unit it had A Factory Installed Solar Panel there was a sheet on the Panel but it was only A welcome sheet so I dont have A clue what belongs there. My buddy grabbed his mini panel A 10×10 and plugged it in on top there are 2 wires and A location where the panel belongs but I dont know what I am supposed to order…I dont want to walk into Camping world with "NOVICE" Written all over my face I would be happy to simply power whatever it was made to power. First Timer having fun Sorting all this stuff out and thanks for the Videos its A Blessing SO God Bless

    Reply
  10. JC Travel Stories
    JC Travel Stories says:

    I appreciate the work you do helping the rest of us manage ourselves and our rv's. Many times you've cleared the muddied waters of YouTube DIY videos. Thanks. A question … I'm considering a residential fridge to replace the Norcold 1200. We like to boondock a lot. I think you have the Samsung French door counter depth, 4 agm house batteries, and some solar. How much solar? Gen run time? How's that working for you?

    Reply
  11. Thomas Pope
    Thomas Pope says:

    I just bought a 2016 Arctic Fox 811 Truck Camper. It is prewired for solar and has a connection on the roof. If you know, could you be kind enough to list the parts or materials I would need to mount and wire a 100 or 150 watt panel to my roof and maybe recommend a charge controller that I can install next to my switch panel that is in the galley. Thanks, Tom

    Reply
  12. JiminWestLA
    JiminWestLA says:

    I want to install rigid panels with a tilt option, but have not heard any discussion about sudden thunderstorms or high winds out of the north.  Would prefer panels that are half as wide, so they didn't stick up so high.

    Reply
  13. Lass-in Angeles
    Lass-in Angeles says:

    This was an excellent demo, thank you!! I bought thin flexible panels to save on weight. I want to stiffen them up using Lexan Coroplast sheeting. I want to put an aluminum frame on them, and get the hardware to tilt them up. Who sells the aluminum frames or could I make them myself? Tilting them up should be very easy with some Home Depot metal risers. I am stumped for the frame. Its a standard size 24 x 48 inches per panel.

    I also don't know how to install the shut off switch from charge controller to battery, and solar panel to charge controller. This is the best way to do it. Any ideas on where to buy these shut off switches, what they are called, and how to wire it? I"m doing the solar install myself, and would appreciate your input.

    Reply
  14. Jenny Moase
    Jenny Moase says:

    Hello, we are about to DIY install our 2 x 100 watt solar panels on the roof of our '91 Dodge Islander. I really like your tilt kit and am wondering what hardware you used to fasten down the panels. Thank you!!

    Reply

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