Step-By-Step Guide to Installing Solar when doing a Van Life Conversion

Introduction: Unleash the Potential of Solar Power in Your Van

Different Panel Types - An overview

While it may seem like a concept straight out of "Star Trek" or some other science fiction motion picture, harnessing solar power for your van isn't only achievable now, it can turn your camper van into an eco-friendly energy center.

A solar power system is one of the invaluable camper van benefits waiting to boost your van's electrical systems. Moreover, with some basic knowledge on solar panel maintenance and the importance of proper van insulation, you can optimize the efficiency of your electrical system and extend its lifespan.

Solar power is more than just an energy solution. It's a lifestyle adjustment rooted in renewable energy education. It requires understanding how much energy you consume daily and how to balance power consumption during sunny or cloudy days.

From charging electronics to powering up kitchen appliances, every bit of electricity counts towards setting up an efficient solar system that meets all your needs without requiring more solar power. It adds power from the sun that boosts your electrical system and recharges everything aboard your camper van.

Next, we will transition into Preparing for Solar Installation: Assessing Your Van and Energy Needs, which becomes all-important when creating a sustainable mobile home dependent on solar power.

Key Takeaways

  • Solar energy for vans is not only feasible and accessible, it's an eco-friendly way to power your vehicle’s electrical system.
  • Proper van insulation and maintenance are crucial for optimizing solar system efficiency. Take a look at van-specific insulation, calculate how much you'll need, what it costs, and the best ways to install it.
  • Assessing how much power your van needs in addition to how much solar power you require to maintain your mobile lifestyle is essential well before selecting and installing any solar panels and assembling an electrical system.
  • Choosing the right solar panels involves considering factors like power usage, panel efficiency, durability and mounting options to form an effective solar system.
  • Preparing for Solar Installation: Learn to assess your van and energy needs, including insulation, space for panels, weather impact, and conducting an energy audit.
  • Choosing the Right Solar Panels: Understand the importance of selecting suitable solar panels for your van, considering factors like power output, efficiency, durability, maintenance, and mounting options.
  • Sizing Your Solar System: Discover how to determine the number of solar panels needed based on energy consumption, sunlight availability, panel efficiency, and space constraints.
  • Designing the Mounting System: Gain insights into creating a secure and efficient mounting system for solar panels, considering your van's roof type and the need for weather resistance.
  • Wiring and Electrical Considerations: Learn about selecting quality wiring and connectors, ensuring safety with proper grounding, and the importance of fuse installation.

1. Preparing for Solar Installation: Assess Your Van and Energy Needs

Before you even think about mounting a single solar panel, it's crucial to take a good, hard look at your vehicle and figure out just how much solar power you're going to need and what the limitations for mounting panels are.

As a first step, have a look at the insulation of your vehicle. If you intend to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter, you may want to consider upgrading the insulation.

Next examine the available exterior space on your van for potential panel installation. Consider obstructions such as vents, air conditioning units, or other accessories including roof racks or auxiliary lighting that could hinder the positioning of a solar panel array or interfere with solar panel wiring.

Think about your van's orientation, and how often it will be parked in sun-drenched areas. How would weather impact its exposure to sunlight? If you're in the Pacific Northwest, the number of sunny days is vastly different than those in Arizona or Southern California. These factors will play a significant role in harnessing solar energy and installing the panels. Next comes an energy audit, one of the most critical parts. List all appliances and devices you plan on powering with solar energy and find out their power ratings or usage. This includes everything from lights and charging ports to kitchen appliances and other peripheral devices such as a laptop, camera, printer, or monitor that use any amount of electrical energy.

Van insulation

An adequately insulated van requires less energy for temperature regulation. Why add camper van insulation? Vans are essentially metal boxes and metal is one of the best conductors of heat, which is not great when it acts like a refrigerator in the winter and an oven in the summer. This is only compounded by outdoor temperature extremes.

To prevent extreme temperatures inside the vehicle, you can use layers of camper van insulation plus a vapor barrier between the metal of the van and any panels or wall covering you may later install. Materials with a low 'K rating' are the best to use. The rating indicates, how much heat will pass through a specific material or how conductive it is, so the lower the number the better.

If you want to be environmentally conscious, using a natural insulator like sheep's wool is the way to go. Because wool is a hygroscopic insulator, it can absorb moisture without becoming wet to the touch and without affecting its superior performance. Havelock Wool insulation actively manages moisture and stays dry, one option we've used previously with good results.

Design Engineering Inc. or DEI offers Custom Cut Van insulation kits to simplify the process of creating a cool, quiet, comfortable environment within your Sprinter, Transit, or ProMaster van. These CNC custom cut kits include insulation for specific interior areas to reduce installation time and better insulate your van. Boom Mat damping material eliminates squeak and rattles, and spray adhesive is included to complete the installation.

Panel positioning

When installing solar panels, minimize obstructions and correctly orient them for more efficient energy production. Are they mounted to the roof's surface and partially obstructed by a roof rack, storage boxes or other equipment? You may want to install solar panels that can be mounted on top of the rack, and we've also seen others that can be raised and tilted to follow the sun just like portable solar panels. These are solutions that can be incorporated if you have the right solar components, and our advice is to ask retailers of van parts and accessories, installers, or van builders who manufacture these types of mounts.

Weather impact

Understanding how weather affects solar power generation is essential. It's not just having the right solar panel that makes a difference, it's a combination of the right electrical components, your usable battery capacity, and knowing how much power consumption will take place during inclement weather. Monitoring power consumption while you are close to home to test your usage is one thing, and quite another if you are off-grid miles away from shore power and your solar cells aren’t capable of powering up your electrical system.

Energy Audit

Determine your daily power consumption by looking at all electrical devices in your van. Make a list of the usage of every device and add them up. The Go Power! Solar Calculator can be a great help. Enter your devices and appliances to find out your energy usage as well as getting a recommendation on a solar product that will work well for your vehicle.

Now let's shift gears into Choosing the Right Solar Panels for Your Van Conversion. How do you identify which type of solar panels best suits your specific needs in your sustainable van life journey?

2. Choosing the Right Solar Panels for Your Van Conversion

You thought your initial decision to convert your van was the hardest part, right? Just wait until you leap into the world of selecting the right solar panels. Your solar panel array is going to be one of the most critical parts of your van conversion, powering all of those essential gadgets and systems that make van life comfortable, enjoyable and sustainable.

What are Solar Panels?

Solar panels are devices that use photovoltaic (PV) cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Multiple PV cells in the solar panels are connected in a circuit, covered with a protective glass or plastic sheet. When sunlight hits the PV cells, they generate an electrical current that can be stored in your van’s battery bank, or used to run your devices.

The amount of electricity generated depends on the size and efficiency of the solar panel, in addition to the amount of sunlight available. Solar panels are a fantastic invention and a terrific way for van lifers to supplement their power usage. Smaller, more efficient solar panels for vans have been introduced in recent years and these are particularly useful when living in your van year-round.


Which factors are important when considering solar panels for powering a van?

Panel features such as power output, efficiency and durability, and factors like cost, maintenance and mounting options will be essential when selecting a solar system.

Why It Matters

  • Power Output

Power output indicates how much electricity a solar panel can produce under ideal conditions. Knowing how much solar power your system generates ensures that your daily energy requirements are being met and in an efficient, effective manner.

  • Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency measures how well a solar panel converts sunlight into electricity. A solar panel with higher efficiency means more power generation from less space, a big advantage particularly if you have limited available roof space.

  • Solar Panel Durability

Solar panel durability takes into consideration weather-resistant coatings and sturdy solar panel construction. Van life exposes panels to a plethora of weather conditions, and durable, well constructed solar panels ensure longevity and continuous high performance.

  • Solar Panel Maintenance

Solar panels are durable and can withstand most outdoor conditions. However, sometimes you may have to park in areas where your solar panels are exposed to dust, pollen, tree sap, bird droppings and other debris. The panel efficiency may go down if there is a significant amount of debris on them, cleaning and maintaining them becomes necessary. Cleaning rigid panels is a bit more straightforward due to their solid glass surface. More care has to be taken with flexible and portable panels, you have to make sure not to damage the surface. 

  • Mounting Options

When it comes to selecting solar panels for your camper van lifestyle, the two main options are portable or roof-mounted solar panels. Which one is best? There’s not a singular answer, so here are their benefits:

Portable panels give you the ability to generate and store electricity using lightweight, portable solar panels. Instead of mounting them to the roof, portable solar panels are available in a few different forms, from folding panel kits that can be set up on the ground to flexible panels that can be hung from your van or any other vertical surfaces.

Roof-mounted solar panel systems are available in a flexible or rigid form. Rigid panels are very durable, long lasting and great for extended outdoor use. Flexible panels are thin and offer a sleek, low-profile look , so most people won't be able to tell you have a solar setup on your van.

Portable panels allow you the flexibility to park in a shady spot while still harnessing solar power, although it may come at an added cost or take up additional storage space inside your van. Typically, the per watt costs for portable solar panel kits are a little higher than roof-mounted solar panel kits. But, since you won't have to mount this type of solar panel on your roof, you will save time and installation costs compared to a roof-mounted system.

Different Panel Types - An overview

When considering solar panels for use on a van, three primary options stand out: rigid, flexible, and portable solar panels. Each type comes with its own set of advantages and considerations. Let's delve into a comprehensive comparison to help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs:

Rigid Solar Panels


  • Efficiency: Rigid panels often boast higher efficiency in converting sunlight into electricity.
  • Durability: They are generally more robust and can withstand harsh weather conditions.
  • Longevity: Rigid panels tend to have a longer lifespan compared to some flexible counterparts.


  • Weight: Rigid panels are heavier, potentially impacting fuel efficiency and overall vehicle weight.
  • Limited Mounting Options: Installation can be more restrictive due to their fixed structure.

Flexible Solar Panels


  • Adaptability: Flexible panels can conform to curved surfaces, providing more mounting possibilities.
  • Lightweight: They are significantly lighter than rigid panels, making them ideal for weight-sensitive applications.
  • Lightweight: They are significantly lighter than rigid panels, making them ideal for weight-sensitive applications.


  • Less Efficient: Generally, flexible panels are slightly less efficient than rigid ones.
  • Durability: While durable, they may not be as resilient as rigid panels in extreme conditions.

Example: Go Power! GP-FLEX-550 Kit

Portable Solar Panels


  • Versatility: Portable panels offer the flexibility to place them optimally for sunlight exposure.
  • Versatility: Portable panels offer the flexibility to place them optimally for sunlight exposure.
  • Easy Storage: Portable panels can be folded or collapsed for compact storage.


  • Lower Output: Portable panels may have a lower power output compared to rigid or flexible options.
  • Security Concerns: Being portable, there's a risk of theft or damage if left unattended.

Example: Go Power! PSK-200W Kit

Summary of Considerations for Van Life Use

Here is a quick summary of the factors to consider when choosing solar panels for your van. The ideal choice depends on your specific priorities, whether it's efficiency, flexibility, weight considerations, or a balance of these factors. Carefully weighing these aspects will guide you toward the solar panel type that best fits your van’s solar power needs.

  1. Power Requirements: Assess your energy needs and choose a panel type that can meet those demands.
  2. Installation: Consider the mounting options available on your van or RV and choose a panel that suits the structure.
  3. Weight: Factor in the weight of the panels, especially for vans where weight can impact fuel efficiency.
  4. Space: Evaluate the available space for solar panel installation on your vehicle.
  5. Budget: Determine your budget and find the right balance between cost and performance.

Now that you're armed with these insights, get ready for our next tutorial, Sizing Your Solar System: Determining the Number of Panels Required.

3. Sizing Your Solar System: Determining the Number of Panels Required

Determining the number of solar panels for your van involves a balance between energy consumption, sunlight availability, panel efficiency, and available space. When determining just how many solar panels your dream van conversion needs, the first step is to calculate your daily energy consumption. Use the energy audit that you conducted to provide guidance, and total up all the power you consume in a day.

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you determine the number of panels required for your van:

Step 1: Assess Your Energy Needs

Calculate Daily Consumption: Determine the daily energy consumption of all devices in your van, including lights, appliances, and gadgets. This is usually measured in watt-hours (Wh) or kilowatt-hours (kWh).

Consider Battery Capacity: Factor in the capacity of your van's battery bank. Your solar system should be capable of replenishing the energy consumed and maintaining a sufficient charge for your needs, especially during periods of low sunlight.

Step 2: Estimate Daily Solar Production

Location and Sunlight Hours: Consider the average daily sunlight hours in your location. Solar panels generate electricity based on the amount of sunlight they receive. The NREL calculator can help you determine the energy production in a specific travel location, so you can figure out how many watts in panels you require. You can also be guided by the average daily sunlight hours at your location.

Step 3: Calculate Number of Panels

Determine Hourly Consumption: Divide your daily energy consumption by the average daily sunlight hours. If your consumption is 3kWh per day and your location has 5 hours of solar irradiance, 3000 / 5 = 600W. To replenish your daily energy consumption, you need 600W worth of solar panels. Try using a solar calculator to help with assessing your energy needs.

Number of Panels Needed: Depending on the wattage of the panels you intend to use, the number of panels needed will change. If you go with 100W flex panels, you would need six of them, e.g.

Step 4: Consider Panel Types

Panel Wattage: Different types of panels (rigid, flexible, portable) have varying wattages. Choose panels that fit your available space and feasible mounting options.

Space Constraints: If space is limited on your van's roof, you may need higher-efficiency panels or a combination of panel types to maximize power production.


Solar panels are typically sold in specific wattages. Round up the number of panels to the nearest practical configuration based on the available panel options. 

If the calculations seem complex or if you have specific requirements, consider consulting with a solar professional. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your van's setup and your energy needs.

To make sure everything stays where it should, we continue with the topic of Designing the Mounting System: Ensuring Secure and Efficient Installation.

4. Designing the Mounting System: Ensuring Secure and Efficient Installation

Your mounting system plays a vital role in securing the panels in place. It needs to be sturdy enough to withstand the elements as well as vibrations and wind while driving. Start by examining your van's roof to determine which type of mounting materials will work best, whether you have a metal, fiberglass or rubber roof. While the vast majority of van roofs are metal, you may be dealing with fiberglass or rubber if you've opted for a pop top or one with a roof top tent.

Should your roof be composed of fiberglass or rubber, you may need to decide if you want to go with an adjustable rack-mounted solar setup or opt for the sleeker look of an adhesive-mounted one.

Whichever option you choose, make sure any solar setup offers weather resistance and provides secure attachment to withstand high winds and rough terrain.

Solar panel placement optimization is another vital factor to consider when designing or selecting your mounting system. Should you choose mounts or brackets that allow for adjustments in tilt and orientation, you can maximize exposure to sunlight, harnessing more power from the sun just as you would with portable panels.

Don't forget that installation safety is paramount. Always use the appropriate hardware designed for solar panel installation and adhere to proper techniques to ensure a safe installation process.

If you have any hesitations about installing solar panels, you may want to consult a professional or have them do it for you.

Maintenance accessibility should also be an integral part of your design plan since you will need easy access in order to check your solar panels on a regular basis and to clean them periodically.

Installing a Solar Panel

  • Select the Right Location: Identify the optimal location on your camper van's roof for solar panel placement, considering shade, obstructions, and roof strength.
  • Gather Tools and Materials: Ensure you have all necessary tools, including screwdrivers, wrenches, drill, mounting brackets, sealant, and cable management accessories.
  • Safety Precautions: Prioritize safety by using appropriate safety gear like gloves and goggles when working with tools or on the roof.
  • Calculate Tilt and Orientation: Determine the optimal tilt angle and orientation (usually facing south) for your solar panels to maximize energy production in your location.
  • Secure the Panels: Attach mounting brackets securely to the roof using appropriate hardware and sealant to prevent water leaks.
  • Run Wiring: Carefully route and the wires from the solar panels to the charge controller and then to the battery bank, ensuring proper fusing and cable management. Do not connect the cables until the solar controller is installed.
  • Sealant and Waterproofing: Apply an appropriate sealant around all roof penetrations, brackets,
  • Emergency Disconnect: Where applicable, install an emergency disconnect switch for safety and maintenance.
  • Documentation: Keep a record of your installation, including diagrams, component manuals, and any relevant warranties.

Now that we've covered how to secure your panels effectively, let's move on to explore how these solar electrical systems connect in Wiring and Electrical Considerations: Connecting Your Solar System.

5. Wiring and Electrical Considerations: Connecting Your Solar System

As we delve into the heart of your mobile solar system, it's crucial to understand that every wire, fuse and connection plays a supporting role in ensuring that electricity flows smoothly and those precious electrons are transferred from your solar panels to your appliances and peripherals.

Your choice in wire gauge selection can greatly influence the efficiency of this flow and minimize any voltage drop issues.

Select high quality, marine grade cables that are suitable for your solar system's current capacity and length requirements, and that are intended for van use. Don't be reluctant to seek guidance or consultation about wiring diagrams or solar panel wiring.

Ensure your safety by keeping you and your gear insulated from any unexpected electrical catastrophes with a wire ground that is well thought out and removed from harm's way.

Fuse installation is another essential aspect that requires attention to detail. Remember that protection against situations where there's too much power will avoid damage to your solar charge controllers and save you from expensive repairs down the road.

When routing cables from solar panels to your solar charge controller location, well-designed cable routing techniques will come into play. They not only ensure effective cable management but protect against abrasion or damage that could lead to an electrical short circuit.

Here's a simple table highlighting these key aspects:


Why it Matters

When you utilize high-quality wiring and connectors designed for van life solar applications, these properly sized cables and secure connections will minimize power loss and ensure safe and efficient energy transfer within your solar system. It will avoid electrical system malfunctions that could leave you stranded or worse yet lead to dangerous, life-threatening situations.

Quality Wiring

Think about the quality and size of your wiring. You want high-quality materials that can carry your power requirements without overheating or short-circuiting, and you don't want to skimp on the connectors.

Wiring is the link between your panels and batteries, whether lead acid batteries, AGM batteries or lithium batteries. When you wire solar panels, you want to make sure energy transfers smoothly from the solar panels to your battery bank.

Marine grade wire is what you want to use in your van. This means that all of the wire and cable used is built to withstand the harshest environments.

The premium vinyl jacketing material that covers marine grade wire will stay flexible while remaining extremely resistant to UV, corrosion, salt water, battery acid, oil, gas, heat and abrasion.

Individually tinned wire strands ensure optimal conductivity. Everything you need from primary wire to battery cable and specialty wire is available from a number of van life specialists.

Most van life supply specialists will carry all the ABYC recommended colors in a variety of sizes to handle any wiring project.

Labeled, high-quality, marine grade wires encased in a fire-resistant flex sleeve is what you want running throughout your camper van.

Wire Gauge Selection

For most van applications, 2/0 AWG wire is recommended. The cables will have to simultaneously support your inverter and 12V system which can add up to a lot of amps. To keep your van’s electrical system safe from overheating, 2/0 AWG wire is what you should use in combination with up to a 2,000W inverter. If you are using a 3,000W inverter, 4/0 cable is recommended.

Pay Attention to Guidelines for Appropriate Sizing

Make sure to follow the wiring recommendations for the fuse box you are using and its amp rating. For the panel installation we observed, 4 AWG wire was used to ensure absolute safety. This wire size and 150A rating was recommended by the solar systems manufacturer.

14 AWG red and black wire is the perfect size wire gauge for virtually all standard 12V devices, and it includes a tough outer jacket for additional protection. 14 AWG wire is good for up to at least 20 Amps, or 240W at 12V.

Wire Selection Influences Efficiency & Minimizes Voltage Drops

Starting with wire size, electricity has to be able to fit in the wires you install. Pulling too much current through them can reduce their efficiency and even make them burn up.

Wire diameter is measured in American Wire Gauge or AWG increments. The smaller the gauge, the larger the diameter of the wire. A 4 AWG wire is massive compared to 16 AWG wire.

When picking your minimum wire size, you need to know how many amps will pass through the wire, and how far away the component will be from the battery. The length of your circuit is double the distance between component and battery bank for the total length.

You want to choose a wire that can handle the amps with a little buffer, 25% or so, and if you are planning on doing long wire runs of over 20 feet, especially to your fridge, you may want to think about upgrading to 12 AWG wire to prevent any voltage drop.

Secure Connectors

Along with premium wiring, you're looking for ease of installation, long lasting durability, adaptability and precision fitment when sourcing connectors.

Many components and systems are wired to IPC/WHMA-A-620 Class 2 aerospace industry standards using D38999 series connectors.

Grounding Your Electrical System

Proper grounding is a critical safety precaution in the electrical world. Electrical equipment is grounded so that internal wiring failures don't raise the voltage to dangerous levels.

In van life, ground is the connection from your battery's negative terminal to the chassis of your vehicle.

Fuse Installation

A fuse is an electrical safety device that protects against overcurrent to an electrical circuit by stopping the flow of electricity. Fuses are critical to electrical systems in order to protect appliances and wires from being destroyed and possibly catching fire and causing damage.

Fuses and circuit breakers carry out the same function, which is to break electrical circuits when a fault occurs. When a fuse blows, the wire melts and it needs to be thrown out and replaced. Circuit breakers are switches which can be reset after they have flipped.

Fuses are cheap and can quickly be replaced by pulling them out of a fuse box when the power is off. Circuit breakers are more expensive and more difficult to remove. However, a circuit breaker's ability to act like a switch makes them useful for van conversions.

With everything connected correctly, we're one step closer to harnessing the sun's power in our quest for energy independence for all your camper van appliances and gadgets.

What's on deck? Charge Controller Installation: Regulating the Charging Process.

6. Charge Controller Installation: Regulating the Charging Process

Diving right into the heart of your mobile energy setup, you'll find that installing a solar charge controller is crucial for efficiently managing the flow of electrons to your appliances.

The charge controller ensures everything moves smoothly and safely. The type of charge controller you choose matters, whether it's an MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) or PWM (Pulse Width Modulation), each has its own pros and cons depending on your van life solar needs.

Your charge controller plays an essential role in preventing overcharge, which can damage your battery bank by exceeding its optimal voltage level. The latest tech comes with remote control or app that allow you to monitor the battery voltage at any given time.

Installing a Solar Controller

Your solar controller should be:
• Mounted as close to the battery as possible
• Mounted on a vertical surface to optimize cooling of the unit
• Indoors, protected from the weather

Tips to installing a controller

  • Before mounting the controller, consider how you’ll use it. Place it in an easy to locate area that’s also easy to service. 
  • Keep the solar panels on the roof covered with an opaque material until all wiring is completed.
  • Add the solar connections first, then the battery connections.
  • Connect the battery wiring to the controller first and then connect the battery wiring to the battery.
  • Torque all terminal screws per manufacturer specs
  • DO NOT exceed the maximum charge rating for your controller. If it’s rated at 30 amps and you try to install panels that pull 35, this can quickly become an issue.
  • Many manufacturers provide drilling or mounting templates with their controllers.
  • Consider opting for a brand that provides aftermarket and DIY support for self-installations.

Troubleshooting becomes less intimidating when you're familiar with how these components work together. The best way to prevent problems is by following the manufacturer's instructions during installation, and by ensuring proper ventilation for heat dissipation.

Now that you've grasped the importance of regulating solar power input, we can move on to Inverter Installation: Converting DC to AC Power, for use with everyday appliances.

7. Inverter Installation: Converting DC to AC Power

Inverters are necessary for transforming DC power from the solar panels into AC power for use in your van's appliances and gadgets.

You will need to choose an inverter that has enough capacity to meet your AC load requirements.

Consider all your energy needs from running a fridge, charging laptops or mobile phones, to using kitchen appliances. All of these use up varying amounts of energy and will affect what size inverter you need.

In terms of installation location, find a well-ventilated area close to your battery bank for optimal inverter efficiency.

Installing an inverter

Your inverter should be located close to the batteries but in a protected area free from moisture, dust, dirt and battery fumes. Your inverter should be paired with properly sized fuses and wiring. If you opted for a Go Power! Inverter, the corresponding DC-Install kit will contain everything you need to install your inverter properly. Once installed, simply plug your power cord into your Go Power! Inverter and you will have AC power.

Inverter Installation Tips

  • Install the inverter near the batteries (<10’ away)
  • If available, plug shore power cord into inverter (charger) when camping
  • To prevent extra battery drain, turn off the converter when using the inverter
  • Wire the transfer switch to shore power, inverter and load center
  • Ensure proper grounding of the solar system to prevent electrical issues and ensure safety.
  • Converter or battery chargers are wired to the transfer switch shore input to prevent extra battery drain when the inverter is being used.
  • Wiring Connections: Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully when connecting the inverter to your battery bank to ensure proper polarity and secure connections.
  • Inverter Safety: Always double-check your wiring and connections before turning on your newly- installed system for safety's sake.
  • Inverter Maintenance: Regular inspection and cleaning can extend the lifespan of your inverter significantly, while ensuring operational efficiency.
  • Advanced Inverter Features: Some inverters come equipped with remote control operation or built-in chargers which can enhance convenience.

After successfully installing your inverter, you'll be able to harness the sun's energy for use in your home on wheels.

Our solar sojourn continues with Battery Integration and Wiring: Storing and Utilizing Solar Energy.

8. Battery Integration and Wiring: Storing and Utilizing Solar Energy

Capturing sunlight is one part of the equation, storing the energy for use any time you need it, that's the purpose of a battery bank.

The 100AH Advanced Lithium Battery by GoPower Solar is an excellent choice for van applications. This battery type is lightweight and quick-charging, with Bluetooth-enabled communication and a built-in DC heater. It also has an internal Battery Management System (BMS) that regulates voltage, temperature, charge and discharge and protects against short circuits.

Lithium batteries have the great advantage of deeper cycling, making almost all the stored energy available for consumption. This quality has led to their reputation as the perfect backup power when traveling off-grid.

Wiring safety should be a top priority when integrating batteries into your solar setup. You will want to connect your batteries in parallel or series configuration based on your system’s voltage requirements.

Make sure to install the appropriate fuses or circuit breakers between the battery bank and the rest of your system to prevent any electrical mishaps.

When connecting the battery bank to the charge controller and inverter, check for correct polarity and secure connections. This step is crucial for energy conservation, as loose or incorrect connections can lead to energy loss or damage to your equipment.

Installing a Battery

  • Select the Right Battery: Choose between different battery types: AGM, lithium, or lead-acid, based on your needs and budget. Calculate your power requirements to determine the battery capacity (Ah) you need.
  • Plan Battery Placement: Find an appropriate location within the camper van to install the battery. It should be well-ventilated and secure.
  • Ensure the battery is protected from extreme temperatures and external damage.
  • Battery Isolation: Install a battery isolator or relay to separate the house battery from the vehicle's starting battery. This prevents the house battery from draining the vehicle's battery.
  • Safety Measures: Install a battery box to contain any potential acid leaks. Use appropriate fuses and circuit breakers to prevent overcurrent and fire hazards. Secure the battery properly to prevent movement during driving.
  • Battery Monitoring: Install a battery monitor to keep track of the state of charge (SOC), voltage, and current flow. This will help you manage power usage and prevent over-discharging the battery.
  • Wiring and Connections: Use appropriately sized cables and connectors for all connections. Connect the positive and negative terminals of the house battery to the appropriate terminals on the battery isolator and fuse panel.
  • Fuse Panel Installation: Install a fuse panel or distribution panel to connect all your 12V appliances and accessories. Properly label and organize circuits for easy management.
  • Charging Sources: Ensure you have multiple charging sources such as a vehicle alternator, shore power, and solar panels to keep the house battery charged.
  • Testing: Test the entire system to make sure all connections are secure and working correctly. Monitor the battery voltage and charging behavior.
  • Maintenance: Regularly check the battery's water levels (if using a lead-acid battery). Inspect and clean the battery terminals.Keep an eye on the battery's health using the battery monitor.
  • Documentation: Keep a record of the installation, including wiring diagrams and manuals for all components.
  • Safety Precautions: Understand how to safely work with electricity and batteries.Ensure all connections are tight and properly insulated to prevent electrical hazards.
  • Consult a Professional: If you're unsure about any aspect of the installation, consult a professional electrician or camper van conversion expert for guidance and assistance.

With these steps completed, you've successfully stored solar energy, ready for use whenever it's needed. Now let's move on to Monitoring and Testing: Ensuring a Reliable and Efficient System.

9. Monitoring and Testing: Ensuring a Reliable and Efficient System

To effectively harness the sun's energy for your travels, install monitoring equipment as part of your solar installation process. These diagnostic tools will track performance metrics such as power generation, battery levels, and energy consumption.

Conduct regular inspections as part of your maintenance schedule for efficiency optimization. Look for any loose connections, signs of corrosion, or physical damage that might impact the performance of your solar panels, charge controller, batteries, or inverter.

Test your solar system under various conditions, including full sunlight and partial shading, or in cold or hot weather to identify any areas needing improvement.

Here's a simple table summarizing these key steps:


  • Monitor Your System

Install diagnostic tools to track power generation, battery levels & energy consumption

  • Conduct Regular Inspections

Check for loose connections, corrosion or physical damage.

  • Test System Performance

Test your system under various conditions from full sunlight to partial shading, and in cold and hot weather.

  • Troubleshoot Your System

Resolve any issues before you hit the road, so you can enjoy van life to its fullest.

Reducing Complexity with a Smart Control System

The latest technology in van solar includes centralized smart systems. Having a display or controller for each component is no longer necessary. 

The PowerTrak system eliminates the need for multiple devices by integrating all system functions into a single touch-screen display. It uses RV-C and Bluetooth wireless connectivity to optimize solar battery charging and power system performance. PowerTrak effectively leaves system complexities in the past and reduces the time and cost spent on installation.

Conclusion: Embrace the Power of the Sun in Your Van Life Adventures

Congratulations on completing Lesson 4 of our Van Life Solar Systems course. By following this step-by-step guide, you have learned what is necessary to install a solar system in your van, harnessing the power of the sun for your off-grid lifestyle.

Solar panels are an excellent investment for powering your van. By utilizing a solar setup, you can reduce your carbon footprint while experiencing the freedom of living off the beaten path. 

Enjoy the freedom, independence, and sustainability that a solar setup brings to your van life adventures. Remember to prioritize safety, follow the manufacturers' guidelines and consult van parts and accessory retailers, professional installers and van builders when needed.

Are You Ready To Power Your Vanlife?

Image by Vandoit.

Visit Go Power's website now for cutting-edge solar/electrical system technology designed for the road.

Discover their easy-to-install range of products, from high-performance lithium batteries and efficient solar systems to robust inverters, and everything else you could possibly need.

With Go Power, you're not just getting top-tier products; you're also gaining access to amazing support to assist you every step of the way. Find the perfect solution for your mobile home needs and join the community of satisfied adventurers who trust Go Power.

Ready to start your journey with the best in the game? Click the button below to find a dealer near you...