How to hook up solar panels to RV batteries

Guide to Hook Up Solar Panels to RV Batteries

Updated October 2, 2022

- By Annie Martin

The solar panel for RV is getting popular nowadays, and almost every RVers are installing them in their vehicle. But before installing it on the RV, you should know what RV solar panels are and how to hook up solar panels to RV batteries. You also should know how the solar panel works in your RV and many more things. So, in this article, we organized the details of all these. So let’s dive into the discussion.


What is RV Solar Panel?

In the 1800s, scientists first discovered the photovoltaic effect. In this effect, when some materials are exposed to sunlight, they produce a current and electric charge. From observing this effect, the scientist attempts to invent solar engines. But initially, the efficiency of most solar engines was very low. But in the 1950s, scientists discovered silicon. And using this silicon, the solar panel energy becomes much more efficient.

Initially, scientists developed solar cells which could connect the sun’s energy and then turn the power into electricity. Over the years, after conducting thousand-time attempts, the technology has developed, but the solar panel is working on the same concept.

Solar panels are occupied with solar cells, and the cells capture and convert the sun’s energy into usable electricity. And this converted electricity significantly helps to powers business, houses, homes, offices, and many more things, including your RV.

Now let’s find out how to hook up solar panels to RV batteries and how the RV’s solar panels work.

How to hook up solar panels to RV batteries


How to Hook Up Solar Panels to RV Batteries

For producing electricity in your RV using the solar panel, you need to connect the panel with your RV batteries. Thus before starting the procedure, you need to know how to connect the solar panels to your RV batteries. The RV’s solar electric systems significantly vary depending on numerous factors.

When you are installing a larger solar panel in your RV, ensure that you are not afraid of working with the electrical wiring. Anyone can install it up to a few hundred kits or watts as the voltages are not dangerous. However, irrespective of the solar panel’s size, you should follow the instructions below for wiring the components.

If already battery bank or battery is installed in your RV, then you need to purchase a kit. The kit will contain all the parts of the solar panel system, including the following:

  • A solar panel ( it could be more than 1, it depends on your purchasing)
  • A wiring harness
  • A charge controller (and possibly adapters, connectors and mounting brackets)

However, for converting the 12V DC power to the 120V AC power, you also must buy an inverter and battery monitor.


Connecting RV Batteries and Solar Panels

Connecting the RV batteries and solar panels is essential in the entire hooking up process. However, for connecting these two, you will require the following equipment:

  • RV solar panels
  • Mounting brackets
  • Solar charge controller
  • Connection cables
  • Inverter

Now follow the steps below for connecting the RV batteries with the RV solar panels.

  • On your RV’s roof, mount the solar panels.
  • Now inside your RV, mount the charge controller. Mount the controller as close to your RV batteries as possible.
  • Over the charge controller, run the wiring from the solar panels into the RV. However, through the holes or through the refrigerator vent you can run the wiring. If these holes are located near the batteries, then you can use these to run the wiring.

If the hole is not there, you can drill a hole to run the wires through the RV’s roof. You should install a circuit breaker or fuse on the cables for running them.

  • Connect the wires to your RV battery bank from the charge controller. Compared to the rated current of the charge controller, you should install a slightly larger fuse on these wires.
  • Till now, the installation of the system is complete. But the charge controller and RV solar panel are not connected. Double-check all the wiring before making the RV batteries and solar panel’s final connection. Finally, checking the connection ensures that the positive and negative polarity are all correct.

Once you become confident, you can connect the charge controller to the solar panels, only then go for the connection. Again, we recommend using a blanket to cover the solar panels to prevent the spark issue if you make the connection at night.

  • This one is an optional step. Inside your RV, you can mount an inverter if you require to use the 120-volt AC electrical appliances. Mount your RV’s inverter close to the batteries and ensure appropriate wiring runs to your RV inverter.


Note: Directly wiring the controller or solar panels to your RV’s battery bank doesn’t require disconnecting the RV’s existing converter. The battery bank will receive charges both from the solar panels and converter.


The Basics of RV Solar Systems

Typically your RV solar system contains four separate sections, including the following:

i) Generation

The solar panel’s job is “Generation”. Through harvesting solar radiation, the board generate and supply electrical energy. The lower voltage DC output is called energy.

ii) Charge Control

The solar charge controller or regulator’s domain is the charge control section. This device takes the solar panel’s output and charges the RV batteries. The primary function of charge control is to ensure whether the batteries are correctly charged or not. You should be careful that the batteries should never be overcharged.

iii) Storage

The function of the solar panel’s storage is self-explanatory enough. Storage is the power source of the battery, and it stores the output of the solar panel for use later. The reserved solar panel output helps to use later in darkness. For directly powering the DC appliances, you can use the energy of your battery or can convert the main power.

iv) Inversion

The inversion section uses the inverter for converting the low voltage DC battery power into 120 volt AC power. Typically the inverter output is directly wired into the socket circuit of the RV outlet. However, if you require more outlet capacity, you can use a couple of auxiliary outputs, as most inverters contain such output.


How Do RV Solar Panels Work?

Do you know how the solar panels on your RV work? Ok, we are explaining its working process. Let’s assume that several solar panels are on your RV’s roof. During the day, if your RV runs on the road or you park it anywhere in the campground, the sunlight will hit your RV’s solar panels. And the solar panels and cells on the RV’s top absorb the sun’s energy.

The circuits of solar panel cells absorb the sun’s energy and then convert the power into the electrical current. Now to charge the controller, it receives the electrical current through wires, and the controller controls the draft of the battery.

The solar panel’s energy is direct current (DC) electricity which charges the batteries of your house or RV’s artillery. This DC energy is strong enough, and it can use to power your RV’s electrical appliances and other devices. Using this solar energy, you can also charge your devices to use later.

Typically the solar batteries and panel’s DC power is 12 volts. Using this DC power, you can run your RV appliances, lights, and electronics. However, by passing the 12-volt DC to the inverter, you can also convert it into AC of 120 volts. You can easily use the converted 120-volt electricity to run heavy electrical devices such as coffee pots, washers, microwaves etc.

120 volt outlets are usually scattered throughout your entire RV. But unless you use a generator or plug your RV into shore power, these don’t have the ability to run. However, when you are in the middle of a desert and want to operate the 120-volt appliances, you can use the sun’s energy. For using the suns energy, you have to follow the equations below:

Solar Panels < Charge Controller < Batteries < Inverter and finally the 120-volt electricity energy will be available at your command. Using the sun’s energy, you can power any appliances if you have sufficient solar panels, conversions, and batteries.


Bottom Line

So, hopefully, the above discussion was quite informative, and now you know how to hook up solar panels to RV batteries. In installing the solar system in your RV, the hooking up of it is not very challenging, especially if you follow the steps mentioned above. Still, connecting the solar panels and batteries is the essential setup part.

Follow the above-mentioned step by step guide to hooking up the RV batteries and solar panels in your RV. Also, double-check all the wirings properly. When it comes to electrical issues, you should follow highest careful approach.

You can use this solar panel electricity at City parks, beaches, deserts, state parks, and other places where the electrical hookups system is unavailable. Solar panels in your RV significantly reduce the noisy generator’s necessity, provide silent power and recharge the batteries. In renewable energy, solar panels are undoubtedly highest remarkable development. Your RV’s solar panel system frees you. And you can drive your RV anywhere you want without thinking much about the electricity connection.

Annie Martin

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