It’s always exciting to hit the road in your RV with the power of the sun at your disposal. But like any system, there are times when the system won’t work as it should. Your solar panel needs care in such times more than ever.
In this post, we share crucial RV solar panel maintenance and troubleshooting tips to make your ride as smooth as possible. This is a 101 guide to riding the sunny road hassle-free!
Common RV Solar Panel Problems
Solar panels, being the most visible part of the solar system, will likely incur most problems. Here are common problems you may encounter.
It is common for solar panels to experience gradual power loss with time. This is a result of factors like dirt, debris, and oxidation. It’s also due to damage and aging of the panels.
Improper connections or issues with the charge controller will make the batteries not charge as expected. At the very least, this causes insufficient power for your appliances. At worst, your panel stops working altogether.
Similarly, when the panel overcharges because the controller has failed to regulate the process, the battery and other RV components can be damaged.
Hot spots are areas in your panel that accumulate high temperatures and, in return, affect the system’s efficiency.
It’s somewhat ironic that solar systems that rely on the sun’s heat to produce energy can overheat. That is because the panels are designed to operate within certain temperature ranges. Past this, they won’t function well or get damaged permanently.
These are the brown discoloration marks caused by faulty silver paste, manufacturing defects, and moisture. While they may not directly affect performance, they will affect power production if located near hot spots and micro cracks.
Micro cracks may be too small for the human eye but are large enough to damage the panels.
They develop naturally due to wear and tear. But they can also be a result of mishandling of the panels, changing weather, thermal conditions, and, above all, mishandling during shipping.
That’s why it is important to settle for a competent supplier who will make sure your equipment arrives in one piece.
Your solar panel is designed to be corrosion-resistant. But water seeping into the cell will cause corrosion and damage it permanently. When this happens, you’ll need to call a technician to replace the corroded cells.
When the problem isn’t with your panel, it may be with your roof’s structural defects. Your RV’s roof cracking and deteriorating will heavily affect the panel’s performance and stability.
Troubleshooting Solar Panel Problems
Enough with the problems. How do you fix them? Here are troubleshooting solutions to your RV solar panel problems.
Install a Power Monitoring System
You can’t fix a problem unless you know what it is. The best and easiest way to prevent and diagnose solar panel-related problems is to purchase a power monitoring system.
These monitor your system and notify you of any problems. It will:
- Alert you of energy production drops that are below the average.
- Perform checkups for you. No need to stress about that.
- Compare data to analyze performance. This data is accessible from your computer or smartphone.
Causes: Dirt, dust, and oxidation on the panel’s surface
To fix this, inspect the panel for physical damage. Remove any obstacles and shading objects from your RV roof. Tilt the panel for maximum sun exposure.
Also, remember to clean your panel regularly using water, a mild soap mixture, and a soft brush.
Causes: System misconfiguration, improper connections, and issues with the charge controller
If your appliances aren’t charging properly, inspect all the connections, including terminals, fuses, and cables. Check that the system components (batteries, panels, and charge controllers) are compatible.
Also, confirm that the charge controller settings are correct for property charging parameters.
Causes: Battery inefficiency, failing batteries, and phantom loads
Your batteries are most likely old or damaged. Check their condition and replace them if need be. Turn off your appliances and systems when not in use to eliminate phantom loads.
Causes: Temperature variations
Use your panel within the acceptable temperature range as per your solar panel user guide. Move your RV under a shade when it gets too hot and wait for it to cool.
Ensure the system is properly ventilated and well insulated to deal with temperature fluctuations. When your panel gets hot spots, replacing will be cheaper than repairing.
Causes: Cell damage or manufacturing defects
You are lucky if your panel exhibits snail trails and is still under warranty. Contact your supplier or manufacturer for replacement.
If your warranty is expired, consider installing an anti-reflective coating to minimize the panels’ visibility.
Causes: Mechanical stress, thermal conditions, changing weather, and mishandling of the panels
Micro cracks are rare, but when they occur, you’ll only notice them when they have expanded. The best solution, then, would be to replace your damaged panel.
Therefore, it’s critical that you install your RV solar properly and avoid over-tightening the mounting hardware to prevent micro cracks.
Causes: Harsh weather conditions like moisture and saltwater
Buy a laminated solar panel or laminate your cells to prevent corrosion. Fortunately, most RV solar panels come with built-in anti-corrosion structures.
If the damage is already done, call in a technician to fix the corroded panels.
Causes: Improper installation
Ensure you install your solar panel property closely following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Also, inspect your RV roof regularly for leaks and damages around the mounting points. If present, address them promptly to prevent further damage.
Solar Panel Maintenance Tips
Performing routine solar panel maintenance will ensure maximum output and efficiency. It will also help prevent most of the problems outlined above.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
The cleaner your solar panel is, the more effective it will be. Remove dust, dirt, and debris accumulating on your panel’s surface, reducing efficiency.
Use a mixture of mild soap and water and wash the panels with a soft brush. Avoid harsh chemicals and abrasive materials that can damage the panels.
Keep an eye out for obstructions and shading from objects like vehicles and trees. Adjust and tilt your panels periodically to maximize their exposure to the sun. Remember, even partial shading can significantly impact the system’s performance.
You must monitor your RV batteries regularly to confirm that they are in good condition. For lead-acid batteries, fill them with distilled water whenever necessary.
Monitor Charge Controller
Your controller is critical for the charging process. Check its settings and ensure it is configured correctly. Insect it for any error codes or visible damages. Replace it if it is malfunctioning.
Safety is a top priority when maintaining your solar system. It ensures the well-being of both yourself and your equipment. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind.
- Turn off your solar system before conducting any troubleshooting or maintenance. This helps prevent electric shock and injuries.
- Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as safety glasses and gloves, to protect your eyes and hands.
- Your RV, solar system, and its equipment shouldn’t be in contact with overhead power lines. Avoid electrical hazards at all costs.
- Remember, water and electricity don’t mix. So, be careful when cleaning solar panels. Dry all equipment before connecting them back.
- Finally, labeling wires, circuit breakers, and connectors is always a good idea. This will simplify maintenance, ensuring a more efficient and safer working environment.
When to Seek Professional Assistance
You should be able to perform most basic troubleshooting and solar panel maintenance on your own. But when it involves complex issues such as damaged or malfunctioning batteries, controllers, or inverters, you are better off seeking professional help.
A skilled technician will diagnose such problems and ensure your system is back and running in no time. Safety is always core.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How often do solar panels need maintenance?
Clean and inspect your RV solar panel every two to three months if possible. But this frequency will vary depending on factors such as the climate, your location, and the amount of dirt and debris in the area.
Remember to conduct regular checks to identify any problems that may require immediate attention.
Do RV solar panels need to be cleaned?
Yes, you need to regularly clean your solar panels to ensure their efficiency. Failure to do so will lead to the accumulation of dirt and dust that will affect their performance.
How do I clean my RV solar panels?
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean your solar panel:
- Switch off your solar system as a safety and precautionary measure.
- Give the panels time to cool down if they have been exposed to the sun for a long time.
- Next, remove loose dirt and debris from the panels using a sponge or soft brush.
- Use water and mild soap to gently wash the panels with the sponge. Avoid harsh chemicals.
- Rinse the panels to remove the soap residue.
- Allow the panels to dry before switching the system back on.
Regular RV solar panel maintenance is essential for a reliable power source. These maintenance practices and the troubleshooting tips will help you make the most out of your panels.
Remember, safety is always a top priority when troubleshooting your RV solar panel system.