Back in January we stayed in BLM land on Ogilby Road in California. We were meeting up with the folks of RV Happy Hour. You can read our post about it here. This is where we met Eddie of Mobile Homestead Solar Services. We witnessed the beautiful solar install work he did on another member of the groups 5th wheel.
During our time out at Ogilby Road and during our stay in Quartzsite, AZ with the same group from RV Happy Hour, we were able to get a lot of questions answered about installing solar on our motorhome. Mike & I decided since I had funds from the sale of my prints during Christmas, that we would take advantage of getting solar installed while Eddie was still around.
Since Eddie does mobile solar install and is a full-timer himself, he doesn’t carry inventory. He made suggestions on what type of panels, controllers, etc. needed for the work and we just ordered everything ourselves online or were picked up locally in Yuma.
What Products We Used in the Solar Installation
Below is a list of all the main items we purchased for the install. These products were ordered through either Amazon or through Northern Arizona Wind & Sun. The items that can be purchased on Amazon do contain our affiliate links. There are no affiliate links with Northern Arizona Wind & Sun.
Renogy 4 Piece 100W Monocrystalline Photovoltaic PV Solar Panel Module 12V Battery Charging
We decided to go with the Renogy panels because of the good reviews on Amazon. Also our friend, Ray of Love Your RV as well as other full-timers have them and seem to be happy with them. For us, they were an affordable option.
Morningstar TS-45 TriStar 45 Amp Charge Controller 12-48V PWM
We chose the PWM controller because it’s the most affordable and they’ve been around a long time. There is a lot of information online about MPPT and the difference. MPPT controllers are much more expensive and we wouldn’t see much advantage on our current system set up.
Trimetric TM-2030-A Battery Monitor System
The battery monitor is installed inside our rig so we can gauge usage. I must admit, we love checking it!
Items purchased locally between Home Depot & RV part stores:
- Solar Panel Tilting Brackets (4 sets) – Starlight Solar Power Systems
- Electrical cables & wiring – Home Depot
- Combiner Box – Eddie built us a custom combiner box. It will easily handle future upgrades in terms of additional panels.
- EternaBond RSW-4-50 White Roof Seal
- Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant – Used at least 2 tubes of it.
- Insulating Foam Sealant– Home Depot
You may have noticed in the list of items that I didn’t list an inverter. Our motorhome came with a 600 watt pure sine inverter which is on the low side for serious boondocking. We found out after the install while Eddie was still with us, that this existing inverter only powers our 2 TVs and the passenger side front AC outlets. This is pretty common with many RVs from what we’ve heard from friends who have solar. These smaller inverters don’t typically power the entire coach’s outlets.
So one of the next steps for our solar setup is to add a 2000 watt pure sine inverter in the bay where Eddie has mounted the controller. It will be installed with the goal of connecting wiring to power the coach’s other AC outlets. In addition, we will need to make changes in the breaker box so that our most commonly used outlets and appliances can be powered by the new inverter.
Currently we have two 6 volt house batteries rated at a total of 232 amp hours. The solar panels now produce way more power than we can store. The batteries have been fully recharged by 10:30 each morning. The rest of the day’s power just “spills out all over the ground”, as one of our veteran full-timer friends likes to say! We’ll be increasing our battery bank as soon as we have funds available. With more battery storage we’ll be able make much better use of our 400 watts of solar power.
What Kind of Usage We Are Getting Currently
At the date of this writing, we’ve been boondocking for six straight days without using our generator. We’ve been completely powered by solar! No bothering the neighbors with generator noise or fumes and no more using valuable fuel!
It’s been really hot so we’ve been running the ceiling fan all day and into the evening. We’ve also been keeping our electronic gadgets and computers completely charged all day long. Though we aren’t big TV watchers, we’ve watched a couple of movies and TV shows all the while maintaining 100% on the battery until evening just to test it out.
We power all the electronics through the passenger side of the cab. This works ok for now. Mike’s computer is set up here all the time anyways because there is a computer pullout tray. I run my Mac extension cord from the dinette (my office) to the outlets there. Obviously, this is not totally ideal, but we are thrilled that we can stay powered throughout the day.
I can’t use my kitchen or bathroom appliances yet as I would need to run the generator. I hope with the upgrades of the batteries and new inverter, I’ll be able to power a few small appliances I use on occasion. I have a convection/microwave oven I only use occasionally that we have to turn on with the generator running.
I’ll write a new post when we invest in the next upgrade.
What We Have Learned
We’ve learned that every RV set up of solar can be very different. This set up may not work for you. Mike and I have been reading a lot of blog posts over the last couple of years on full-timer’s solar installs. Everyone does it differently and use different products. Many go to certified RV Solar installers, others do it themselves or pay someone with experience outside of a shop, like we did, to start their solar journey. You’ll have to do the research yourself and find what will work for you and your RV.
We’ve got the solar bug now and can’t wait to take the next steps. Staying in free public lands is very exciting and will save us so much money in the long run. Solar makes that possible.
Ray of Love Your RV has a few great videos highlighting the solar set up work Eddie has done. Definitely worth watching if you are interested in having solar in your future.
- Video 1 – Battery Bank Wiring and Connection Tips
- Video 2 – Running the Solar Wiring through the Rig
- Video 3 – Solar Panel Rooftop Mounting and Wiring
How to Contact Eddie
Mobile Homestead Solar Services