Using a Solar Charger for your RV or Camper
We like to camp. It started in Arizona when my wife and I were just dating (young, dumb, and broke). Our level of funding and experience dictated throwing a tent and supplies into the SUV and heading up into the mountains. We have since progressed on to a popup trailer, and now own a small Hybrid camper - although at 25 feet long some may disagree that it is small or “camping”. We park it at our Christmas Tree farm and have our own private campsite there too. The problem is we have no power or utilities way back at the camp. So I decided to set up a solar charging station to keep the camper batteries fully charged. Here’s how…..
Our camper is a Jayco 23B Hybrid. It’s just like a regular camper trailer except it has big panel doors at each end that pop out (not a popup) into tent ends. Inside we have the full amenities – stove; microwave; TV; toilet; shower; stereo system and so on. Most of the time when camping we either have access to shore power (outlets at the campground) or use our Yamaha EF2400 generator which is very quiet. I love that generator by the way and it’s come in quite handy around the house during storms and power outages….but that’s another article I’ll have to write later. Sometimes we just like to boondock overnight and run off the batteries – hence the solar charger.
The solar charging system I installed is not intended to be run under load. It will really struggle to quickly and fully bring a dead system back to life. What I wanted was a small and inexpensive system to keep the batteries fully charged by using a trickle charge approach. I hunted around and read all the material available and settled on a 15 watt Battery MINDer charger kit. It includes the solar panel; a battery minder; a charge controller; and the associated cables. I would recommend you get a complete kit because you cannot just hook a solar panel directly to your batteries. They will eventually overcharge your batteries (and ruin them) and you need to have some kind of a monitor and controller to limit the amount of current output. We have two full size Group 31 batteries hooked up in parallel and the panel keeps them fully charged. If you really want to overdo it and run with higher loads then you are looking for a 60-70 watt system and a bunch of money too.
By the way, the Optima blue Top dual purpose batteries are really great for RV use.
BatteryMINDer Solar Charging System - 12 Volt, 15 Watt Panel, Model# SCC-015
Part Number: SCC015
Amazon Price: $159.99
Yamaha EF2400iSHC, 2000 Running Watts/2400 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Inverter
Manufacturer: Builders World Wholesale Distribution - Yamaha
Part Number: EF2400iSHC
Amazon Price: $1,335.00
- Author: Bill MoellerPublisher: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press (2007)Binding: Paperback, 176 pages
Optima Batteries 8052-161 D31M BlueTop Starting and Deep Cycle Battery
Part Number: 8052161
Amazon Price: $250.39