Putting Solar Panels on RV

Sometime before COVID came in, we decided to remodel our home, and in the process ended up upgrading our solar panels. This left me with a pile of 230W Sunpower solar panels with no proper home. I gave a few to my Dad for his RV, kept a pair of them for myself and sold the rest on Facebook. My plan was to mount them on top my Jayco Featherlite camper, to provide a little extra power while camping (play the tunes, keep the lights on) and to keep my battery healthy while it is in storage. Solar power systems are actually pretty easy to self install, if you feel confident with a drill, screw driver, and working carefully around some relatively high DC voltages.

Equipment

Solar Panels — 2x 230W / 45V — $150

Solar Charge Controller — Victron 100/30 — $260

Cabling / Mounting System

Installation

Mount Rails

Rails bolted in place
Bolts peeking through

Best way to secure your panels depends on your roof type, and for mine (rotted plywood), this seemed like the best way to secure them. If you can find studs, or drill into aluminum framing that may be even better.

I also angled the rails so they were lower in front and higher in back to create a bit of an “airfoil” to hopefully keep them together.

Run Cable

A couple pieces of stained veneer and it would be a totally invisible install

Hook up solar controller

Non-Smoked version

You should also get as smart battery sense for each of your batteries (I just have one, but may end up buying more) this bluetooth networks to your victron controller to provide charge and temperature information and will greatly increase the life of your batteries.

Blue thing thermal taped to battery

With this all hooked up, you can plug in your solar panels, and configure your victron (from iOS App), add your smart sense to a virtual network with your controller and you are generating power! (Screenshot came from after sun was mostly down, but was producing 350W when sun was higher)

Victron Smart Solar App

Final Mount Down

Front view, might get a piece of sticky vinyl to put over front to “foil” the wind more
Top down, notice flex tape to hopefully make the wiring last a little longer in the sun
My underpanels are showing!

For the brackets, I spaced them so there would be 2 rails on which both panels would sit, and 3 brackets per rail. I drilled a 1/2" hole for each bracket all the way through my roof, and then put a 1/2" bolt through the roof capping it with a washer and nut on the inside of the camper. This is a little ugly, but my roof seems to be on the thinner side and I wanted something really sturdy.

Kevin Lohman, Software Engineer, Father, Story Teller, and former US Navy Sailor (who never set foot on a ship)

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