Worried about how you’re going to keep your campervan or RV powered up on the road?

Don’t worry, installing solar panels is a breeze! In fact, after reading this, you should be able to do it yourself at home.

Installing solar panels on your RV is easier than you think – and it can save you a lot of money in the long run. With just a few simple tools and supplies, you can have them up and running in no time.

They’re also super useful for charging anything like your mobile phone, computer, or even power tools if you’re doing some work on the road.

Let’s take a look…

What Type Of Solar Panels Do You Want To Put On Your Campervan Or Rv?

According to Parked in Paradise you don’t need such a large solar array as you see on homes and power stations.

There are several different types of solar panels you can use with RV or campervan. Some are so flexible, they even allow you to lean them up against your windshield. Alternatively, you have the popular rigid kind that are typically seen on rooftops.

The most popular type of solar panel for RVs is the monocrystalline solar panel. They’re made out of single silicon crystals and they’re the most efficient type of solar panel, meaning they produce more power per square foot than any other type.

If you have a smaller campervan or RV, you might not need more than a single 100-watt solar panel. If you have a larger rig, you might want to consider a 200-watt or even 400-watt array.

Of course, the size of your solar array will also depend on how much power you need to generate and how much space you have available.

Related: How Much Solar Power Do I Need For My RV? (A FEW)

How Much Power Do You Need To Generate?

The first thing you need to do is figure out how much power you need to generate. This will depend on how you plan to use your RV or campervan.

Do you plan to boondock (camp without hookups) often? If so, you’ll need to generate enough power to run all your essential appliances, like your fridge, lights, and water pump. You might also want to consider powering a laptop or TV.

On the other hand, if you plan to camp with hookups most of the time, you might only need enough power to run some lights and charge your devices.

A good rule of thumb is to generate about 50 watts per person in your household. So, if you have two people in your RV, you’ll need a 100-watt solar array.

Of course, this is just a general guideline. You might need more or less power depending on your specific needs.

In this next part of the guide, I’ll explain how to DIY an RV or Campervan solar panel installation.

Related: How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity? (IT’S IMPRESSIVE)

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Solar panels.
  • Mounting brackets.
  • Wiring (MC4 connectors, if necessary).
  • Charge controller.
  • Inverter (optional).
  • Batteries (optional).

Solar panels

Your solar panels are what are going to generate the power you need to run your RV or camper van. As I mentioned earlier, the most popular type of solar panel for RVs is the monocrystalline solar panel.

Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient type of solar panel, meaning they produce more power per square foot than any other type. They’re also the most expensive.

If you’re on a budget, you might want to consider polycrystalline panels. They’re not quite as efficient as monocrystalline panels, but they’re much cheaper.

You can also find thin-film solar panels, which are the lightest and most flexible type of panel. However, they’re also the least efficient.

When choosing solar panels for your RV or campervan, you’ll need to decide how much power you need to generate and how much space you have available.

Of course, the size of your solar array will also depend on how much power you need to generate and how much space you have available.

Related: How Many Solar Panels Do I Need? (HMMM, A FEW!!)

Mounting brackets

Most people don’t think too much about their mounting brackets, but they’re actually a very important part of your solar array.

Your mounting brackets need to be strong enough to support the weight of your solar panels. They also need to be weatherproof so they don’t rust or corrode over time.

There are a few different types of mounting brackets available. The most popular are probably the flush-mount and side-mount brackets.

Flush-mount brackets attach directly to your roof. They’re very strong and weatherproof, but they can be difficult to install.

Side-mount brackets attach to the side of your RV or campervan. They’re not quite as strong as flush-mount brackets.

Another popular option is to mount the panels on a tilting frame. This allows you to tilt the panels towards the sun for optimal power generation. It also makes them easier to clean and maintain.

Of course, you’ll need to decide what type of bracket works best for your RV or campervan.

Wiring(MC4 connectors, if necessary).

Once you have your solar panels and mounting brackets, you’ll need to connect them with wiring. The most popular type of wiring for RVs is MC4 connectors.

MC4 connectors are weatherproof and easy to install. They also allow you to disconnect and reconnect your panels without tools.

If you’re not using MC4 connectors, you’ll need to use some other type of weatherproof connector. The most important thing is that the wiring is able to withstand the elements.

Charge controller

A charge controller is a device that regulates the flow of electricity from your solar panels to your batteries. It’s an important part of any solar system, and it’s something you don’t want to skimp on.

There are two main types of charge controllers: MPPT and PWM.

MPPT controllers are more expensive, but they’re also more efficient. They’re able to extract more power from your panels, which means you’ll be able to charge your batteries faster.

PWM controllers are less expensive, but they’re not as efficient. They’re still a good option if you’re on a budget, but keep in mind that they won’t be able to extract as much power from your panels.

You’ll also need to decide how many amp hours you want your charge controller to be able to handle. The higher the amp hours, the more expensive the controller will be.

Inverter (optional)

An inverter is a piece of equipment that transforms direct current (DC) from your batteries into alternating current (AC).

This is the type of power that you need to run most appliances in your RV or campervan.

If you’re only going to be using a few small appliances, you might not need an inverter. However, if you want to be able to run a microwave or other large appliance, you’ll need an inverter.

The size of your inverter will depend on how much power you need to generate. The higher the wattage, the more expensive the inverter will be.

You can choose from a few different types of inverters. The most popular are modified sine wave and pure sine wave inverters.

Modified sine wave inverters are less costly and more efficient than pure sine wave inverters. Pure sine wave inverters are more expensive, but they are far more efficient.

You’ll also need to decide how many watts you want your inverter to be able to handle. The higher the wattage, the more expensive the inverter will be.

Batteries (optional)

If you want to be able to store power for later use, you’ll need to add batteries to your system. Batteries allow you to store power during the day and use it at night or during cloudy weather.

There are a few different types of batteries available. The most popular are lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries.

Lead-acid batteries are less expensive to produce, but they aren’t as effective as lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are more costly, but they are far more efficient.

You’ll also need to decide how many amp hours you want your batteries to be able to handle. The higher the amp hours, the more expensive the batteries will be.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Drill.
  • Screws.
  • Wire cutters/strippers.
  • Socket set or wrench set.

Optional:

  • Solar panel kit.
  • RV solar installation service.

Installing Solar Panel On RV or Campervan

Step 1: Decide what solar panels you need

Thankfully, choosing the right solar panel kit will be the hardest thing you’ll have to do when installing solar panels on your RV or campervan.

I have written a complete review on what I think the best solar panel kit for RV is, as well as an article discussing the different types of solar panel kits. These will help you determine which one is right for your needs.

Step 2: Decide Where You Want To Mount Your Solar Panels

The first step is to decide where you want to mount your solar panels. The most popular spot is on the roof, but you can also mount them on the side or back of your RV.

Step 3: Attach The Mounting Brackets

Next, use the screws to attach the mounting brackets to your chosen location. Make sure they’re secure and level.

Step 4: Connect The Wiring

Now it’s time to connect the wiring. If you’re using an RV solar kit, the wires will come with MC4 connectors already attached. If not, you’ll need to attach them yourself.

Strip about 1/2 inch of insulation off the end of each wire, then use the MC4 connectors to join them together.

Will you connect your camper’s solar panels in series or in parallel?

Choosing the ideal solar installation for yourself not only involves selecting the appropriate components but also how efficiently you can get the most out of your solar panels.

There are 2 primary ways to wire solar panels together, in series or parallel. Knowing the difference between the two methods can help you determine what is best for your needs:

Solar Panels in Series

Wiring solar panels in series mean connecting each panel to the next one in a “string”. The current (measured in amps) is the same through each panel, but the voltage (measured in volts) adds up.

For example, if you had four 12-volt panels in series, the total voltage would be 48 volts.

Solar Panels in Parallel

Wiring solar panels in parallel mean connecting all the positive terminals together, and all the negative terminals together. This increases the current while keeping the voltage the same.

For example, if you had four 12 volt panels in parallel, the total current would be 4 amps, but the voltage would still be 12 volts.

Most solar panel kits come with a wiring diagram showing you how to wire the panels together.

Step 5: Connect The Charge Controller

The last step is to connect the charge controller. This will prevent your batteries from overcharging.

Most RV solar kits will come with a charge controller already included. If not, you can buy one separately.

To install the charge controller, simply follow the instructions that came with it.

And that’s it! You’ve successfully installed solar panels on your RV or campervan.

Now all you need to do is enjoy the free power they provide.

Note: If you did want to go for an installation service instead of doing it yourself, there are many reputable companies that will do it for you. These services can be found online or through your local RV dealer.

FAQs

How do I calculate how many solar panels I need for my sprinter van?

If you charge your battery daily, 200 watts of solar panels per 100 amp hours of usable battery capacity (100Ah Lithium or 200Ah AGM) is a reasonable estimate. However, keep in mind that installing more solar panels will only accelerate the charging process and adapt to low-light situations better.

How do I know if my campervan or RV is suitable for solar panels?

The vast majority of campers and RVs are suitable for solar panel installation. However, there are a few things you should check before starting the project:
The roof of your camper should be strong enough to support the weight of the panels. This is usually not a problem, but it’s something to keep in mind if you have an older camper or RV.
There should be enough space on the roof (or wherever you plan to mount the panels) to accommodate the number of panels you want to install.
Your camper should have a 12-volt electrical system. Most campers and RVs do, but it’s always good to double-check.

How long does it take to install solar panels on an RV or campervan?

The time it takes to install solar panels on an RV or campervan varies depending on the number of panels you’re installing and your level of experience. However, most people can complete the project in a day or two.

Do I need a permit to install solar panels on my RV or campervan?

In most cases, no. Solar panels are considered “portable solar power equipment” by the vast majority of building codes. However, it’s always a good idea to double-check with your local building department to be sure.

Do I need to remove my RV or campervan’s existing roof to install solar panels?

No. Solar panels can be mounted on the roof without removing the existing roofing material. However, if you’re planning on doing a major renovation of your RV or campervan, you might want to consider removing the roof and installing the panels during the process. This will make the installation easier and give you a chance to inspect and repair any damage to the roof.

Are Renolgy solar panels any good?

Renolgy solar panels are a good choice for anyone looking for a quality, affordable option. They’re also easy to install and come with a 10-year warranty.

Do solar van conversions really save money?

Yes, solar van conversions can save you a lot of money in the long run. Not only will you save on fuel costs, but when it comes time to sell your van, you’ll be able to command a higher price because of the solar panels.

How do I maintain my RV or campervan’s solar panel system?

Solar panel systems are low maintenance. However, it’s always a good idea to check the panels and connections for any damage or corrosion. Also, be sure to keep the panels clean and free of debris to ensure optimal performance.

In Summary

Installing solar panels on your RV or campervan is a great way to reduce your fuel costs and help the environment.

Not only are solar panels a good value, but they’re also easy to install. Plus, when it comes time to sell your RV or campervan, you’ll be able to command a higher price because of the solar panels.

So, if you’re looking for a way to save money and go green, solar panel installation is the way to go.

Have you tried solar panel installation on your RV or campervan?

Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

Passionate about helping households transition to sustainable energy with helpful information and resources.

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