What Does Solar Ready or Prep on A Camper Mean?


You’ve purchased a new camper or motorhome and see a sticker which reads “Solar Ready.”  Using solar power would very likely come in handy if your road adventure includes some dry camping or you’re looking to save on hook-up fees.  Solar energy is a benefit in home ownership and can be a benefit to the RV road warrior.

What does solar or prep on a camper mean? Solar ready, or solar prep, means your RV has been pre-wired for use with a solar power system.  The definition of RV solar ready varies among RV manufacturers. However, The choice of how to take advantage of solar ready capability is decided by the owner and based on how RV travel is planned and costs.

The RV has gone from being only sleeping and cooking quarters to including upgraded features like air conditioning, heaters, and televisions, all of which need sources of power. 

The information given here will help you identify what solar ready means and does your new camper come with it.

There Are Differences in Solar Ready RV

The “Solar Ready” sticker doesn’t equate to a get-up-and-go experience. what does solar ready mean on an rv? well, the sticker is generally considered to be an RV manufacturer’s marketing tactic to entice buyers. 

No additional information is offered other than making sure the buyer sees the sticker and the plug next to it.  

For other manufacturers, customer service actually is a business practice.  They provide most of the necessary equipment to make full use of a solar ready RV along with answering your questions.

What does Solar Prep REALLY mean in an RV >> Check out the video below:

There are two common solar ready connections to be found on campers:

  • Sidewall cable ports
  • Roof ports

1. Sidewall Cable Ports

The sidewall port is a factory installed plug that is supplied by a solar panel company in an attempt to hint at purchasing its solar panels. 

This rv solar ready plug isn’t for powering high voltage conveniences like air conditioners. 

sidewall cable port solar ready rv

Its use is for portable solar power systems which will keep the battery at its full charge so there is no shortage of power for the smaller low voltage appliances and lighting.

2. Roof Ports

The roof ports are for use with permanent roof-mounted solar panel systems.  

If you’re more than just a long-weekend-in-the-desert RV traveler or just like to have your RV outfitted with all manner of comforts, then the solar ready roof port is what to look for when purchasing your new RV.

It’s not as common, but not unusual, to see a label alerting you to a solar wire located behind a wall. 

This is nothing but a wire with one end by the roof and extending down to the RV battery with no connection, not useful in the least for a roof-mounted solar system.  

Even though the sidewall cable port is just a wire to the battery, it’s there for use with a portable system.  The wire located behind the wall is a lame attempt by the RV manufacturer to offer a “solar ready RV”.

Benefits of RV Solar Ready

There’s no arguing that solar power reduces energy costs, and RVers can take advantage of that in several areas in addition to saving on the astronomical hook-up fees:

  • Battery life—installing solar can increase the life of the RV battery from the average of 4-5 years to 5-8 years.
  • Generators—solar power produces enough energy to, at least, reduce use of and possibly make generators obsolete.  This results in the clean energy needed to curb air pollution.
  • Dry camping/boondocking—when RVing off the grid and it’s just you, your RV, and nature, solar power allows you to enjoy your upgraded features without disturbing the peace and quiet of your surroundings.

Solar Ready RV: The System Choices

The choice of a solar system to take advantage of your solar ready sidewall port or roof port is based on the your needs for how you travel…weekend or a few weeks camping each a year vs. a way of life with longer trips and a more adventurous itinerary. 

The solar pre-wiring that may be installed still requires panels, proper wiring, and a charge controller.

Sidewall Port System

The portable system most often used is the solar suitcase.  This is a solar panel encased in a briefcase-like carrier including, most often, a charger controller. 

It’s a quick, uncomplicated way to set up solar to keep your battery at its full charge for dry camping or occasional trips.

You’ll find a few popular and best reviewed solar suitcases to choose from:

An added convenience of the portable solar system is that it can be good supplemental energy source for rooftop solar panels. 

For that purpose, it should be considered when installing a roof-mounted solar system or adding to a previously installed system.

Roof Ports and Systems

Roof port systems mean permanently mounted panels.  These systems will give you the surge of power needed to keep enjoying the cool comfort inside as you cross the Anza-Borrego Desert. 

There is also the advantage of eliminating the setting up and taking down of a portable solar system. 

The roof ports most often found on RVs are the Zamp Solar and Go Power! ports. 

Should your roof port be truly solar ready and pre-wired, then you could make the installation of the solar panels and charge controller a DIY project with an SRRV (solar ready recreational vehicle) kit. 

Keep in mind that you’ll need to buy the charge controller or inverter should you choose a kit that doesn’t include them.

You’ll find the best reviewed SRRV kits include:

If you start with a minimal solar system and discover you want to boost the power, solar expansion kits are available for installation of extra panels. 

Go Power! and Zamp Solar carry expansion kits with various panel sizes for the expansion you require.

DIY Isn’t for Everyone

A solar ready camper that requires your personal attention in installing a system may not be exactly what you have in mind. 

The idea of clean, efficient, and renewable energy is a plus, so where do you find the installation expertise you lack?  

Fortunately, there are a few RV manufacturers who can accommodate you with pre-installed wiring or a complete pre-installed system.

  • Airstream—partners with Zamp Solar for its pre-installed systems
  • Jayco—partners with Go Power! for its pre-installed wiring
  • Forest River—also partners with Zamp Solar, but for pre-installed wiring

If you decide to hire someone else for installing a system using the pre-installed wiring, it’s important to make sure your installer is a professionally trained electrician with expertise in solar panel installations.

This is critical to ensuring a safe installation.  A consideration for hiring a certified professional is warranties on workmanship are usually offered in the event the system malfunctions in any way. 

Also, the manufacturer of the DIY kit purchased usually requires proof an experienced installer was hired before the equipment warranty is honored.


When faced with that “Solar Ready” sticker, there are considerations on if and how installing a solar system would make sense for your needs. 

Cost savings, clean energy, and freedom to take your travels off the grid are all benefits of having a solar power system make use of solar ready. 

However, solar power may not be a cost savings, especially in the upfront cost, if you take out the RV for a two-week family vacation or a weekend visit to a nearby campground by the lake. 

Recommended Reading

You might want to check out our other articles about campers for more information:

What is an Inverter in an RV and Why Do You Need it?

How to Use a Generator with a Travel Trailer: Complete Guide

4 Essential Reasons Travel Trailers Have Batteries [Must-read]

The 8 Travel Trailers with the Most Windows

How to Prevent Travel Trailer Theft – 13 Steps that Work

Setting Up a Travel Trailer to Live In: 20 Essential Steps

How Many Watts Do I Need to Run a Camper AC? Facts You Need To Know

Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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