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How to Mount Solar Panels on RV Roof Without Drilling Holes. Rv solar roof

How to Mount Solar Panels on RV Roof Without Drilling Holes. Rv solar roof

    How to Mount Solar Panels on RV Roof Without Drilling Holes

    If you plan on taking your RV off-grid for extended periods of time, having adequate power is an absolute must.

    Solar panels are the perfect solution for creating highly efficient, renewable energy that your RV can utilize when you’re out camping away from hookups.

    Many RVers install solar panels on their roof to maximize sun exposure and they do so by drilling brackets directly into the roof.

    However, for most people, the idea of drilling holes into your RV roof (and potentially opening it up to leaks) is a terrifying thought.

    Luckily, there are a variety of ways to install RV solar panels without drilling. This guide will cover all you need to know.

    Reasons to Mount RV Solar Panels Without Drilling

    If you’re considering mounting solar panels to your RV roof, there are many reasons why you should opt for a non-drilling method.

    • No Holes – This is the most obvious reason. Water damage can wreak havoc on your rig, and if you fail to seal the drill holes properly, water will find a direct pathway into your roof and living space.
    • Does Not Require Advanced Skills – Mounting solar panels without drilling is also the best option for individuals that may not be super handy. Drilling panels into a roof requires a certain amount of technical ability and the proper tools. If you lack either of these, it’s advised that you mount your panels in a way that doesn’t require drilling.
    • Not Permanent – Drilling panels into your roof is a decision that cannot be altered. By using alternative mounting methods, you can change up the layout of your solar panels without affecting the integrity of the RV.

    What Type of Solar Panel Should I Use?

    When mounting solar panels to your RV roof without drilling, you first need to consider which type of solar panel to use.

    Solar panels for RV use come in two different kinds: rigid solar panels with an aluminum frame, and lightweight, flexible solar panels.

    In general, you can utilize either type of panel for your RV, but there are instances when one might be more useful than the other.

    For example, rigid panels cannot bend, so they must be mounted on a flat surface with no curvature.

    Rigid panels can still be installed on a curved roof or fifth wheel header, but a custom mount must be fabricated.

    Flexible panels on the other hand are perfect for curved applications. The panel can be bent and fitted to the contour of the roof.

    Flexible solar panels are also a great option when adding additional weight to your roof might be an issue.

    What are the Pros and Cons of Rigid and Flexible Solar Panels?

    As stated, rigid and flexible solar panels each have their own unique applications and restrictions. Here is a quick breakdown of the pros/cons associated with each type:

    Rigid Solar Panel

    ProsCons
    Durable Heavy
    Cost-effective Not flexible
    efficient Harder to mount
    Longer lifespan

    Flexible Solar Panel

    ProsCons
    Lightweight Not as durable
    Flexible Expensive
    Easier to mount Less efficient
    applications Shorter lifespan

    Ways To Mount Solar Panels On RV Roof Without Drilling

    Once you’ve decided on the type of solar panel you’d like to use – either rigid or flexible – it’s time to mount them!

    There are a variety of methods for mounting panels without drilling with each being dependent on the type of solar panel you wish to use.

    Let’s look at some options and the advantages associated with each.

    Solar Panel Corner Brackets

    One of the best solutions for mounting solar panels to your RV roof without drilling is by using corner brackets.

    These brackets, normally made of ABS plastic, attach to the four corners of your solar panels and are adhered to the roof of your RV by using silicone glue.

    Many kits also come with two additional brackets that attach to the middle of the long sides of your solar panel, for extra support.

    These mounting kits are readily available and normally quite inexpensive for the capability they provide.

    They are priced at 15-30 per kit but keep in mind that each kit is only for one solar panel.

    If you have a larger solar setup with multiple panels, this can easily add up to a couple of hundred dollars.

    Corner brackets are only for rigid, aluminum-framed solar panels. They will not work with flexible panels.

    These brackets are installed in a few simple steps:

    • Place corner brackets on the solar panels in all spots they will be installed; mark holes.
    • Drill holes through each marked area.
    • Using the provided nuts and bolts, fasten the brackets to the solar panel.
    • Apply silicone adhesive (I recommend Sikaflex 252 or similar) to the underside of brackets and place it on the desired roof location.

    Advantages of Using Corner Brackets

    Choosing to use plastic corner brackets to mount your solar panels comes with many advantages:

    • Universal fit – as all solar panel corners are 90 degrees, these brackets always fit.
    • They raise the panel – raising the panel creates adequate airflow, allowing the solar panel to work as efficiently as possible
    • Easily obtained ­– corner brackets can be quickly bought online from many retailers
    • No drilling – if you want to remove the panels you can do so by removing the adhesive with the appropriate solvent

    VHB Tape

    VHB is an affordable, lightweight solution for mounting solar panels without drilling.

    It is an extremely strong double-sided tape that can be applied easily, and quickly to solar panels.

    Despite its ease of use, VHB is not strong enough to adhere rigid solar panels to an RV roof and must strictly be used with flexible solar panels only.

    It should be noted as well that VHB tape cannot be applied to rubber roofs.

    The application of VHB tape is incredibly simple:

    • Remove the plastic membrane from one side of the tape; stick to all bottom edges of the solar panel. It’s also recommended that you apply tape to the inner areas of the solar panel in a plus sign pattern to ensure the panel will be completely secured.
    • Remove the plastic membrane from the other side of the tape; firmly press the solar panel onto the desired roof location.

    When applying this tape, make sure that the area is free of dust and debris and that it is not too humid or cold outdoors.

    Advantages of Using VHB Tape

    Compared to ABS plastic solar panel mounts, VHB tape has its unique advantages:

    • Affordable – VHB tape is incredibly inexpensive, with a 15ft roll costing around 15.
    • Can be used on curved roofs – VHB can be utilized in more diverse applications and doesn’t require a flat surface to bond to
    • It does not require additional adhesive

    Using Portable Solar Panels

    Even if none of these installation options work for you, you can still harness the energy of the sun by using portable solar panels.

    These types of solar panels are a great alternative to traditional installations for RVers that may not be willing to undertake a DIY project.

    Portable solar panels come ready to use and just require a simple setup.

    The two most common types of portable solar panels are:

    Suitcase Solar Panels

    Suitcase solar panels usually come as a folding set of two 50-watt panels.

    These two panels are attached by a hinge and when folded out form a complete 100-watt solar panel.

    Normally there is also an adjustable kickstand on the panel so that it can be stood upright, or at the desired sun angle.

    mount, solar, panels, roof, drilling, holes

    Suitcase solar panels derive their name from when they are folded up.

    They generally have a handle attached to the side of one of the panels so that it can be easily carried when folded.

    Suitcase panels also commonly come with a carrying case, making transportation easy.

    Set up with a suitcase solar panel is a breeze. Simply attach the alligator clamps to the positive and negative terminals of your RV battery, connect the panels to the attached solar charge controller, and just like that you are all powered up.

    Foldable Solar Panels

    Foldable solar panels are incredibly similar to suitcase panels and have the same functionality.

    The only difference is that these solar kits generally have more than two panels, and they fold up accordion style.

    The setup process is also identical to the suitcase panels – simply attach the clamps to the battery terminals, and you’re good to go.

    Benefits and Drawbacks of Portable Solar Panels

    Suitcase solar panels and foldable solar panels have many benefits that differentiate them from traditional mounted solar panels:

    • Zero hardware installation – nothing is required to set up portable solar panels. They come ready to use.
    • Plug and play – portable solar panels are ready to use in seconds after attaching to your battery terminals
    • Moveable – you can move a portable solar panel at any time and can change its location to maximize the available sunlight.

    However, with this ease of function comes significant sacrifice:

    mount, solar, panels, roof, drilling, holes
    • It needs to be set up and broken down every time – every new location you must set up your solar panels all over again and store them away when you move.
    • High power need = lots of panels – if you have significant power needs, the sheer number of portable panels you need could become frustrating.
    • Storage space – every panel needs a storage location in the RV when not in use.
    • Not low profile – some locations may not feel comfortable enough to put out your solar panels (i.e., Walmart parking lots).

    Conclusion

    Solar panels are the most efficient way of powering your RV when out boondocking and are a necessity for full-time RVers looking to avoid camping in RV parks.

    Installing solar panels on your RV can be an intimidating task, but in most circumstances, it is a project that can be done DIY.

    While directly attaching solar panels to your roof via drilling is a common approach, there are a variety of ways to mount solar panels without drilling for those that don’t feel comfortable putting holes in their RV roof.

    For those that desire no installation whatsoever, portable solar panels offer a great solution for quick and easy solar power.

    Whichever method you prefer, I hope that this guide helped you determine the best way to install solar panels on your RV!

    Roof-mounted RV solar panels vs portable Solar Panels

    Solar panels are a popular option for powering recreational vehicles (RVs) because they provide a clean, renewable source of electricity that can be used to run appliances, charge batteries. and power electronics while on the road. There are two main types of solar panels that are commonly used on RVs: roof-mounted solar panels and portable solar panels.

    In this blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of roof-mounted RV solar panels and portable solar panels to help you decide which option is best for your needs. We will discuss factors such as cost, installation, efficiency, and convenience to help you make an informed decision about which type of solar panel is right for your RV.

    If you want to know whether your RV needs solar panels, you can check out our previous blog post.

    Is Using Solar Energy for RV Motorhomes practical in Canada?

    Using solar energy for RVs and motorhomes can be practical in Canada, as long as you have a reliable and well-maintained solar panel system. Solar panels can provide source of electricity for powering various appliances and electronics in your RV. They can help reduce your reliance on campground electrical hookups or a portable generator.

    There are a few factors to consider when determining whether solar energy is practical for your RV or motorhome in Canada:

    • Climate: Some areas of Canada, such as Southern Ontario and parts of the Prairie provinces, as well as the eastern part like Quebec have high levels of solar radiation and can support large-scale solar energy projects. The potential for solar energy in Quebec is significant, and the use of solar energy is expected to increase in the coming years as the technology becomes more affordable and efficient. It’s also worth noting that Quebec has a strong renewable energy sector, with a number of large hydroelectric dams that provide a significant portion of the province’s electricity. Other areas, such as Northern Canada, may have lower levels of solar radiation and may be less suitable for solar energy generation.
    • Solar panel efficiency: The efficiency of your solar panels can affect how much solar energy you can generate. Higher-efficiency panels can produce more electricity with the same amount of sunlight.
    • Battery storage: A good battery storage system is essential for storing the electricity generated by your solar panels so that it is available when you need it.
    • Energy needs: The amount of solar energy you need will depend on your RV or motorhome’s energy needs and the appliances and electronics you want to power.

    Overall, using solar energy for RVs and motorhomes can be a practical and cost-effective way to generate electricity in Canada, as long as you have a reliable solar panel system and a good battery storage system.

    Roof-Mounted Solar Panels for RVs

    Roof-mounted solar panels for RVs are solar panels that are permanently installed on the roof of the RV. They are typically mounted using brackets or a mounting system specifically designed for RVs. They are connected to the RV’s electrical system to provide a constant source of power.

    RV roof-mounted solar panels work by converting sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic (PV) cells. The PV cells can be made of monocrystalline, silicon, or other materials that are designed to absorb photons of light and convert them into electrons, which generate an electrical current.

    The electrical current is then sent to a solar inverter. which converts the current from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), which is the type of electricity that is used in most homes and RVs. The AC electricity is then sent to a Solar charge controller. which regulates the flow of electricity to ensure that the batteries are charged properly and that the electrical system of the RV is not overloaded.

    The Solar charge controller also prevents the batteries from being overcharged, which can damage them and reduce their lifespan. The electricity generated by the solar panels can be used to power appliances, charge batteries, and power electronics in the RV.

    Portable Solar Panels

    Portable solar panels for RVs are solar panels that are designed to be portable and can be easily moved from one location to another. They are typically smaller and lighter than roof-mounted solar panels and are often mounted on a stand or frame that can be set up on the ground or a table. Portable solar panels can be used to charge batteries, power small appliances, and charge electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops.

    Portable solar panels are a convenient and versatile way to generate electricity, particularly for people who are on the go or who do not have access to a permanent power source. One of the main advantages of portable solar panels is their flexibility. They can be used in a variety of settings, including on a camping trip, at a festival, or during an emergency. They can also be a good option for people who live in areas where it is difficult to install permanent solar panels, such as renters or people who live in apartments.

    These types of solar panels are generally easy to set up and use, and they do not require professional installation. They are also relatively inexpensive compared to roof-mounted solar panels, which makes them a good option for people who are on a budget.

    However, it’s important to note that portable solar panels may not be as efficient as permanent panels at generating electricity, and they may not be suitable for running larger appliances or charging multiple batteries.

    Pros Cons: RVs’ Rooftop Solar Panels compared to Portable ones

    Pros of using roof-mounted solar panels for RVs:

    Efficient: Roof-mounted solar panels are generally larger and more powerful than portable solar panels, which means they can generate more electricity. This makes them a good choice for running larger appliances and charging batteries more quickly.

    Reliable: Roof-mounted solar panels are more durable and long-lasting than portable solar panels, which means they can provide a reliable source of power for years to come.

    No setup is required: Since roof-mounted solar panels are permanently installed, there is no need to set them up or take them down each time you use them. This can be convenient for people who use their RVs frequently.

    Professional installation: Roof-mounted solar panels should be installed by a professional electrician, which can provide peace of mind and ensure that the panels are installed correctly and safely.

    Cons of using roof-mounted solar panels for RVs:

    Cost: Roof-mounted solar panels can be more expensive upfront than portable solar panels, which may not be feasible for everyone.

    Complex installation: Roof-mounted solar panels require professional installation, which can add to the cost of the panels and may not be practical for everyone.

    Limited placement options: Roof-mounted solar panels can only be installed on the roof of the RV, which means they may not be suitable for people who have limited space on their RV’s roof.

    Fixed location: Roof-mounted solar panels are fixed in place on the roof of the RV, which means they cannot be moved or repositioned to follow the sun.

    Potential for damage: Roof-mounted solar panels are exposed to the elements and may be prone to damage from wind, hail, or other weather events. This can be a concern for people who use their RVs in areas with harsh weather conditions.

    Best RV Rooftop Portable Solar Panels

    It can be overwhelming to shop for a solar panel for your RV because there are so many different brands and options available. Each brand may offer different features, warranties, and price points, making it difficult to compare and choose the best one for your needs.

    In this section, we will introduce the top two RV solar panels based on our solar energy experts’ opinions at Volts Energies in Canada. In this way, you can narrow down your options and find a solar panel that is suitable for your RV and your needs.

    SunPower. Semi-Flexible Solar Panel 100W

    The SunPower 100W Flexible Solar Panel is a thin, lightweight solar panel that is designed to be flexible and able to conform to curved surfaces. It is made with SunPower’s high-efficiency solar cells, which are known for their ability to capture more sunlight and convert it into electricity than standard solar cells.

    This SunPower solar panel is also coated with a durable, weather-resistant material that is designed to withstand harsh outdoor conditions. Some benefits of the SunPower 100W Flexible Solar Panel include:

    • High efficiency: The panel’s high-efficiency solar cells can capture more sunlight and convert it into electricity, which means they can generate more power than a standard solar panel of the same size.
    • Lightweight and flexible: The panel is thin and flexible, which makes it easy to transport and install. It can be used as a portable solar panel or mounted on curved surfaces, such as the roof of an RV, boat, or van.

    On the other hand, some potential downsides of the SunPower 100W Flexible Solar Panel include the following:

    • The panel can be used to power a wide range of devices, including smartphones, laptops, and small appliances. It can also be used to charge batteries and power electronics.
    • This panel may be more expensive than other panels, however, SunPower is a well-known brand and is known for producing high-quality, efficient solar panels, but this reputation comes at a cost. It’s worth noting that the SunPower panel is known for its high efficiency and durability, which may make it a good value in the long run.

    Overall, the SunPower 100W Flexible Solar Panel is a high-quality panel that is known for its efficiency and durability. It is a good option for people who need a flexible, lightweight solar panel that can generate a reliable source of power.

    Volts Energies 200W Mono Solar Panel

    The Volts 200W monocrystalline solar panel is a high-capacity solar panel that is designed to generate a large amount of electricity. It is made with monocrystalline solar cells, which are known for their high efficiency and ability to capture a large amount of sunlight. The panel has a power output of 200 watts, which makes it a good option for powering large appliances and charging batteries quickly.

    Some benefits of the Volts Energies 200W Mono Solar Panel include:

    • High power output: With a power output of 200 watts, the panel is capable of generating a large amount of electricity, which makes it a good choice for powering large appliances and charging batteries quickly.
    • Versatile: The panel can be used to power a wide range of devices, including appliances, electronics, and batteries. It can be used in a variety of settings, including on an RV, boat, or home.
    • Durable: The panel is made with high-quality materials and is designed to withstand harsh outdoor conditions, such as rain, snow, and extreme temperatures.
    • Design: The length of this solar panel has been designed in order to fit the width of the vehicle, and made the installation in your RV or camper van easier for you.

    Overall, the Volts 200W Mono crystalline solar panel is a high-capacity panel that is capable of generating a large amount of electricity. It is a good option for people who need a reliable source of power for large appliances and electronics.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, roof-mounted RV solar panels and portable solar panels are both viable options for generating electricity for recreational vehicles. Roof-mounted solar panels are larger and more powerful than portable panels, which makes them a good choice for running larger appliances and charging batteries quickly. They are also more durable and long-lasting than portable panels, which makes them a good choice for people who use their RVs frequently.

    Portable solar panels are more flexible and convenient than roof-mounted panels, as they can be easily transported and set up anywhere that has access to sunlight. They are also generally more affordable than roof-mounted panels, which makes them a good choice for people who are on a budget.

    Ultimately, the choice between roof-mounted and portable solar panels depends on your specific needs and budget. It’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons of each option and choose the one that is best for you. If you still have any questions or concerns, contact us. and our solar energy experts at Volts Energies in Canada are ready to assist you.

    RV solar panels: are they right for you?

    Solar panel systems aren’t just for houses or commercial properties – they can be a great resource for on the go electricity users as well, especially compared to older and less efficient sources like propane. In this article, learn about how solar panels for RVs and campers work, if they’re right for you, and what some of the top options available are.

    Best solar panels for RVs

    There are many options when it comes to buying solar panels for your RV. Below are some products that are specifically designed for RV power setups, but there are several other companies and products you can use.

    RV solar panel options

    ProductCostPanel wattage (W)Included equipment
    Renogy flexible solar panel 200 100 W None
    WindyNation solar panel 160 100 W Charge controller, connectors, mounting brackets
    Renogy solar panel 175 160 W None
    Newpowa solar panel 100 100 W None

    Renogy flexible solar panel

    This offering from Renogy is able to fit onto unusual roof styles for all types of RVs. It has 100W of power which makes it a good fit for small devices like charging cell phones, Wi-Fi routers and laptops.

    WindyNation solar panel

    This offering from WindyNation includes a complete kit for mounting and charging the panel. It is also 100W and is able to be placed wherever is most convenient on an RV.

    Renogy 100 watt solar panel

    This offering from Renogy is more powerful and efficient than its flexible counterpart. It can be used for both on-grid and off-grid applications.

    Newpowa solar panel

    This offering from Newpowa is the most inexpensive that we’ve listed and is smaller than most panels, giving it a different set of options for placement while still offering high efficiency and performance.

    RV Solar panel costs

    Generally, a complete RV solar panel system will cost between 600-2000 including the solar panel itself, installation and any custom electrical work that needs to be done in order for the panel to work properly. Costs vary widely depending on the type of use for your RV from weekend outings to extended multi-day trips.

    The basics of an RV solar panel setup

    Solar panels for RVing and motorhomes work in the same way a residential solar installation operates: solar panels capture sunlight and convert it into electricity, and you can use that solar electricity to power appliances. You can buy specialized portable solar panels designed for easy set up and take down for RVs, as well as small or flexible panels that are designed to be mounted on an RV roof.

    If you spend time camping and traveling in an RV, a solar panel setup can be a cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and convenient way to use electricity on the go. Solar panel systems generally require little to no maintenance and provide a dependable source of electricity when the sun is shining. For RVers who mostly stick to campgrounds with electrical hookups, however, RV solar panels likely won’t provide enough of an extra benefit to rationalize spending money on them.

    Determining factors: what to consider when buying an RV solar panel system

    One important difference between residential panels and RV panels is the size of the system: RV solar panel setups are usually designed to provide enough power to recharge either small devices or a few larger kitchen appliances, while a home solar system is typically sized to cover most or all of your property’s electricity needs. You can always add more panels to your RV solar setup, but given the small amount of roof space and energy storage capacity requirements, RV solar panel systems are generally on the smaller side compared to residential rooftop installations. Many solar panels are made from monocrystalline cells which are more efficient than polycrystalline cells. Below we have laid out some groundwork for you to determine how big of a system you need.

    How many solar panels do you need to run an RV?

    Most solar panels for RVs are between 100 and 400 watts of power, and an RV needs about 120 watts of energy on average. This means that an RV will need three 400, ten 200 solar panels, or any other combination of power outputs to meet it’s typical energy demand of 120 watts. What can you actually power with that kind of solar panel setup for your RV? For the following examples, we’ll assume that your RV solar panel setup is sized at 800 watts and you have an appropriate storage setup to take full advantage of the energy your panels produce.

    How many solar panels do you need for common appliances?

    AppliancePower consumption (W)Daily hours of useDaily power consumption (Wh)
    Lightbulb 60 W 6 360 Wh
    TV 200 W 4 800 Wh
    Microwave 800 W .5 400 Wh
    Mini-fridge 200 W 24 4,800 Wh

    What do these numbers actually mean? Looking at column four, you can see an example of how much energy in watt-hours (Wh) running each appliance for a normal amount of time in a day might use. If you have an 800 W RV solar panel system that is in direct sunlight for 5 hours a day, you’ll produce approximately 4,000 Wh of energy each day (5 x 800 = 4,000). According to our calculations in the table above, that’s more than enough to power small devices like lights and TVs, but you won’t be able to run a refrigerator for an entire day.

    An important takeaway from this analysis is that while solar panel systems for RVs will be able to power most of your small electronics and keep the lights on, don’t expect to be able to run an unlimited amount of appliances. RV solar panels are a great way to keep the essentials up and running, but likely can’t power energy-hungry devices for too long.

    Each RV owner has different reasons for going solar which can affect the system set up they choose to implement. A roof-mounted RV solar system is an option if you don’t want to set up portable solar panels every time you use your RV, making it the more convenient option for someone who uses their RV often. Another option is to use portable solar panels; this option is less expensive, but requires more repeated setup and breakdown. With portable solar panels, you also don’t have to worry about always having to park in direct sun for your energy production. All you need is a battery and open space.

    How do solar panels work for campers, RVs, and motorhomes?

    In order to generate and use solar power for your RV or camper, you’ll need a setup complete with the following components:

    In order to generate and use solar power for your RV or travel trailer. you’ll need a setup complete with the following components:

    • Solar panels
    • A charge controller to prevent overcharging your storage system
    • Solar batteries to store energy (common options are lead acid or lithium-ion)
    • An inverter to convert direct current (DC) electricity to alternating current (AC) electricity (Occasionally pre-built into the solar battery) and possibly a battery monitor

    You can buy all of these components separately, but there are some motorhome solar panel kits available to purchase that include most components. For example, WindyNation makes a 100 watt (W) RV solar panel kit that comes with a solar panel, solar charge controller, cables, battery chargers, fuses and mounting hardware. You’ll need to purchase a battery separately for this specific kit.

    You’ll also need proper wires and cables to hook all of your components together, as well as racking and mounting equipment for your panels – these parts will be included with your solar panel or battery system purchase. Remember that some equipment, such as pwm charge controllers, aren’t weather-resistant and need to be installed somewhere safe.

    Do you need batteries for your RV solar panels?

    A deep cycle battery for your RV solar system is essential for running appliances outside of daylight hours or when it is cloudy. Since RV solar panels are not grid-tied, your battery bank is your principle source of back up energy. RV batteries will store energy produced by your PV panels, allowing you to use it as needed, while a charge controller will regulate that energy and prolong battery life. The real question is:what kind of batteries are best for your RV system?

    Gel batteries

    Unlike standard lead-acid batteries, gel batteries are sealed. These batteries do not need to be monitored and they don’t produce any type of gas, making them an excellent choice for installing and then more or less forgetting them. Another benefit of gel batteries unique to RV solar systems is that they can be installed in many positions and orientations, making them an attractive option if space is an issue. Gel batteries are even used in many motorized scooters and wheelchairs due to their versatility and safety.

    The caveat with gel batteries — which applies less to RVs — is that they don’t have the same capacity as other rechargeable batteries. They simply can’t meet the energy demands of a household the same way other options can, but for an RV with lower energy demands, this may not be an issue.

    Lithium-ion batteries

    While gel batteries provide more flexibility and a “set it and forget it” setup, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are often the best choice, offering higher energy densities than any other type of battery charging currently available. Because lithium batteries have higher capacities, they can store and discharge greater amounts of energy than other types of batteries with more amp hours of energy. They’re also typically more efficient and last longer, often making them the best option for RV solar systems.

    There is, however, a drawback that’s particularly applicable to those who use these batteries for their RV solar panels: Li-ion batteries (typically 12 volts) can overheat and become damaged at higher voltages. So, you’ll want to make sure you keep your Li-ion battery in a cool location out of direct sunlight. Li-ion batteries are also typically priced higher than alternative energy storage options, so you’ll want to ensure it’s protected.

    Absorbed glass mat batteries

    Absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries are a relatively new battery available on the market, and they are a good choice as an RV solar battery. These deep cycle batteries are sealed, making them a maintenance-free choice for RV owners. Like gel batteries, AGM batteries would struggle to meet the energy demands of a household. But, the lower needs of an RV make them a good choice and compared to other battery options for RVs, the upfront cost is relatively low.

    However, AGM batteries can be more expensive compared to lead-based batteries, making them a less attractive option in some cases. They can also be ruined by overcharging, and they aren’t as efficient as Li-ion battery options. With AGM batteries, RV owners need to ensure that their charge controller remains in good working order. MPPT controllers can also be used if you have a high enough amount of voltage.

    Should you install solar panels on your RV?

    If you’re the type of RV owner who plans on spending lots of time in remote locations and dry camps without power hookups (known as “boondocking”), solar energy may be a way to see how much power you can generate and some long-term savings when compared to a gas generator. Over time, the costs of continually starting up and running a gas generator will exceed the investment required for a solar panel system. You can expect your solar “payback period” to be under five years, but the actual time it takes to recoup your investment will depend on the equipment you purchase and the amount of sunlight that hits your solar panels.

    However, RV solar panels won’t make financial or practical sense for every RV owner. If you spend the majority of your RV time at campgrounds, you’re probably better off hooking up to the local power system and paying the associated fee. Installing solar may end up saving you money in the end, but you may have to wait a long time to break even. Additionally, if you only take RV trips a few times per year, the upfront cost of an RV solar panel setup will likely not be worth the few times you can actually use the system. You should also check if the solar panel has a warranty available, just in case anything goes wrong with your system and it needs to be replaced.

    RV solar panel setups are often do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. Check out our video on DIY solar to see if it’s right for you:

    Frequently asked questions about RV solar panels

    This depends on the wattage of the solar panel or panels that you have. For example, a 100-watt solar panel is enough to be a power source for smaller appliances and devices, such as lights or chargers, but you would likely need more than one panel for larger appliances or to power things full-time. You would probably need a higher watt solar panel or to install at least two depending on your energy needs.

    Portable solar power systems or flexible solar panels are ideal for RVs. They are smaller, easier to install, sometimes foldable and cost-effective compared to ground-mount or rooftop solar panels.

    This largely depends on what you get, but you should expect to pay between 300-400 for a solar panel system for an RV. It is best to shop around and compare solar systems online.

    You can, but not with one 100-watt panel.

    One question that RV owners frequently have is if an inverter is needed to convert DC power to AC electricity. Like with your home, the appliances inside an RV run on AC while the engine and battery of the RV use DC electricity. Solar panels run on a DC, meaning that just like a residential solar setup, your solar panel system for the RV needs to have an inverter to convert that energy to AC electricity.

    Installing solar panels on your property leads to savings

    reading on EnergySage

    Looking to go solar? Here’s everything you need to know in… Best solar panels in 2023: Top products compared Solar shingles: what you need to know in 2023 What are the most efficient solar panels? Top brands in 2023 Are solar panels worth it in 2023?

    About Jacob Marsh

    Jacob is an EnergySage writer with expertise in solar, electrification, and renewable energy. With over five years of experience researching and writing about the home energy industry (plus a degree in Geological Sciences from Tufts University), he brings a unique scientific approach to writing and investigating all things energy.

    Solar Panel Mounting Ideas For Your RV

    Over the last decade, solar panels have become more efficient and cheaper. Installing solar panels on your RV today is a beautiful idea. It adds to your ability to go off-grid and makes you more sustainable and reduces the noise and air pollution that gasoline-based generators bring with them.

    But if there is one thing that still makes people hesitant about solar panels, it is the perceived difficulty in mounting them properly onto your camper.

    In this article, we will look at some of the best solar panel mounting ideas that DIYers are using to install solar energy on their RVs. We will also talk about what you need to think about before choosing any of these methods, their pros, and cons, and have a small discussion towards the end on the benefits of permanently mounted panels vs. portable panels.

    What Kinds of Solar Panels Can You Mount on an RV Roof?

    You might think that you need special portable solar panels for your RV, but that’s not so important. In most cases, your regular residential solar panels are good enough to do the trick (They might be a bit heavy, though).

    If you have a wide-open RV roof, you should be able to install residential solar panels. But if it is cluttered with other roof-mounted gear like a roof rack, roof vents, or satellite dishes, you need to choose panels that are smaller in size.

    There are three main types of solar panels that you can opt for:

    Whatever you choose, the important thing is to make sure that you secure them properly on your RV. We will discuss how to do this in the sections that follow.

    What to Consider When Choosing the Solar Panel Mounting Method

    Here are five main factors you should consider before choosing your mounting method.

    Type Amount of Solar Panels

    How you mount will depend on the choice of panels that you make. There are two main types of solar panels – rigid and flexible. In general, rigid panels require more permanent mounting solutions, whereas flexible ones are lighter, and you can tape or glue them down.

    That said, we recommend adding at least one screw bolt fixing for added safety and preventing the panel from flying off as you drive. Fellow road users will thank you for it!

    The number of solar panels also matters. The fewer the panels, the less the work involved in mounting them.

    But this depends on what you want to use them for as well. If you intend to go full-on off-grid boondocking, you may need an extensive array of solar panels.

    If you are only going to use them as backup power for occasional dry camping off-grid, one or two panels might be enough.

    Remember, too, that the bigger the panels, the bigger the airflow, and therefore more secure fixings are required.

    Weight of Mounting Hardware

    How heavy your mounting hardware is will depend on the panels’ weight. If your panels are heavy, they will need stronger stuff to be secured on your RV’s roof.

    However, all of this needs to be constrained by the actual weight capacity of your rig. You should not overload the trailer’s roof while trying to install panels.

    Location

    Since the panels are mounted on the roof, the wind is something for which you always need to account. For example, if a rooftop feature can help protect the panels from the wind, then that’s a great location to put them.

    You need to think about whether the panels are going to lie flat or if you’ll ever tilt them. In the latter case, you will need to mount them more strongly because they will face more wind when they’re in use.

    Ability to Tilt Solar Panels

    You may not always get the best angle for your panels to absorb maximum sunlight. Building or trees can cast their shadows on your panels, and during the winter months, the sun is much lower in the sky. That means your panels won’t be getting the optimum sunlight to recharge during the day.

    Tiltable solar panels solve this problem to a great extent. They let you move the panels to align with the sun’s direct rays. Tiltable solar panels require special mounting techniques, which you need to plan.

    RV Roof Type

    The type of roof matters because it determines how much space you have to put the panels in. Another important thing is how curved the rooftop is – the curvier, the harder it is to secure the solar panels, the more mounting hardware you need.

    Also, consider how stable the roof is. Some RV roofs are made from fiberglass or very thin metal and will naturally flex. That makes mounting more challenging as the movement will loosen fixings over time. If that sounds like your roof, make sure you check the mount fixings regularly.

    Solar Panel Mounting Ideas

    Mounting Rigid Panels

    Rigid panels are the most commonly used variety of solar panels. They are durable and can be mounted to almost any surface. Their chief drawback is that you have to drill holes into the RV to install them, and that is always a potential cause for water leakage. That said, it’s the safest way to stop panels flying off when you’re on the move or in strong storms.

    As long as you make a clean hole, install the bolt tightly (don’t overtighten because that can cause leakage, and apply a suitable sealant liberally, you should never have a leakage problem.

    Let’s look at a few different ways in which you can mount rigid panels on your RV roof.

    Installing on Roof Racks

    Some RVs come with pre-installed roof racks, and others with factory drilled holes to install a roof rack. If you don’t have a rack installed, you can DIY one using aluminum struts with slotted holes in them.

    You will need to install extended bolts in the pre-drilled holes to make sure that the struts are higher than the crown of your RV’s roof. Another advantage of motor mounts is that they absorb vibration, which keeps your panels safe.

    You may also need to thread the struts with stainless steel threading rods to give them more stability. Once you have the rack in place, you can simply bolt the panels onto the rack.

    • This method keeps the solar panels safe and avoids vibrations while traveling.
    • It also keeps a gap under the panels to allow air underneath so that the panels can dissipate heat.

    Mounting Directly To Roof

    Most solar panels will come with installation brackets and screws. You simply need to follow these steps:

    • Attach the mounting brackets onto the four corners of the panel using the screws and washers provided.
    • Drill holes into your RV’s roof in line with where the mounting brackets need to align.
    • Install the panels using bolts and apply sealant. Let the sealant bond for at least 2-3 days.

    One question that often comes up is, “what is the best spot on the roof to bolt the panels onto?”

    Some people suggest that the roofing strut might be a good point to do this, while others feel that you should be able to install them anywhere you like.

    In our opinion, it doesn’t matter. Secure the panels where they’ll fit; allow room for you to access and inspect the panels, trying your best to avoid any possibility of shadows from roof vent hatches, TV antennas, or satellite dishes.

    • All installation material is already available with the panels, so you don’t need to spend extra money.
    • This is one of the most solid arrangements for permanent mounting. There is nothing stronger than bolting down the actual panels.
    • It requires drilling holes in the RV, so you need to ensure that it’s done properly and sealed well.

    Taping Down

    If you can get lightweight solar panels and strong adhesive tape (such as the 3M VHB), it is also possible to tape down your panels.

    You need to first install long aluminum brackets onto the sides of the panels. Then simply tape the brackets down on your RV using the 3M VHB adhesive, and you should be good to go.

    The portable SolarSaga panels that came with the Jackery portable power stations are ideal for temporarily taping down, and you probably won’t need to use the aluminum strips or brackets.

    Here are a couple of tips when you are doing this:

    • Install the panels on the mounting bracket to be slightly inclined, not completely straight. This way, water will easily flow off them when it is raining outside.
    • Clean the RV roof properly before installing the adhesive tape to get a good bond.
    • This is one of the easiest ways to mount your panels permanently. It does not require a lot of effort on your end.
    • This method limits your choices in terms of solar panels you can buy.
    • Most likely, you will need to buy more expensive panels that are lighter and can be held onto the RV using just tapes.
    • It’s not safe to drive with your solar panels mounted to your RV only with tape, so you must remove them. That means you’re not generating solar power while you drive.

    Mounting Flexible Panels

    Mounting flexible panels is not as easy as it seems. Simply gluing them down to the RV’s roof can create a potential problem.

    Solar panels absorb a lot of heat (there is a lot left even after whatever gets converted to electricity). They let go of this heat by letting the surrounding air absorb it through convection.

    But if you glue the panels down to your RV’s roof directly, you will not leave any space for the heat to dissipate. Over the long term, the heat can damage your panels. We know because we made this mistake. Even though we bonded our panels to the Sprinter’s ribbed roof, in the extreme heat, the panels still didn’t have enough cooling.

    So what should you do about this? The right way is to install the panels with a little bit of a gap between them and the roof to let air pass through. Here are three ways you can do this:

    Using Velcro Tape

    Velcro tape is thicker than adhesive tape, and you can use it to install your flexible solar panels, keeping a bit of space between the panel and the roof.

    Just apply the velcro tape on the sides and back of the panel and stick it onto the roof. Then seal the sides of the panels with industrial strength tape to ensure that there is no water flowing under the panels.

    • Easy DIY method to mount flexible solar panels
    • Velcro tape allows for a lot of air to flow under the panel.
    • This is another temporary solution, so you must remove them before driving.
    • Need to apply sealing tape on all sides to ensure water and dust do not get in underneath the panels.

    Screwing Down Tying Down

    You can also use rivets in your solar panels to secure them onto your RV roof. Use a washer in the rivet to increase the surface area for bonding. You can use the same method to install your flexible panels onto an awning.

    If there are holes in the solar panel’s frame, you could use cable ties as a temporary solution.

    • It lets you install the panels on surfaces like awnings and boat biminis, which you cannot do using any other method.
    • The rivet washers leave space for air. Naturally, you do not have to make an artificial gap underneath the panels.
    • Rivets are not as stable as bolts or other methods for mounting solar panels. They are generally made from aluminum and can fracture more easily than steel bolts when flexing.

    Mounting Portable Panels

    If you want to keep your panels portable but still want a good mounting solution for the roof, you can build one for yourself.

    Get four galvanized angle irons about four inches longer than the panels themselves. Next, affix one set of angle irons on the RV roof using motor mounts to keep some space between them and the roof.

    Now affix the remaining set of threaded angles on top of the two already affixed facing each other to make a rack that is open on one side. Use threaded steel rods on both sides to block both ends from letting the panels glide off during heavy wind.

    You can place the solar panels inside the casing made between the four iron angles, and they will remain firmly in place, and you can even lock them from the outside.

    • Creates a nice little holding space for the panels on the top of your RV. You can simply plug in the panels and take them out when you need to.
    • It lets you lock the panels in place if you need to move away from the RV while letting the panels charge.
    • Requires a bit of DIY effort, and you need to be handy with tools to get it perfect.
    • Probably best to remove them for driving too.

    Permanent Vs. Portable

    You can choose either a permanent installation or a portable one, and each has its advantages.

    Permanent Panels

    With a fixed kit, you have a more durable arrangement and don’t need to worry about strong winds or harsh weather damaging your panels.

    Secondly, fixed kits save space in your RV when traveling, and you can even charge them while you are en route.

    Thirdly, once you set up the fixed panels on your RV’s roof, that’s it. You don’t need to install them every time you camp.

    And last but definitely not least, permanent panels tend to be a more efficient size for size when harvesting the sun’s energy than temporary panels.

    Portable Panels

    With a portable setup, you lose a bit on the durability but get the option to remove the panels and recharge them in the sun if you want to park in the shade.

    It is also handy in any place where the panels are getting in the way of moving your RV (like a low ceiling garage).

    Portable kits do not require you to run wiring and drill holes in your RV’s rooftop.

    Lastly, when you decide to change your RV, portable panels will simply shift to the new van. For fixed panels, you will have to do the entire work of uninstallation and installation.

    Can You Install Solar Panels Without Drilling Holes?

    Drilling holes in the RV’s rooftop is a tricky job. If you don’t do it right, you might have rainwater seeping in through the holes. If you want to avoid drilling holes, it is possible to attach solar panels without a holding screw. YOu’ll need to use professional panel bonding adhesives and the correct techniques – like those held in your windscreen.

    Or you can choose light and flexible panels. These might be less efficient and have a shorter lifespan, but they give you one big advantage: you can mount them using adhesives or tape instead of drilling holes.

    Just stick the mounting brackets onto the RV roof using adhesive, let it dry for a couple of days, and add a bit of sealant to make the bond stronger.

    Conclusion

    Mounting your solar panels may seem challenging at first, but it will ultimately be rewarding for you. You need to be prepared to understand the method you will use and why you choose to use it. We hope we have been able to give you enough information here to help you decide the best method to go about DIYing your solar panel mounting.

    If you like this post about solar panel mounting ideas, consider checking out some of our other favorites:

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