This meant as a guide only and no responsibility is accepted by the Author or RV Solar Systems
Where individual items have specific instructions these should be followed.
The individual components may differ in make, size and specification, but the functions are usually similar. One or more solar panels are securely attached to the roof of the campervan, motorhome or caravan by use of fixing brackets. The wires (positive & negative) pass into the vehicle through a waterproof gland to the charge controller. This will have some form of display to show when the solar panel is charging. Some have a separate display for this purpose.
The charge controller is either wired into the 12 volt electrical system of the vehicle. This is achieved by a direct connection to the battery, or into the vehicle electrical control system or panel by a dedicated connection. If this is available there will be instructions in the vehicle handbook. Some control systems fitted to recent caravans and motorhomes have a solar controller built in the Sergent EC 325 Power supply unit is one there may be others so check before ordering you kit.
(NOTE: When fitting a solar panel be aware that the panel will be generating electricity when exposed to light. This means that the terminals on the panel will be live. To avoid a damaging electrical short circuit it is good practice to cover the surface with a cloth or paper held in place with masking tape until fixing is complete.
(NOTE: The open circuit voltage of a solar panel can be in excess of 17.5 volts and if connected directly to a 12 volt system without a charge controller can cause damage.
NOTE: The solar panel should be mounted with a gap underneath to allow air circulation. 25mm or 1" inch is sufficient.
1. Tools and Equipment
Before commencing make sure you have all the required tools and equipment to hand.
You will need.
Craft Knife (Stanley type)
Cross & Flat Head Screwdrivers
Wire Stripper/Crimper (not vital, use craft knife and pliers)
Drill and drill bits (3mm 5mm 10mm)
Glass paper fine
Solvent for cleaning (white spirit)
Ladder or working platform (be safe)
Sealant gun/dispenser (for the adhesive)
2. Location and Marking Out
It is assumed that the size and location for the panel was decided prior to purchase. There is little point in buying a panel that is too big to fit the available roof space.
Make sure you have a safe and secure working position. Place the panel on the roof in its planned location. (Be aware that aerials and satellite dishes adjacent to the panel may put the panel in the shade and will decrease its output considerably.)
Make a note of where the electrical connections to the panel are.
Decide where the roof gland is to be situated, preferably as near to the panel’s electrical connections as possible and above a cupboard so the wires entry into the vehicle is into the cupboard (long runs of wire across the roof are best avoided if possible)
Mark and drill where the brackets are to be fixed to the solar panel. (This may have been done previously)
All the points where the brackets and roof gland are to be bonded to the roof must be flat and thoroughly cleaned. Some roofs have a slight bobbly effect which should be rubbed down to a smoother finish.
Use the white spirit to clean the area to be bonded, and then lightly abrade the area to give the bonding a key.
Clean the area again with the white spirit.
Slightly abrade the brackets.
4. Drilling the cable entry point.
Drilling the roof of a motorhome or caravan can be quite daunting, but the wire has to come in somewhere and into a cupboard is usually the best option.
Decide where you want the gland to be on the outside, then check inside to see if this is a suitable location. When you are happy that you have chosen the best spot. Drill a small pilot hole. Check inside that all is ok. (A small hole is a lot easier to correct than a large one. If it all goes pear-shaped, glass fibre and resin can usually cure all ills.)
If you are happy with both the inside and outside locations for the gland and wire to pass through, drill a larger hole through the inner skin from the inside. Then stop and check to make sure there are no wires in the way, and then drill through to the outside. (Clean again around the hole to remove and dust and debris.)
(NOTE: Make sure the 12 volt positive and negative wires to the panels are attached whilst the terminals are accessible)
5. Fixing the panel to the brackets
The brackets are secured to the panel prior to fixing to the roof using a number of different fixings, including, nuts & bolts, pop-rivets, or screws and bonding agents like adhesive. The choice is left to you how this is done.
6. Fixing the brackets to the roof.
Everything should now be in place to fix the panel.
Fix the brackets to the panel if required.
Squeeze an even layer of adhesive over the fixing / contact area of each the brackets.
Place the panel in position making sure not to slide it sideways on the adhesive. Apply a gentle but firm downward pressure making sure that the panel is even and level to the roof.
7. Fixing the Roof Gland
Fixing the roof gland can get a bit messy. It is virtually impossible to feed the wire through the glans after it has been fixed in place. Slide the wire from the solar panel through the gland.
Push the end of the wire through the hole into the vehicle. (Very useful to have someone on the other end of the wire)
Place the gland over the hole in its correct position and check that the wire from the panel to the gland is the right length.
Tighten up the gland.
Lift the gland clear of the roof leaving the cable still hanging in the hole.
adhesive the roof gland and locate the gland on the roof with the cable entry point away from the direction of travel.
Place a weight on the gland to hold it in place until cured.
Do not pull the cable around inside the vehicle until the adhesive has cured.
8. Wiring it up
a) Fix the control unit and the display unit (if separate), in convenient locations.
b) Attach the battery wires according to the charge controller’s instructions.
Attach the two wires directly to the battery and connect them to the positive and negative terminals. Attach the two wires from the solar panel according to the charge controller’s instructions.
d) If fitted Connect to a manufacturer’s dedicated solar input socket. (Usually located near the control unit)
If your charge controller is not fused, it is very good practice to put a fuse in the circuit at the controller end. (Fuse size dependant on panel output) It is also safer to put a fuse at the battery end of the circuit.
Now everything should be connected and watertight.
Get back up to the roof and clean off the excess adhesive and check everything is secure and there are no tools left up there. Remove the covering from the panel.
Go back inside and check that the panel is charging.
Wiring instructions for the plug and socket supplied with the free standing models
In the kit you will find hella type plug and socket, it should be connected as follows:-Observe wiring continuity e.g. RED live + BLACK negative - Wire the RED + cable to both the centre connection of both the plug and socket and the BLACK -to the outer connections of the plug and socket. The socket should be connected to the solar panel terminals of the controller and the plug to the solar panel cable.
The controller should be connected between the panel & battery following the
instructions given with the controller
Should you require any further information please contact us on
01706-870330 where we will give you all the assistance you might need