So you've opted for solar panels on your Arctic Fox RV. After all, solar energy is efficient, sustainable and financially savvy – but before you can enjoy it, you have to install those panels.
Most Arctic Fox RVs come with a connection point on the roof and wiring to facilitate installation of a solar panel. These wires terminate in the battery compartment and meet somewhere inside the trailer behind a panel usually labeled with a “Solar Ready” sticker. They will often be found coiled up in the radio compartment, with one pair going to the roof and the other going to the batteries.
Most solar power system designs include an inverter to provide AC power, but keep reading to learn the basics of wiring the solar panel and charge controller for charging the coach batteries.
Installing Solar Panels
Specify a solar power system to meet your needs, factoring in how many, and what type of panels you will need as well as how much roof space you have. Remember to factor in roof space taken up by your TV antenna and other ancillary devices.
Disconnect the coach batteries and unplug the trailer from shore power if connected. Then locate the pre-installed solar power connector (if present) and determine the best location for solar panels on the roof. Proper placement should allow for mounting of all brackets on an even section of roof so the panel does not bend, and it should provide for easy access around panels once mounted.
Mount brackets to the panel and mark the desired positioning of the feet on the roof. The Arctic Fox roof is 1/2-inch plywood so there is no need to mount brackets directly to roof joists. Avoid placing mounting screws directly atop the seams between plywood. Next, apply a small amount of rubber roof sealant where you marked and place the panel in position. Some sealant will ooze out from under the bracket and through the mounting holes. Do not wipe it off.
Secure the brackets to roof and coat all seams and screws with an ample amount of sealant. Connect the wires to solar panel using MC connectors. Optionally, MC cables with built-in connectors can be used.
Route cables along the roof and secure them at least every 24 inches using the wire clips screwed to the roof and covered well with sealant. Connect the other end to the pre-installed solar power MC connector.
Locate the ends of the pre-installed roof wiring behind the “Solar Ready” panel. If mounting charge controller at this location, cut a hole in the panel using jigsaw or zip tool according to the manufacturer’s mounting instructions and connect the wires as directed.
Connect the wires from the controller to the coach battery using accessory terminal posts. Connect to either battery if two are present, ensuring that the polarity is correct. The positive wire (often black) will connect to the positive battery terminal, with the negative wire (often white) to the negative battery terminal.
Finally, reconnect all battery terminals. The solar panel should now be charging the batteries. Confirm the status of your system by checking the charge controller’s panel or LED indicators.
Items you will need
Roof mounting brackets
Wiring clips (Zip-Tie style work best)
RV rubber roof sealant
Photovoltaic power cable
MC (multi-connect) cable connectors
Solar power charge controller/regulator
2 12-volt deep cycle batteries
2 Automotive battery accessory terminals if not present on coach batteries
Optional: 2 15-amp buss fuses with housing assemblies
Optional: Electrical wire butt connectors
Optional: Extruded aluminum “L” profile rails, flat strips and bolts
Drill with screw tip
Optional: Drill bit and jigsaw or RotoZip tool
Should you decide to move the charge controller closer to your battery bank, be sure to connect the wires behind the “Solar Ready” panel using butt connectors. If also installing an inverter, all system components can be mounted to a piece of plywood then placed in compartment next to batteries for easy serviceability.
If your trailer does not have a pre-wired solar power connector on the roof, or if it is in an inconvenient location, the cable can be routed down a nearby roof vent. The refrigerator chimney is a popular choice for routing cable.
To minimize the risk of solar power surges from your panel(s) damaging your charge controller, mount a Buss automotive fuse inline for both the red and black power cables before they connect to your controller.
To maximize solar exposure on your panel(s) throughout the day, create an adjustable support system by attaching hinges to your mounting brackets or fabricate tilting brackets using a combination of “L” shaped aluminum rails and 1/4-inch aluminum strips connected with short bolts.
Using insufficiently gauged wires can result in system failure or an electrical fire hazard. All MC cables now being sold are made with UL-listed, 600-volt, multi-stranded, No. 10 or No. 12 outdoor-rated, sunlight-resistant cable. While No. 10 wire is rated at 54 amps max in open air, experts recommend no more than 30 amps for No. 12 wire and 45 amps for the No. 10 wire.
Treat all wires as hot. Be careful with the pair of wires coming from the battery bank to the “Solar Ready” panel. Sometimes the dealer will hook these up to your batteries, making the other end hot. If sun is hitting a solar panel, its wires will be hot.
Use a stepladder and get assistance when transferring the panel(s) to your trailer roof. Do not attempt to carry panels up the vertical access ladder on back.
- Solar Panel image by kuhar from Fotolia.com