If you are like me, you like the idea of living off the grid. I want to be self-sufficient and not depend on anyone else for electricity. I want to be able to travel around with my rig and know that if I’m camping where there is no electricity provided at all, or even in a campground where they have poor service or an expensive connection fee per day or week, then I can just hook up my solar panels instead.
Without a doubt, there are many articles online that help you build your own inexpensive solar system using lead-acid batteries, but most people do not have the time nor inclination to research every component required, let alone find them locally. They also don’t include how to mount the panels onto your RV roof.
Things To Consider Before Mounting Your Solar Panels To Rv
Calculate Your Energy Demands
Before you can figure out how many solar panels it will take to power your RV, first calculate the energy needs for each appliance and device that you plan on running, and then add those up to get an idea of how much power is required.
Also Read: Solar Panel Power Output Calculation
How Many Panels Do You Need To Run Your RV?
This will depend on how much power you need to generate. Generally, a solar panel that is 100 watts or less can run an appliance if it’s in direct sunlight, but larger appliances will require more panels. Keep in mind also that windy and cloudy conditions make it difficult for solar panels to function at their peak efficiency.
Permanent or Portable
Solar panels need to be mounted in a stationary position, so if you plan on taking your RV out on weekend trips and then returning home to park it for the remainder of the week, you’re better off installing permanent solar panels instead of portable ones.
How To Mount Solar Panels On RV Roof
Tools You Need:
- Phillips head screwdriver
- Squarehead screwdriver (for prying the solar panel frame off of the roof)
- 3/8″ socket wrench with 5/16″ socket (to remove the screws that hold solar panels on)
- Solar Panels
- Batteries and monitors
- Charge Controllers
- Drill gun with drill bits 1″ drill bit or an auger bit depending on your sealant needs
- Circular saw (optional)
- Silicone adhesive caulk (better than screws or nails because it won’t leak into the roof causing problems down the line)
Step By Step Process:
1. Clean off your RV roof if any moss, dirt, grime, etc is on your roof before you start handling these panels or even yourself for that matter. You can use a pressure washer to get more dirt off of your roof.
2. Make sure you understand what type of RV roof you have before you start installing anything on it (steel, aluminum, or fiberglass).
3. If your RV has wood paneling make sure the panels aren’t touching any screws or nails in the roof because this will cause problems with installation later down the line which can become costly to fix.
4. After you purchase your panels, get a drill with a 1″ drill bit. You can use an auger bit too depending on what type of sealant you have. Basically, the 1″ drill bit is going to drill through the rubber under your roof and into your roof so that it holds steady so when you screw in your panel onto the roof it won’t move around anymore.
5. Drill a hole from top to bottom of your RV about 4 inches from where your screw will be on each corner of your panel just to make sure none of the sealants gets into or underneath any screws or nails that are holding down the wood paneling beneath. This way it stays nice and clean on the inside of the camper/rv since it won’t be touching any of the screws.
6. Use silicone caulk (not roofing sealant) to put around the outer circumference of your 1″ drill bit to make sure that when you do screw your solar panel in it will hold nice and tight with no overhang.
7. Make sure you don’t mix up which side is positive and negative on your panels like I did because this could cause an issue if they are hooked up backward or reversely. You can read more about how to hook up your solar panels in reverse here: How To Mount Solar Panels On RV Roof
8. Wire your system outside before installing into the camper/RV just to get a sense of what connections go where so you don’t make mistakes down the line when you are in your camper/RV.
9. After wiring is complete it’s time to install your panels into your camper/RV
10. Inside your RV, install the charge controller monitor panel at a location of your preference. This is where you are going to monitor the charge controller charging the 12v system of your rv/camper. Some people install it inside on an outside wall or inside their storage cabinet if they have one installed in there already.
11. Make a series when you’re done installing the solar panels, you’ll need to link them together to the positive (red) wire to one another than do the same thing but to the negative (black) wire to all of them. Some panels come sub-assembled with the +/- connected already to save you time on wiring.
12. After everything is wired together it’s now time to test after waiting for at least 30+ minutes for your inverter/solar controller setup or charge controller monitor panel to fully charge up your batteries. Once the inverter has charged enough, I’d recommend letting it run for an hour or two just so you can make sure there aren’t any issues with wiring before you go off on a camping trip where power runs out easily if you’re using propane appliances inside.
13. You are now finished with installing solar panels.
Solar power is a great option for RV enthusiasts and campers. We hope this article has helped you get started with the process on how to install solar panels. Leave comments down below and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions and help you select the best type of system for your needs!