What we do
We can install any size panel you like that is practical for the roof of your RV. Our most popular size solar panel is a 60 watt rigid that measures 540mm x 630mm x 30mm. We get a lot of raised eyebrows when we suggest this size panel, but let's take a look at why small works
Bigger is not always better
- Most motorhomes and caravans have a number of items on the roof already - vents, air conditioner, TV aerial etc. A smaller panel can be squeezed into places that would otherwise have to remain blank.
- A lot of small panels instead of a few large panels also avoids putting all your solar eggs in one basket, so to speak. It only takes a large bird poo or the shadow of a power line or branch, and you can lose most or all of the output from a panel. Better to lose 60W than 150W or more.
Attaching panels to an RV roof
Get power and get cooling
- When we're adding panels to existing solar, we mount rigid panels using 75mm x 25mm aluminium angle. This elevates the panel above the roof, leaving a gap which not only keeps the sun off your roof and therefore some of the day's heat out of your RV, this method also contributes important cooling for the panels, as the performance of photovoltaic cells drops as their temperature rises above 25°C.
Custom curved frames
- Some manufacturers won't warranty your roof if panels are attached anywhere other than the extreme edge. We can build a custom frame using aluminium square which we gently curve to fit the contour of the roof. Cross members are placed at intervals to avoid any items protruding from the roof such as vents and air con, and spaces are filled with panels.
Curved solar frame and 1000W of solar in 17 x 60W panels on an AvidaTM motorhome.
- Sometimes weight is important, and when plenty of power to run the air conditioner is also important, lightweight semi-flexible panels are the way to go.
- We've designed a custom footing to secure each panel along with a backing of Lexan Thermoclear to give support to the panel and to assist with air flow to keep the panel cool. We also install feedback diodes to protect the panel when the battery is full and no longer requires the charge still being generated by the panel.
1.9kW as 19 x 100W semi-flexible panels on a fifth wheeler.
Lightweight portable solar
- The semi-flexible panels also make a less bulky and lighter alternative to rigid portables.
How much solar?
We recommend that you install as much solar as you can fit and can afford. However, cost is important, so if you can't afford to fill your roof with panels, it comes down to how much power you use, as this is how much you need to put back into your battery. The smaller your battery, the more solar it is preferable to have. A small battery means it's also preferable to use power while the sun is shining and to try to reduce power when it's not.
Many of our customers can run their air conditioner for several hours on a 400Ah battery. We have a customer who can run his air conditioner pretty well all day, as well as a smaller unit over his bed at night, on 400Ah, but he has 1.9Kw of solar on his roof.
In the Technical Stuff section, we take a look at how you can estimate how many amp hours you should be getting from your solar. If you're not getting close, your panels may need cleaning, you may be in partial shadow, or your solar wiring may be inadequate.
When wireless cellphones first came out, analysts predicted that at peak, it would only replace 5% of landlines. They said the quality wasn't good enough. Clearly that was improved. I think you'll find a similar thing in solar. - Lynn Jurich