It’s important to be sure with all electronics on whether or not they need to be grounded before handling them. Without that knowledge, you risk electrocution, which is (to say the least), wildly inconvenient.
Yes, solar panels on an RV need to be grounded. Without doing this, you risk injuring yourself and your equipment, as well as just having non-functioning panels.
Luckily, solar panels come with a part specifically designed to keep them grounded, so that’s not too hard. Read below for more information.
What Does Grounding Mean?
Before you ask – no, it doesn’t mean plugging an electronic into the dirt (thanks for the joke though, dad). Grounding is an essential task in most electric work, regardless of the application.
Electronics can build up residual energy, resulting in a need to discharge said power. Without a proper grounding wire or circuit, you leave that excess energy in the system, with nowhere to go. It will eventually find a way out, but you may not like where it goes.
In layman’s terms, think of electricity as the neighborhood kid when COVID hit. Unlimited energy to run and scream – but stuck inside. Now the parents have two options – provide him with alternative means of distraction or let him run amok outside.
You obviously want him to be calm and contained, but that’s not how things work, is it? He’s a force of nature with two options, stay in, or go outside. Electricity works in the same way. It either builds up until it can’t handle it anymore or it is safely discharged.
Why Should I Ground My Solar Panels?
It’s simple – like every other person on the planet, electric shocks can kill you. If you really, really want to find out if it’ll happen, there are better ways to do so. Say… a fork in a socket – but you didn’t hear that from me.
In addition to the risk to yourself, you put your RV at risk. Assuming your RV (like most of them) is made of metal, that means it’s prime real estate for that excess charge to escape. This can result in damage to other (ungrounded) electronics, as well as being shocked when touching your RV’s exterior.
How Do I Ground My Solar Panels?
Every solar panel comes with something called a ground lug. This is, in short, a small piece of metal to which you attach a wire. This allows excess charge from a short circuit or other electrical malfunction to escape to the ground safely, rather than discharging itself elsewhere.
All you need to do is attach the ground lug to each solar panel you’re installing and attach a bare wire to each lug. You then run it to the E-panel with the rest of your wiring to safely discharge in peace. Easy!
Are There Exceptions?
Yes and no. Many people online will tell you that they didn’t ground their panels and they’re perfectly fine! But do you really want to take that risk? Just because you can get away with not grounding your solar panels doesn’t mean you should.
Beyond the obvious aforementioned risks of death and damage to property, it’s really just not that hard to do.
Many RVs are already grounded, leading many users to feel that they’re safe to leave solar panels ungrounded. After all, you’re in a metal box with thousands of dollars worth of sensitive electronics and lives, but you’re on rubber tires. That’s gotta mean something, right?
Wrong. Contrary to popular belief, rubber tires don’t stop electricity from going to other metal parts of your rig. And if you happen to have wet hands or feet, grabbing the handle of your RV could prove fatal if there’s an unseen charge.
If you still don’t believe me, ask the parents of this poor boy. Or maybe this one? Okay – what about this fully grown man who was airlifted to a hospital after being electrocuted?
Wow, that got dark quick, right? My point is that trusting strangers on RV forum sites can at times pay off. If you’re trying to figure out how to do some things, they can be extremely helpful! But they can also be wrong. This often isn’t their profession, but their hobby – so do your research before deciding to trust Kevin from Idaho on electronics best practices.
Is My RV Grounded?
Most likely, yes! Most RVs come with a grounding pin for use with shore power. But if your grounding pin breaks, then you’re out of luck. And if you’re not sure if it’s broken – it’s likely that it is. It’s always better to take it to a professional to deal with than to roll the dice and hope you’re right.
This also doesn’t take into account that the walls, floors, and ceilings of your RV are not grounded. They’re metal, there’s electricity all around them, and it’s likely the best place for that charge to escape if something goes wrong.
Your solar panels are not naturally grounded, but they come with a piece (grounding lug) to do that job. Not only is the installation of this lug very easy, but it could potentially save your life. So regardless of what you’ve heard online – ground your solar panels and check your ground pin regularly for damage.
How Much Does It Cost To Have An RV Grounded?
This is an answer in which your mileage will vary depending on your RV and local electrician’s rates. It’s not worth it to risk repairing damaged electronics if you don’t know what you’re doing, so get a quote and let a professional handle it.
What Happens if I Touch An Ungrounded Circuit?
Electrocution happens, silly! This can be compounded by being wet or in connection with a conductive material (like metal). While it’s entirely possible you’ll just get a little shock, it could also prove fatal – especially for children and pets.
Do Batteries Have A Ground?
Yes. Most batteries come with a dedicated ground circuit to prevent unwanted discharge.