Well, Let’s get down to business straight away. rv solar panel installation by yourself is not a dream but a reality with just a few simple steps. Do not buy a ready-made package, but buy the individual parts together on the Internet according to your wishes. It would help if you had a few basics for this, but it’s not rocket science and can be mastered by any halfway experienced hobbyist quickly.
Using a solar system is the easiest way to become self-sufficient with a mobile home.
A few years ago, this was still a real purchase for life, costing a few thousand euros, but due to the massive drop in prices, you can now stick a good solar panels system on the roof of a mobile home for little money.
In the beginning, there is, of course, the question: Which solar module, wattage, and solar controller should I buy?
After studying the hundreds of web pages, I realized that many self-proclaimed gurus are out there spreading half-knowledge or even uncertainty. So strong that quite a few campers fear not buying the “right” system and then either installing the good German provider or no system. I find the statement funny that you shouldn’t buy “Chinese stuff”. Let’s be honest: 90% of our technical stuff now comes from Asia. And the remaining 10% probably also contains cheap Asian production. And that’s not bad, as our televisions, mobile phones and cars should prove to everyone by now. So why should solar panels or charge controllers from Asia be bad? And how many solar suppliers in Germany buy their stuff in Asia and stick their stickers on the back?
When I look at camping shops, I often find products that can be had 1:1 on eBay and Amazon for a fraction of the sum.
Accordingly, I decided to buy portable solar panels for RV from eBay and had fun bidding over and over again over the winter, but never for more than 60 euros. And actually, I made three bargains well below that. You need time! Amazon is faster and not much more expensive.
The situation with the solar charge controller was similar. These are available from different manufacturers (always look the same!). Since I also needed one for my father-in-law, I bought two “different” ones from different suppliers, which ended up identical. Something like that.
So don’t worry too much. If something should break, you have a warranty and guarantee, and, at these prices, you can buy a new device in a few years if in doubt. Too often in the past have I bought expensive equipment. True to the motto: if you buy cheap, you buy twice. Funnily enough, the expensive devices broke just as often and quickly (shortly after the guarantee expired)
But back to our Solar System:
I bought 100-watt panels: 100-watt polycrystalline solar cells. For a long time, I pondered whether monocrystalline, rigid or flexible power density would be better. Until an acquaintance who worked in the industry said to me: “If you have the space, take the cheap ones, the loss of performance is tolerable, if it is noticeable at all. The weight difference is also negligible with two pieces.” (Meanwhile there are even more watts for the same size)
I Stuck to that
I can’t get more than two panels on the Euramobil 580 because there’s supposed to be a kayak on the roof and the satellite system is also around. As of 2013, 100 watts were possible with 100×60 cm. Hopefully, there will be more in a few years. With 200 watts, we can easily get by without shore power from April to October.
As a charge controller, I chose a 30A PWM controller with an LCD. Unnecessary, but as a child, it’s nice to see when you can see how much electricity the system is pumping into the batteries. 30A LCD charge controller. 30A because I want to have a little air up. It could be that later I would like to attach another flexible module to the nook or a solar case.
With that, I thought the preparations were complete. After all, it was deep winter, and the sun wasn’t shining yet. On the first warmer days in January, the panels were unpacked for the first time, and the charge controller was connected. First finding: I still need the special solar plugs. Of course, you can also do without it and connect the cables, but if something like this already exists, it will be used.
Also, eBay is my Friend, and for Little Money, I Got a Set of Plugs and a Y-solar Double Connector
In addition, 10 meters of 2.5^2 cable. Often one reads about 4mm or even 6mm. I have also read about 10mm cables. I don’t know what currents some people imagine. It’s been a long time since my physics class, but I can still use a pocket calculator and the question I asked the electrician confirmed: 2.5mm is completely sufficient (I write mm here because I can’t find ^2 square – i.e. cross-section on the keyboard)
I got the solar cable cheaply from Fraron: Solar cable Xtreme 2 x 2.5mm² (one cable with two wires). Important is the H07RN-F rubber hose for high loads.
The cable on the roof mustn’t become brittle in the sunlight.
In addition, a roof duct and some tubes of Sikaflex 221i and ferrules for the cable.
The attachments for the solar panels gave me a headache. Various providers offer “spoilers” for a lot of money. Made of plastic (in Asia?). The panel will fly off the roof if they become brittle over time. So I quickly bought 4cmx4cm aluminium brackets and used them as a bracket.
And that Should Work?
It’s finally warm enough outside for the roof work to begin. It should not be below 15 degrees so the glue can be set properly. First, I had to move our satellite antenna to get the panels onto the roof in the best possible way. The satellite antenna is glued on with Sikaflex, so I needed a tip from the Internet to get the idea of simply sawing off the mounting plate with a saw wire. I Bought saw wire for 4 euros from Amazon, cut two wooden handles (old broom style), attached the wire to the handles with lustre terminals and carefully tackled the Sikaflex.
It was Surprisingly Easy and Without Damaging the Roof!
Now, all new parts can be positioned on the roof for the first time. I noticed that the antenna collided with a roof hood at the planned location. So we had to reschedule at short notice. When the roof hood is up AND the satellite antenna is looking for the satellite, and the dish is turning, the two came dangerously close – so test beforehand!
First, I drilled a hole for the cable to pass through the roof. With the Euramobil 580, a cable duct behind the control panel (water/electricity, etc.) in the mobile home runs just under the GRP roof. The roof there is only a few millimetres thick. This makes it more suitable to lead the solar cable through here and even to later protect the area with the cover.
The cable duct protrudes a few millimetres above the roof and is well sealed with Sika. If water penetrates the cover, it cannot drain off immediately.
The roof must be clean so that the adhesive will hold later. So clean first. I then cleaned the later glued areas with benzine or isopropyl alcohol to get the surfaces free of grease (including the aluminium brackets!)
Now you can think and test a few more times and mark where the panels should go. Once you start glueing, everything has to go smoothly, and you shouldn’t want to correct anything anymore because Sikaflex is a devil of glue! It doesn’t come off anymore. So it’s better to practice three more times before glueing.
The nice thing about hobby handicrafts should be that you have TIME. I never allowed myself to do that before and made many mistakes. One becomes wiser; therefore, I let the solar panels stick in peace and rest for at least one night.
Attention: The moment the cables are connected to the solar panel and they produce electricity, the cables are live!
Therefore cover the solar panels. I placed cardboard boxes on top of the panels and taped them in place. So no more current can flow.
Of course, you can also lay the cables first and then connect the cables at the end. But even then, you should remember that the panels produce a good amount of electricity in bright sunshine and are therefore not without danger!
The wiring is surprisingly simple: two cables are routed from the battery and connected to the controller.
And the solar panel accordingly to the provided connections.
Since the solar system only acts as an additional charger, no other technology is required. Only one 20A fuse still belongs in the plus line to the RV battery.
The solar system is now connected, and the solar charge controller shows no voltage!
Panic spreads until my daughter gets the idea to take the boxes from the solar panels. Of course, that can’t work.
Now the controller shows 13.7 V. Unfortunately, and the display shows 0A – so no current, strength, or flow.
Guesswork. Are the Panels Broken? The Charge Controller?
Fortunately, we made this mistake during the test setup a few weeks ago: The battery is fully charged, and the charge controller does not pass on any current to protect the battery. So sat the antenna on, all lamps switched on, the inverter and the hair dryer on and after a few minutes, the battery lost a lot of juice.
And lo and behold: Despite the cloudy sky, the system brings 6A. After a few days, I checked the system again, and we produced 53AH of electricity in moderate weather.