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Solar Installation Phase 1: RV Solar Panels

Solar Installation Phase 1: RV Solar Panels

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.

Let's Talk RV Solar: Sizing, Investment, Installation, and Batteries

RV Solar System Requirements

We want to build a system that is:

  1. Able to power all of our tech requirements
  2. Able to run our AC with generator assistance
  3. 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 schematic

For a high-resolution, downloadable copy of the schematic, click the “Download” button below ⬇

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.

RV Solar Phase 1 - 1200W Solar RV Build Detailed Walk-through

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:

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.

Need Batteries? Get $50 Off Per Battle Born Battery with discount code MORTONS at checkout!

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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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Rusty L

Saturday 12th of October 2019

Do you post the settings of bms 712 for the Tesla battery anywhere that I could use on my system Thank for the great help Rusty

Bill Feliciano

Tuesday 21st of May 2019

Could you provide a list of all the components or parts list, I would like to use it to do my own research. Thanks Bill


Tuesday 21st of May 2019

Tom, I've enjoyed reading your articles and watching your videos. As I prepare to install a similar system on my trailer I realized that you haven't installed any string fuses in your 4 parallel solar array. So, I think you are presently not complying with NEC 690.9.

Paul Bigham

Monday 8th of April 2019

Had an interesting time reading this. Thanks for the information. sounds so great and helpful. Kudos!

popcorn time for pc

Friday 22nd of February 2019

Whenever I read a blog, I trust that it doesnt baffle me as much as this one. That is to say, I realize it was my decision to peruse, yet I really thought youd have something fascinating to state. All I hear is a cluster of whimpering about something that you could fix in the event that you werent excessively bustling searching for consideration.