What Do I Need to Install Solar on My RV? 7 Essential Items

It's another important question that "what do I need to install solar on my RV?". The main components are the solar panel (or panels), solar batteries, inverter, and the associated items you need to make everything work. 

Here are 7 Essential Items for Solar Installation

01. Solar Panel 

The solar panels are the core of the solar power system. You need enough solar panels with the right level of efficiency to provide the power that you need.

For example, 200 watt solar panels will never be able to power a 1000 watt refrigerator. Instead, select solar panels that will survive the operating conditions you’ll be using them in and, in unison, deliver enough power to meet your needs. 

Note that both the solar panels and solar batteries need to be rated for the conditions you’ll be operating them in. Whether the temperatures are near zero or over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, your solar power system goes down whether the battery or solar panels stop working at those temperatures. 

The same is true for harsh environments. If you’re going to try to generate solar power in harsh conditions, it doesn’t matter if the solar batteries or solar panel wiring fails on exposure to the waves or rain. You’re left in the dark either way. 

02. Solar Batteries 

Solar batteries receive the direct current power from the solar panels and store it for later use. You probably want a separate set of batteries for receiving solar power and storing it for use in the RV than using solar panels to directly charge your house batteries, though the house batteries could be recharged via the solar panels, too.

Solar batteries are made to handle the daily recharge and discharge that comes with solar cycles, and they’re generally plug-and-play with solar controllers. 

Solar batteries may come with a charge controller, especially if you buy a solar power kit that contains several solar panels and battery as one set. However, even in this case, you want to buy your own inverter. 

03. Power Inverter 

You need an inverter for several reasons. The first is that only an inverter will turn the direct current power from solar batteries into alternative current you need to run conventional appliances.

The second is that inverters can have the necessary protective measures in them to prevent shorts and fluctuations in power upstream from shorting out equipment downstream. You don’t want a lightning strike hitting your solar panels and shorting out everything connected to your power system. 

The third reason to have a good power inverter is that power inverters often deliver the stable power needed to safely power and recharge laptops and smart phones. 

Not all inverters have the less than three percent total harmonic distortion that makes it safe to charge or power your electronics, but you can’t safely do this at all from the variable DC power from the typical solar power system. 

Inverters may be able to double as a backup power source, whether it can act as an emergency light when the power goes out or can provide 15 minutes of power after the batteries die. 

Some Additional Items Also Need There

You’re probably going to need a rigid handheld power drill to construct the frames that will protect the solar panels and hold them in place on the top of your vehicle.

04. Rigid hand held power drill

You’re probably going to need a rigid handheld power drill to construct the frames that will protect the solar panels and hold them in place on the top of your vehicle.

The drill is likely going to be used to mount the panels permanently in place on the RV, as well. You need a drill bit kit to go with the drill, since this is what allows you to drill a variety of precise holes through a variety of materials. 

Don’t try to push screws through the top of the RV, when you could damage the screw and be left with connecting hardware that won’t stay securely in place. 

05. Aluminum roof paint 

Aluminum roof paint is an under-appreciated item when you’re installing a solar panel for RV use. However, that black surface is designed to absorb sunlight, and it will absorb heat, too.

Aluminum roof paint forms a shiny, tough and reflective surface underneath the solar panels. You should paint the roof of the RV with aluminum roof paint to prevent the RV from heating up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

In fact, you could see the same benefits by painting the top of your RV with that paint even if you aren’t installing solar panels.

06. Aluminum/rubber tape

Aluminum/rubber tape is a very sticky rubber adhesive that sticks to otherwise difficult to adhere to surfaces. This includes the curved roof edge of your RV and the edge of a solar panel.

You shouldn’t try to tape solar panels into place, but this type of tape can cover screw-in points, help you pick up a loose screw and seal the edges of a frame against the elements.

We recommend aluminum/rubber tape in addition to the electrical tape you should have on hand to cover up gaps in the wire or secure exposed wires. 

07. Wire cutters

Wire cutters are something you should use with reservation. Once you cut a wire, you cannot safely add it back. However, if you have very long stretches of wiring, you may appreciate the ability to trip wires so that you don’t have to fit an extra foot of wire in your utility cabinet.

A good cable cutter, though, will create the clean breaks that are easy to solder or attach in the junction box, whereas frayed wires are harder to attach and are prone to shorting. 

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John S.

Hello guys! I'm a 37-years-old author, traveler, writer, blogger, and a camper. I enjoy life as much as I can and love to visit beautiful places in my RV. That's why while traveling I have decided to dedicate some time to share my experiences with everyone that might be interested in traveling, camping, and RVs.