J. Dawg Journeys

My Low Cost RV Solar Install

RV Solar SetupI just got back from 8 days of dry camping and got lots of comments and questions from people about my RV solar setup.  I installed the system last year and wrote a blog post about my DIY Solar Install.  It was something that I researched, designed, and installed myself.  I added a second 100W flexible panel this spring and have used the full setup a few times this summer. Thought I’d do an update on how it’s all working.

As a “sometime” RVer, most of my overnight RV stays happen at establish campgrounds.  I’ll boondock at trucks stops and camp Wal-Mart when on the road for quick overnight stays.  And, I do a little bit of stay put dry camping in the summer – usually at music festivals or beach/lake-side camping.  So, my needs for off-the grid power tend to happen infrequently.  This is one of the reasons I decided to go with a portable solar setup. Something I could use when I wanted and needed.  I wanted it to be low-cost.  I also wanted to have something I could take with me when I trade RV’s.  So my install is pretty simple, small, and inexpensive.

My electrical needs are also small.  My 25 ft Winnebago View is pretty efficient with all LED lights and DC radios and TV’s.  My basic needs for power are for lights, monitors, and the water pump. (my frig runs on propane, AC, and DC). The biggest draw I tend to have is for charging battery operated electronic gadgets (phones, laptop, camera’s).  I have a 1000W inverter (that powers half the coach outlets) which I use mostly for charging this stuff.  I have two 12V group 24 wet cell batteries in my RV (they came with the RV) which gives me about 170 amp hrs of electricity.  Not the best but they work for me.

Here’s a vlog I did on my solar set up.

I’m very pleased with the setup.  With the two 100W panels, there’s no need to run the generator to charge my batteries.  I camped for a week at a festival this summer and didn’t use the generator at all.  Just two weeks ago, I dry camped for 8 days and only ran the generator 2-3 times for short bursts when I needed to use the microwave (luckily I didn’t need to use the A/C). The solar panels kept my batteries fully charged each day.  I did all my electronic charging during the day, watched a little TV, and listened to my satellite radio every morning.

DSC01830bThe portable setup is pretty quick to put in place.  It takes about 5-7 mins to hook everything up.  The downside is that I have to unhook it all and put it away if I move the rig.  With the portable set up, I get pretty good efficiency being able to move and tilt the panels towards the sun.  They even work good on cloudy days putting out 2-3 amps.

The two panels can fit in my storage compartment under the right rear bed.  The rigid panel is a tight fit and I only carry it when I know I’m going to do some stay put dry camping.  I really like the flexible panel for weight and ease of storage.  It only weighs 3 lbs vs 14 lbs for the rigid glass panel.  I carry it with me on all trips just in case I stay as a stop that doesn’t have electricity or allow generators.  Unfortunately, Renogy has temporarily stopped selling the flexible panels due to some reported problems with the panels.  You can read about one persons experience here Winnie Views RV Updates.  I’ve had no problems with my panel so far.

As I said above, I like my setup and it works just fine for me.  Total cost was about $600.  Considerably less than having a professional company do a permanent install on my roof.  The list of materials and suppliers is listed in my prior post (DIY Solar Install).  So far, I’ve been pleased with the Renogy panels.

The portable install was easy for me to do because I’m familiar with wiring and working with electricity.  When I have it setup (i.e., on display) I get lots of comments and curious people stop by asking me how it all works.  Hopefully this write-up and vlog will help some others.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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4 thoughts on “My Low Cost RV Solar Install

  1. David

    Where did you buy all your supplies and parts to get the 200w for $600?
    I am a DIYer with every thing and looking for suppliers I want to install 200w to 300w system on top of my rig.


    1. J. Dawg Post author

      Thanks for your comment. I bought the initial 100W panel, PWM controller, and extra cable direct from the Renogy web site. You can get all of this Renogy equipment also on Amazon. I bought the Anderson PowerPole connectors and crimping tool from Powerwerx.com. I bought the second 100W Renogy flexible panel and connectors for to panels on Amazon. I got the splitloop cable sheathing on Amazon. Hope that helps.
      J. Dawg

  2. Mike

    I think that the wooden easel is exactly what I’m looking for. I’ve got a 95W panel for my camper. I get the general idea from the photos but I’d really like to see some plans for something. Do you have that ? I’d buy them from you or….. just sell me one, LOL. Thanks !

    1. J. Dawg Post author

      Thanks fro reading. I didn’t draw any plans for the easels. The picture in the post is about all I can give you.
      J. Dawg