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How to Install Solar Panels on an RV – 10 Easy Steps

RV Charging Solar Panel

There’s nothing worse than heading out on a road trip in your RV and not having any power. While you can use a generator, they’re expensive to run. Solar panels provide a renewable energy source you can rely on during your next trip.

But if you’re getting ready to install solar panels on your RV, there are plenty of areas where you can make mistakes. This guide will walk you through ten tips you should consider following to make the installation process as easy as possible.

car and road divider

The 10 Steps to Install Solar Panels on an RV

1. Figure Out How Much Energy You Need First

portable solar panel behind an RV
Image Credit: Voyagerix, Shutterstock
Importance High
Cost Low
Difficulty Moderate

After you take the time to install the solar panels on your RV, you don’t want to find that you don’t have enough power for your next trim. And conversely, you don’t want to overpay for far more power than you need.

Take the time to figure out how much power your RV needs before purchasing any of the supplies and ensure you’re getting what you need.


2. Get the Right Stuff

close up of solar panels
Image Credit: GaelleLaborie, Pixabay
Importance High
Cost Moderate
Difficulty Moderate

Once you figure out how much power you need, figure out what components you need to obtain that number. Then do your research and figure out all of the various solar panel components you need to make it happen.

Don’t just rely on a kit that says it has everything. Do your homework and figure out if it does. Sometimes a kit has everything it needs, and sometimes, you need to pick up a few extra things to make it work.


3. Consider a Kit

Solar Panel Kit
Image Credit: DarwinDSBFromNewYork, Shutterstock
Importance Moderate
Cost Moderate
Difficulty Easy

While you can’t rely on a kit to have everything you need, usually a kit will have most of what you need. That makes it a lot easier to get everything, and often they’ll have installation instructions to help you out.

Even better since kits bundle various components together, it’s more affordable than buying everything separately. You won’t be able to pick out each component, but everything in the kit should work together.


4. Double Check the Mounting Brackets

Solar PV Rooftop Grounding Clamp Close up View
Image Credit: Wichien Tepsuttinun, Shutterstock
Importance High
Cost Low
Difficulty Easy

You can never play it too safe with the mounting brackets. Ensure they’re in good shape when you get them, and after you install them, ensure they’re securely mounted to your RV.

If the mounting bracket fails, you’re going to destroy the solar panels. A few extra minutes to ensure everything is in good working order and securely installed can save you thousands of dollars in damages.


5. Use Pilot Holes

RV Pilot Holes
Image Credit: Voyagerix, Shutterstock
Importance Moderate
Cost Low
Difficulty Easy

When you’re drilling holes for the mounting brackets do yourself a favor and start with a pilot hole. Pilot holes make it easier to get the larger hardware installed in the exact right spot, which is a big deal for such a large project. It’ll take a bit longer to drill multiple holes, but it’s well worth the extra effort.


6. Measure Twice

tape measure
Image Credit: Jumpstory
Importance High
Cost Low
Difficulty Easy

Before drilling holes, applying adhesives, or installing any hardware, do yourself a favor and measure everything out and then measure it again. Once you’re trying to install the panels or the heavier equipment, you don’t want to realize everything isn’t lining up the way it should.

Moreover, you don’t want to waste equipment or drill holes in the wrong places. Take an extra measurement to ensure everything is going to fit perfectly into place when the time comes.


7. Use Screws & Adhesives

machine screw
Image Credit: Piqsels
Importance Moderate
Cost Moderate
Difficulty Easy

Many mounting kits will recommend using screws or adhesives for the solar panels and mounting brackets. Why not use both? This doubles the connection, making it far less likely that anything will slide out of place in the future.

But keep in mind that if the mounting hardware or panels don’t have a place for screws you need to be extremely careful about where you put them. It’s easy to end up damaging something if you’re not careful.


8. Don’t Forget to Seal It

RV Ladder
Image Credit: Voyagerix, Shutterstock
Importance High
Cost Low
Difficulty Easy

This is a pretty easy step, but once you have the solar panels on the roof, it’s easy to forget about. But while it’s easy to forget about, if you don’t do it, it’s only a matter of time until you’re climbing back on the roof to fix things.

Sealing around the solar panels will help protect all the different components from the elements allowing you to enjoy solar power month after month and year after year without any issues.


9. Double Check the Wiring

RV Installing Solar Panel Wiring
Image Credit: Voyagerix, Shutterstock
Importance High
Cost Low
Difficulty Moderate

One of the easiest things to screw up if you don’t know what you’re doing is the wiring on the solar panels. If you cross the wires or put any of them in the wrong spot, you can quickly end up shorting out different components and causing a lot of damage.

The good news is that the various components should come with instructions on how to wire them up but double-check that you’re doing it all correctly when you’re installing them.


10. Consider Hiring a Professional

Professional Installing Solar Panel in RV
Image Credit: Virrage Images, Shutterstock
Importance Low
Cost High
Difficulty Easy

There’s a lot that goes into installing solar panels on an RV, and there’s nothing wrong with taking an honest self-assessment and realizing you’re not up for the job. It’s better to realize this before you spend a ton of time and money only to mess something up.

If you’re not up for the job, get a few different quotes to ensure you’re getting a good deal on the installation.

car and road divider Conclusion

Now that you know a little more about how to avoid some classic mistakes while installing a solar panel on your RV, all that’s left is for you to start getting everything you need! It’s a fair amount of work, but after you get it done, you can enjoy renewable energy without constantly spending more money to fill up a generator!

See Also: How to Hook Up Solar Panels to RV Batteries – 7 Easy Steps


Featured Image Credit: Voyagerix, Shutterstock

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