Good Old RVs sent out a general email requesting blogs and posts about adding/installing solar energy to your RV.

I have no experience but I want to know too. I found the following video on YouTube and it's fairly straight-forwards. You can fill in the blanks with other, similar links (from Google).

I would like to be included in any further discussions on this topic.


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Replies to This Discussion       solar and wind power for your R.V.

Since I am on the road (not in the motorhome) I can not add photos directly to this blog but I wanted to give and overview of our solar system.
Excerpt from my blog:
"Today my better half installed the 2 solar panels on Myrtle's roof, which give us 190 watts of free, clean power from the sun. The Carmanah 95 watt solar panels are hooked up to the Magna-sine sinewave inverter and the bank of two 6-volt US Battery brand batteries and it all works! We used a Go Power solar regulator and Magnum Energy remote control. The Magna-sine inverter can also be used as a shore charger to run the 'house' electricity and charge the batteries, if we are hooked up to shore power. All of the interior light bulbs are LED by Philips, which provides great lighting and saves electricity. You can see a roof patch by the panels which covers the old furnace chimney hole. The new furnace that will be installed will vent from the side."
For photos see:

As well here is a detailed magazine write up on our system:

Our system has performed very well. We have never run out of battery power yet. One time when myrtle broke down we charged her engine battery off of her house battery, with a battery charger. Worked great!

Myrtle is very pretty and now she's easy on the earth. I have plans to do a conversion in a few years so it's good to get started early with advice. Thank you for the blog and article links. Enjoy!

   Your welcome , enjoy Life

Carolyn, I have just posted my blog (awaiting approval) about my own experience so far with solar.  Beware as you research;LOTS of options, you can spend LOTS more money, the peak generation time is "not 10 hours/day", I've heard you can count on 3.5 in the Mid-Atlantic, even a tiny bit of shade has an impact.  ...and on and on.  Tons of good info out there...just feels hard to gather and digest it.


Oh, thanks. Yes. I am

  As a retired Electrical Engineer I considered doing some in depth research to address this issue, I have studied it somewhat and attended a few brief seminars, but prior to full fledged research I can post my intentions and reasons for what I have planned for my next RV.

 1) Okay, the majority here may be more like me with a smaller RV so we dont need the super systems and a gazillion amp hours of storage like the dudes who have 35 to 40 foot coaches. Many of those guys have 6 or 8 or even 10 Trojan T 105 batteries or even L 16's and 500 watts of Solar Panels etc with 4KW or 5KW Inverters and they can run a rooftop AC overnight even BUT US OLDER RV USERS DONT NEED ALL THAT (and all that weight) 


 2) For our use if we (2 people, me the the "first wife") can dry camp in say the US Forest or BLM lands say a week in a 26 to 29 ft unit thats all we need and to do that we can easily get by as follows:


   a) Four Trojan (or other brands) 6 volt true deep cycle batteries like T 105, T 115, T 125 etc in other brands wires series paralell TO YIELD IN THE RANGE OF 400 AMP HOURS OF ENERGY STORAGE thats plenty, two in series (maybe 200 Amp Hrs) would get you by, but based on mY experience and SUBJECT TO AVAILABLE SUNLIGHT IM GONNA USE FOUR..........


 b) At the minimum (if you use 4 six volt batteries, can cut in half if you only use 2) EITHER an 1800 watt Inverter/Charger (Xantrex Freedom HF 1800 with 40 amp charger)


   OR your own Inverter (sized for loads like TV and DVD and Computer and Cell phone chargers etc, a 500 watt will likely get you by, a 400 watt works for our needs just fine) PLUS a stand alone 40 amp (for four batteries, can half that if only two) minimum SMART THREE STAGE AUTOMATIC CHARGER (Xantrex 40 amp


 NOTE I wouldt consider anything BUT a smart three stage charger for those expensive batteries. If kept properly charged and not over charged (what a smart charger does) you greatly extend their life !!!!! The solar panels with a charge controller doesnt over charge or hurt them, its when you return to an RV park and want to replenish the batteries after a week of dry camping that matters as far as the advantages of a smart charger........


 c) For the four battery system my experience tells me we can get by WITH 200 WATTS OF SOLAR PANELS and you also need a charge controller (some come with others without BUT YOU NEED ONE). They come in 100 watt sizes so a couple on the roof will work. NOTE its obviously true if you keep them portable with the angled stands you can better aim them at the days changing sun for more efficiency but thats too much work and storage hassle for our needs so I mount them flat on the roof out of the way and take whatever sun at whatever angle I can get n just do with it. If kept portable and you moved them with the sun 100 a watt single panel would get you by which is why I use two on the roof n dont have to mess with or store them.......


 So thats my plan for 2 people in a smaller RV and the max dry camp is maybe a week or so at a time prior to a few days back with electrical hook ups. NOTE if you intend to stay all freakin winter in Quartzite Arizona dry camping at BLM then you would want the panels to be portable to follow the sun (any maybe 6 or even 8 instead of 4 batteries???) although 4 batteries will lilely still get you by IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOUR LOADS AND NEEDS AND HABITS AND LIFESTYLE


 So, Thats my story n Ima stickin to it....... John T in Indiana   Retired Electrical Engineer


 PS As Ive often reported here, however, the limiting factor for dry camping IS RUNNING OUT OF WATER nottttttttttttt electricity, thats why if needed I can store 110 gallons of fresh water before heading up to a remote dry campsite

PS IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTES: Regarding the above refurbish job on my RV, TAKE NOTE:

The typical older RV came with a single 12 volt house/coach battery and a 20 amp or 30 amp Converter/Charger which charged the house battery and served as the DC Distribution Panel for fuzed 12 volt DC circuits throughout the RV for lights and vent fans etc. THE REMODEL I DESCRIBED ABOVE DOES AWAY WITH THE BUILT IN CHARGER (Its NOT a Smart 3 stage charger, its only a Dumb single stage charger lol). If you install a 3 stage smart charger, it alone is then used to charge the new bank of true deep cycle batteries and you DO NOT attach the old Converter/Chargers 12 VDC output to the new battery bank at all, that would defeat the purpose of the smart regulated charger and it (not as well regulated) could over charge the batteries and damage them.

ALSO my plan envisions the complete removal of the old 12 VDC house battery to replace it with 2 or 4 true deep cycle 6 volt golf cart type of batteries in series paralell as necessary to achieve 12 volts. You do NOT want to mix the old 12 volt house battery with a new bank of two or four 6 volt golf cart batteries.

HOWEVER the old Converter/Chargers section for 12 VDC Power Distribution remains, its just that the new battery bank supplies the DC buss its voltage instead of any connections to the old charger/converters DC output. In addition even the 120 VAC input to the old Converter/Charger would get disconnected.

NOTE: Any batteries (old or new) emit explosive gasses when being charged and its absolutely necessary they be located somewhere outside the living area of the coach and also be vented to atmosphere and NOT in any sealed enclosures. I have installed them on say a heavy well supported shelf inside their black plastic boxes maybe on the rear bumper but NEVER inside the living area and NEVER in any sealed enclosure.

FINAL SAFETY NOTE: If youre not familiar with electricity, RV Hazards, and especially all the modifications I posted above, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, HIRE A COMPETENT TRAINED PROFESSIONAL. If you only want to install a solar panel or two just to help your exisitng system you dont do all I did above, the panels output via its charge controller simpy wires to your existing battery. What I do represents a total makeover but Im familair with electricity and battery safety etc SO AGAIN CONSIDER MY GUIDE AS A BLUEPRINT ONLY AND DONT BE DOING ALL OF WHAT I DID IF YOURE NOT QUALIFIED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I cant describe alllllllllllll the precautions and safety considerations and the methods of installation in a few paragraphs DONT TRY IT YOURSELF !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John T Retired Electrical Engineer (and also an Attorney, we love disclosures and disclaimers lol)

If you don't mind my asking, how much will all that solar equipment cost? 


The reason I ask is, I found a 45watt collector at Harbor Freight for $190.00.  The smallest generator they have costs $130.00 and produces 800 watts. 

It would take 18 solar pannels, costing $3420, to equal one small generator.  While the gas to run the generator does cost $3.25 a gallon, you could buy over 1050 gallons of it with the savings.

My choice of solar is to eliminate noise and thought on the road.  So far the system I put in (one 12 Volt group 29, deep cycle Interstate battery, one 135 Watt panel, and its accompanying control with extra readout for monitor) has served us very well.  My wife and I are at Day 57 of dry camping/boondocking and have plugged in twice "just in case".  We have not recharged in any other way and survived Sandy's 10 days of grey weather.  We are now down in NC on the way to some sunny fun before Wintering in Colorado.  The System above cost ~$700.  Caution:  we use no air-conditioning, run all LED's.  Also: beware of the quality at H- Freight.  Many items will suffice, others will not last or satisfy.  I wouldn't want to be within 2 blocks of a generator with a Briggs and Stratton or similar generator. (I bought a Craigslist Honda but decided my system works well enough, so we left it home)

As to cost: I'm just finishing up on the latest New/Used RV, the four T 125 (equivalent) Deep Cycle 6 volt Golf Car Batteries (460 Amp/Hrs of Total Energy Storage in Series/Paralell) cost over $400,,,,,,,,,the Xantrex Truecharge2 Smart Three Stage Charger was over $300,,,,,,,,200 watts of Solar is gonna be around $300, so Im looking at $1000 plus some change.

HOWEVER my buddy has that set up (Smart 3 stage automatic charging) and his batteries lasted over 8 years,,,,,,,, And since we hardly use any electricity during the day (occasional water pump or vent fan) and a little at night (12 VDC CFL light or LED and water pump or vent fan etc or maybe furnace ocasionally) if theres much sunlight at all WE CAN DRY CAMP WITH NO HOOK UPS (NO AC of course) ALMOST INDEFINITELY and if needed I can start the RV engine and its 80 amp alternator and/or the Onan 4KW genset can use a little bit of gas to top off the batteries if needed (rare).

That and the 110 Gallons of Fresh Water I can store makes the RV a Dry Camping Special since we do that a lot in Utah or Colorado (Free BLM or cheap Natl Forest etc) and at the Florida Flywheelers and we can go a week easy, but by that time we need to dump anyway (Black tank is full of crap lol) and take on fresh water.

Sooooooooo for me and the way we travel I think $1,000 is a good investment (especially if the $400 worth of batteries last 8 years) and remember thats for 460 Amp/Hrs of battery energy storage and 200 watts of Solar. If you dry camp less and dont need to last a week before dumping, you can get by with much less water and less batteries and less solar, maybe say $500 or even much less will get you buy. Its a matter of how many batteries and how much solar and how long you wanna dry camp that determines how much you want to spend, be it a couple hundred or the $1,000 I invested. To each their own, theres no one right answer for EVERYBODY. I found mine however

Ol John T in Indiana

i went out and researched the dc world and bought nova kool dc refrigerator and a freezer.  they each have a solar panel and a battery,  if and i say if i need some extra power i can turn the gen on for a bit to top off the charge when the sun is not there, not often in az.  then i have one panel for one more battery for all my led lights and pumps etc.   i can link the batt together if i need to but it is a cost up front but i am in a 220 travco that i bought for under three thousand dollars plus maybe three thousand extra to get set up. 




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