Upgrading your RV to solar power

Advances in power management and solar power have made big news in the RV world of late, especially with the new eTrek and CS-Adventurous models built on the Mercedes Sprinter chasis by Roadtrek Motorhomes. New and efficient power control and management systems have put these advanced new Class B motorhomes on many a wish list because of their ability to extend time boondocking, or dry camping off the commercial campground grid.

But now Roadtrek is making these advanced new solar power systems available as a retrofit for older models.

grunerBill and Lisa Gruner from Huntsville, AL recently made the trek north to Roadtrek’s Kitchener, Ontario, Canada headquarters and had solar panels installed on the roof of their 2008 model RS-Adventurous Roadtrek. “We’ve cut the cord,” said Bill, a retured engineer who has worked with NASA and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. “This is terrific.”

Wife Lisa, a software engineer, says the trip to Kitchener was “like a journey to the Roadtrekers Mecca.”

“We’re are no longer dependent on shore power and a generator,” she said. “This solar upgrade gives us freedom to camp anywhere.”

It took three days for the Gruner’s retrofit to be done. Installing the solar panel,  a charge controller, transfer switches, a new 3,000 watt inverter, two new house batteries and wiring everything together is a major job.

Jim Hammill, Roadtrek’s president, says the factory has several different solar retrofit options available, dependent on the model of the motorhome.

“We’ve had great success with this,” said Hammill. “There’s a real demand for bringing these advanced power systems to older models and our customers are delighted to have the flexibility of being able to do dry camping longer.”


21 thoughts on “Upgrading your RV to solar power”

  1. wow – a factory retrofit – at the factory, no less! after doing a few of these, it sounds like Roadtrek has it pretty well smoothed out. all these are on the sprinter chassis so far, i noticed.

    1. Am curious what Roadtrek charges for a solar/battery retrofit.

      We are having solar and LFP put on our recently purchased 2002 Roadtrek 190

  2. I noticed that too, Campskunk … wonder if plans for putting solar on the older Dodge models are in the works 🙂 I’m guessing ‘not’. I’m afraid that if I put solar on my 2001, I’d never recoup the cost.

    Fun to meet Lisa and Bill in video format … They’re all smiles about capturing the sunshine!!

  3. nancy and ken

    love rving can not wait to retire in 2 years to really travel we have a class a triple e 2000

  4. Lorna Freerksen

    When you are serious about your move to solar energy and begin using panels that sink more than 6 watts, invest in a solar controller. These small controls help maximize the efficiency of the charge cycle and prevent any wasted overcharging from occurring. When there is a lot of energy at stake, these are a must have for your solar-home.:

    My personal blog page

  5. Lorna…that comes with every solar install with Roadtrek. Their solar panels return a very impressive 240 watts and the controller makes sure all that juice goes into the batteries.

    1. Thanks for the info Mike. I hope RT gave you a reduced rate on a Solar installation for such a good report! Do they add in the free jacket? I’ll have to see what they charge…I’m very curious. I’ll pass the info onto my solar installer friend and see what he comes up with for my rig. He’s been asking me about the wattage required etc. and mentioned purchasing a good controller unit so as not to drain the batteries when sunlight isn’t available. Lot’s to think about when adding on.

  6. it’s a good story, and we tried it but learned it won’t run the air conditioning over night … or I would have ordered one for us! Still yearning for an eTrek

  7. Great story but can you do one on the small travel trailers too, I have a starcraft 14 ft. 2012, any thoughts on it?

  8. Great story but can you do one on the small travel trailers too, I have a starcraft 14 ft. 2012, any thoughts on it?

  9. Brigitte Nelson

    We use our solar panel all the time. It works great. Just need a big enough solar panel & battery set up for them to work properly.

  10. Like anything you buy, it depends on what you plan to do with it. The solar retrofit that we got works wonderfully for us. With our 4 AGM batteries, we’ve stayed warm all night running the furnace, used it to run the CPAP, warm up food in the microwave, read books, etc. Don’t know that we’ve tested the AC all night thing. We haven’t found that we really needed it yet. Course, we’ve run fans but that’s because I like a fan and don’t really need cold air all night. So, even a cost-to-benefit perspective, we STILL love our retrofit. It works for us! And yes, that’s us in the article.

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