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How to Hook Up Solar Panels to RV Batteries in 5 Steps

Writen by Paul Lemaire

Fact checked by Philip Lopez

how to hook up solar panels to rv batteries

While traveling with your RV, there are various issues that you and your budget have to pay serious attention to, such as lack of water supply or overpriced energy sources. Therefore, finding an alternative solution for the energy used in camper vans is also an important thing to consider for reducing the expense of your RV.

Thanks to its affordability and clean resources, RV solar panel installation will provide an environmentally friendly energy option for your mobile home. Hence, it is advisable to have a power travel trailer with solar panels or hook up portable solar panels to RV batteries in case your motorhome isn’t equipped with an off-grid RV solar system.

Therefore, if you are looking for instructions on “How to hook up solar panels to RV batteries?”, this article is for you! In this post, we will provide a guide on ways to connect solar panels to battery chargers in your RV, as well as other methods to charge RV battery components effectively.

We will run through the guidelines to attach solar panels to your RV’s roof in the latter part of the post, but first, let’s get to know what to prepare for the installation!

Essential Tools to Hook Up Solar Power to RV Battery Generators

If separate tools are too expensive, we suggest finding kits specialized for installing a complete RV solar system with batteries! Otherwise, here is the list of what you need during the solar panel setup procedure:

  • 200-watt or 100-watt solar panels
  • Tray cable (10AWG)
  • Solar charge monitor
  • RV Batteries (100 amp-hour deep-cycle)
  • Solar panel adaptor kits (10AWG)
  • Mounting brackets and a screwdriver
  • Inverter (120v DC to AC appliances)
  • MC4 connectors

How to Set Up Solar Power for an RV? A Step-by-Step Tutorial

how-to-hook-up-solar-panels-to-rv-batteries

Note that there are many ways to have your electrical system hooked on solar batteries, but not all of them are efficient.

1. Problems when connecting solar panels to RV batteries

The easiest way to hook up solar panels to a motorhome’s batteries is to connect the battery’s positive terminal to the positive cable of the panels and the negative terminal of the batteries to the negative cable.

The connected charging connection will provide electricity to the solar battery system and activate your RV’s appliances. However, this installation measure may cause two serious problems: overcharging and discharging batteries.

Battery overcharging

The first issue happens when your solar panels supply too much power to your RV batteries. Due to the overheating of connecting wires, this incident can damage the whole electrical system and the appliances on motorhomes.

To avoid overcharging the battery, you should utilize a power controller that prevents solar electricity from entering the batteries once they are full.

Battery discharging

The second problem occurs when your RV batteries have been charged fully. The excessive energy may leak back into the solar panels, causing a gradual discharging of the batteries, even if the amount of leakage is negligible.

To prevent this issue from happening, we recommend using a blocking diode. The device works as a one-way valve, limiting current from seeping back into the solar panels.

2. How to connect solar panels to RV batteries?

As you can see in the previous part, the direct connection of RV batteries to solar panels poses too many issues and risks for the motorhome’s electrical system.

Hence, we will provide a more efficient yet affordable approach for RVers. Follow all the steps below and begin to connect your solar panels for RV battery charging.

Step 1: Mounting your solar panels

hooked-on-solar-batteries

  • First, install your solar panels on the RV roof using the mounting brackets. It is necessary to install the panels so that they are directly exposed to sunlight to generate maximum energy.
  • Attach a platform on the RV roof, such as aluminum rails, to support the panels and help them withstand strong winds or extreme weather.
  • Proceed to parallel wiring by connecting the negative terminal of RV batteries to the negative wire of the panels and the battery’s positive terminal to the panels’ positive lead.

Step 2: Connect the charge controller to the battery kits

setup-solar-power-for-rv

  • Slide cables from the positive and negative ports of the RV batteries into the input terminals on the charge regulator designated for battery kits.
  • Then, use a screwdriver to secure the screws to guarantee that the wires are properly fastened.
  • Notice: Inspect the positive and negative wires properly to ensure they are attached to the correct ports. An incorrect connection can seriously damage your charge controller or battery.

Step 3: Attach the charge regulator to the RV’s solar panels

  • In this step, you need to utilize MC4 connectors. First, attach an MC4 female connector from the solar panels to the charge controller’s MC4 male connector. Repeat the same action with the solar panel’s MC4 male connector and that of the charge regulator.
  • Then, measure the connecting cables’ length manually in case the MC4 connector’s wires are too short. You should remember that the regulator must be kept close to the batteries.
  • Move the charge regulator and the batteries closer to the panel’s MC4 connectors.
  • Since you have finished linking the input wires of solar panels and the charge controller using MC4 connectors, it’s time for you to secure the female and male connectors.
  • Snap them into place; once you hear the sound of “click”, you can be sure that the two connectors are appropriately matched up.

Step 4: Assess all the connections

Once you have completed all the connections with the charge controller, solar panels, and batteries, double-checking each of the linking points is crucial. This will help you discover any loose joints and fix them immediately.

  • Most charge regulators have digital screens that display the amount of electricity flowing into the battery. Inspect the screen reading to ensure that everything is properly wired.
  • Then, keep the RV battery attached until it is completely charged to assess how long the panels take to charge the battery.

Step 5: Install an inverter to the batteries

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After the above steps, your RV solar panels are ready to generate electricity and power motorhome appliances. To use AC-powered RV housewares, you’ll have to hook up an inverter to let it translate the DC power into 110V AC power.

First, connect the lugs of the solar inverter and battery to the RV battery banks, as well as any other AC appliances on the motorhome. Then, run these appliances to check if the inverter fits the RV solar system. Once you finish, your RV solar panels are set up and in perfect condition!

Is It Necessary to Install RV Solar Panels?

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Even after you have insight into the installation of RV solar panels, many RV owners may doubt that these devices are not worth the price or that having one is unnecessary. In our opinion, RV solar panels are beneficial, especially for those who intend to take long journeys away from cities.

If you plan to stay in a remote area, your only choice is to have a power generator.

However, because of the uncertainty of fuel costs, you may find yourself reorganizing your expenditure when there is an unusual increase in gas prices. Hence, utilizing solar panels will help you deal with those issues.

Noise removal is another advantage of RV solar panels. One of the main reasons families purchase RVs is to have vacations in quiet locations. However, having a generator rumbling at the back can disrupt your arrangements for a peaceful holiday.

On the other hand, an RV solar system generates electricity quietly and gradually. You won’t have to worry about loud noises, which could ruin your mood while traveling.

Conclusion

How to hook up solar panels to RV batteries? After reading this article, we believe that you’ve already gained knowledge about hooking up RV solar panels. Keep in mind that using an RV solar system will not only save you money but also reduce the amount of exhaust smoke released into the environment.

We hope that this post was helpful! Did you enjoy the article? Do you want to add anything else? Please let us know and leave a comment below.

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