Components of a Solar Charging System

These are the basic components of a solar charging system. This is fundamentally the same configuration you would use on a off-grid cabin, tiny house or sailboat.

Solar component diagram

Solar Panels

Solar panels collect energy from the sun and convert it to electricity. Power from the solar panels is sent to the Solar Charge Controller.

Solar Charge Controller

The Solar Charge Controller receives power from the solar panels and regulates the electricity and current sent to the batteries to esure proper battery charging. A quality solar charge controller will have pre-defined charge modes for each type of battery (flooded lead acid or AGM). When choosing solar charge controller, be sure to input current and voltage maximum ratings are higher than the output of the solar array feeding it. There are many charge controller options to choose from. Professionally configured solar panel / charge controller kits are a great way to ensure that your components will work well together.

12 Volt Battery Bank

You battery bank stores power collected from the solar panels. Either 12 volt or 6 volt deep cycle batteries can be used as long as they are wired to produce 12 volts of output. (Note: Some RVs operate on 24 volts DC, but most have 12 volt systems)

Battery Monitoring System

A Battery Monitoring System is an option but recommended piece of equipment that monitors the current status of your battery bank as well as real-time and cumulative power consumption (See TriMetric Battery Monitor)

Wiring, Cutoff Switches and Fuses

Copper wiring of various thicknesses is used to connect solar panels, charge controller, batteries and an inverter. Cutoff switches are wired between components to easily disconnect components for safety and maintenance reasons. High amperage fuses (100 Amp to 250 Amp) are required on battery and inverter connections to prevent electrical faults from damaging other components.

Power Inverter

A Power Inverter is not really part of the solar charging system. It is a common add-on component that converts 12 volt DC power (from batteries) to 120 volt AC to power AC components and outlets in your RV. Here is the 2000 watt inverter setup in my RV.

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