RVLife – My Solar Install

So, I’ve had a number of people ask me about my solar setup on the RV. Frankly, it’s not all that extravagant, but it’s probably the single best modification I’ve done to my RV so far. Not just bang-for-the-buck, but all out best thing I think anyone can do for their RV.

I had purchased 6v batteries for the RV, but I didn’t want to waste the two 12v batteries that the coach came with. They’re only 80ah batteries each, but they were brand new when we got the RV…and I’m a waste-not, want-not kinda guy…so I’ve still got the 12v batteries in there, nearly a year later.

Brianna and I spend most of our time off-grid and not plugged into power. In the last 9 months that we’ve had solar, we’ve put approximately 50 hours on the generator. 10 or 11 of those hours were over a 2 day span mid summer when we wanted AC and had no access to shore power.

We do normal things while on battery. We have lights on at night, listen to music ALL the time on the surround sound system, or we’ll watch movies and such. We run the blender for smoothies. We have vent fans and a stand alone 12v fan. You know, normal stuff.

I installed energy efficient EVERYTHING into the RV. The lights are all LED. Even both smart TVs are LED. One is even 40″…So we’ve got that going for us. I check the voltage very regularly, as I’m pretty OCD about stuff being charged…we usually end a night sitting right around 12 to 12.2 volts. We usually wake up to 14 to 14.3 volts.

Solar. Solar was the best thing we’ve done to the coach so far.

I spent $339 on a kit from Renology on Amazon. It had two 100 watt solar panels, the mounting hardware, screws, all the connectors and 10AWG wiring necessary, and a 30amp PWM solar controller.

renology 200w solar self install kit

To backtrack a bit, I knew virtually NOTHING about solar prior to getting it. I knew that there were panels, they harnessed the light from the sun, and turned it into power. How? No idea. What kinda power? Again, no clue. Nothing. So I ended up spending several weeks researching and learning everything I could find. Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, 12v, 48v, AC/DC, amps, efficiency, cable diameters, blah blah blah… It was all greek at first, but then I learned. I’m still not quite a pro, but my knowledge is pretty exstensive now.

Then I researched companies…I read thousands of reviews. I ended up deciding on Renology. It’s not the cheapest or the most expensive, but it was well liked and seemed like a safe bet for my investment. I ordered it up and got it a few days later. I spent a solid 2 days just staring at it, knowing what I had to do next, but too scared to put 16 holes in the perfectly good, perfectly functional, perfectly water-tight roof. Haha!

I also ordered Dicor self leveling sealant….everyone said it was the best, so I took their word for it and got it. And I’m glad I did, because it really is amazing. Don’t waste your time with other stuff. Just do it right from the get go.

I clambered up onto the roof, made my measurements, and started drilling holes. Eep! I took my time and made sure I did everything as sano as possible. I took into account where my vents were and how it would cast shadows on the panel as well…one thing I learned that was pretty important is that if ANY of the surface area of a panel is compromised, it will DRASTICALLY reduce efficiency of that panel. I.e., if 3% of the panel is in the shade, it will output 50-60% less power.

I ran the wiring down into one of my storage compartments adjecent to my battery box where I installed the controller and my 1500w pure sine inverter. I also have a wireless ammeter installed in there between the controller and the batteries.

1500w inverter solar pwm controller

I took this picture just minutes before writing this blog. 14.52 volts…I’m not plugged into shore power right now. In fact, I’m at the laundromat doing laundry in Vacaville, CA. I’m also listening to music and have my laptop plugged into my inverter, fans running…and yet I’m still at 14.5 volts. Booyah.
wireless ammeter

Boom. Done. That’s it! It was that easy! It took me about 3 hours to install…mostly because I was being steady and slow about it. But that’s literally it. THE POWER OF THE SUN IS MINE TO COMMAND! Haha! I do need to clean up my install some to make it sano in the storage compartment…but I’ll get to that.

Get solar for your rig! If you have ANYTHING that you use that has batteries, I highly recommend it. It’s cheap, and because the controller maintains charge and float voltage, etc, you’ll see longer life from your batteries as well as they’ll pretty much ALWAYS be charged when you need em! Not only my RV has 12v power to it, but I also have 12v power in my 6×10 trailer on the back. I keep my motorcycle battery charged there, lights, air compressor, etc.

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