RV Solar | How to Install Solar Panels

Do you have any concern in van travel? Yes, power should be a big problem. A solar panel system for RVs is the best choice to become energy independent, it barely needs any maintenance.Our beginner-friendly guide explains how to install solar panels on your RV step by step.


Step 1: Mounting solar panels on the RV Roof
Step 2: Run Wires of solar panels
Step 3: Connect the Charge Controller and Battery
Step 4: Install the inverter (optional)  

Step 1: Mounting solar panels on the RV Roof

The first step in installing a solar kit is mounting your RV panels.Please confirm what type of your solar panel (flexible, rigid, etc.) before you start. Rigid solar panels usually have to be screwed to the roof, and flexible solar panels can be installed with screws, but often be fixed with adhesive. Many solar kits only provide mounting hardware not adhesive.And adhesive you need is depending on your roof membrane material.Map out positioning and lay out the solar panel the way you want and make sure everything fits properly, and mark their positions will be very helpful.Please attach the mounting bracket that comes with the kit to the solar panel frame if you are bolting the panels to your roof. Then apply sealant under each bracket to create a watertight seal.

Note: Please avoid placing it near air conditioners, vents, etc. where the panel may be obscured.

Step 2: Run Wires of solar panels

Let us start to wire the solar panel since you already fixed them on the RV roof.

Wiring solar panels

1) Parallel - each panel is wired into the charge controller separately.

Parallel connection allows each panel to operate independently. If one of the panels is in the shade, the rest of the solar array will still be able to operate at maximum capacity.Connecting solar panels in parallel doubles the current intensity while the voltage remains the same. Since wire gauge is limited by amperage, solar panels connected in parallel require higher gauge wiring.It is not recommended to connect solar panels over 500 watts in parallel as you will need to purchase very thick and expensive wires to increase efficiency.

2) Series - all panels are connected together and then wired into the charge controller.

When the positive wire of one solar panel and the negative wire of another solar panel are connected together, this is called a series connection.The output will be limited by the lowest performing panel in series connection.The series layout increases the voltage across the wire while keeping the amperage the same. The low amperage produced by series solar panels means cable you need is thinner and cheaper.On the other hand, it requires more expensive charge controllers because of controllers are voltage limited.

3) Wiring power cable

The power cable must run from the solar panels down to the RV and charge controller. Here are several common wiring methods:

1- Refrigerator vent: this is usually the easiest and the most common method

2- Plumbing pipe: Maybe your refrigerator vent is in the slide-out, or is far away from the battery box, and you will be installing the charge controller near the battery box. In this case it might be worth running the wire through or next to the pipe and applying sealant around any holes you make.

3- Drilling: A new hole can be drilled where needed. Try drilling holes near cabinets or interior walls to hide wires inside your RV. Make sure to use sealant or weatherproof the entrance.

Step 3: Connect the Charge Controller and Battery

Installing the controller close to the battery as possible to minimize line losses. Once the charge controller is mounted on the wall, it's time to connect the power cable that came out of the refrigerator vent or other place in step 2.

Note: Use a multimeter to test wire polarity and mark each wire appropriately with tape or other indicators. Please read the instructions provided with the kit carefully to determine the recommended controller wiring sequence of battery and solar panels.

Step 4: Install the inverter (optional)

Not every RV solar panel system requires an inverter, if you want to use AC appliances such as microwaves, laptops, etc., you will need an inverter to convert the DC power from the solar panels to AC power. The inverter should be installed close to your batteries and please away from heat sources, direct sunlight, corrosive battery gases and other harmful elements. For safety reasons, it is recommended to add a fuse or circuit breaker between the inverter and the battery. Some inverters already have built-in fuses, so refer to your inverter manual for more details. Usually the manual also contains recommendations for wire sizes and fuse ratings.