RV solar panel

10 RV Solar Mistakes You Should Avoid 2/2

Last time, we summarize five common mistakes about solar RV user may meet. Today, let`s go through the another five mistakes about solar RV.

6: Cheap RV solar panels

Solar panels should last 20 years. Some of the least expensive solar panels will only last a few years. Solar cells are extremely thin and since they are so thin, they do not tolerate vibration well. Solar cells are about the same price regardless of where they are manufactured. Since the actual solar cells themselves are all about the same price, you have to ask yourself, “Why is this RV solar panel less expensive than a different panel?”

Did they cut corners on the aluminum frame, glass, or backing? Solar panels should be robust enough to keep vibrations to a minimum at the cell level. Cheap solar panels may cost more in the long run. I recommend higher quality RV solar panels with a good warranty by a company that has been doing it for a long time.                         

RV solar panel

7: Cheap RV solar controllers

RV solar controllers are another place where installers try to cut costs. Does the controller have a large heat sink to dissipate extra energy? A good way to judge a controller is by its weight. It should be heavy. It should not have a fan. Fans fail and then the controller will overheat and die. An aluminum heat sink doesn’t fail. A good solar controller may cost two or three times the price of the cheap models. I expect my controllers to never fail. Cheap solar controllers typically don’t last very long.

8: Cheap batteries

If you go to a big box store and buy a “deep cycle” RV/marine battery, you probably purchased a bad battery. Sealed lead-acid batteries are not good batteries for solar storage. The electrolyte in a flooded sealed lead acid battery will be gone just after the warranty expires. Flooded lead-acid deep cycle batteries with refill caps can be good batteries. AGM batteries are good batteries. 

Batteries made from lithium iron phosphate are the very best deep cycle batteries. This is the ultimate deep cycle. They have much longer life spans, and when judged on life cycle costs are the least expensive batteries you can buy — but they cost lots more upfront.

9: Undersized wires

The minimum wire size for any solar panel installation should be 10 gauge. Thicker wires, including very thick wires, and wires bigger around than your thumb (4/0 gauge) may be required in some locations. It is so sad to see good solar panels incorrectly wired with thin wires. It makes you wonder how they messed this simple item up. Edison discovered that DC electrical systems didn’t work to power neighborhoods all because they were trying to use thin wires over long distances. Use the correct wires, which usually means thick wires. Another obvious wire mistake is using indoor wire outside. Wires meant for interior use will degrade and be worthless in about a year when exposed to direct sunlight.                        

RV solar panel

10: Ignoring portable RV solar panels

Portable RV solar panels have a huge advantage over fixed solar panels because you can point them at the sun. You can even track the sun as the day progresses to get much more energy from them than fixed panels ever could produce. Plus, you can park your RV in the shade and move the panels out into the sun.

Mistakes cost money; make a minor error and performance will suffer. Make the wrong mistake and the entire system won’t work, or won’t work for very long. Avoiding mistakes in RV solar is not difficult but it requires diligence. Continually follow with SOLARPARTS to get more information you need!

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