RV SOLAR INSTALLATION GUIDE
DETAILED, COMPLETE instructions with EVERYTHING you need to know to install an RV or Off-Grid 12 Volt Solar System that WORKS!
Thank you for visiting our solar install guide! If you're new to 12v solar, don't worry. It's not magic. Basic systems are pretty simple.
The heart of your system is the charge controller. Morningstar and Bogart are by far the best and have a 5 year warranty / 15 year life expectancy. BHA Solar carries the high quality products the top experts recommend so you can have a great solar power system that works reliably for many years.
|The following 2 links are experts and provide a massive amount of RV / OFF GRID 12v solar knowledge. |
These are the best 2 free learning sources you'll find.
really like Bob and owe him many thanks for all his knowledge. A retired electrical engineer very compassionate
about RV solar, who was off grid by 2003, and now, 12 years later still not using a generator.
This is aimed at the "frustrated, technologically challenged and
minded RV owner who needs basic education about battery supplied
takes hours to read, he's long winded, and
rants on the state of the RV manufacturing and RV Solar
but If you read all of it and follow his advice, you will have a
great system that works and gets the batteries 100% full so they last
longer! Read it more than once, (it's free, but he welcomes donations!)
Another expert, he wrote a book about RV Solar and has it available for free. His information is a little more complicated, and from the viewpoint of one who can afford to spend more money. It's well organized and has a LOT of expert advice and instructions with photos
GOLDEN RULES OF RV 12 VOLT SOLAR
If you have to pay someone else to install your system and they disagree with any of these rules, walk away. "It's Not Rocket Science"
1. NO SHADE
Just shading on one small square on a panel drastically reduces the output of the ENTIRE panel
More info & Photos LEARN MORE
See those little shadows?
Surprise! Minus 6.4 amps from these two panels! This is 90 % of the output of a full panel.
2. USE BIG ENOUGH WIRE
Voltage loss is the enemy in these systems, and is especially critical from charge controller to battery. Keep wire runs as short as possible, and use the proper cable size. (Don't waste money on wires bigger than needed for 2% drop on MPPT systems or 5% on PWM systems) Use a wire sizing calculator like this one
3. CHARGE CONTROLLER AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE TO BATTERIES
Distance under 3' with large wire. Max wire size accepted: 10 AWG for Sunsaver controllers, 6 AWG for ProStar, and 2-4 AWG for TriStar. Splicing a piece of 10ga onto larger wire is OK and won't get hot if done properly, or simply clip some of the fine wire strands off larger wire until it fits. This won't affect anything.
4. USE A REMOTE TEMPERATURE SENSOR
It will send more voltage when batteries are cold so they still get 100% charged. It'll reduce the voltage when batteries are hot so they don't overcharge. (A temperature sensor on a controller that is located in a heated area
will not see the battery temperature, so it will not work.)
The Sunsaver controllers do a good job in cold weather with built in temperature compensation, and the ProStar and TriStar remote temperature sensors are a must. (adding the temp sensor to Prostar controllers requires soldering 2 wires)
5. INSTALL A TRIMETRIC METER & WHOLE SYSTEM MONITOR
Every 12 volt solar system should have a real battery monitor that includes percentage (%) of charge. Not just voltage. This is the only way to ever be confident that your system is really working.
Trimetric 2030-RV. 100% full charge is a beautiful thing to see.
6. CORRECT CHARGE CONTROLLER VOLTAGE SETTING IS USUALLY 14.8V FOR FLOODED BATTERIES *check with the battery manufacturer
you can get a TriStar controller it has a 14.8 volt set
point, or Bogart SC2030 can easily be set to any voltage at all. It is even smarter than a Tristar. It will charge better and faster than any other controller. The
smaller Morningstar controllers are 14.4 volts with built in temperature sensors, which will get the
batteries full, but it takes longer. The RV Battery Charging Puzzle
|Detailed Wiring Diagrams and Photos|
DISCLAIMER : Always make sure that all of your equipment is properly fused and grounded for safety. Also, be sure to read and follow the advice and instructions that come with your equipment. While our projects have actually been constructed and tested under actual operating conditions, we do not guarantee that they will meet all electrical codes in all locales. Nor do we suggest that our advice supercedes the recommendations of a licensed electrician. Hey, we're just trying to help!
"In-line fuses or circuit breakers are important to protect the wiring and components in your system from shorts and other catastrophic failures. Place one on the positive wire within a foot of your battery and another in between the combiner box and the charge controller. The size of the fuse or breaker depends upon the size of wire used in your system. Place no larger than a 30 amp fuse or circuit breaker for 10-AWG wire; no larger than a 48 amp fuse for 8-AWG; no larger than a 74 amp fuse for 6-AWG; and no larger than a 120 amp fuse for 4-AWG wire." -Mello Mike
Fuses for Inverters to battery: Always use the exact factory recommended size fuse stated in the installation instructions
More good info and pics:
From Kelly's RV Solar Blog - Great blog with lots of interesting info and good photos.
Diagrams From Jack Mayer w/ reading at RV Solar Electric
Typical Wiring Examples below
Typical Wiring Examples above
EASY DIY PLANS
System photos below from HANDYBOB
A SMALL CAMPING TRAILER
SMALL FULL TIME TRAILER
FULL TIME FIFTH WHEEL “GENERATOR” COMPARTMENT
OFF GRID SOLAR EMERGENCY POWER KIT $549