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“Ask a Solar Expert”
Posted By Good Sam On December 26, 2010 @ 1:43 pm In RV Tips | 1 Comment
RV solar systems can be designed many different ways to perform many different functions. They can consist of one very small panel for battery maintenance (trickle charging) applications or many large panels together with charging devices and an inverter, which can provide most or all of an RV’s electrical needs. Many RVs are currently produced with some amount of solar already installed. Determining which you have (or want to have) is simple. James Mannett, a former energy industry executive and current owner of CEA Solar, answers questions from readers about the proper use of Solar Panels for RV use.
I have a 2004 Travel Supreme Motorhome. It looks like I have a 10-watt solar panel on the roof, but I am really not sure what the size is. It looks broken and some of its circuits are exposed. What is it connected to and what is it for? Could you give me some information on how to replace it? What procedure should I follow? I am new at this. Thanks. Signed: Hanging Circuits.
Your 10-watt panel is most likely a trickle charger AKA a battery maintainer. It is usually wired to the engine battery and is intended to keep it fully charged while in storage. These small panels help compensate for the small “parasitic” drain on motorhome engine batteries from various electronic devices and from the natural discharge rate of batteries when they sit unused. Many RV manufacturers install a small indicator light inside the passenger compartment, which will light up when the sun is out indicating that the panel is connected and working. The most common panels are 5-10 watts and usually about the dimensions of a standard novel. To determine the actual wattage, you need to carefully remove the remains of the panel and look on the back. There will usually be a label that will tell you the wattage, operating voltage, and operating current (amps). When replacing it, find a replacement panel with the same or similar wattage and operating voltage.
Replacement of your 10-watt panel is pretty simple, but the removal procedure can vary depending on how the panel was originally mounted—glued to the roof, screwed to the A/C housing, etc.
Have questions about RV solar power? You may write James Mannett at firstname.lastname@example.org  or visit his blog at http://blog.rvsolarnow.com  where you may post your comments or suggestions about this article or others that appear there. Meet and discuss RV solar power at the Quartzsite, Arizona, rally January 21-30, 2011, at booth #140.
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