RV Electrical System: Design

rv electrical system

PREVIOUS: RV Electrical System: History

Two recent developments will change the future of RV living: flexible panels and Lithium batteries. Neither will benefit everybody, as the extra cost tends to favor boondockers, who receive a greater payback on their investment. Lower prices will inevitably lead to wider use and greater implementation by most, if not all, RV’ers.
Flexible solar panels are stealthy and lightweight, while their efficiency is comparable to rigid panels. A more than 75% reduction in weight is significant for cargo van converters, as they always struggle to stay within the limits of the GVWR. solar panelEase of installation is another bonus, but the first generation of these panels had to contend with imperfections of the top coating, while heat issues may unfavorably influence the capacity under high temperatures.
Lithium batteries have a similar, major weight advantage in comparison to lead-acid batteries, have little or no maintenance and may never need replacement (during the lifetime of the vehicle). They may work better when combined with solar panels and could be fully charged within 30-60 minutes while running the vehicle or when hooked up in a campground.
lithium batteryOutdoor conditions strongly influence how these batteries perform and early pioneers are still figuring out their best use under these variable conditions. Most manufacturers suggest a 2000 and up to 5000 cycles during the lifetime of the batteries. A 10-15 year use should be expected by the average camper.
Many unanswered questions remain for both, because long term use in RV’s is still poorly documented, but this should not be limiting factor for the adventurous under us. The many virtues it already brings and the convenience, should be reason enough for wider application among RV’rs. Let’s be clear, much knowledge has been gained during real-life RV use over multiple years, which shows that Lithium works. Just one main question remains: will it last for the lifetime of the vehicle or will it be a financial disappointment?


Design of the electrical system will be very different from one RV to the other. As requirements vary greatly, each has to decide based on their own individual requirements. Unfortunately, most RV buyers purchase a recreational vehicle primarily based on layout and size and electrical design is often an afterthought. Little choice is often available, however lately more manufacturers are offering upgrades in battery storage and solar panels.

New builds or conversions have no limitations on design, but a good basic understanding of the RV electrical system is needed.

Reality is that most campers go from campground to campground with utilities hooked up and have no real need for solar. Those who want to upgrade face difficulties as the factory installed wiring often is undersized and is laborious to replace. New builds or conversions have no limitations on design, but a good basic understanding of the RV electrical system is needed.

UPCOMING: RV Electrical System: Batteries & Solar Panels

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