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Trailers & 5th Wheels

Travel trailer and 5th Wheel power systems are unique in several ways:

  • Plenty of roof space capable of accommodating a large solar array.
  • Limited alternator charging because of the 7-pin connection to the tow vehicle.
  • Heavy loads like air conditioners and residential refrigerators requiring large battery systems and inverter/chargers.
  • Spacious bays allow for a wide variety of battery options.

The step-by-step guide below takes you through the myriad of options and design considerations for developing a custom RV solar panel power system.

Educational Videos for Trailers & 5th Wheels

Battery Bank

1.  Select an RV battery bank: The RV battery bank is the heart of the system. We recommend LifeBlue lithium batteries for your travel trailer solar panel system because of their built-in Bluetooth monitoring, high quality, and ability to expand over time.

We sell LifeBlue batteries as a base 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 two batteries, select one base kit and one expansion kit. If you want three batteries, get one base kit and two expansion kits.

If your plan is to run an air conditioner, you will get about 1 hour of runtime on a 15,000BTU A/C running at full, per every 200Ah of lithium battery capacity. You will also need at least a 3000VA Inverter and an Easy Start Kit.

Do not let your lithium batteries get below -10° F. Lithium batteries will not charge below 32° F.\

Estimated Installation Labor

300Ah LifeBlue Lithium System with BMV-712
11 hours / $1,595 (additional)

 

  • 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 Battery System with Monitor (Multiple Battery)

    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, be sure to use kits specifically...

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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.  Establish Tow Vehicle Compatibility: A 7-pin tow vehicle connection won’t allow for high current alternator charging, but you can get about 18A when you use a Victron Orion DC/DC charger on the trailer side of the connector. Another advantage of this kit is that it will prevent unwanted current flow from the trailer to the tow vehicle’s starter battery. This kit is not necessary with Flooded or AGM batteries.

With most tow vehicles and trailers, the 7-pin connector allows alternator charging of the trailer’s battery bank. The trailer’s seven-pin connector is typically hardwired leaving the tow vehicle responsible for charging the two battery systems. Unfortunately, many vehicles don’t have any protection built-in, which leaves both battery banks tied together when the trailer is plugged in. This is a major concern for lithium house batteries as their resting voltage is much higher than a typical tow vehicle engine battery. This causes the lithium battery to slowly discharge into the tow vehicle battery and because lead-acid batteries can dissipate energy in the form of heat, this will continue to happen until the lithium battery is below 20%, which could potentially cause damage to the lithium battery. This isn’t good for the system and can be avoided by installing this kit or simply unplugging the trailer when left for more than a week.

This article on high current alternator charging may be interesting:

High Current Alternator Charging and the 7-Pin Connector

Estimated Installation Labor

Tow Vehicle Compatibility
1.5 hours / $218

  • DC/DC Charging: Trailer, Truck Camper, 5th Wheel

    Enable DC/DC charging from your alternator to a secondary Lithium, AGM, or Flooded battery bank. This kit is ideal for systems with older alternators or lithium batteries with input current limits under 100A. Ideal for: Trailers/5th Wheels/Truck Campers *Please note that cables length...

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Solar Charging

3.  Select solar charging system: Trailers and 5th Wheels 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. If you have a solar pre-wire, check out section 3a of the Airstream page

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.

We recommend a minimum of 500W for any system with a residential refrigerator.

If you want to use a portable panel, we recommend oversizing the central charge controller so it can handle both the roof array and the portable panel.

Estimated Installation Labor Cost
4 x 200W on an 85A MPPT Charge Controller:
15 hours / $2,175

  • 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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  • Zamp 170W Solar Panel

    Using 6" monocrystalline cells, this panel is ideal for large systems where there is ample roof space. Made in Bend, Oregon, United States Flash tested at 184W +/- 3% Zamp uses tempered, low iron, 3.2 mm, AR coated(which stands for anti-reflective) solar glass....

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  • NOIR 110W Solar Panel

    Custom designed by Grape Solar for mobile applications, this 110W panel is ideal for Airstreams trailers, vans, truck campers, and any application where roof space is limited. The Grape Solar NOIR 110W panel comes in several kit variants.  Select the correct kit to...

    • Wattage: 110W
    • Type: Monocrystalline
    • Operating Voltage (Vmp): 21.3V
    • Open Circuit Voltage (Voc): 25.7V
    • Operating Current (Imp): 5.18A
    • Short Circuit Current (Isc): 5.60A
    • Size: 68" x 15.4" x 1.38" 17.9lbs
    • Frame: Black Anodized Aluminum
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  • NOIR 100W Solar Panel

    Custom designed by Grape Solar for mobile applications, this 100W panel is ideal for Airstreams trailers, vans, truck campers, and any application where roof space is limited. The Grape Solar NOIR 100W panel comes in several kit variants.  Select the correct kit to...

    • Wattage: 100W
    • Type: Monocrystalline
    • Operating Voltage (Vmp): 19.1V
    • Open Circuit Voltage (Voc): 23.1V
    • Operating Current (Imp): 5.23A
    • Short Circuit Current (Isc): 5.59A
    • Size: 41" x 22" x 1.38" 15.4lbs
    • Frame: Black Anodized Aluminum