4 Main Sources for RV Electrical and Vital Upgrades
The electrical system is among the important components of your RV trailer.
See, whether you’re out for a multi-week boondocking trip or camping for a couple of days not far away from home, you need reliable power.
Unfortunately, the OEM RV electrical systems provide just a bit of power, which is, in most cases, less-than-ideal reliable power.
If you, for example, harbor aspirations for a full-time off-grid living, the basic but standard power setup may not work for you.
The good news is I’ve outlined a functional description of how to upgrade your RV’s electric system.
The Big Picture
As with most RV upgrades, the ideal electrical solution will depend on your needs. You’ll hardly find the “best” RV electric solution; instead, it all comes down to tradeoffs. Consider what’s important to you, and what you’re willing to forego.
In my opinion, the best way to determine the ideal electric system is by learning through experience what works for you.
It’s particularly important if you’re new to RVing and don’t have any electrical system knowledge.
Here’re some of the vital elements I feel you should account for when selecting an RV electric system:
Number and Nature of RV Appliances
The most important element is figuring out what you need your RV electrical system for.
For example, some RVers would want to run their RVs like a “normal” house, running everything from kitchen appliances, TVs, Air conditioning, and fan to water pumps. In this case, your electrical consumption will be higher.
Others, like me, tend to be conservative in our electrical consumption and will even turn off the lights when they’re not needed.
Source of Power
Generally, RVs generate power in four main ways.
- Shore power: Simply plug your RV at an external power source in a campground
- Generator: Runs on gasoline or propane and generates 120V AC power
- Tow vehicle: It draws power from a vehicle engine through the 7-pin trailer connector
- Solar panels: The roof-mounted solar panels harness energy for the sun
What Power to Use & Where (Different scenarios)
If you desire to boondock or completely go off-grid, the shore power could occasionally get your RV batteries charged, but it’s something you can’t rely upon daily.
Generators are a great energy source, but unless you’ve a 25ft trailer, it may limit you in terms of space and weight. The generator and fuel can be a bulky addition to your RV. It’s not to mention the inconvenience of dealing with the generator hum.
Charging batteries from a tow vehicle seems like a rad idea, especially if you’ll often tow your trailer. In this case, you need to upgrade your RV with a 7-pin connector.
An increasingly popular option is solar panels. It’s something I recommend RVers integrate into the electrical system.
I prefer to use the solar system as a supplemental source of energy. It’s great, but not a form of energy you can always rely on, especially in the hazy winter weather.
The biggest weakness of most RVs is the electrical system.
As you work through the RV electrical installation, you’ll likely find many opportunities to improve the existing connections and wiring.
Now, remember your RV is a second home, and therefore safety is paramount. I’d recommend you rely on the guidance of the National Electric Code (NEC) and American Boat and Yacht Council Standards (AYBC Standards) for any RV electrical code installation.
Disclaimer: Mistakes in the electrical system can be fatal, and if you’ve doubts about working on the electrical upgrade, consult a professional.
Space and Weight
If you live in a big Class A motorhome, skip to the next section. However, keeping the electrical system small and subtle is crucial if you RV in a small Class B trailer with limited space and weight capacity.
Batteries, in particular, can be bulky and gobble up much of the coveted RV floor space. Therefore, pay attention to your trailer’s space and weight limitations before upgrading.
Most RVers desire an electrical system they can forget about once installed. It’s a wishful thought.
The truth is that whatever electrical system you install, periodic maintenance checks are necessary. If you’ve a battery, it may entail topping up the water regularly.
I’m an accomplished electrician and always happy dealing with technical systems. But the thing I dislike most about RV electrical systems is navigating through a complex system.
See, there’re infinite ways to make your RV’s electrical system complex, but it will only make things harder for you regarding operation and maintenance.
My ideal system is simple and correspondingly straightforward to use.
Keeping the RV electrical costs manageable is important. However, this doesn’t mean compromising on quality.
I understand you could do it for a much lower cost and everything, but always bear the safety and functionality aspects in mind.
You could save a lot by designing and installing the system.
Electrical Upgrade Plan
Add a Solar Panel
I’m a big proponent of solar power, and I wish all RVs came prewired with a solar at the roof. Installing a solar panel on your roof is one of the ways of making your RV more self-abundant when boondocking.
However, I would only recommend solar panels to supplement your energy needs. The panels don’t need gas, are noiseless, and are renewable. However, they also require good sun exposure, which may or may not happen.
Unless you’ve a massive solar array, battery bank, or minimal power needs, it’s challenging to be completely solar-reliant.
So, before installing the solar panels, consider how long you boondock and your power usage.
For example, if you run the AC, microwave, and other electronics such as TV, you’ll need an appropriately-sized inverter.
- [High-Powered Module] The 2×450W solar panels are engineered with high-efficiency PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact) cells, capturing more light to achieve 22.8% conversion efficiency. Resulting in higher performance than most conventional panels, Renogy's 450W panels provide more output per surface area..Operating frequency : -40ºC - 85ºC(-40°F - 185°F)
- [High Tolerance] Renogy's high-powered 450 watt solar panels are made with half-cell technology. This half-cut panel is more tolerant of shading on any part of the cell and performs excellently in low light situations due to the increased number of cells receiving more sunlight.
- [Optimized Space and Installation] A great option for large-scale installations, each solar panel can produce up to 2250 Wh of electricity per day and requires fewer installations per panel on your rooftop.
- [Reliable and Durable] Corrosion-resistant aluminum frame provides extended outdoor use that ensures the panel can last for decades. The IP68 rated junction box and solar connectors can withstand dirt, dust, debris, and water splashes.
- [Claim Federal Solar Tax Credit] Claim up to 80% of your home's new solar system costs (both equipment and installation) for a tax credit. To learn more about the Investment Tax Credit, please refer to our Solar Tax Credit section or visit the designated U.S. Department of Energy webpage.
Upgrade The Battery Pack to Lithium Battery
Solar panels are great, but not worth it when coupled with a crappy battery. For most RVers, I suggest they spend their money on the foundation first.
Upgrading the RV battery may not be the sexiest upgrade you can imagine, but it’s certainly among the most important RV electrical upgrades.
Most rigs come with a single 12V lead-acid battery. It’s fine for keeping the lights on and probably the electrical part of a fridge, but no more than that.
Adding more battery capacity or a different RV battery is the best mod I can think of if you need more battery performance.
Lead-acid batteries are standard in many RVs, thanks to their price. However, they charge slowly and need continuous maintenance.
My go-to suggestion would be lithium-ion batteries. The LFP RV batteries have plenty of significant benefits, including a much longer service life and better performance.
They’re also safer and maintenance-free and will support high-speed charge and discharge. While their prices are slightly higher, they usually offset the cost with their longevity.
- Uncompromising Quality: State-of-the-art battery cells ensure a lifespan of more than 2000 cycles, 100A continuous discharge current, and a wide operating temperature range.
- Easy Upgrades: Upgrades to lithium seamlessly with the standard BCI group size but a greater energy density, a deeper discharge capability, a higher round-trip efficiency, and a faster charging speed.
- Reliable BMS System: The state-of-the-art battery management system (BMS) with high-performance dual-processors provides short circuit, over charging and over-temperature protection while maintaining a balanced voltage across all cells
- Auto-balancing Function: Easily connect multiple batteries in parallel with the auto-balancing function, improving the average charging efficiency for your batteries in the long term.
- Real-time monitor: Monitors the battery operation status on mobile devices in real time with the built-in Bluetooth module
- Maintenance Free: Manufactured with thick absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) seperators and advanced valve regulated technology, Renogy deep cycle agm batteries save you from acid leakage and frequent maintenance..Batteries Required:no
- Excellent Discharge Performance: Proprietary quinary alloy plates and specially treated plate grids enable low internal resistance and high discharge currents of up to 10 times the battery rated capacity.
- Long Shelf Life: Made of high purity materials, Renogy deep cycle agm batteries reduce the monthly Self discharge Rate below 3% at 77℉ (25℃), which is 5 times lower than their flooded counterparts.
- Wide Operation Temperature Range: Improved electrolyte Formula ensures stable battery capacity and outstanding discharge performance at low temperatures below 32℉ (0℃).
- Length of Cycle services is significantly affected by depth for discharge (primarily), along with ambient temperature, discharge Rate, and the way the battery is recharged.
- 【Maintenance Free & No Leakage】This battery is comprised of gel instead of liquid, so there is no maintenance required to keep the battery working properly. Manufactured with an advanced valve regulated technology, Renogy Deep Cycle Hybrid GEL Batteries save you from acid leakage and frequent maintenance
- 【Extended Service Lifetime】Corrosion-resistant grids enable a design life of up to 12 years in standby applications and more than 750 charge/discharge cycles at 50% DOD in cyclic applications
- 【Longer Shelf Life】Made of high purity materials, Renogy Deep Cycle Hybrid GEL Batteries reduce the monthly self-discharge rate below 3% at 77℉ (25℃), which is 5 times lower than their Flooded counterparts. No need to recharge the dormant battery frequently
- 【Excellent Deep Discharge Recovery】Proprietary plate composition and patented gel electrolyte ensures excellent recovery capability after excessive deep discharge. This means that GEL batteries can discharge more and still be recharged like new. Unlike Flooded batteries, they are not allowed to discharge too much
- 【Install Them Anywhere】Maintenance free, no leakage, no toxic gas generation, vibration resistant, and stable performance at high (140°F) and low (-4°F) temperature make Renogy Deep Cycle Hybrid GEL Batteries able to be used in virtually any position. They can run in various systems, including boat, yacht, motorhome, van, cabin, home backup power, and more
Buy a Portable Generator
Most basic travel trailers don’t come equipped with gasoline generators.
However, if you plan to dry camp, you’ll need a portable generator. Remember that even with solar, there’re inevitable times when you need extra juice to run your appliances.
My recommendation is an inverter RV generator such as Honda EU2000i. It’s relatively cheap, efficient, and quiet.
- Powerful 80cc engine DUAL FUEL produces on both gasoline (2300 surge watts, 1800 rated watts) and propane (2000 surge watts, 1600 rated watts), perfect for camping, tailgating, or anywhere else you need portable power
- Super quiet operation at only 52 decibels, and low idle technology provides a 12 hours run time at 25% load, 6.5 hours run time on gasoline at 50% load
- A-iTech’s inverter technology allows for safe and clean power for sensitive electronics such as phones, televisions, laptops, and other electronics
- Protects your investment by automatically shutting the generator off when it senses that the oil is low
- With two back wheels and a telescoping handle, this powerful compact inverter allows for easy transportation.
- Plenty of Power – With 4,400 starting watts and 3,500 running watts, this unit can handle heavy loads, from lights and a refrigerator to a home air conditioner and high amperage power tools.Runtime (Gasoline) at 50% Load : 11.46 hrs. Runtime (Propane) at 50% Load : 9.81 hrs
- Dual Fuel Technology – This generator runs on gasoline or propane, giving you the freedom and flexibility of fuel choice
- Powerful Engine – The DuroMax 210cc OHV engine is a workhorse that provides plenty of power to handle multiple jobs, from powering high voltage appliances to heavy duty power tools
- MX2 Technology - Get the maximum power from each of the 120-volt receptacles. Choose between operating the generator at both 120V and 240V simultaneously, or at 120V only with full power. Ideal for usage with RVs
- Fully Featured Power Panel – The power panel includes a wide selection of outlets for maximum compatibility in your applications including: (2) 120V household GFCI outlets and (1) 120/240V 30A twist lock outlet. The panel also includes a voltmeter and 12V DC charging posts for charging external batteries
- Clean and Unlimited Solar Energy: 100% clean and unlimited solar energy with smart MPPT controller for your camping or family emergency storage. The power station can be charged for 0% to 80% with 4 Jackery SolarSaga 100W solar panels within 4 hrs or only 4 hrs via AC wall outlet charging.
- Easy to Use: The ergonomic shape of the handle grants an ease grip. And use in one touch with simple and speedy setup within 60s to enjoy outstanding charging efficiency and ensure quiet and peaceful charging.
- Safe & Reliable for Outdoor Camping: Features industry-leading cylindrical batteries (popular with manufacturers of Electric Vehicles) that meet UL safety standards. Certified with Impact-Resistance Class 9, passing the UL drop test (withstanding 3 drops from 0.9m height on any surface). The pure sine wave inverter delivers constant voltage that protects equipment from damage.
- Power Pretty Much Anything: Power 94% home appliances with 1534Wh (1800W AC output power) and 7 outlets (3*AC outlet, 1*USB-A quick charge 3.0, 1*USB-A, 1*USB-C PD 60W, 1*Car outlet). Ideal for outdoor off-grid activities and home backup power to power the most of your appliances - refrigerator, TV, mini cooler, electric grill, fan, and more for your outdoor and home needs.
- Quiet & Strong: At a such large capacity, this Explorer will leave you with VERY LITTLE to NO noise, giving you the peace and power all at once. Extra bonus for the built - unlike most other portable generators, this supports pass-through charging while its battery life is protected.
RV Battery Monitor
An RV monitor is exactly as its name suggests. It monitors the performance of your RV electric systems.
Much like the fuel gauge to your car, an RV monitor provides the information you need about the battery amperage, wattage, and current to help your RV run efficiently.
It keeps you in the loop about your battery’s performance and state of charge so you don’t run out of power in the middle of a cold night.
Monitoring the charge level and current is also essential to preserving the battery life and longevity.
- 【1% Accuracy Measurement】Shunt-type monitor design provides much more accurate real-time voltage and current draw measurement.
- 【Protect the batteries】With High and low capacity alarm functions, our battery monitor with shunt will alarm, and backlight and voltage value will flash simultaneously to protect the batteries from getting over-discharged.
- 【Fit for all battery】The batter tester is compatible with various battery types, including Lead Acid (AGM, GEL), Lithium Iron Phosphate, Lithium-ion, Nickel-metal hybrid. compatible with batteries operating at 12 volts, 24 volts, and 48 volts.
- 【Easy To read】Displays multiple electronic parameters, including Voltage, Current, Consumed Power, Battery Capacity, and battery degradation rate with a customized brightness high-definition Backlight Display.
- 【Easy to Install】Transparent shunt holder makes the battery tester easier to mount the shunt. And the 20ft Shielded cable allows you to monitor the battery status from a distance.
- Read your battery bank like a fuel gauge, battery status at a glance.
- Combines many functions in one, these information leads to more efficient use of the battery, which can enhance battery life and reduce the risk of failure.
- State of Charge (%),The remaining battery capacity ( up to 999AH). Charge and discharge current (A), Voltage (V).
- Data storage - designed to automatically store the last testing data when system shuts off
- Universal Battery Monitor- voltage range 8V-100V and up to 350A
Add a Signal Booster
A signal booster is important, especially for full-time personnel who need to work on the road.
It’s also important when you need to call or access the internet and are frustrated by the limited service or low connection.
Having signals is critical for me as I need to share my van life and experiences with my social followers anytime, anywhere.
It also gives me the confidence and assurance that I can always get in touch with civilization in case something goes wrong.
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- ▶【Reduces Dropped Call Along the Way & Supports Multi-user】Verizon cell phone signal booster for car truck otr, at&t t mobile signal booster effectively boosts your phone call signal faster and clearer on VoLTE/HD/5G/4G LTE Band 13, 12, 17. Car signal booster for iPhone, Samsung, Cell phones, Tablet PC, Hotspot booster, Jetpack booster. Get clearer voice when driving. Say goodbye to dropped/missed call at remote area. Stay connected to your loved ones, Get in touch with the world at any time !
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- 【5G Compatible 】- Boosts 4G LTE & 5G signals for multiple users simultaneously, so everyone in your vehicle will enjoy clear calls, better voice quality, faster uploads and downloads to stream videos smoothly.
- 【Compatible with All US Carriers】- The booster supports all U.S. carriers signal for Verizon, AT&T, T-mobile, US Cellular, Straight Talk, Cricket etc on band 2 4 5 12 13 and 17.
- 【Advanced Features & Smart Device】- The booster uses AGC (Automatic Gain Control) function, which can intelligently detect the existing signal strength, and adjust itself for best performance, then reflect its working condition through LED indicator. Allow you to enjoy your trip without having to worry about poor signal.
- 【Easy to Setup】- The fashion car booster kit comes with strong magnetic outdoor omnidirectional antenna. Without drill holes installation signal booster perfect for your car, RV, truck, camper van, travel trailer and other vehicles. Don't need to worry about the location of the signal tower, enjoying your journey with confidence.
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Hard-Wired Electrical Management System
It’s common for campgrounds to have spotty power connections. Low voltage issues can easily damage your RVs electric componentry, whether from an old or overloaded system. The surges and mis-wirings are also a potential fire threat.
The good news is you can avoid all these issues with a hardwired electrical management system. It’s similar to a surge protector and catches all the electric issues before entering your RV.
Backing up a travel trailer is challenging, but an easy upgrade, such as a backup camera, can make all the difference.
And the good thing is most modern trailers come prewired for the camera, making the installation super easy.
- ► The rv backup camera wireless with monitor upgraded dual antenna and unique digital stable signal.The signal can reach 825ft in open area and working on vehicle range under 320ft.
- ► Trailer backup camera comes with furrion bracket and pigtail wire for Furrion Pre-Wired
- ► Upgraded back up camera systems motorhome with a very high IP rating of 69 it’s very waterproof and weather resistant. It support add up 4 wireless 5th wheel cameras or license plate cameras
- ► The rv reverse camera with capacitive touch key sensor more durable and smoothly as well as extend the service life.
- ► RV security camera system built in record function and loop recording, continuous record when memory card is full and auto erase old files.
- ►【Easy Installation in 8 Mins】The waterproof camera and HD monitor are powered by one power supply, No need to power the camera and monitor separately, just connect the monitor to a cigarette lighter adapter/Acc/fuse etc, then wire the camera and monitor.
- ►【Wired Back up Camera, Stable Signal Transmission】 The wired reversing camera kit has more stable transmission and will not lose signal at any time. If your wireless backup camera is always intermittent and delayed, a wired camera is a reliable companion for every drive.
- ►【Clear Night Vision & 150 Degree Wide Viewing Angle】True IR night vision greatly enhances the image, and the camera works even with minimal light around, allowing you to identify objects in the dark. 150 degree wide viewing angle, good assistant for reversing and parking at night, and provides excellent clear images in rainy days.
- ►【Rear View Camera with Parking Guidelines & Image Flip】Reliable packing lines and image flip for fast and perfect reversing, even if you sometimes have trouble figuring out the steering, just switch to the "mirror" view on the monitor, making you at ease when reversing.
- ►【2nd Vehicle Backup Camera can be Added】The 7 Inch HD Monitor has capability to monitor two video inputs V1/V2, one license plate camera or standard camera can be added to the system. V2 video input will have priority (hd backup camera) for safety.