Skoolies

Unlike typical motorhomes or campers, skoolies come as empty shells, without a pre-existing electrical system beyond the starter battery.  To simplify the design process we have created a step-by-step skoolie solar system builder with kit recommendations for all five subsystems: Battery Bank, Alternator Charging, Solar Charging, AC Input/Output, and DC Distribution. At the bottom of the page, you can find some popular pre-configured solar setup options.

Battery Bank

1.  Select a battery bank:  The battery bank is the heart of the solar power system. We recommend LifeBlue lithium batteries over AGM batteries because of their ease of install, high quality, Bluetooth monitoring and ability to expand over time. Because of the input and output current limits of lithium batteries, we recommend starting off with at least three 100Ah batteries to handle high current alternator and shore power charging, and to be able to fully support a 3000VA inverter.

We sell LifeBlue batteries as a base solar kit, which includes one battery, a Victron BMV-712 battery monitor, cable, lugs, and heat shrink, plus expansion kits, which include one battery and parallel cables. For three batteries, select one base and two expansion kits.

LifeBlue batteries come in three size configurations, choose what will fit best for your application.

100Ah: H 9.4″ x W 12.5″ x D 6.5″ 28lbs

200Ah: H 10.8″ x W 20″ x D 6.9″ 57lbs

300Ah: H 9.5″ x W 20.25″ x D 11″ 83lbs

If three batteries is more than you were looking for, you will need a lower current alternator charger. Although a 3000VA inverter/charger will work with less than three batteries, it will not supply the full 3000VA output or be able to accept the full 120A of shore power charging current. A smaller inverter/charger system might be a good option.

Estimated Installation Labor

300Ah LifeBlue Lithium System with BMV-712
6 hours / $870

  • LiFeBlue Lithium Battery Bank with BMV-712 Monitor

    This is a complete LiFeBlue lithium RV battery base kit with a Victron BMV-712 Bluetooth battery monitor. The monitor is included to provide cumulative battery bank data, compatible with Victron VRM monitoring. LiFeBlue offers the most comprehensive Bluetooth monitoring showing status, temperature, voltage,...

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  • LiFeBlue Lithium Battery Expansion Kit

    This kit is designed to be an add-on to an existing LiFeBlue battery system. LiFeBlue offers the most comprehensive Bluetooth monitoring showing status, temperature, voltage, current, cycle life, battery health, faults and state of charge. These batteries can only be parallel connected due...

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For larger systems, Victron lithium batteries are recommended because of their extremely compact footprint. Or, if you only need one battery, a monitor is not required for single LifeBlue battery.

  • Victron Lithium Battery System with Monitor (Single Battery)

    ****Online Purchase for Local Pickup Only**** This kit is designed to work with one or two Victron lithium batteries. It does not use a Lynx Distributor to combine batteries. When adding alternator charging or DC distribution, be sure to use kits specifically recommended...

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  • Victron Lithium Lynx Battery System with Monitor (Multiple Battery)

    ****Online Purchase for Local Pickup Only**** This kit is designed to work with 1-4 Victron lithium batteries in 12V, or 2-8 Victron lithium batteries in 24V. It uses a Lynx Distributor to combine and fuse batteries. When adding alternator charging or DC distribution,...

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  • Victron Lithium Expansion Kit

    ****Online Purchase for Local Pickup Only**** Add a Victron Lithium battery to an existing Victron lithium system. Do not mix battery ratings in the same system. Parallel Expansion kits are for 12V battery systems. 24V battery systems can be built from an equal...

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  • LiFeBlue LiFePO4 12V Drop-In Battery

    LiFeBlue lithium batteries have integrated controls to automatically protect against overcharging, overly discharging, and frozen charging. This integration makes installation much easier for DIY projects. LifeBlue offers the most comprehensive Bluetooth monitoring showing status, temperature, voltage, current, cycle life, battery health, Faults and...

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Alternative Charging

2.  Select an Alternator Charging kit:  If you expect to drive at least half an hour per day, the alternator charging system is likely to be the primary source of energy for your Skoolie. These alternator charging kits work on the stock alternator.

If you have an alternator rated for 160A or more, and you have two or more LifeBlue batteries, or a lithium battery system that can handle 150A of charging current, get the Battery Cominber kit. If not, get the DC/DC Charging kit.

Within the Battery Combiner kit, there are several options. The boost feature allows you to push a button to manually combine your lithium battery and your starter battery for times when your starter battery is dead. The boost can only provide the total surge current of the house battery bank (600A for three Life Blue batteries) this may or may not be enough to crank your ignition.

The Battery Combiner kit can only charge your batteries up to about 80% State of Charge. The DC/DC Charging kit can take your batteries all the way up to 100%, but does it much more slowly than the Battery Combiner kit.

We have witnessed 129A of charging current at idle with the high current kit on a Mercedes Sprinter with a 220A alternator.

Estimated Solar Installation Labor

Battery Combiner kit
8 hours / $1,160

  • Battery Combiner for Drop-In Lithium

    Enable alternator charging to a drop-in lithium battery bank. An optional boost feature lets your house batteries start your ignition when your starter battery is dead. Not for use with alternators rated less than 160A, Smart Alternators, or rigs with regenerative braking.  ...

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  • DC/DC Charging: Motorhome, Van, Skoolie

    Enable DC/DC charging from your alternator to a secondary Lithium, AGM or Flooded battery bank. This kit is ideal for van conversions and skoolies with older alternators or lithium batteries with input current limits under 100A. Ideal for: Vans, skoolies, motorhomes *Please note...

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Other popular alternator charger components and kits:

  • Victron Cyrix Battery Combiner

    Victron Cyrix battery combiners connect your house battery bank to your starter battery and alternator to allow alternator charging. Additionally, when a charge is applied to a house battery bank the Cyrix will close and allow current to flow to the starter battery....

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  • 230A Alternator Charger Kit (AGM Battery)

    Enable 230A alternator charging of a secondary AGM or Flooded battery bank.  A boost button lets your house batteries start your ignition when your starter battery is dead. This kit is ideal for van conversions and skoolies. A Cyrix based alternator charger will...

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  • Battery Combiner for Victron Lithium

    Enable 200A alternator charging of a Victron lithium battery system.  A boost button lets your house batteries start your ignition when your starter battery is dead. This kit is ideal for van conversions and skoolies.   Not for use with alternators not designed to...

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Solar Charging

3.  Select solar charging system:  Skoolies tend to have a lot of roof space which allows for a wide variety of solar array configurations. One of our favorite systems is 4x 200W solar panels on an 85A solar charge controller. This gives you room to add more panels in the future if you find you need more energy.

For a complete explanation of everything you would want to know about how to design a solar charging system, check out our Solar Charger Design Guide

The Victron SmartSolar MPPT charge controllers are compatible with any battery type, can work on 12V or 24V battery systems, and communicate status via Bluetooth.

Estimated Solar Installation Labor

4x 200W on an 85A Controller
10 hours / $1,450

  • Complete Solar Charger (50A)

    These kits offer everything one may need in order to put up to 700W onto an existing battery bank.  With the advanced MPPT charge controller and Bluetooth communication, these kits form an ideal foundation for a medium power system mounted to a rigid...

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  • Complete Solar Charger (85A)

    These kits offer everything one may need in order to put up to 1200W onto an existing battery bank.  With the advanced MPPT charge controller and Bluetooth communication, these kits form an ideal foundation for a large power system mounted to a rigid...

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  • Complete Solar Charger (100A)

    These kits offer everything one may need in order to put up to 1400W onto an existing battery bank.  With the advanced MPPT charge controller and Bluetooth communication, these kits form an ideal foundation for a large power system mounted to a rigid...

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Add panel kits ending in Cable to connect to the AM Solar combiner box.

  • Rich Solar 200W Solar Panel

    High wattage, using 6" cells, this panel is ideal for large systems where there is ample roof space. These modules come in a standard and higher-voltage version*. Please be sure to match your kit and/or module(s) to similar voltage profile modules. Please reach...

    • Wattage: 200W
    • Type: Monocrystalline
    • Nominal Voltage: 12V / 24V
    • Operating Voltage (Vmpp): 20.4V / 37.6V
    • Open Circuit Voltage (Voc): 24.3V / 45.4V
    • Operating Current (Impp): 9.80A / 5.32A
    • Short Circuit Current (Isc): 10.2A / 5.83A
    • Size: 58.7" x 26.8" x 1.38" 26.5lbs
    • Frame: Silver Anodized Aluminum
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