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How to Install an RV Solar Panel

Solar panels can be a great addition to your RV, allowing you greater flexibility about where to park and reducing your need to rely on a generator. It can be a bit complicated to install a solar RV panel, but it can be done without a huge amount of fuss.


  1. Determine how much power you will need, and the number of solar panels you must install in order to generate it. Like the roofs in stationary homes, there is only so much space on top of your RV to use. Make sure that your needs can be met within a reasonable amount of space.
  2. Disconnect the coach battery and all other sources of power, such as the generator and the shore power cord. You should also cover the face of the solar panel with paper or cardboard while you are installing it, to keep it from generating a charge.
  3. Find a good spot on the RV roof where the solar panel will fit. It should be somewhere convenient for running wiring, such as near a vent or some other means of access. The roof at that location should be strong enough to support the array, and the panels should be at least 8 inches away from the edge of the roof.
  4. Mark the positions for the solar panel mounts. Make sure that they line up precisely using a laser sight or similar tool.
  5. Drill holes for the mounts. Use a drill bit specific to the size of the holes you need and take care that you are not drilling into any interior wiring.
  6. Place the mounts in position and secure them with screws. Use the sealant to fill the space around the holes.
  7. Insert the solar panel into the mounts and tighten it into position. The exact means will vary depending upon the kind of solar panel you have purchased.
  8. Find a suitable location in the RV interior to place the regulator/terminal.
  9. Cut a hole in the interior panel large enough for the regulator (or just its control panel) to fit.
  10. Connect the wiring to the solar panel and run it down to the location you have selected for the regulator.
  11. Connect the wires to the regulator, making sure that the polarity is correct.
  12. Connect the battery connection wires from the regulator to the coach battery. Make sure that the polarity is correct: that the positive wire is connected to the positive battery terminal and the negative wire is connected to the negative battery terminal.
  13. Reconnect the terminals to the battery. The solar panel should now be generating energy for it.

Things You Will Need

  • Solar panel
  • Panel mounts
  • Mounting screws
  • Drill
  • Sealant
  • Solar regulator, terminal or junction box
  • Laser sight
  • Connecting wires

Tips

  • The space above the RV refrigerator is a very good place to install the solar regulator. It is usually unused, and its proximity to the refrigerator vent means the wiring can be run up to the solar panel very easily.
  • A deep-cycle battery can store power when the sun is out for use when it's dark and cloudy. You can link an AC inverter to it, and plug any appliances you need directly into the battery without having to go through the rest of the RV's electrical system.
  • Visit RV Solar Electric for a worksheet to help you calculate your energy needs.

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