RV Solar Charge Controller Ultimate Guide

rv solar charge controller guide

Why RV Solar Charge Controller?

This is the ultimate guide to RV Solar Charge Controller, Investing in Solar energy or Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) Energy as an energy resource is always a good, clean, renewable, sustainable, resilient and cheap source of energy among all the other options available at present. Using an RV or a recreational vehicle is a matter of choice for anyone who owns one or plans to. RV requires a lot of energy depending on the occupancy and the energy consuming equipment installed in it. Solar Power System for an RV is a very fine and appropriate example of a Stand-alone solar photovoltaic energy generation and consumption unit.

It is always a best practice to get a good or amazing return on your investment in very less time. Outstanding efficiency in the operation of any machine is required to make it sustainable and accepted economically. Solar energy systems like any other energy generation system are not 100% efficient and losses do occur in standard conditions which can be limited if best practices are undertaken.

Using a solar charge controller in an RV is such a practice of installing a solar energy generation system with the best possible efficiency. Not using a solar charge controller in a solar energy generation, transmission, storage, and consumption system may bring RV to an energy deficient condition. If a charge controller is not connected to charge the battery system getting solar energy from panels with the generation capacity of more than 20W, the battery pack may run dry or it may burn out depending on the charge available from solar panels and sun.

What is RV Solar Charge Controller?

If a Solar power system is installed on a recreational vehicle (RV), with generating a capacity of 100 Watt from panels then it becomes a kind of mandatory to have a solar charge controller installed to control the charging and discharging of the battery from the panels and the connected load. Here charge controller is an essential part of the solar system generating electricity for the RV.

It is also known as a charge regulator or battery regulator, a charge controller is an electronic device which regulates the flow of voltage and current in and out of battery. There are many technologies at present offered by many companies which term to call it as a charge controller. Mainly two technologies as MPPT (Maximum power point tracking) and PWM (Pulse width modulation) are established in the market.

In an MPPT solar charge controller, the voltage and current from the solar panel are measured in real time and maximum power is supplied to batteries depending on its capacity. In PWM charge controllers, solid state gates and switches are used to supply constant direct current to the battery with varied input from solar panels. This technology is older, cheaper than MPPT and is used for fairly small solar generation systems. MPPT technology being more efficient in working with real-time tracking of voltage and current is generally in use as compared to PWM which being cheap and traditional not comparatively efficient.

MPPT Charge Controllers and PWM Solar Charge controller are both an integral component of a solar system installed in an RV because of its stand-alone nature as RV is a mobile energy consuming entity and generally cannot be connected to the grid electricity supply. To make a solar generating system in an RV viable and safe, the charge controller is considered as one of the most important components in RV solar Systems.

How a Solar Charge Controller is used in an RV?

A solar system in an RV consists of a number of components to make it fully operational to generate electricity. It consists of;

  • RV Solar Panels
  • RV Solar charge controller
  • Solar RV battery or storage facility
  • Solar inverter or off-grid inverter
  • Transmission wires and cables

rv solar panel kits

A solar panel or array (either mono-crystalline or poly-crystalline) generates electricity when exposed to sunlight. The semiconductor material (Silicon or combination of semiconductor materials) generates electric current in a solar panel when photons from sunlight cause transfer of electrons in the semiconductor material to generate transfer of electrons inside the material. This transfer of electrons generates DC (direct current) from the panel and is transmitted to the charge controller via transmission cables. The charge controller is connected to the storage facility of the battery which takes DC as input current at a specific voltage level. The battery or battery bank is connected to the inverter which converts DC to AC (alternating current) which is connected to the load. All of this stage wise transmission of electricity is carried in a network of wires and cables.

The solar charge controller is thus used as a “brain” of the total solar system generating electricity for the RV by managing recharge and discharge of the battery. The charge controller tracks charge of the battery and regulates the voltage and current depending on the requirement of the RV battery.

How to Sizing RV Solar Charge Controller

Generally, The RV battery is 12 Volt, with a 12V Solar Charge Controller, the Solar Power System can quickly charge the car battery. it’s easy to size the solar charge controller for RV, For example, when using a 200W system, select 20A controller, 400W system, choose 40 Amp controller. The basic formula to Sizing a Charge Controller is ” Watts / Volts = Amps”, Which is RV solar Panels Power divided by the voltage of the RV battery system, and the amps are the value to rating the solar controller.

Types of Solar Charge Controller for RV

There are plenty of charge controller products on the market today, but not all of them are dedicated design for Vehicle solar battery charging nor optimized for an RV Solar Power System.

Universal Solar Charge Controller

A Universal solar charge controller also can be implied in the RV solar Power system. no matter is an MPPT Controller or PWM Controller type.

You can always find a lot of universal solar controllers installed on the RV. The general-purpose controllers are usually not optimized for the vehicle solar system, especially the heat-dissipation function.

Ground design is another important point. Many universal controllers are designed with positive ground. This kind of design is not suitable for RV solar systems.

Solar Charge Controller for RV

The RV solar controller usually stands for the solar controller optimized for the RV solar application. It is optimized according to the needs of the RV solar system. like the size, volume, function, heat dissipation, and ground.

You can also find the Dual battery solar charge controller for RV on the Market, the Duo Battery Charge is designed for 2 battery charger the same time, since many RVs are equipped with 2 batteries, the main battery, and a power supply battery.

Tips for Choosing the RV Solar Charge Controller

MPPT

Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) is the best type of solar charge controller that helps you to get the most from the solar panels and significantly increase battery life.

MPPT can improve charging performance and shorten the time needed to recharge your batteries, especially When relying on the solar energy in your Camping regularly and have no idea about What will the weather be like in the future.

You will definitely want to imply an MPPT Charge Controller to your RV Solar Power System if you want to get the best use from it.

Grounding

In Simple Word, all vehicles have a NEGATIVE ground system. so when you choosing the MPPT Solar Charge Controller for RV and Autos, Remeber to Choose the Negative Grounding Charge Controller. Check this for more information about Negative ground and Positive ground.

Cooling

Cooling is another thing should never forget since Solar charge controllers are usually mounted inside the passenger compartment of the RV and recessed in a wall cavity. While this installation looks good, it can sometimes be problematic if larger than the 30amp rating. Heat must be dissipated otherwise the charge controller will fail.

Controllers with good heat dissipation are ideal for selection, especially those with enhanced cooling fins or with the cooling fan inside.

When to use a Solar Charge Controller in an RV?

The solar charge controller is used in an RV when a solar generating system is to be installed in an RV. RV consists of different pieces of equipment installed which require electricity to operate. There is a possibility to use RV’s own battery as a source to fulfill its energy needs like lighting, refrigeration, and cooking etc. But it is not always sufficient to use RV’s own battery for this use and can be kept as a backup energy resource if required.

Another option is to use a diesel generator as an energy source for the RV which has been exploited at a much greater level and is not a very clean, sustainable, cheap and resourceful source of energy at present energy scenario. Solar energy as discussed above is a very viable resource for such a mobile unit like RV.

So if full energy demand of an RV is to be fulfilled (except its own mobility) with solar energy, then a solar charge controller should be used to make it fully reliable and efficient. A solar system will be in working mode even when the vehicle is moving and can electricity can be used as per demand.

How to Install a Solar Charge Controller in an RV?

There are many possibilities of using a solar charge controller in an RV. This can be mounted as conjunction with a solar panel or inside the RV with battery or outside the RV with battery or as a different component all together away from panels and battery but connected to them. The transmission losses should be kept to minimal in such a stand-alone system like RV where generation from panels is limited to consumption of electricity by the load connected.

Being one of the most important components of an RV solar system, the charge controller should be kept safe and away from any moving parts or heat generating equipment etc.

It mostly depends on the architecture and interior design of an RV which can determine the installation and commissioning of a solar system and components attached to it.

Simple RV Solar Power System Wiring Diagram

RV Solar Power System Wiring Diagram Zhcsolar
RV Solar Power System Wiring Diagram

Check out this For more information about the RV Solar Panel Kits and find the best RV solar charge controller list.

Conclusion

A solar charge controller of any type of technology is an essential component of the solar system in a mobile vehicle like RV or any off-grid solar system connected to batteries for storage of electricity. It helps the system attain a good return on investment by keeping essentials like storage batteries safe and efficient to use for a long time. Not using a solar charge controller in an RV solar system can bring catastrophic consequences to the life and operation of the battery and thus the whole energy supply inside the RV. Even a backup battery system is installed in an RV should be connected via a charge controller to maximize the operation and life of the solar system.

The products below are the ones best suited for RV projects from ZHCSolar

Check our bestsellers!

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Best Solar Charge Controller for RV

Meter Monitor for MC RV Controller

$30.00 $20.00
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Best Solar Charge Controller for RV

RV Flush Mount Charge Controller EPever Gomate 30 Amp

$129.00 $99.00
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$99.00 $69.00
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MPPT Solar Charge Controller

MC 30 Amp MPPT Charge Controller for RV

$59.00$119.00
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Best Solar Charge Controller for RV

RV Solar Charge Controller Duo Battery Charger

$59.00$79.00

Frequently asked question about RV Solar Charge Controller

Q: how to connect solar panels to rv battery bank charge controller inverter?

A: image to show how rv solar panels work

Q: how many amp for solar charge controller marine rv?

A: that depends on the solar panel output current ratings,

Q: how to read the rv solar charge controller volts?

A: the volts value will be displayed on the Origin LCD or extra Monitor

Q: rv how to connect a load to a solar charge controller?

A: Connect the load before connect the whole system to the solar panels, the terminal on the solar controller marked “Load” is where you can connect the load

Q: what do i need to connect my charge controller to a rv quick connect solar

A: MC4 Connector and Right Size Cord

Q: where to install a solar charge controller in a rv

A: Solar charge controllers are usually mounted inside the passenger compartment of the RV and recessed in a wall cavity.

Q: how to choose a solar charge controller for an rv

A: Amps Rating please refer to this sizing guide

Q: what size rv solar charge controller do i need

A: Amps Rating please refer to this sizing guide

Q: what are the steps in hooking up an rv solar system with charge controller

A: Please refer to the wiring diagram above

Q: how to hookup a solar panel and charge controller on an rv

A: Please refer to the wiring diagram above

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