After RVing for 2.5 years without solar, we decided it was time to install some RV solar panels as part of a bigger RV solar system.
Although our generator was cost effective and worked great, we wanted more power: the kind that falls on our roof everyday and is completely silent seemed like just the ticket.
In this video, Cait gives a great introduction to what we we planned for our first RV Solar System and why.
RV Solar System Requirements
We want to build a system that is:
- Able to power all of our tech requirements
- Able to run our AC with generator assistance
- Robust enough to cook with electric appliances
DIY RV Solar System Budget
We also need to keep the build under $4000.
If you are unfamiliar with solar $4000 may seem like a lot of money, but large solar systems get expensive very quick, so this is actually a very tight budget!
How Many RV Solar Panels?
We decided on a ~1200W system to start that we can expand to about 1800W easily. This system uses 4 residential-style glass solar panels at 285 watts each.
We purchased these panels from a guy off Craigslist who was selling off some panels that he had bought in bulk for a home installation – so we got them for a very good price.
These panels are pretty large, about 7 feet long by 3.5 feet wide. They also weigh about 55 lbs each.
Rest of the RV Solar System Components:
We will use lithium-ion batteries and a hybrid inverter in this RV solar system build.
The install happened in 3 Phases:
- PHASE 1 – RV Solar Panels on the Roof connected to existing 12V batteries
- PHASE 2 – 24 Volt Lithium Ion Batteries installed
- PHASE 3 – 120V inverter installed to power the entire RV
Let’s get started with Phase 1.
Phase 1 – Connect RV Solar Panels to Existing 12V Battery System
The following diagram overviews what we installed in Phase 1. See below for full res download.
RV Solar System Overview
The following video walks through the entire system and all the components. It also goes over the RV solar panels being installed.
So far we have been very happy with the system!
We are also very excited for Phase 2 where we install a Lithium Ion battery from a Tesla Model S in our RV!
Articles about this project:
- RV Solar Panels – Solar Phase 1 (this article)
- The Tesla Battery – Solar Phase 2
- The Inverter – Solar Phase 3
- Updated Tesla Module RV Installation (with updated list of components)
Disclaimer: While Tesla batteries are a very high quality and safe when handled and run within operating characteristics, if something goes wrong they can be quite dangerous. It is your responsibility to fully understand and make sure the system is safely programmed and installed if you choose to take on an install like this. Furthermore, this build is not endorsed or supported by any manufacturers of the compenents used in this build, and they may not provide support on an install like this if you run into trouble. I am not able to provide individual support on these builds. You might be able to find community support over in the Second-Life Batteries Facebook Group.
Start Your Solar Journey!
Thinking about adding solar to your RV? Start here with our solar calculator to get an idea of what might be right for you!
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