Solar Power Installation, Phase II

Solar Power Installation - Truck Camper AdventureI spent the last couple days installing the two 60 watt solar panels I got for Christmas. After giving it some serious thought, I decided to place the two solar panels in the front of the camper where the roof is tilted downward. This gives the panels a better angle to the sun (that is if I’m pointed in the right direction). The additional two solar panels give me a total of three panels for a total of 240 watts.

As part of the installation, I had to replace the OEM two-pronged wiring plug on the roof with a new roof top combiner box. I opted to go with AM Solar’s excellent roof top combiner box. At $60 the combiner box is expensive, but it’s also well made and houses two large bus bars to make all of your solar panel connections (up to seven). The four corner screws for the lid do not enter the main compartment, so if any water happens to penetrate the screw the water will stay outside (see pic below). Very nice! Once the combiner box was installed, I used 10/2 copper wiring to connect each solar panel to the combiner box.

I was glad to be rid of the two-pronged OEM plug. The plug is made with 12 gauge wires and was a weak link in the OEM system that is wired with 10 gauge wiring (if you recall during Phase I of the solar power installation, the 30 amp fuse located between the batteries and charge controller also used 12 gauge wires, which I promptly replaced with a circuit breaker). I don’t understand that thinking or engineering. Why design a solar power system that employs 10 gauge wiring and then insert a couple weak points using 12 gauge wires? That’s a real head scratcher.

Solar Power Installation - Truck Camper Adventure
Out with the old OEM two-pronged roof top solar plug…
Solar Power Installation - Truck Camper Adventure
…and in with the new. AM Solar’s roof top combiner box.
Solar Power Installation - Truck Camper Adventure
The combiner box installation complete and buttoned up.

I opted to go with non-tilting, aluminum Z-bracket mounts for the solar panels. If I intended on living in the camper for long periods of time I would’ve went with tilting mounts. Besides, if I need to tilt the solar panels all I need to do is start the truck and aim it toward the sun. I’m good with that. AM Solar sells these brackets for about $2.00 each.

Mounting the solar panels to the roof was extremely simple. Each bracket was attached using a piece of Very High Bond (VHB) tape and a large screw, then covered with a generous amount of Dicor to provide a water tight seal for both the screw and for the tape. The VHB tape is great stuff, bullet proof and very strong. Like the combiner box, I ordered the tape from AM Solar. They use VHB tape for all of their installations. What’s good enough for the professionals at AM Solar is good enough for me.

Solar Power Installation - Truck Camper Adventure
The Z-bracket roof mount before being sealed with Dicor.

My philosophy on buying solar panels and charge controllers is pretty simple. Shop around! Surf the web and look for the best bargains. This doesn’t mean buying poorly made garbage, but means buying smart. The RV solar packages that you find on the web and at the RV specialty stores are nice, to be sure, but they’re also very expensive. If you understand what you need and you can install the system yourself, you can save yourself big bucks. For example, the 60 watt solar panels I just installed were $79 a piece on sale at Solar Blvd. These panels, made by Solar Cynergy, work just as well as anything else you can buy for much more money and carry the same warranty.

Truck Camper Solar Power Panels

The complete details for Phase I of my solar power installation can be found here. 

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About Mello Mike 465 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a Jeep and truck camper enthusiast, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently drives a 2013 Ram 3500 4x4 pickup truck with a 2016 Northstar Laredo solar powered truck camper mounted on top. He enjoys football, music, hiking, travel, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management until 2017, and now runs this website full-time. He also does some consulting and RV inspections on the side.

15 Comments

  1. Hi Mike, I have a 2014 AF 22G same 12g OEM connector on roof. My 12g wires are both nutted to 2 10g wires, a few inches under the roof. I can access one of each of these wires in my radio compartment almost directly under the OEM connector. Don't know where the second wire on each of these connections goes. Will also have to enlarge the hole on the roof to get wire cluster out. Any Idea where the second red and black go? Thanks, Mark

  2. Hey Mike,
    Thanks for documenting your install and sharing your money saving ideas, I stand to save 100's on my own install! I have an arctic fox and intend to replace the rooftop connector, and was wondering if you replaced the wiring from the roof down to the charge controller or just snipped the connector off and used the #10 wire.

    • Great question, Kevin. The wiring run from the roof top connector plug is #12 wire. I replaced this wiring with #10 wire. It was pretty simple since the red and black #12 wire was spliced near the roof anyhow. The #10 wire works great for the short wiring runs found in a TC.

      Good luck with your install.

      -Mike

    • Hi mike,

      Can you clarify Kevins question, has northwood run #10 from the undersink location to the roof and spliced on the connector? Are there marrettes in the cieling cavity?
      I have a go power 155 kit i am going to put on my 811 when the temps go up (Calgary Alberta) and am trying to prepare as best as i can during the off season.

    • Darrel,
      Yes, Northwood uses #10 wiring from the undersink up to the roof. In fact, the entire solar power wiring run uses #10 wire except for the rooftop connection and fuse near the battery box. Both were replaced. There were no marrettes in the ceiling cavity, the wires were spliced together with a clamp on connector. Good luck.

  3. Great installation here mate. I'd imagine out there in the states the solar levels are considerably higher than we get in the UK. Too many rogue traders around here doing half-assed jobs, so it's good that someone is actually documenting their buisness process.

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