Super Simple Solar Power Installation for RV and Motorhome
Updated: Sep 4, 2021
About a year or so ago, I was in one of your big kind of homeware kind of hardware shops and there was a 100W solar panel on sale! It was pretty cheap, so I snapped it up!! I’ve always thought solar power was this mythical kind of thing, unreliable and not to be trusted… I’m not sure why, but it was intimidating. It’s kind of like when mobile phones first started connecting to wifi, so you
didn’t have to use data anymore to connect to the internet. I was very suspicious of this indeed! I had already been burned by huge data roaming bills and I was certain this was some sort of ploy to gouge money out of my pockets! Turns out it was legit!!!
So I started watching solar power videos and wound up running down a rabbit hole of awe, wonderment, and utter confusion! Every video I watched, explained to me how my cute little panel was useless without doing complex mathematical equations to figure out my requirements!! Then throw in amps and volts, and amp hours, and a myriad of other complicated things. I’d need to get breakers and which batteries was I going to buy? Lithium? All the cool kids are getting lithium after all! Then I’d need an inverter to make it all work because AC DC etc… I have no idea how Thunderstruck applies to this, but that’s also how I felt. (I’m a Dad, I’m qualified to make Dad jokes!)
Ok so the thing that confused me was:
- I already had batteries.
- I already had an inverter.
Why did I need to set up another system to charge my batteries? Well, not being that nifty in the brains department it took me a painfully long time to realise that I didn’t need all those things. I could basically hook up my solar panel to my batteries with a charge controller (that came with the solar panel) and my batteries would charge. Genius!
Now I need to explain that I am seldom not plugged into shore power. But on the rare occasion, having a way to minimise the use of the generator and just top up my batteries with the solar panel would be invaluable. Last summer I spent a few months off grid. What this meant was that I’d have to run my generator for a few hours a day to keep my fridge running and have some lights and charge my phone etc. One thing I didn’t realise is that I needed my house batteries to start my generator! Yes you run your generator to power your battery, so you can start the generator. Seems bizarre. If you run your battery down, you can’t start your gennie to power your battery. I found this out the hard way, in the middle of nowhere in very remote Northern British Columbia. Keeping your battery topped up is crucial!
So my incredibly simple solar power installation was done in a few hours and had 2 major steps.
1. Mounting the solar panel on my roof.
2. Drilling a hole through the roof and feeding the cables into the motorhome cabin to connect to my charge controller. I decided to do this just by my entry stairs in an upper cabinet. I chose this location as my battery bank is located just under my stairs.
Now as I mentioned, I don’t go off grid or boondocking very often, so my ridiculously easy solution to connect to my batteries is thus! Whenever I need to charge my batteries with solar power, I unscrew the battery compartment, and drop-down alligator clips connected to the charge controller and hook them up to the battery and close the compartment. THAT IS IT!
In time I might decide I need to upgrade to a more robust system, or add another panel, but for now this will work for me! I still haven’t really had a need to test it out fully but so far it is working wonderfully. Here is a video I made detailing the installation process! Have a watch!