We’ve looked at so many different RV Solar Panels to find the best RV solar kit to keep batteries charged up or to go completely off-grid. Here’s our top 6!
In a hurry? Check out our top pick: Renogy Solar Starter Kit
Solar technology has seen a lot of advancements in the last few years, and it has even extended to the beloved RV. If you enjoy spending lots of time exploring in your RV and you are reading this, you know that the sunlight that shines down on your RV’s roof can be put to good use. Time to collect all that energy and turn it into a cheap way to power your RV!
In the past, solar technology was often inefficient when it came to powering an RV but new technology has developed the RV solar panel. This panel can be used by itself to power up devices or as a part of a group of panels if you need more power.
Here are some tips on what to look for when shopping for the best solar panel for RV use. We have also included some reviews to help you choose which solar panel kit will best suit your needs.
In this article, we’re going to review the following:
Are You a Good Candidate for Solar Power?
- Do you want a slow and steady way to charge your house battery?
- Do you camp for more than 2 days in a row without being “hooked-up”?
- Do you use several electrical appliances during your stays?
- Do you want to stop solely relying on a generator?
- Do you enjoy quiet surroundings and do you want to offer the same benefit to your fellow campers?
- Is your RV often parked / stored in places without electricity?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you are a good candidate for solar power!
The following situations, however, are not suitable for solar energy or require an additional source such as a generator:
- If you must use a large model roof air conditioner (120Vac)
- If you need to use the furnace or a space heater for long periods (more than 8 hours a day)
Benefits of an RV Solar Panel Kit
Effective way to charge your RV batteries
Your solar panels have the ability to supply a steady and slow charge to your house batteries which maximizes battery life.
Being eco-friendly is one of the most obvious benefits of an RV Solar Kit. You don’t have to depend on any other energy source outside of sunshine. You never have to worry about running out of fuel since solar power is a renewable energy source. It is always available and safe for the environment.
Solar panels do not have moving components so there is a lower risk for anything to break or needing replacement. All you need to do is occasionally wipe the panel’s surface to keep it clean.
My favorite thing about solar panels is that you don’t have to worry about being near an outlet. Sunlight is constant no matter where you are giving you the freedom to hit the road and go wherever your heart desires.
How do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels work by converting the energy they receive from the sun. First, you need to mount the solar panels on the roof of your RV or along the rig when you park it. The number of solar panels you need will be dependent on the amount of power you need.
Once the sun hits the surface of the panels, the energy generated travels through wires to a device called a charge controller. The controller regulates the voltage and current going from the solar panels to your battery and keeps it from overcharging. This device is quite vital as it can preserve the longevity and functionality of your batteries.
The battery or battery bank (two or more batteries joined together) is where the energy is stored. The more batteries you have, the more power you can store.
Most batteries are 12 volt and the power stored in the battery is the DC version. This is the type of power which runs cigarette adapter-style plugs.You can use power directly from the battery using DC plugs.
If you want to use appliances inside your RV like your coffee machine or TV using a standard household plug (AC plug) you will need an inverter to transform the 12 volt to 110 volt. Wires need to run from the inverter to your power box to distribute power to your outlets.
Here’s a good explanation of what Watts, Amps and Volts actually mean.
Best RV Solar Kit Buying Guide
What Are The Different Types of Solar Panels?
This is the oldest and most developed of the three technologies. Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient in low light conditions. They are made of a single continuous crystal structure which enables them to give you an equal amount of power output using less space. This makes them a good choice if your space is limited.
Polycrystalline panels were previously thought to be inferior to Monocrystalline because they were slightly less efficient. Even though they have slightly lower efficiencies they are less expensive than Monocrystalline which makes them a popular option for campers.
Amorphous or thin film panels are a totally different technology to Mono and Polycrystalline panels. A thin film panel can be identified as having a solid black appearance. They may or may not have a frame. Amorphous panels are cheaper and also have a high-efficiency rate. Yet, they are are twice the size of Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline which may not be ideal for an RV roof.
What's the difference between rigid and flexible RV solar panels?
Typically, rigid solar panels will have glass panes and an aluminum frame. These types of panels are usually the preferred type of solar panel for Rvs due to their inexpensiveness and durability.
If your RV doesn’t have enough flat space, flexible solar panels will work with the curves of your RV. They are extremely lightweight compared to mono and poly panels. You do not need holes drilled to install them, they can be glued directly to the roof. However, since they will be glued to the roof of your RV, you may have a hard time moving them later without damaging the roof.
What to look for in an RV Solar Panel
Before you buy an RV Solar panel you need to consider its power output. Typically, the better solar panels are monocrystalline panels since they give you the most power. They also take up the least amount of space which also makes them perfect for the roof of an RV.
You also need to consider how many panels you will need to power your RV. In most cases, a large RV will need at least four if not more while a small one can get away with just one or two panels.
I prefer to look for an RV solar panel that has a higher wattage since it can support several electrical devices. They can also charge batteries to their full capacity quicker and give you a higher efficiency rating every time you connect appliances or devices like your phone or computer.
Your power needs can change from when you first start out using an RV solar panel. Being able to add more panels to increase your power output is something to keep in mind. Make sure you are choosing solar panels that are easy to connect with a group of panels.
The roof of your RV can only handle so much. Make sure you have enough room to fit all the solar panels you want to connect. Most RVs can withstand quite a bit of weight but it is always a good idea to check for dimensions and weight.
When you are using something on the outside of an RV for an extended period, you need it to be durable.
You will find that solar panels tend to wear out and age quickly. Flexible solar panels tend to be stronger since they don’t use glass, however, they have a higher possibility of having their solar cells break.
You should also make sure the solar panels are water-resistant, dust-resistant, and weather resistant. Basically, you want something that can withstand the wear and tear that comes with being outside.
Easy installation is a must as far as I’m concerned with anything you take along in your RV. You don’t want to lose the plot trying to figure out how to install the panels by yourself, especially when you won’t have technical support around to help you out. Look for lightweight kits with holes that are pre-drilled for mounting.
Items to Consider Adding to Your RV Solar Panel Kit
Charge controller helps regulate volts and amps in your battery so it won’t overcharge. Most of the solar kits we reviewed come with a charge controller.
There are two types of solar charge controllers:
- MPPT Controllers, or maximum power point tracking, are efficient and help to increase the performance of your solar panel by letting them operate at the best power output voltage.
- PWM Controllers, or pulse width modulation, are less efficient as they reduce the efficiency in one part of the solar panel system so that it will cooperate with another part. But, they are cheaper than an MPPT controllers making them a more popular choice.
Batteries are an important part of your solar kit installation if you plan on using your stored solar power when the sun goes down. Most solar kits don’t come with batteries, so you will have to purchase them separately. First, you will need to calculate your power needs to determine how many batteries you will require in your battery bank.
This is great tool to keep track of your battery levels. If you want to monitor the power coming in and out of the batteries and know exactly how many more amp hours you have, this is the monitor you need.
This converts the battery power from 12 volt to 110 volt, which is used to power things like your TV’s, coffee machine, and computer.
Cables which carry the charge from the solar panels to the batteries, and from the batteries to your RV outlets.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?
Working out your energy requirements is important before you go out and buy your next RV solar panel kit. You need to calculate how many solar panels and batteries you will need based on your appliances and lighting according to the number of hours you use them everyday.
Best RV Solar Kit & Solar Panels Reviews
1. Renogy Solar Starter Kit
If you want a complete solar power kit, the Renogy monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit is worth checking out. Running on a solar battery charger, it has a very reliable 12-volt power source which is definitely needed if you are camping out in the wilderness.
For anyone who wants to use an RV solar panel, the one Renogy solar panel is capable of supplying 100-watt of power which can power things like a small fridge and some lights at night. This is a reliable solar panel system that can give you up to 500-watt hours each day depending on how much sunlight you get.
Need more power? No problem, the Renogy Solar Panel has the ability to supply additional power when you wire it into a group of solar panels.
Made out of a nice sturdy material, the construction on the Renogy rivals that found in efficient high-conversion models. You also get increased stiffness from the anti-reflective and high-transparency glass that the panels are made from.
The panels are designed to handle harsh weather such as strong winds and snow. You can tell why these panels are referred to as some of the strongest solar panels on the market, but keep in mind that also makes them heavier than the more flexible solar panels that are available.
2. ACOPOWER UV11007GD Foldable Solar Panel Kit
I personally like anything that is easy to set up and pack up, especially on an RV. The ACOPOWER 100-watt foldable solar panel kit falls into that category with its compact design which is a great feature for those who like to use off-grid solar systems.
Suitable for a variety of applications, the ACOPOWER works at the campsite and on the beach, pretty much anywhere you are off the grid.
I also really appreciate that its design works with either a battery-ready or generator-ready kit. These solar panels give you up to 400 w/h. The included MC4 connectors make it possible to connect it to other solar panels if you require more power output.
Easy setup and portability are two more words I love to hear with any RV gear. The ACOPOWER comes with pre-installed stands, plus it comes with a protective case that makes it easier to carry and set up quickly. With its lightweight but solid aluminum frame, we appreciate both the quality and efficiency of this product.
3. Renogy 160 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel
If you have an uneven or curved roof, you will like the Renogy Flexible solar panel. This panel is super flexible with a flex range of up to 248 degrees. It is suitable for a wide range of applications where standard panels can be tricky to mount making it a good option for airstreams, campers, and boats.
This is a portable and convenient 160W Monocrystalline Solar product which is only a tenth of an inch thick and only weighs 6.2 pounds. It’s easy to transport, store, and install.
The Renogy 160 Watt Flexible Solar Panel can be directly mounted on the roof of your RV with a silicon adhesive or velcro, depending on your roof surface type. Although it doesn’t come with grommet holes for mounting, you can add grommets around the edge.
This panel doesn’t come as a kit so you may need extension cables and a charge controller. If you are buying multiple panels, you will need the connector pieces and the longer power cables.
4. WINDYNATION Polycrystalline Complete Solar Panel Kit
Next on our list is a very reliable solar panels system. The WindyNation 100-watt solar panel kit is a good choice for RV use at a decent price. You can use it for off-grid applications or as a backup power source. You can get up to 100 watts of power out of this polycrystalline solar panel kit.
The WINDYNATION also comes with a 30-Amp solar controller that gives you handy information like temperature, amp-hours, voltage, load draw, and amperage as it charges. I love the easy to use settings that also let you fine-tune the charging to increase efficiency. Also included are a 40 ft solar cable, all necessary MC4 Connectors for wiring, and mounting hardware.
This is another system that lets you expand with more panels and its versatility works well as backup power or on RVs, boats, and cabins.
5. HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt Polycrystalline Solar Panel
For those wanting to try out solar panels but not wanting to invest too much, the HQST 100 Watt Solar Panel portable solar panels are a nice affordable way to start.
Great for generating power to your RV, the HQTS is a decent portable solar system for the money. I find it highly dependable as the panel has 36 highly efficient polycrystalline solar cells and a low-iron tempered glass as protection.
It is a good component if you are planning to create an off-grid solar power system. The solar panel is also constructed in such a way that it can resist wind loads and heavy snow. The back of it has a waterproof junction box, which means that it can also handle the harsh and heavy rains.
With the MC4 connectors integrated into the panel, as well as pre-drilled holes you will also find it easy to install on your roof. Whether you are planning to use the ground-mounted or the off-grid rooftop set up, the whole installation process is pretty straight forward.
6. Go Power! GP-PSK-120 Portable Solar Panel Kit 120W
The Go Power Portable Solar Panel Kit provides 120 watts of flexible solar charging options without the need to mount the panels on your roof.
The kit comes with interchangeable connectors for different configurations, whether you’re charging your RV or trailer battery. It will connect to a SAE-style solar port pre-wired on an RV.
It includes 15′ of cable so that you can place the panels in the sun and park in the shade. It also has adjustable folding legs to optimize solar exposure.
The 120 Watts portable kit comes in a heavy duty carrying case with a 12V / 10A PWM solar controller attached to the back of the panel. It also includes the cables with battery clamps to easily connect to your batteries.
The Go Power may be more expensive than the other models we have reviewed here but with the tremendous power output and reliable materials it is made of, it makes for a smart investment for any travel enthusiast.
The winner of the Best RV Solar Kit Roundup is the Renogy Solar Starter Kit. I really like this product as it gives you a nice reliable 12-volt power source. This is a great starter kit at an affordable price and contains all the components you need to install the system in your RV. The durability of the kit also gets points with me because the potential for breaking something when you are traveling is always high and you never know what type of weather you are going to have to deal with. Plus, if you need more power, just get a group of them together and you are all set.