6 thoughts on “Off Grid RV Living: RV DIY Solar Hookup Schematic”

  1. Hi Pippi,

    I discovered your YouTube Channel. A while back. When I was searching for How To Build a Solar Panel. I really like your Videos. And have been watching, them ever since. It’s been great to see your Projects. And your hard work and dedication. In both finishing your projects and documenting them on video. To share with us. Thank you, for sharing. Anyway… I was thinking. About, how you could trace down, those “Mystery” Wires. I’ve done allot of Projects of different types, over the years. Mostly, by my self. With no one help. And tracing down wiring and Testing (Ringing them Out). Can be hard to do. Without someone to help, on the other end. There are some Ring Out and other Electrical Testing Tools, you can buy for this. But, Multi-Meter Leads. Are too short to do a Continuity Test on long cable runs, such as yours. So, here are some other ideas. You could hook up a 12VDC Light Bulb or a 12VDC Powered Device. Such as a Music Player. And use this as a Tester. You could also buy a Buzzer or Beeper. To make a Testing Device. Or, a Mini Cassette Player or Radio. That runs on less than 12VDC. Could be used. By attaching it to a DC to DC Step Down Converter. Like, the one’s that Plug into a Cigarette Lighter Plug, in a Car. But, which ever device and method you choose. Connect your “Tester” somewhere on the Circuit, that you want to test. Say, the back of of your Disconnect Panel, inside of your Coach. Leave the light on or leave the Music Playing. Then go out to the Battery Connections, under the Hood. And Disconnect the “Mystery” Cables. One at a time. If you can see the light, go off, from there. No need to run in circles. If not, then run inside and see, if the light goes off. Or if the Music, is loud enough. Then you can hear, when it stops. I’ve used Lights, Fans, Hair Dryers and Car Stereos, etc, in this way. It works great and you don’t have to spend an bunch of money on Test Equipment. Also, there is one caution. I would like to share with you. About working with DC Current. I does seem safer, to work with than AC Current. Since, it does not Shock you, like AC does. Well, unless you grab hold of a Distributor Wire. While the Engine is running. Or if someone is Cranking the Engine, that is… Even if you get a Direct Short. You usually only get a few Sparks. But, if you get a steadily connected Short, in a DC Circuit. The wires will heat up and melt their insulation and can burn anything in contact with them. Very quickly. And I believe. This can happen, much faster, than with AC Current. I’ve seen this happen, to many over the years. I’ve worked on Cars and done Building Maintenance, since 1975. So, I’ve made a few mistakes. And I’ve seen some simple mistakes start fires. Don’t clean Oil Spills, under Natural Gas Water Boilers with Gasoline! Not, that I’ve ever done that;) One thing, that worries me, in your wiring. Is, something that seems fine. Until you think of a Direct Short Situation. You, have some of your Grounds. Screwed directly through the Carpet, in your Coach. And I’m afraid that if there were a Short. Anywhere in that Circuit. That Carpet could heat up and catch on fire. And you would not know it, until, it was too late. If I remember right. You did one, inside in a Cabinet or in a Closet. And I do remember the one you did recently, in your new Battery Bay. I know… Everyone hates, those Self Appointed Internet Safety Monitors. But, I hope you can see. The validity, of what I am saying. I know your Dad, is an Electrical or Electronics Engineer. And I know, you can talk to him, about this stuff. So, perhaps, he can help you judge my advice… Here’s an example, of what can happen. I have a 1983 Van. That my uncle gave me. A few years, before he gave it to me. He had mentioned to me. That he had trouble with one of his fuses constantly blowing. So, I told him about an old trick. That I had learned, from some older guys. Wrap a piece of Tin Foil or a silver Gum Wrapper around the blown fuse. And it will work, again. But, just use it for a short time. Say, just to get you home. Well, evidently… He did this and just left it in there. So, he burned up almost ever wire in that Van. Now, he was not a novice. When it comes to Electricity. He was an Air Conditioning Repair Man. And he did Building Maintenance on Hospitals, for many years. He did AC Electricity and Air Conditioning Work, for a ling time. And he knew what he was doing. But, I guess. He didn’t know as much about DC Electricity, as I thought. When he later, gave me the Van. He had rewired most of the Circuits. After burning up the wiring. He used many different colors of wires. And they are almost impossible to physically run down to trace out. There are still a few little problems, with it. Like, if you turn on the Heater Fan. It burns up the new ignition Fuse, under the Hood. And the Engine Dies and wont Restart. Until, you find and replace that fuse, one little fuse. Hidden, in a wad of Wiring and Fuses. Connected Directly to the Battery. Anyway… Also, I’ve seen how Auto wiring. Can degrade and connections corrode. Quicker, than you man think. Causing Resistance and Heat Build up, in the Wiring. I use a Corrosion Preventative Gel. On all of my DC Connections, that are anywhere near or on a Battery. And on the Grounds, that are exposed to the Elements, Rain etc. I can’t remember the names or brands. But, they are easy to find in a Auto Supply Stores and Online. And connections can loosen up, too. Due to vibration. When going down the road. So, make sure all of your connections are tight. I try to always use lock washers. Wherever I can. Or else double up on the nuts. So, as to lock them together. I think you do great work. And you can plan and remember your plan. To share it with others. Better than I can. So, keep up the good work and enjoy your Trip!:)

    Don

  2. Excellent work on the solar set up. You put a lot of thought and work into getting your rig working on the sun light. In your last couple of videos I saw a couple of things. Straight out of the batteries you’ll want a disconnect so you can remove power if necessary for maintenance or emergency. I would also add a disconnect to the line that runs up to the former battery location.
    You do have fusing for most things but not straight off the battery. You’ll also want to fuse items coming off the insulated post at the former battery location. I didn’t see what you fused the line running to there, but the maximum 3/0 will carry is 200/225 which is way more than those other lines would. Likely they would become fuse-able elements causing a fire.
    Finally, I suggest covering all exposed connections with some liquid electrical tape. The stuff paints on and dries pretty quickly and creates a water tight and electrically isolated covering preventing shorts.
    Keep up the good work!

  3. Hi Pippi, if you see this, hope you do, what size panels did you end up going with? Just curious, they look like maybe 140Ws?? I have 150W x 3 on my little toy hauler and just installed 100W x 3 in the flexible light-weight panels on my new addition, a 2017 Northstar Laredo SC truck camper… carried by a 2017 Ford F-250… readying it a trip west… hopefully leave in a few weeks.

  4. Here’s my two cents.

    This project is very cool. I am extremely interested in the permutations of RV solar installations. The effort you put into venting those batteries and physically isolating them behind plexiglass (presumably if they were to explode) is a great idea. I’m not an engineer so I can’t say you did that the best or worst however it seems most RV manufacturers put little effort into venting corrosive gasses or isolating explosions so minimally I think your setup is probably far better.

    The only thing you are doing that I’m leery about is the lack of a fuse coming out of the battery bank. If it were me, I’d have a fuse on the battery terminal appropriate for the wire gauge. If you want to be really anal, you could fuse each battery also. I think the only benefit of that is if one battery dead shorts internally, then you prevent the other batteries from shorting too. Also fusing each battery protects the wire connecting each battery (though unlikely you’d have a problem there).

    It looks like for the input/output of the Morningstar you are using AC fuses designed for 120 volts. Again, I’m no engineer and I’m probably just below, at, or perhaps slightly above your level of expertise with this stuff. Do you know for certain you can use fuses like that? I’ve never seen that or heard of that with 12 volt DC applications. But if it is permissible to do that the air conditioner disconnect is a brilliant idea.

    Regarding your mystery wires, your schematic suggests the disconnect in the RV is a solenoid? I would think those mystery wires are the input and output to the solenoid. Like if you shut the power off, it has to be interrupted somehow so you need two wires going to a switch, relay, or whatever.

    Another fuse thing. So the inverter I presume is a charger for the batteries, right? So if that thing is pumping current into the batteries when you are on shore power or generator, the output of that should be fused too. Though if it has a fuse that’s easily replaceable without tearing apart the inverter/charger then that would not be necessary. Just want to make sure you don’t go off like a flash bulb or I won’t have anything to watch. 🙂

    Lastly, on your schematic you marked is as “AC Disconnect”. Don’t you mean “DC Disconnect”? A better label would be solar disconnect.

    What are you doing with the original house batteries? Are you abandoning those in place?

    You are a gifted human. Love your RV stuff. I’ve learned a lot! 🙂

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