Disclaimer: I am NOT an expert on anything.  I have spent the past two years researching and reviving a 1957 Yellowstone for MY purposes and am learning a lot along the way.  I am always happy to share my own experience to save someone else the “joy” of the learning curve as it were.  My background includes ~6 years as a machinist, a lifetime of breaking then fixing things, 5 or 6 classic car restorations, and more recently the lure of the Internet to help bring me answers to new things.  (Like fixing appliances at home, finding parts for anything, and now a “Good Old RV”).  I will try to include links and resources and have found writings by people Much More Experienced than myself.


1) A book that has been invaluable:  The Complete Book of Boondock RVing, Bill and Jan Moeller, 2008, Ragged Mountain Press/McGraw-Hill


2) My local RV store: Custom Coach Co. www.customcoachonline.com


3) RV Electrical, Jack and Dan Mayer, wrote an excellent and lengthy discourse on Solar and electric in general (largely my main source) http://www.jackdanmayer.com/rv_electrical_and_solar.htm

http://www.jackdanmayer.com/Files/Presentation%20HDT%20RV%20Electri... (very detailed discourse)

(another few sources: http://www.where-rv-now.com/Notes/Solar/index.php  http://www.solarrvpanels.com/index.php/determinine-how-many-solar-p...)



4) RV Electrical, Mark Polk  www.rveducation101.com


5) A retailer of solar equipment (I have no association with them, just called and emailed a quite few and arrived at this place as the  most helpful. So this is where I spent My $700.) MrSolar, Brent Atkins,  brent@mrsolar.com


6) Finally, and perhaps most personally, from thousands of miles away VKtrailer in Washington, who has tirelessly helped out with minutia and suggestions garnered from much more experience than I have.  ( I even sent them my original propane lamp that I wouldn’t be using as a gift to find a use or home for)


Explore your Goals (what do you want from your system, how will you use it, how is it working so far, what problems are you trying to solve, what is your budget?)


My own plan was to create a small, self-contained craft that can stay “off-grid” as long as possible.  I also choose Not to have air conditioning, which is a big power user.  Propane is also included in my hybrid as a very efficient way to heat and run my fridge.  The texts cited above will help you compile a list of ALL of your electrical use.  Multiplying by the number of hours will give a daily amp/hour, then amps/day figure.  My system uses ALL 12 volt loads/appliances and lights. (I did create a 110/120 parallel system to run during the infrequent times I’ll be in campgrounds or plugged in here at home (for power tools). (here is a pretty good calculator to use : 



http://rvsolarpanels.wordpress.com/2009/04/02/rv-solar-panel-calcul...  )


I also selected ALL LED lights to decrease power usage.  I don’t think that residential lighting or RV companies are moving very fast in this area, but IKEA has a pretty good selection of LEDS.  (Strips, and pucks that can easily be ganged and soldered into Any fixture.  Just watch the polarity and check the Voltage.  Most ARE 12V, but the neat little reading/worklight is 4 Volts (so I used a discarded Car/Cellphone charger to supply the 4Volts needed) I have read that LEDs are 85% more efficient and now with ALL of mine on at once, the system is only drawing  0.8 Amps.

My furnace is a Wave 3 which burns propane and has NO BATTERY DRAW.

My appliance are all on 12 gage wires, My battery, supply, charge and load to the Vintage Trailer fuse box is all 4 gage wire, and my panel is connected via the supplied 10 gage wire (I was afraid it was a little undersized, but the run is only ~12 feet, so I figured I’d hook it up and see how the system behaves)

The solar parts came from  MrSolar, 130 Watt BP panel ~26"X60", a Morningstar, Prostar PS15M (with meter to monitor Voltage, Solar input, and load all in real time) http://www.mrsolar.com/pdf/morningstar/Morningstar%20PS-15%20&%...

I chose a simple, single 12 Volt Interstate 210ah reserve battery.  It is mounted in a sealed plastic box, vented outside the camper and driven/vented a bit extra by a switched computer fan in my dinette.

My local and "not-so-local" sources say to count on maximum output for 3 hours of sun per day (my system is trickling in 0.5-1 or 2 amps long more than this, even before the sun creeps over the roof of my house).  They also suggest "just leaving it flat" for most of the Summer.  There are detailed angles and solar insolation and magnetic declination charts online for optimization otherwise.  I will try to add updates from my own experience as to how long I can stay off grid in progress.

So far, I've had LOTS of fun researching and now watching the sun come up and numbers move.

Below are: 1) My distribution fusebox (from VTS) or "how I tamed the rat's nest"

2) The panel in place, flat, with an air gap (my idea, shade for the roof, I guess)

3) Sending the wire in through an unused plumbing vent (so hard to drill any holes in a roof that "doesn't leak"

4) The Controller (fun to watch loads and solar effect on the battery)

5) I fashioned a full-width bracket under the panel because it is 26' wide, while my roof joists are on 16" centers.  I painted down matching messy silver roof sealer, but I think the main thing is to match your materials (ask another expert, don't trust me)

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Tags: RV, for, how to install RV Solar System, panel, power, solar


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Comment by Myrtle on October 26, 2012 at 11:45pm
This is how we set up our solar system http://www.inspiredcamping.com/cool-campsite-essential-solar-energy/
Philips also has a good selection of LED lights.
Comment by Jay Nottingham on October 26, 2012 at 9:57pm

You are doing a first rate job on this David. Keep on with it. I like the links to the things I had yet to find. After 11 years of complete off grid living on my own built system I can answer to the challenges this can pose. I run a 1000 sq.ft. 2 bed 2 bath home on this system oh and an in ground pool as well. Back then the internet was not an option so I had to read books. I built it from local stores and pennysaver ads. I love the new stuff coming out, just waiting for it to be reasonable to buy.

Comment by David Grant on August 4, 2012 at 8:44am

Yes...Sort of... I took out the porcelain toilet with cast iron plumbing, Built a shower with FRP, and will carry a self contained port-a-pot for emergencies.  "Priorities"  (We plan to take off for 6 mo to a year in Sept)

Comment by Pat Daly on August 3, 2012 at 2:42pm
Great article, David. I've added it to the top our our How To list on the right of the home page. Many thanks. pat
Comment by Mike Siebert on August 3, 2012 at 2:39pm

Hey, Do you have a bathroom in there?

Comment by Sam Green on August 3, 2012 at 2:35pm

Wow lots of good info here David.  There have been many questions asked here on GORVs about installing solar panels, I'm sure this will be a big help to many.  Even got my curiosity up a bit.

Comment by Louise Holland on August 3, 2012 at 3:44am

I enjoyed reading your information l will have to look into this further as i would really like to install one on our rv



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