Welcome to our Information and Learning Guide! If you're new to 12v solar, don't worry. It's not magic. Basic systems are pretty simple.

  DETAILED instructions with EVERYTHING you need to know to

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Install an RV or Off-Grid 12 Volt Solar System that WORKS!

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.

HANDYBOB - Making off grid RV electrical systems work

I 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 budget minded RV owner who needs basic education about battery supplied electrical power."

It takes hours to read, he's long winded, and rants on the state of the RV manufacturing and RV Solar industries 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!)

JACK MAYER RV SOLAR ELECTRICAL

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

We've distilled down and summarized the most important points below

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1. NO SHADE

Just shading on one small square on a panel drastically reduces the output of the ENTIRE panel

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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. learn more

                                                                                   TM-2030-RV
        

         Trimetric 2030-RV
                                                                 

6. CORRECT CHARGE CONTROLLER VOLTAGE SETTING IS USUALLY 14.8V FOR FLOODED BATTERIES

*check with the battery manufacturer

If 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

BHA RV Solar kits save you money. Top quality parts that maximize charging and life of your batteries

 

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HOW TO INSTALL PORTABLE PANELS

Assembly is easy:

1. Put the Panels in the sun, facing south.

2. Connect two short 10 ga wires (not included) from controller to deep cycle battery  + / - posts

 *Important: Controller should ALWAYS be as near the battery as possible. 1-2 feet

 *Controller can remain permanently connected to battery when panels aren't in use. To operate just connect the 2 x 15' wires from panels to the controller with a screwdriver, or add a quick-disconnect plug like an anderson connector.

  If using cable bigger than 10g, just trim a few strands on wire at the end to fit the MS 10a controller set screws

 

Controller Installation instructions / Owners manual

(controller has settings for flooded or sealed batteries)

3. Attach Inverter to battery

Inverter Installation instructions / Owners manual

 

BATTERY INFO from solarseller.com

Contents

Battery System Sizing SIZING YOUR BATTERY SYSTEM

Deep Cycle Battery DEEP CYCLE BATTERY

Electrolyte  ELECTROLYTE

VRLA (valve regulated lead acid) Battery  VRLA BATTERY

Gel Cell Battery  GEL CELL BATTERY

AGM (absorbed glass mat) Battery  AGM Battery

Flooded Type Deep Cycle Battery  FLOODED TYPE BATTERY

Self-Discharge Rate  SELF-DISCHARGE RATE

Charge Rate  CHARGE RATE

Electrolyte Level  ELECTROLYTE LEVEL

Equalization Charging  EQUALIZATION CHARGING

State of Charge  STATE OF CHARGE

Battery Life BATTERY LIFE

Battery Location  BATTERY LOCATION

Used Batteries  USED BATTERIES

Battery Safety Battery Safety

 

SOLAR BATTERY WIRING DIAGRAMS HERE

How to wire 6v and 12v batteries together in series and / or parallel

 

WIRING SECTION Jack Mayer

Includes:

  • Rooftop and Solar Controller Wiring
  • Solar Array Wiring Considerations
  • MC Connectors
  • Battery to Inverter Wiring
  • Interfacing to Your Loadcenter
  • AC Wire Types
  • Grounding
  • Neutral Bonding 
  • Installing a Sub Panel
  • Powering the Entire Loadcenter
  • "Splitting" a 50-amphere Loadcenter
  • Monitoring and Control
  • Recommendations

 

Baby_Box

 

 

Wiring of these fuse / breaker devices is covered in detail in this article

 

 SOLAR CONTROLLER DISCONNECTS

 

 

 

 

Fuses/Circuit Breakers:

"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

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-Jack Mayer

 

More good info and pics:

From Kelly's RV Solar Blog - Great blog with lots of interesting info and good photos.

 

Excellent complete wiring diagrams of 2 systems

 

Diagrams From Jack Mayer w/ reading at  RV Solar Electric  

Integrating a system with inverter & subpanel

System powering main load center w/ inverter

All charging sources integrated

 

Typical Wiring Examples below

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How to install Spider Wire to parallel panels video

yago116-5 

yago100-f2 yago100-f3

yago73-6

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                                                        Typical Wiring Examples above

 

EASY DIY PLANS 

Build your own combiner box with parts from home depot

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Build A Mini Junction Box

minibox_items    minibox_wiring    

 

System photos below from HANDYBOB

A SMALL CAMPING TRAILER

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SMALL FULL TIME TRAILER
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FULL TIME FIFTH WHEEL “GENERATOR” COMPARTMENT
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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!