This article will discuss everything you need to know about DIY solar panels, in 6 easy step-by-step guides.
It is fairly nice to be able to travel from one place to another; seeing beautiful sights and smelling the fresh air that nature provides.
While we enjoy experiencing adventures as we explore new environments.
It is also important for us to make sure that we have a place to stay as we go around satisfying our curiosities, and that it has all the comforts of a real home.
For this reason, many have purchased or built recreational vehicles or RVs as their temporary accommodation while on travel; for some, though, the RV serves as their permanent dwelling.
An RV will require electricity if it is to provide you with the conveniences of a proper home, and according to Go Downsize, however, the electricity consumed by RVs is more or less 20kwh.
As it is, you will want a reliable external power source to satisfy your electricity needs.
In this note, many stationary homes have resorted to using solar panels as their alternative means of generating electricity.
This has become a trend in the last couple of decades, especially since many families have taken the financial risk to install it in their homes.
Solar panels are devices that transform the light from the sun into electricity.
However, there are some differences when it comes to installing the panels to conventional homes and RVs.
Given this consideration, it is important that you have an understanding of how to install solar panels specifically for your trailer home.
Table of Contents
- 1. Solar Panels
- 2. Solar Batteries
- 3. Solar Charge Controller
- 4. Power Inverter
- 5. Racks and Mounting Hardware
- 6. Wiring
- 1. Make a Plan
- 2. Mount the Panels to Your RV
- 3. Run the Wires
- 4. Install the Charge Controller
- 5. Connect the Inverter
- 6. Connect the Inverter to Your Electrical System
Things to Consider Before DIY Solar
There are several considerations that we have to think about before you go about assembling your solar panels.
For RVers, below are the most important things that have to be kept in mind.
- You have to read the instructions twice, and one reading is not enough. Not only does this help you thoroughly understand what you need to do to set up your solar panel assembly without a hitch but it can also improve your basic reading comprehension skills. Furthermore, it will help you plan the time frame of your project and you will have an insight into the difficulty of the steps.
- You should know your capability. There is nothing wrong with being confident, but it is a basic rule that in making a DIY project — one must be equipped with the basic skills and knowledge needed for the task. If you are new to this, some reading and research will certainly help.
- If you had some bumps while doing your projects, always remember not to give up. Most projects were not perfected right away. Do not be too hard on yourself. Just understand where you went wrong with the installation, and start from there. You should also remember to take it slowly and never to rush, especially since mistakes in this project can cost some money. In any case, do note that great projects are done one step at a time.
- Regardless of the number of times that you have read the instructions, be sure that you have understood it. This means that you need to make sure that you follow it through down to the last detail and without cutting any corners. There is a reason why that specific component is pointed out in the instructions. If you don’t want a smoking mess of a mini solar power plant, you should stick to the required parts unless specified that you can replace it with an alternative.
- It is also best to read reviews from others to get different perspectives and, maybe, you can get other helpful tips while building your DIY solar generator. Suffice to say, this can help you through the whole process.
Video Tutorial: DIY Solar Panel Installation Guide
6 DIY Solar Panel Kits You Need:
The following are the equipment that you ought to have when installing your own solar panel:
1. Solar Panels
A photovoltaic (PV) solar panel module is a kind of device particularly created to collect the photons from the light of the sun and make use of their energy to produce heat or electricity.
There are different panels based on their wattage and the materials used to build them.
There are 3 main types of solar panels namely monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film (flexible panels), and each one comes with its own respective pros and cons.
But the best solar panel for your recreational vehicle that I can recommend is thin film flexible solar panel.
It is super lightweight, so it’s easy to install.
2. Solar Batteries
A good solar panel kit should come with a solar battery that best fits the whole set up and your electricity demand.
There are various kinds of solar batteries available to suit your needs.
This will make energy available in the event that sunlight is lacking.
Commonly, solar batteries needed an input of 14 to 14.5 volts to become fully charged.
3. Solar Charge Controller
The main role of solar charge controller is to regulate the voltage and prevent batteries from overcharging.
They control the voltage that the solar panels forwarded to the battery and prevent them from being damaged while on the process.
4. Power Inverters
The solar inverter plays the most vital role in any solar panel system because it is responsible for the conversion of the variable direct current (DC) output of the PV panel into alternating current (AC), that can be transmitted into the RV’s electrical network.
In other words, it is the brain of solar power installation. It also allows the monitoring of system performance and gives all-inclusive details that will help you recognize any possible problems.
The end result will be greater efficiency and stability of the mobile home’s circuitry.
5. Racks and Mounting Hardware
Panel rack or mounting bracket equipment will make your panels stable in its position and at the same tightening the solar units.
This will practically help you protect your investment as it safeguards the structure from external hazards and keeps it stable even as you take your recreational vehicle for a drive.
Last but definitely the least, DIY solar panel installation, in general, requires correct wiring to create an electrical network into which you can plug in your appliances, lighting, and other devices.
6 Step-by-Step Installation Guide for Flexible Solar Panel
Now that you have everything you need for a sound RV solar panel installation set up, let us proceed to the fun part: installation.
Here are six basic steps for you to follow:
1. Make a Plan
In this step, you will be doing some brainstorming on how you can set up the solar panel system and make it work with your RV.
For that matter, you will need to map out the roof and make a sensible layout for your panels.
Make sure the panels don’t extend beyond the roof and that you have a safe path to walk on while installing the panels and all its fittings.
You will also need to figure out how to get the wires from the roof to the interior of your RV, and where you should put the important components.
2. Mount the Panels to Your RV
With a roof layout in hand, you can now get up your RV and install the panels.
The first thing that you should do is to remove or relocate any obstructions.
After this, set up the rack if you are using rigid solar panels.
This serves as the frame for your panels, so some precision is needed when setting it up.
In the case of flexible solar panels, though, you will only need a drill and some screws to mount them on your RV.
As always, be sure to check on the installation manual to make sure that everything is done right.
3. Run the Wires
In this step, you will basically add a wire that will connect your panels to the charge controller.
You will need to get your wire down from the roof to the insides of your vehicle, and there are three easy ways to get this done.
You can either pass it through the refrigeration vent, run it alongside your plumbing, or simply drilling a new hole in your RV’s roof or walls.
4. Install the Charge Controller
You will need to mount the charge controller in a spot closest to the batteries as this will reduce power loss.
Soon, after mounting solar panels on RV, connect the wire in Step 3 to the device.
Using a multi meter, test the wire for polarity and make the appropriate markings.
After this, connect the solar panels to your batteries as per the installation manual.
5. Connect the Inverter
Mount your inverter in a place near the batteries but away from where it emits battery gas that causes corrosion, heat and other elements that can damage it.
Once mounted, connect the positive and negative wires to your inverter.
6. Connect the Inverter to Your Electrical System
This is done by connecting the device to the house battery posts.
Note that in this step, you should connect the negative side of the inverter to the battery first and that you should use a wiring gauge when you make connections.
What are the Pros and Cons of Do-it-Yourself Solar Panel?
A do it yourself solar panel set up have plenty of advantages, and these two should convince you to invest in this tech:
1. They work great for off-grid installations. Most solar panel kits are built with off-grid use in mind, which makes them particularly useful for small off-grid installations and vehicles like boats and RVs.
2. Solar panel costs are steadily dropping. As the world is getting used to solar energy, the manufacturing of solar panels and its related components are increasingly going streamlined, resulting in lower manufacturing costs and inexpensive market prices.
Meanwhile, investing in small scale solar power generation has the following downsides:
1.There are so few options when it comes to purchasing solar panels. Not many stores sell solar panel kits and, often, they do not exactly offer you the same quality as those provided by professional installers who buy directly from distributors.
2. Installation can be quite complicated. If you have been reading the installation steps above, you’ll know that installing a solar panel system is no walk in the park.
3. Installation is potentially dangerous. As you will be dealing with electrical components, you are at risk of harm from electric shock if things aren’t done right. Also, you will have to climb up the roof of your RV to install the panels, so there is always the risk of injury or death from falling.
4. You will need to do a lot of research if you are not to rely on professional help. In particular, you will have to be thoroughly familiar with installing electrical systems and be proficient with the use of relevant instruments such as multimeters.
A small scale solar power generation system is a great way to breathe life to your RV.
While it is always recommended to get professional help when installing one to your mobile home, it is something that you can always go DIY solar panels on.
Bear in mind, though, that this is no easy work and that you will have to consider everything from the costs, your ability to get the task done, and the pros and cons before proceeding.