Solar panel is on the roof!

Bright and early this morning I pack the crew into the Perfect Tow Vehicle.

I scrape the frost off the windshield, double-check that the Casita is locked, and head out of Percha Dam State Park.  We get on I-25 and drive north to Elephant Butte for the PTV’s 8:30 appointment at Baker’s RV Service.  I’m so excited to finally have the solar panel installed on the PTV’s roof that I forget to eat breakfast!  Once in Elephant Butte I stop at a convenience store and buy some crackers and peanuts before going down the street to  Baker’s.

Jack and Corey first saw off the “ears” of the roof rack.

The rack has metal sticking up in four places and that has to come off.  Once that’s done, they attach the roof rack, then the tilt assembly, and the 200 watt panel.  All the while I’m watching from the ground, my heart in my throat.  I’ve waited so long for this day!   I’m aware of the effort invested by Mick in Tennessee and Bill here in Elephant Butte that I don’t want anything to go wrong.

Silly me.  I forgot about my charmed life.

Bill and Kathy and Chuck and Geri arrive to watch the progress.  Discussion turns to the impending storm which will bring high wind by late Thursday afternoon.  The storm is expected to bring cold temperatures, rain, and possibly snow through the weekend.  That’s when I remember how charmed I am.

“Look at the weather today,” I remark. 

“The sun is shining, it’s warm, and there’s no wind . . . perfect on the day of the solar panel mount!”

We watch the work for most of the morning. 

Bill and Kathy leave on an errand.  Chuck, Geri and I go across the street in their car to have lunch at Casa Taco.  The crew behaves – as best I can tell – waiting in the car.  Actually Bridget and Spike are good all day.  Spike, always a social animal, enjoys making some canine friends hanging around Bakers’ RV Service.  He also interacts with Bill and Kathy’s dog, Holly, who’s recovered from her recent sprain.

The roof rack, tilt assembly, and panel mount takes two guys working over three hours.

The charge is $240 for labor and $5 for bolts.  Bill offers to do the wiring from the panel to the interior of the PTV.  He and Kathy will drive down to my Percha Dam campsite tomorrow to finish the project.

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The crew is happy to get back into the PTV for the trip home.

I stop at Walmart for a few things before getting back on the interstate.  The crew is too tired to display the usual histrionics.  I’m so proud of my solar panel.  As I walk across the parking lot, I smile.  I love the way it looks!  How can it be that the Perfect Tow Vehicle is even more perfect than before?  It’s a mystery.

A surprise awaits us at our campsite!

Stuck in the door of the Casita is a business card.  On the back is written, “Sue, been reading your blog.  We are en route to Socorro and Bosque del Apache . . .  Hi to Spike and Bridget . . . Kent.”  I’m sorry we missed the chance to meet you, Kent!



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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45 Responses to Solar panel is on the roof!

  1. Sherry says:

    WOW Sue it looks BEAUTIFUL. I am SO impressed with your getting all this together.
    When do you start using it???

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Sherry!

      Well, the wiring needs to get done. If the weather doesn’t interfere, Bill will work on it tomorrow. Once it’s wired, it can start charging my batteries!

  2. cathieok says:

    Like. Like. Like!

  3. KAREN Dusha McKean says:

    Congrats to everyone who worked on this for you…….and that means you too CCS Mick K. We are all anxiously waiting to see it operate. You’ve come a long way Susan and still miles to travel. Will you have enough power to light a little Christmas tree?

  4. Mick says:

    Wow, it looks like the CAD drawing. The big question is “Can you raise and lower it by yourself?”
    Nice chatting with you today.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Mick!

      Yeah, it came out just like you designed it! Doesn’t it look fine?

      I haven’t tried to raise and lower it yet . . . I’ll try tomorrow . . . if I can stand on a ladder without the wind blowing me off it.

      Nice to hear your voice for the first time after how many years?

  5. Geri says:

    It was so much fun being able to share this adventure with you! I hope our paths cross again one day!

  6. JoJo says:

    Happy for you to have your panel. Now for the wiring and you are set.

  7. Reine says:

    Congratulations. By the weekend you’ll be ready to roll and FULLY self contained.

  8. Congrats on the panel! Can’t wait to see you out in the boonies with your own power.. wheeheeeee

    We made ours “tiltable” too, but realized when we were in the desert last winter, we only needed to leave them flat. Many times we were fully recharged by 10 or 11 am in the morning, so didn’t need to even tilt them. It all depends on how much you drain them down the night before (ps remember to never drain the batteries below 50% or it shortens up your battery life dramatically the number of times they can be cycled by draining and recharging)

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House… BIG Backyard
    (All About Me)

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Karen and Steve!

      It may be that I won’t need to tilt often in the desert. I want to have the option, especially when I travel to the Pacific Northwest and undoubtedly park under cloudy skies.

      Thanks for the reminder to watch charge levels. I’ve got my handy remote meter that Mick advised me to buy. It’ll be fun to watch THE RVSUE AMP SHOW on it!

  9. Sue, most of us following your blog are probably as excited as you are to see this wonderful Solar install! And for me it is especially helpful as solar, batteries, inverters, etc. all seem one of Life’s Mysteries. I’m learning so much. The photos are immensely helpful.
    PLUS: You’ll be taking us to new places in your blog, now that “we” are on solar! Do you feel like you have about 500+ people in the back of the PTV saying, “where to next??! Are we there yet?”
    I can’t wait to see where the boondocking life takes you! (or, us!)

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Jool!

      I do have a lot of people riding in the back of the PTV, urging me to get out there and explore . . . Since I don’t have to stop for everyone’s bathroom break, I’m happy to have some passengers!

  10. Pat Gabriel says:

    So glad to hear it’s almost ready. Looking forward to hearing how it works out!
    Best. Pat

  11. mizkitts says:

    Will plans for this install be available? I’ve been searching and searching for the right setup for my Roadtrek van! This looks perfect, except that I’ll need a motorized way to raise and lower the panel since I have a high top and can’t reach way up there unless I’m on the second floor of my house. 🙂

    Looks really good, Sue!!!! Can’t wait to meet you on the road one day.

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      Hello! I keep saying I’m going to put info up on my blog about the install, and then every day is an adventure and I don’t get it done. I guess once the solar project is complete and I can find a campsite off by myself, I’ll have some time to put together some pages on the materials, sources, prices, design, etc. I’ve been having way too much fun to get it done!

      I want to make a permanent section about my solar in the header, up there where I introduce myself, Spike, and Bridget. Great idea to put a panel or panels on your Roadtrek.

      Hope to meet you someday, too. Now that I have a panel on the PTV, I’ll be even easier to recognize.

  12. janine says:

    Looks great Sue!! How exciting for you and the “kids”.

  13. Chuck says:

    Hey, and if you get tight on $$$, you can raise it and deliver Dominoes or Pizza Hut!!!!!
    Gonna’ miss ya’ kid, but we’ll follow ya’ on your GREAT blog. Hope to see ya’ll soon, Chuck

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Chuck!

      I’ll miss you and Geri, too. You made sure I ate well!

      Deliver pizzas? No, I’ll MAKE pizzas right out of the PTV and have my own concession!

      You’ll probably see me at the doorstep of the Mothership some time next summer.

      Thanks again, to you and Geri, for everything!

  14. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy Sue & crew,
    That is one clean looking system!!! If we were still pulling our trailer with the van thatz the rig I’d
    want on it… Thanx, to EVERYONE WHO WORKED ON IT FOR SUE!!! The pics of the installation
    were very good and clear as to what each step was.. Spike is a very sociable kind, but watch out
    for his ‘friends’!!! That one is a pitbull and could swallow him!!!! Especially a hang-around town
    dog!!!! Of course the weather was great for you!!!! When Bill gets you all wired-up GO GIRL!!

    Hoping the sun shines and the batteries stay charged!!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      Hello! You always send a great comment. I can tell you’ve got a big heart.

      Aren’t I blessed to have such great people in my life?

      The sun is shining and Bill and Kathy are expected around noon today. Bill tells me we’re in a location that is usually somewhat shielded from high winds, whereas south of here (Deming, Las Cruces) tends to get worse winds. I’ll be playing it by ear (to the weather) for the next few days. The first opening and this girl will GO!

  15. Carolyn Patin says:

    Hello rvsue,

    I recently started reading your blog. I am enjoying reading about your adventures and full-time rvliving. It inspires me to continue my dreaming of full-timing or at least most of the time when I retire.

    I plan to retire in 2 years, then hopefully to extensively travel the beautiful United States in my rv. There is so much out there to see and learn (actual experience), than reading it in a book. For now, I am rving via short trips several times throughout the year.

    Looking forward to reading more about your rving lifestyle.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello Carolyn!

      Welcome to my blog! I’m pleased to hear you are enjoying it. If my blog inspires you to follow your rv dreams, that’s great!

      Only 2 more years to go . . . . good for you!


    Sue, I am curious. How do you protect the panels from the hail? Or is that even necessary?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Joan!

      Damage from hail is a possibility. I could wrap a blanket over the panel if I’m given enough notice of impending hail. It’s a real threat. I tell myself not to worry about it because I see a lot of rvs going around with panels on the roof.

      • Mick says:

        There are also many more houses around with solar panels. That may be a subject that the solar people don’t talk about??
        Maybe a foam camping mattress would work.

  17. Bob Giddings says:

    I thought about you when I saw this item:

    Looks good, cheap, sturdy, folds flat for storage. Might take up too much room. I don’t know what you are using for a desk, if anything, but this could be worth a look at the next Target you come across.


  18. Reine says:

    Definitely watch the weather for winds. We saw permanent signs on Interstate 10 in western NM and Arizona warning of the danger of dust storms. FYI, the standard safety recommendations if you get caught in one is to pull OFF the road and TURN OFF all lights so traffic behind you won’t try to “follow your lights.” into the back of you. Makes sense when explained that way.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Reine!

      That sounds like good advice. It’s easy for drivers to get lulled into following the lights ahead of them.

      I’m not driving in bad wind. There’s no point in looking for problems. I appreciate your concern.

      • Reine says:

        Good plan not to drive when there are high winds forecast but sometimes they catch you by surprise. I didn’t really understand the signs with the info to get off the road and turn off the lights till I went to the NOAA site about dust storms and read the reasoning. Hopefully the info will help someone.

  19. BeckyIO says:

    It looks great, congratulations!

  20. Rubbertramp says:

    Sue, I’d like to see how the batteries connect to your trailer. I may have to reaccess my setup. Assume you will pics! Tanks

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Rubbertramp . . .

      A large flat wire plugs into the inverter. The other end of the wire (or what you might call cable) has a female plug. I take the power cord from the Casita that is used for electrical hook-up in a campground and I plug that into the power cord coming out of the PTV from the inverter. The batteries and the inverter are connected via the charge controller.

      I will show pictures. I probably won’t post an entry this evening (Friday,Dec. 1st) because I keep losing connectivity. It’s taking me a long time just to respond to comments.

  21. Kent williams says:

    this is the kent who stopped by last week. We are back west in tucson and found time to post comment. Love the percha dam campground. Wife and I will return next year and stay there. Wewere up in Socorro for 4 nights birdwatchng and photographing birds at bosque del apache however decided to leave early before snow arrived. Glad we did. Love your blog. Inspired, I started one too. see below. We head back to Cali next week then return late feb and head to Texas gulf coast. Maybe will see you around if our travels intersect…check ut my blog. Love the travel life. And friends along the way. Kent

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Kent!

      I’m sorry your comment didn’t appear sooner. For some unknown reason it was automatically placed in a spam file. I just discovered it! I did check your blog . . . nice job! Maybe our paths will cross. You have a lot of moving around and interesting sights ahead of you. Good luck!

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