San Diego California Campground Sunset

RV Solar Series: Installation

RV Solar Series: Installation of the panels is the easiest part aspect of installing a solar battery charger on your RV. My panels are installed on a fiberglass roof — your roofing materials and desires will change your installation techniques. Running wires from the panels to the location near the battery is the hardest part of the installation. RVs are complicated and understandable routes are hard to determine. I used the route recommended by the manufacturer of my RV and it was still very hard.

On the Roof

Even though I put the panels on my roof, that doesn’t mean it is the correct choice for you. Lots of people use portable panels that they only get out when they need them. Other people use panels that can be installed on the sides of the RV. These too can be very effective.

I also choose to mount my panels flat on my roof with no option for tilting. The reason I did this was so that I could double the mounting points from a typical four points in contact with eight points of contact with my roof. I made up for the loss of effectiveness by increasing the number of panels I installed.

Solar mounting points during installation
Solar mounting points during installation

From this picture, you can see that my panels are only tilted enough to allow the rain to run off. The panel on the very front is mounted with nine points of contact. The galvanized steel plates are to increase the contact area around the foot of the steel bracket and the fiberglass. The dicor sealant is to keep water from penetrating around the galvanized steel plate.

This series is intentionally brief on the installation aspect of an RV solar system. I think it is well covered and frankly much easier than many people make it out to be.  The three critical components are the battery, already installed and operable.  The panels on the roof, attached so that they stay on the roof and won’t blow away as you drive down the road. A controller that will use the energy to charge the battery the way it wants to be treated and wires.  Throw in a few switches, fuses and possibly a circuit breaker, tie it all together and the collectors will charge the battery.

The difference between a solar system that will maintain a battery charge and one that can recharge a battery is size.

I guess I can also address the one subject of most solar articles, MPPT vs. PWM.  If you have a big system that is to recharge a battery MPPT is the answer. The MPPT is more expensive, but you will save lots of money on wire costs.  If you desire a system to maintain a charge, PWM is fine.

Update: January 23, 2021, We went big on our new RV in terms of installation. I go into lots of detail on my installation for my new RV. Here is the link to our new installation. Zamp Obsidian Solar Install (part one)

We created this site to help our friends with their RV questions. Feel free to ask questions or comment and we will address them to our best abilities.


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