how to hook up solar panel to RV battery

How to Hook up Solar Panel to RV Battery: 5-Step Installation

Solar panels are a great way to power your RV electronics and appliances. You don’t need to depend on external sources of electricity or propane. You need to connect the panels to your RV battery to use solar power. So, if you are thinking about how to hook up solar panel to RV battery, we’re here to help.

We’ll discuss the ideal solar panel size for your RV battery and the process of connecting the panels to the battery pack.

The Correct Solar Panel Size for Charging the RV Battery

The amount of solar power you’ll need to charge your RV battery will vary depending on several factors, including the battery size, the climate you’re RVing in, and how much power you’re using while camping.

That said, there are a few general tips we can give you when it comes to sizing your solar panel system for your RV.

Most RV batteries are 12V, but a 200W to 400W solar setup will be adequate even if you have a larger unit. Remember that all solar systems need plenty of sunlight to provide the maximum output. However, you may need a larger solar panel system if you’re RVing in an area with less sun or using a lot of power while camping.

A 200W setup is enough for supplying electrical power for all basic electronics like lights, phones, and appliances that run with propane. However, its output won’t be enough if you add power-hungry appliances like a microwave, air conditioner, and TV. In that case, you must use a 400W setup or something similar.

hook up solar panel to RV battery
It’s necessary to calculate the correct solar panel size. Photo: RVWithTito / Flickr

Finally, it’s important to remember that the amount of solar power you need to charge your RV battery will also vary depending on the type of battery you have. Lead acid batteries, for example, require more energy to charge than lithium-ion batteries.

So, how do you know what size solar panel system you need to charge your RV battery? The best way to find out is to consult with an expert or an RV dealer. They can help you determine the size of the solar panel system you need based on the abovementioned factors.

How to Hook up Solar Panel to RV Battery

Solar panels are a must if you’re considering converting your RV into an eco-friendly mobile home. Not only do they provide you with power when you need it, but they can also help reduce your energy bills.

You might be wondering if it’s possible to establish a direct connection between the panels and the battery. You can connect a low-powered (ideally 5W or less) solar panel directly to an RV battery. However, a direct connection is not recommended because the meager power output will be useless.

Let’s discuss how to hook up solar panel to RV battery so you can enjoy power and peace of mind at the same time.

The supplies you need

  • Solar panels
  • A 12V RV battery
  • 10 AWG adaptor kit for solar panel connectors
  • 10 AWG tray cable
  • Solar charge controller
  • Mounting brackets (if required)
  • DC to AC inverter (if needed)

The solar panel has to be at least 200W. If you need more power, connecting multiple 100W panels in a parallel circuit is possible.

Instructions for how to hook up solar panel to RV battery

Before starting the installation process, check again if you have all the necessary tools and supplies. Buy a solar panel kit because it will make the installation a breeze. It will be available in your RV dealership or online retail stores.

Once everything is ready, follow these steps:

Step 1

Choose a suitable place for the panels, so they receive direct sunlight. Keep them at the same distance and elevation for more than one panel in the setup.

Step 2

Use the tray cable to connect the charge controller and the RV battery pack. Attach the battery’s green and red wires to the controller’s negative and positive terminals. Make the connections steady by tightening the screws.

The battery has to be connected to the other end of the tray cable too. In this case, the red and green wires will go to the positive and negative ports, respectively.

Step 3

In this step, you will attach the connectors of the solar panels with the adaptor kit. The panels’ MC4 female and male connectors should be attached to the adaptor kit’s male and female MC4 connectors, respectively.

Step 4

The solar panel’s negative and positive lines must be attached to the charge controller’s negative and positive terminals. If the lines don’t fit, strip 3/8″ from their endpoints.

There should be some screws at the controller’s connection points. Tighten them to make the connections stable.

Step 5

This step is required only if you have an inverter. The setup is relatively easy. Just attach its negative and positive lines to the battery’s negative and positive terminals.

The installation is now complete. This is how to hook up solar panel to RV battery.

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Mounting Options

So, we hope you’ve got a clear idea about how to hook up solar panel to RV battery. However, there might still be some confusion about how to mount the panels.

Well, two options are mounting on the roof and a manual setup.

RV solar panel setup
You can choose for manual setup too. Image credit: Jesse Wagstaff / Flickr

Roof-mounted solar panels: It’s the most popular option because of ease of installation and low maintenance needs, but it will be less effective in areas with a lot of shade.

The installation requires a mounting kit, and the panels are permanently fixed to the roof. The wires from the solar panel to the RV battery must be run through a cable entry plate.

Manual setup of solar panels: An alternative option is a manual setup where the solar panels will remain outside, but you can pack them up when not in use. It’s an excellent option for those who want more control over their solar panel system. They’re more efficient and can be customized to fit your RV better.

This option gives you more flexibility in where you place the panels and how you angle them for optimal sun exposure.

In this system, you need to keep the charge controller inside the rig, possibly close to the battery pack.

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