What You Need to Install a Solar System on Your RV at the RTR

One of the things that everyone wants to know about the RTR is how do I get solar installed on my rig there? It’s simpler and more difficult than you think.

Here’s a video about our solar setup on our travel trailer.

The Rubber Trump Rendezvous is awesome because it’s not an organized group, while in a lot of ways it is organized. There’s Bob Wells who is an extraordinary man, a leader of an emerging movement of people who no longer conform to the expectations of society. These people need a refuge from being normal. That’s where Bob steps in and provides a supportive platform for transition into nomadic life. He’s very good at it and you can find out more about Bob and his mission at Cheap RV Living.

Within the organized event that Bob is running, a number of people gather together and become friends. There is a sub-society within the society emerging and playing out. Each of us can find a home within one of these sub-societies where we can find camaraderie. This is where you’ll find someone who can help you with your solar install. Bob will not provide you with someone to set up your solar. Don’t have that expectation.

We joined one of the Cheap RV Living Caravans and mentioned during a nightly fire that we were looking for someone to install our solar set up. That’s where we met a man who was able to help us with a complex solar system setup.

If you do not require a set up that will link your solar system into your RV’s converter, then I highly suggest you do it yourself. There are a number of great videos on Bob’s YouTube that can get you started.

To break it down for you. The links to the items below will get you a very usable, 70 amp hours of power, and basically unlimited power in the day time for a small rig set up. This is if you live in a small trailer, van, or small motor home and you do not plan to watch tv all night or run a lot of AC appliances regularly. This set up would work for you if you run AC appliances only during the day time when you have full solar and at night you are just using your water pump occasionally and lights. For a basic solar set up on a small trailer or van you will need the following:

The easiest way to do this on a small motorhome or trailer, and also the least expensive, is to buy a briefcase solar and directly connect it to your battery. This is what we used on our 17 foot Viking Travel Trailer for 3 years. It was more than sufficient for our needs and provided us with enough power to power all our DC devices. The obvious downside is that you have to set it up everywhere you go so it is not always charging. It is only charging when you are stationary. Still, this setup will do for most people and I recommend it for you if you aren’t full time, aren’t sure you want to full-time and are trying it out, or you are low on funds. I do not recommend a generator of any type of size for that group of people. The following easy to use briefcase solar will meet all your initial needs and be no maintenance or continued cost in comparison to a loud generator.

This panel comes with it’s own charge controller so you don’t have to worry about that. Ours even fell over and completely cracked on one side. It still continues to work at the same level it did before it cracked. We covered it in polyurethane to keep it water proof.

If you want to easily run a few low wattage AC items during the day time when you are getting a full solar charge and you can easily recharge your batteries, I suggest a small inverter that you can plug into a DC plug inside of your rig. This plug looks like a cigarette lighter.

We charged our computer, camera batteries, ran a salt rock lamp, and charge our phones on an inverter like this for three years. Just keep in mind that you should never exceed the wattage of the inverter with the items you are plugging into it. It will get really hot and could start a fire if you do that or damage your electronics. Another thing to keep in mind is wiring size, the reason I only suggest up to a 300 watt inverter in a DC plug is because the wiring is small and could easily overload/catch on fire if you try to use a larger inverter in small wiring.

The best thing to do is look for substitutions to using AC power. Get a french press or pour over to make coffee instead of a coffee maker. Buy DC appliances, truck stops are full of these.

Finally, if this type of set up just won’t do for you because you have a large rig with high power needs and you don’t have the skills necessary to set it up yourself, maybe you’ll get lucky and find someone to install your solar at the RTR. I think we were really lucky and blessed to just happen upon someone who could install it. I will say that I have a lot of difficulty troubleshooting anything that doesn’t work exactly the way it’s supposed to. I don’t understand our system setup very well when it comes to fixing things. I have swapped out a breaker but I didn’t get the wiring inserted as well as it should be and that causes issues. I think if you can learn how to install solar yourself, you are much better off in the long run.

Let me know if you have any questions at all about how to live in an RV or Solar Power in an RV. We are happy to serve.

BLM LTVA living in RV inexpensively

Do you have any place that just feels like home? Throughout my life I’ve met a number of people who don’t feel connected to home. For whatever reason, our birth family just doesn’t resonate with us and we choose a new set of parents. We find a place where we belong, or we drift around without a place. We feel lost and alone.

If you feel lost and alone, you’ve experienced trauma, you are tired of society’s expectations, you are searching for a family, maybe you’d be happy with the family I found. In the warmest city in Arizona, lies a community of people who live in RV’s. These people have come to be family to me.

This is the Imperial Dam BLM (Bureau of Land Management) LTVA (long term visitor’s area). For $40 for two weeks or $180 for a season, one can live in their self-contained RV in relative peace and quiet. There are multiple LTVA’s that you can stay on with your pass. You can access information about all of the LTVA’s here at the BLM’s website.

It is in many ways a self sustaining city, some do this intentionally, and others by accident. Most of the people who camp out in the LTVA have solar panels to give them power. There are a few with generators, but generally those who rely on a generator don’t make it long in the desert. Generators are expensive to run for any period of time, solar quickly pays itself back.

We use a suitcase Renogy Solar Panel. It’s 100 watts of solar and meets all of our needs. It hooks up directly to your RV battery. We don’t watch TV and we rarely need AC power. If we do need AC power we run our Honda 2000eu generator for short periods. Just long enough to make a smoothie. The Renogy Solar Panel Suitcase is easy to use, set up, and easy to travel with. It includes a charge controller with an easy to read panel. It is indispensable. It blew over in the wind and cracked one of the panels. It still works perfectly! We just applied some polyurethane to make it water proof.

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Foldable Portable Solar Suitcase with Voyager Waterproof Charge Controller

Our Honda EU2200i generator is super quiet. It’s only 47 pounds and easy to handle, both of us have no problems starting it up. It will run for 8 hours on one gallon of gas. While we don’t use it much, it does power our vitamix and ninja for our daily smoothie or if we want to make cashew cheese sauce.

Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt 120-Volt Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator

Vitamix 5200 Blender, Professional-Grade, 64 oz. Container, Black

Ninja 400-Watt Blender/Food Processor for Frozen Blending, Chopping and Food Prep with 48-Ounce Pitcher and 16-Ounce Chopper Bowl (QB900B), Silver

Refilling water in an RV can be an ordeal. Water utilization needs to be low. When you run out of water, there are a number of ways you can add more water in your RV. In our old RV, the water was gravity filled. The gravity fill made it really easy to use a funnel and a large jerry can to add the water. Our new rig is pressure filled, so we need a new solution and will update this post when we figure it out.
Reliance Products Aqua-Tainer 7 Gallon Rigid Water Container

Reliance Products Aqua-Tainer 7 Gallon Rigid Water Container
There are other ways to add water. This is just how we do it.

Living in a small way, in a tiny RV, in the desert, using a little bit of water and generating your own power, certainly is one way to help the planet. It is also a great way to find a whole new family and a place where you will be welcomed no matter how quirky you are.