4 Main Sources for RV Electrical and Vital Upgrades

4 Main Sources for RV Electrical and Vital Upgrades

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.

Next, evaluate everything that will run on the DC system, such as the fridge, fan, water pump, etc. Come up with the total number of amps you need to use for the day to size your solar needs.

Renogy 2PCS Solar Panel Kit 450 Watts 12/24 Volts Monocrystalline High-Efficiency Module PV Power Charger Off-Grid Supplies for Rooftop Charging Station Farm Yacht and Other Off-Grid Applications
  • [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.
  • [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 26% 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.

Renogy 12V 100Ah Lithium LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Battery with Bluetooth,2000+Deep Cycles,Backup Power Perfect for RV,Off-Road,Cabin,Marine,Off-Grid Home Energy Storage
  • 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
Renogy Deep Cycle AGM Battery 12 Volt 200Ah, 3% Self-Discharge Rate, 2000A Max Discharge Current, Safe Charge Most Home Appliances for RV, Camping, Cabin, Marine and Off-Grid System, Maintenance-Free
  • 【Warranty】2-year material and workmanship warranty guarantee.
  • 【Maintenance Free & Safe to Use】No acid leakage, no water refilling, and no harmful hydrogen gas. Manufactured with thick absorbent glass mat (AGM) separators and advanced valve-regulated technology, Renogy Deep Cycle AGM Batteries save you from acid leakage and frequent maintenance.
  • 【Better Performance at Extreme Temp】The improved electrolyte formula ensures stable battery capacity and outstanding discharge performance from -4℉ (-20℃) to 140℉ (-60℃).
  • 【Longer Shelf Life】No need to recharge the battery frequently when not in use. 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.
  • 【Outstanding Discharge Performance】Proprietary quinary alloy plates and exclusively treated plate grids enable low internal resistance and high discharge currents of up to 10 times the battery-rated capacity. This means that Renogy AGM batteries can power home appliances with high current ratings.
Renogy 12V 200AH Rechargeable Deep Cycle Hybrid GEL Battery for Solar Wind RV Marine Camping UPS Wheelchair Trolling Motor, Maintenance Free, Non Spillable
  • 【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
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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.

SaleBestseller No. 1
Westinghouse 4650 Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator, Remote Electric Start with Auto Choke, RV Ready 30A Outlet, Gas & Propane Powered, CARB Compliant
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  • 212cc Westinghouse 4-Stroke OHV Engine; Long Lasting Cast Iron Engine Sleeve; Automatic Low Oil Shutdown
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DuroStar DS4850EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator-4850 Watt Gas or Propane Powered Electric Start-Camping & RV Ready, 50 State Approved, Red/Black
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  • 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

Jackery Solar Generator 1500, 1800W Generator Explorer 1500 and SolarSaga 100W with 3x110V/1800W AC Outlets, Solar Mobile Lithium Battery Pack for Outdoor RV/Van Camping, Overlanding Home Use (Solar Generator 1500 100W)
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  • CLEAN, WHISPER QUIET AND CONVENIENT: Unlike gas generators, the solar generator is clean and produces almost no noise. It features an on-button design for easy use. The portable generator is powered by solar energy, providing a green and sustainable solution for our living condition.
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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.

SaleBestseller No. 1
Renogy 500A Battery Monitor with Shunt, High and Low Voltage Programmable Alarm, Voltage Range 10V-120V and up to 500A, 20ft Shielded Cable, Compatible with 12V Lithium Sealed, Gel, Flooded Batteries
  • 【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】Compatible with various battery types, including Lead Acid (AGM, GEL), Lithium Iron Phosphate, Lithium-ion, Nickel-metal hybrid.
  • 【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 it easier to mount the shunt. And the 20ft Shielded cable allows you to monitor the battery status from a distance.
Bestseller No. 2
AiLi Voltmeter Ammeter Voltage Current Meter Voltmeter Ammeter 100V 350A Caravan RV Motorhome 999 AH
  • 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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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.

Backup Camera

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.

SaleBestseller No. 1
RV Backup Camera Wireless HD 1080P Trailer Bluetooth Rear View Cam System Touch Key 7'' DVR Monitor Split Screen 4 Channels for Truck Camper Adapter for Furrion Pre-Wired RVs AMTIFO A7
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Bestseller No. 2
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