A solar ready RV is a recreational vehicle that is equipped to support a solar power system. These RVs come with certain solar components that make it easier to install and use solar panels to keep your batteries charged and the electrical system in the RV powered.
Side Note: Solar panels or the solar systems don’t generally “run” anything in your RV. They charge your RV batteries and it’s the batteries that “run” devices. Learn more about RV Batteries here on our series of Battery Basics – Types of RV Batteries
A solar ready RV typically includes pre-installed solar wiring, solar ports, or even solar electrical components like a charge controller. When installing solar on your RV, fishing the wires through the roof or the interior of the RV is the hardest part of the work. When there are solar ports and wiring already dedicated for a solar system in your RV it’s so much easier and faster to install solar. However, the type of solar ready system installed on your RV will dictate what type and how big a solar system you can install.
What Kind Of Solar System Can I Install On My Solar Ready RV?
Your solar ready RV will be ready for either a roof-top solar system or a portable solar system. There’s also a chance that a good manufacturer will have pre-wired the RV for both roof-top and portable use, allowing you to use either or both at the same time.
Roof Top Solar System (Solar Ready RV)
If your RV is solar ready for a roof-top solar system you can utilize the larger panels that are installed on the roof of your RV. These are great for larger RV’s that need a larger solar system, say larger than 200-watts and up to over 1000-watts. Solar ready RV’s for roof top solar will have the wires needed for your solar system near the roof running to the battery. There’s likely going to be a spot in the wall where you can access the wires and add a solar charge controller.
There are some roof top solar ready RV’s that have a roof port already installed, they might also have the solar charge controller installed in the RV. But keep in mind, the roof port and the solar charge controller might be branded to a certain manufacture. This can suck as it ties you into that certain brand for an easy install. If you wanted to use a different brand you’ll have to switch up the parts.
Generally, the wires used for these systems are on the lighter side. It’s best to fully educate yourself on what good wires mean and what size will work best for the system you want, or get a professional to help you. Poor sized wires can lead to a good deal of efficiency loss.
Portable Solar Systems (Solar Ready RV)
Generally, all that is needed for a solar ready RV to utilize a portable solar system is a port on the side of the RV or on the battery box. For simplicity, it’s really just an extension cord for your portable solar system with a branded port so you don’t have to manually connect battery clamps to your battery each time.
Portable solar systems are designed to be portable and can be easily moved and installed on the go. They typically consist of one or more solar panels, a charge controller, and wires to connect to a battery, all housed in a compact and portable package that can be stored in the RV and taken out when needed.
Most RV manufactures partner with portable solar manufactures to use their branded port for the side of the RV. This can be convenient if you plan to use that companies solar panels but if you want to use another you’ll have to get an adapter or switch up the port on the side.
The sidewall ports for the portable panels are generally for lower wattage systems, plan to keep it to 200-watts or less per port. You’ll likely only have 1 port, so if you need more solar you should plan to add a new port and wiring. I would caution combining portable systems and having over 200-watts of solar go through one port.
Is an RV Pre-Wired for Solar Worth Buying?
If you’re buying a new RV there’s a chance it will automatically come with some sort of solar ready components. However, if you have the option to have the RV come solar ready and there is a chance, even small, that you’ll use solar in the future, it can be worth it.
The importance of having a solar ready RV depends on the needs and preferences of the RV owner. If you plan to utilize solar in the future, consider getting the roof top solar option as you can inexpensively add a port to your battery box. A sidewall port should be a quick and easy install for any shop – less than 2-hours easily. However, roof top solar installs can take much longer and are more expensive. Some of the main advantages of a solar ready RV include:
- Cost savings: By using solar energy to power your RV, you can significantly reduce or eliminate your reliance on expensive campground fees, fuel costs, and generator use.
- Environmental benefits: Solar energy is a clean and renewable source of power that can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and impact on the environment.
- Increased independence and flexibility: A solar ready RV allows you to travel and camp off-grid, giving you more freedom and flexibility to explore remote locations and stay in places without access to traditional power sources.
- Comfort and convenience: A solar ready RV provides a reliable source of power for your electrical needs, such as lighting, appliances, and electronics, without the noise, odor, and maintenance required by generators.
However, not everyone may find a solar ready RV important or necessary. If you prefer to stay at established campgrounds with reliable access to traditional power sources, or if you don’t plan on traveling off-grid frequently, a solar ready RV may not be essential for your needs.
Solar Ready Isn’t That Complex, Don’t Buy Into High Price Tags
That’s a quick run down of what you can expect on these Solar Ready RV’s. It’s basically pre-wiring the RV so solar can be installed easier. It should save you a good amount of labor charges if you plan to get roof top solar, and if you have a portable outlet you can simply get the portable and plug it in.
I would caution on getting sold a solar ready option that is a high markup or is a big sales point. It’s really not that much wire and the base charge controllers, if equipped, stink for what they are. Also, some of these RV’s with pre-wired roof top system use small 10 gauge wire. That size wire can’t really support large systems, so double check this first. And if you have questions just reach out to us.