These are the basic components of a solar charging system. This is fundamentally the same configuration you would use on a off-grid cabin, tiny house or sailboat.
Solar panels collect energy from the sun and convert it to electricity. The primary purpose of solar panels in an RV solar system is for battery charging. It would be incorrect to think that the solar panels are powering the RV.
During the day, energy collected by the solar panels is sent to the Solar Charge Controller to charge the battery bank.
There’a a lot to know about solar panels. So I’ve put together this resource to help you make an informed decision.
FREE Guide To RV Solar Panels
I’ve put together this free guide packed full of information to help you choose the right solar panel configuration for your RV.
Solar Charge Controller
The Solar charge controller regulates the amount of voltage and current that is supplied to your batteries from your solar array. It’s like the brain of your system and needs to be compatible with your solar panels and battery bank.
You’ll first need to know the maximum voltage and current output of your solar array. You’ll also need to know type, system voltage and capacity of your battery bank. Once you have this information, you can begin looking for a compatible solar charge controller.
This article Choosing The Right Solar Charge Controller will help you choose a controller best suited for your system and budget.
Your battery bank is the primary source of energy in your off-grid power system. It stores energy collected from your solar panels or battery charger.
We call it a battery “bank” when multiple batteries are involved. Two or more 12 volt or 6 volt deep cycle batteries can be combined together in various configurations to act as one large 12 volt battery.
Note: Some RVs operate on a 24 volt battery configuration, but most RV battery systems are 12 volt systems
This video will show you how to connect 6 volt batteries to create a large 12 volt battery bank.
Battery Monitoring System
A Battery Monitoring System is an optional but recommended piece of equipment that monitors the current status of your battery bank as well as real-time and cumulative power consumption.
Here’s an article I wrote all about RV battery monitoring systems that I suggest you read to learn more.
Wiring, Cutoff Switches and Fuses
These are the smaller components that connect everything together and make the whole system work.
Copper wiring of various thicknesses is used to connect solar panels, charge controller, batteries and an inverter. Cutoff switches are wired between components to easily disconnect components for safety and maintenance reasons. High amperage fuses (100 Amp to 250 Amp) are required on battery and inverter connections to prevent electrical faults from damaging other components.
A Power Inverter is not really part of the solar charging system. It is a common add-on component that converts 12 volt DC power (from batteries) to 120 volt AC to power AC components and outlets in your RV.
Before installing an inverter in your RV, I recommend you read this article I wrote that goes into more detail on How to Safely Install an Inverter in Your RV.