If you have recently started shopping for a new RV you have probably seen the dealer point out a fancy looking outlet on the outside of the RV that is labeled “solar ready.” They say little more than, “here is a port you can plug a solar panel into.” Which leaves you instantly thinking and pondering the off grid adventures you can have with a single solar panel. Well it isn’t quite that easy.
The reality of the matter is, that little plug is completely worthless. Well, not completely, but you will more than likely never use it, even if you get a solar setup on your RV. It’s nothing more than a sales gimmick. There are a couple companies out there that make a solar panel that can plug into that port and you can even purchase an after-market plug that you can wire up yourself to the solar panel brand of your choice…but it’s really not even needed.
If you go with the ground deploy method, like we did in our simple RV solar setup, you will need nothing more than a set of alligator clips to attach to the batteries… And that is something I almost forgot: The dealer won’t tell you that you need to upgrade your RV battery to fully take advantage of having a solar setup. A true off-grid experience requires you have two 6-volt deep cycle batteries (at minimum, some systems use 4 or more). The standard marine battery the RV comes with won’t even get you through one night of camping without shore power.
So don’t believe the hype. The solar ready RV’s are not truly solar ready. It’s just a sales tactic. A true solar setup is going to require a lot more than just plugging in an overpriced panel to that factory installed port. Oh, and that is another thing. The ports don’t even attach to the battery. You are left having to wire up the battery yourself in order for the solar panels to even charge the battery.
So, keep that in mind when RV shopping. Simply put, there are two types of solar setups you can go with: One is the easiest, the ground deploy method, and the second is panels installed on your roof. Both involve running wire from the solar panel to a set of deep cycle batteries, which replace the standard 12 volt marine battery your RV comes with.
The method you chose to go with is going to depend on your needs. But both systems will also allow you to install an inverter to power your electrical outlets inside the RV, but you will almost never be able to power things like air conditioners. They just require too much power for a few batteries and an inverter to run constantly.
If you want a simple solar setup, check out my blog post where I talk about ours.
You can also check out this Facebook group, and start reading up on the posts there, but be sure to read and search posts first before asking questions. More than likely your question has been asked before.
Even though most RV’s are not truly solar ready, simple solar setups are easy to install. Ours cost us about $500 and can easily get us through several nights without shore power, just as long as we have sunshine for most of those days.