Finding the best RV solar panels can be a headache for rig owners. This marketplace has become flooded with options, which makes choosing one rather stressful. It’s probably why you’ve clicked on our article in the first place.
You’ve made a smart decision because this article will guide you through the entire process. This guidance will consist of discussing several relevant topics about these devices, including their benefits, determining factors, and even how to install them.
Each of these discussions will make choosing your RV solar panels an easy and straightforward task. You’ll no longer have to deal with the large number of options bringing stress into your life. It’ll instead show you how to limit these options into a more manageable selection.
Selecting the right solar panels won’t seem like a burden under these new circumstances. You should have no problem getting the perfect ones for your rig. These perfect options will then ensure you can enjoy all the benefits that come with an RV solar system.
|Best Overall||Budget Friendly||Easy to Install|
|Preview||Renogy Solar Panel 100 Watt||Newpowa NPA100-12H||Renogy KIT-STARTER-100D|
|Dimensions||41.8 x 20.9 x 1.4 inches||35.83 x 26.57 x 1.18 inches||41.8 x 1.38 x 20.9 inches|
|Weight||14.1 pounds||15.2 pounds||19.84 pounds|
|Voltage||12 V||12 V||12 V|
|Max Power||100 W||100 W||100 W|
|Waterproof||IP65 Junction Box, IP67 Connectors||IP65 Junction Box, IP67 Connectors||IP65 Junction Box, IP67 Connectors|
|Battery Cell||Monocrystalline Silicon||Polycrystalline||Monocrystalline|
13 Best Solar Panel for RV Reviews
This section will contain 13 product reviews of my favorite RV solar panels available. These reviews should provide an understanding of what high-quality options look like and how they benefit rig owners. You’ll then be ready to move onto our more complex topics discussed in later sections.
1. Renogy 100 Watt RV Solar Panel
If you intend on camping off-grid, Renogy’s 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline RV Solar Panel is an excellent option. This model has one of the most effortless installation processes among the products on our list.
You can attribute its easy installation to pre-drilled holes on the panel’s back. As a result, the mounting and securing process becomes much easier. I was thrilled with this product’s compact design that makes the installation much more comfortable, as well.
Rig owners looking to add more panels in the future should also consider this model. It comes equipped with solar panel connectors and a junction box to ensure this task is done quickly. It’s always a good idea to prepare ahead of time with devices like these.
As for the solar panel’s performance, this model is one of the most reliable available. It’s made from advanced encapsulation material and contains multi-layered sheet lamination to maximize cell performance.
Both these features will also increase its durability and ensure it lasts a long time. Its strength is another area where it excels as it’s known to handle heavy snow loads and high winds. There’s no reason to believe this solar panel won’t be usable for many years.
The product’s versatility is another winning trait, as it has been known to offer excellent performance in various situations. I can’t envision a single scenario where this device won’t function to its maximum ability.
2. Newpowa 100 Watt RV Solar Panel
Newpowa’s 100 Watt 12 Volt Polycrystalline RV Solar Panel is an excellent option for someone looking to buy an affordable product. In fact, this model has one of the least expensive price tags among the options on our list.
But this affordable price shouldn’t fool you into thinking it doesn’t have impressive features. I love this device’s durable TPT back sheet, which will keep it usable for years. You should expect this panel to be on top of your rig’s roof for a long time.
The product’s heavy-duty anodized aluminum frame should only increase its longevity, as well. It ensures this model will have exceptional stability, which was backed up by a multitude of customer reviews. You couldn’t read more than two without a mention of how durable and sturdy this panel was compared to other options.
I was pleased with this product’s easy installation process, too, which comes from features like the diodes being pre-installed in its junction box and its pre-attached MC4 cable. Its lightweight, compact design should make carrying it onto your roof rather effortless, as well.
You’ll also benefit from the solar panel being equipped with high-efficiency cells. These cells ensure it’s more effective than most other polycrystalline solar panels available. In other words, performance isn’t much of an issue with this well-built solar panel from Newpowa.
3. Renogy 100 Watt RV Solar Starter Kit
If you’re looking for RV solar kits, Renogy’s 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline RV Solar Starter Kit has got you covered. This Renogy solar panel kit comes with everything you might need to install a solar system onto your motorhome.
These items include a 100W solar panel, an 8ft 10AWG tray cable, 30A PWM charge controller, mounting Z brackets, and MC4 connectors. Each of these is fundamental to making sure your RV’s solar system can function correctly.
It also means rig owners won’t have to buy all these parts separately. As someone who doesn’t enjoy buying components separately, this type of kit applies to me greatly. It just reduces the hassle of having to do even more product research.
This kit’s solar panel comes equipped with some impressive features, as well. Its corrosion-resistant aluminum frame makes it ideal for RV usage. After all, this frame ensures the device can handle extended outdoor use without any side effects.
You can’t find fault in its lightweight design, either. This aspect makes it much more convenient than you’d find with heavier models. I can imagine the entire installation process would end up being a one-person job instead of needing the help of a friend like with similar models.
The 21% cell efficiency rating provided by this solar panel is another appealing aspect. It’s a percentage that beats the 15% standard of the average RV solar panel by quite a bit. As a result, it becomes one of the more cost-effective options available.
4. RICH SOLAR 200 Watt RV Solar Panel
Buyers looking to travel in low light areas need to consider RICH SOLAR 200 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline RV Solar Panel. This model has gained a reputation for offering excellent performance in these situations.
In fact, this solar panel has received rave reviews about how well it functions, even in the most challenging weather conditions. I imagine even people traveling in frigid temperatures or through heavy storms will love how it performs.
You can attribute these benefits to its improved solar cells that increase efficiency and have a high conversion rate. Due to these cells, a rig owner could have the necessary power to charge their rig’s batteries and run the onboard devices at any time.
I was also pleased with this product’s overall construction. It consists of anti-reflective coated tempered glass and an anodized aluminum frame, which keeps the device sturdy. These features are the reason why RICH SOLAR felt good about giving the product a 25-year warranty.
I’d put this warranty down as a positive feature, too, considering RICH SOLAR has a reputation for honoring it. This aspect could save you from having to pay the full price for a replacement. It could remove a lot of hassle when something unfortunate happens with the product.
As with our previous products, this model has an easy installation process thanks to its 14 pre-drilled holes. The device is also quite versatile, considering it’s compatible with various mounts, such as tilt mounts, ground mounts, Z-brackets, and side-pole mounts.
5. ECO-Worthy 195W RV Solar Panel
ECO-Worthy’s 195W 12V Monocrystalline RV Solar Panel is one of the most recommended solar panels for travel trailer beginners. It’s popular among these groups of people because of its plug and play design to ensure the installation process is a breeze.
The installation process alone isn’t the only reason travel trailer owners love this panel. It also has a waterproof design, which ensures it can handle extended outdoor usage. Therefore, this product is a perfect fit for a long list of off-grid situations, such as RV, travel trailer, tent, golf cart, boat, yacht, and much more.
It’s also a bit more potent than most of our previous models with its 195 wattage. This amount of wattage should make it a reliable power source for any rig owner lucky enough to purchase it. Plus, its usage will reduce your electricity bill by a large margin, which never hurts.
The product’s being relatively maintenance-free doesn’t hurt its case, either. It will require cleaning now and then, but nothing extensive. This aspect fits right into my preferences as I hate doing maintenance tasks, especially ones on my RV’s roof.
Aside from these features, this product has numerous others you’ve become familiar with from our previous reviews. These aspects include an aluminum frame, low tempered glass, pre-drilled holes, and a limited 1-year warranty. Each of them should help ensure you feel comfortable buying this solar panel.
6. HQST 100 Watt RV Solar Panel
Rig owners traveling into known rainy areas need to consider HQST’s 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline RV Solar Panel. It was made with a waterproof junction box capable of dealing with these situations and still being a reliable power source.
This product’s waterproof junction box wasn’t its only appealing aspect, either. Buyers will love its versatility as this 10o watt solar panel can work on a wide range of appliances, such as campers, RVs, 5th wheels, boats, and much more.
The model’s capable of working in these numerous situations thanks to its high module conversion efficiency. It’s a fancy way of saying that this device converts more sunlight into usable energy than most other models available today.
You should also love this product’s bypass diodes, which limit the impact made by shade. It actually has shown an excellent ability to perform in low light situations with relative ease. This monocrystalline solar panel does shine, performance-wise, even when most other models wouldn’t.
Customers were pleased with the service provided by HQST, as well. This area isn’t known to often have massive positive support in reviews, but it was a common theme. It ends up showing this brand cares about who buys their product, which is always a beautiful thing to experience.
This product’s price tag isn’t a sore sight, either, which was a concern given its excellent features. But HQST managed to build a top-tier solar panel at an affordable price. As a bargain buyer, I can’t give them enough appreciation.
7. Renogy 100 Watt Portable Solar Panel
The Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Portable Solar Panel is rather unique when it comes to products on our list. It features a foldable aluminum stand design that consists of two 50W panels, which is ideal for rig owners always on the move.
You can also count on this aluminum stand to be durable with its corrosion-resistant abilities. As a result, it’s a perfect fit for extensive outdoor usage. But where this model stands out from its competitors is the excessive amount of portability it offers.
This device doesn’t have to be installed permanently on top of your rig. You can instead bring this one on camping trips, tailgating, and trips out to the beach. It’s easily transported to these places because of its heavy-duty handle and foldability.
Its versatility isn’t something to overlook, either. This model can work with flooded, sealed, gel, and lithium batteries without issue. Due to this, it ends up being a suitable option for a lot more situations than most other models on our list.
Buyers will also be impressed by the device coming with a built-in solar charge controller. This aspect offers overcharge protection, too, which reduces the risk of any fires occurring. Honestly, any safety designed into these types of devices is a winning trait in my perspective.
8. Go Power! GP-PSK-130 RV Solar Kit
One of the most trusted portable solar panel kits has to be Go Power! ‘s GP-PSK-130 130W Portable Folding RV Solar Kit. It’s a perfect option for anyone looking to use solar power but doesn’t want to mount a panel on their roof permanently.
For instance, this model comes with Anderson-style battery charging connectors to allow a rig owner to interchange the charging accessory based on their needs. It could go from maintaining your motorhome’s battery to trickle charging your boat battery in a flash.
I was also impressed by this model’s adjustable folding legs. These aspects will ensure the device gains maximum sun exposure and increase its storability. As any rig owner knows, storage space is precious onboard an RV and this feature makes sure it’ll take up a lot less room.
This product even comes with a nylon case to ensure nothing happens during the storage process. It’ll protect the kit and stop any resulting damage when traveling from place to place in your storage area.
It’s a rather powerful model, as well, with 130 watts of power. This product shouldn’t have issues powering whatever device or appliance you’re looking to run onboard or outside your rig. It’s a truly adaptable and useful device to have when living on-the-road.
The device’s 25-year warranty was another highlight worth mentioning. Its inclusion speaks to the brand’s confidence in these portable rv solar panel kits. Most RV solar panel manufacturers wouldn’t include a policy of this length unless they were sure it could last past it.
9. TP-solar 100 Watt RV Solar Panel
The TP-solar 100 Watt RV Solar Panel Kit comes with everything needed to create the top-rated RV solar system for your rig. These aspects include a 100w solar panel, four Z mounting brackets, and 16ft red/black solar cable.
As a result, setting this system up won’t be much trouble. The solar panel even has pre-drilled holes on its back to quicken the process, as well. I don’t see how this RV solar panel installation would provide any problems to a mechanically challenged person like myself.
This 100 watt solar panel kit for RV’s solar panel is considered one of the most trusted solar panels for RV battery charging. It can function well in this role because it was designed to deal with environments rig owners often encounter: high winds and heavy snow loads.
I was also intrigued by this kit’s 20A solar charge controller, which contains several protections capable of keeping your battery in good shape. These include overcharge, discharge, over-voltage, short circuit, and reverse polarity protections.
Thanks to these protections, your battery should never encounter an issue capable of damaging its overall performance. You can expect this charge controller to extend its lifespan and end up being cost-effective.
This kit doesn’t feature a high initial price, either. Honestly, I’d reckon it’d be hard to find another one capable of proving these results with this low price tag. Bargain buyers should jump at the chance of buying this package deal.
10. Newpowa 200 Watt RV Solar Panel
If you’re looking to buy monocrystalline solar panels for RV use, Newpowa 200 Watt 12V Monocrystalline RV Solar Panel needs to be on your list. This panel is infused with high-performance cells that are encapsulated in EVA to ensure excellent results.
You can count on these high-performance cells to generate 200 watts of power, which your rig’s batteries and onboard devices will enjoy. It should have no problems providing the energy needed to run these aspects with ease.
I was impressed with this product’s light conversion rate, too, as it ranks highly among other monocrystalline options available. This feature will ensure the product will use its gathered sunlight much more efficiently than a rig owner might expect.
The product coming with a pair of pre-attached 3ft MC4 cables and pre-installed diodes within its junction box didn’t hurt matters, either. Both these inclusions will ensure the installation process for these solar panels doesn’t cause you any stress.
Rig owners can also expect this product to have several design aspects capable of increasing its durability. These features include a TPT back sheet and a heavy-duty anodized aluminum frame, which will ensure it can handle unfavorable situations.
Newpowa customers will benefit from their customer service and a 25-year warranty, as well. Both these aspects received a great deal of praise within the buyer reviews. It seems this brand cares a lot about who buys their products, which is always a great sign.
11. BougeRV 180 Watt RV Solar Panel
BougeRV’s 180 Watts Monocrystalline RV Solar Panel has a level of versatility, which most other options simply can’t match. This model’s adaptability reflects itself in its ability to work with both on-grid and off-grid inverters.
In other words, this product isn’t just a solar panel for RV roof installation. You can also use it to power a regular home and other outside uses. Buyers have even used it in parallel with several solar panels to charge 24V and 48V batteries.
You can also benefit from its waterproof junction box, which allows it to function even within the direst situations. As with most models on our list, this solar panel has a reputation for withstanding heavy snow and high winds to ensure its longevity.
The anti-reflective, high-transparency glass is another design feature that will help increase its longevity. After all, it offers high-impact and water resistance. I don’t think it could be any more equipped to fill the role of a solar 12 volt battery charger for your rig.
This panel features solar energy chips with multiple layers of protection, as well. It’s an aspect that ensures these chips can ensure the device maintains its peak efficiency. It’s why most buyers seem more than thrilled with how this product performed in almost every situation.
But BougeRV fails in one essential area when it comes to manufacturing RV solar panels. It seems this brand doesn’t offer top-tier customer service. A few buyers even complained that they couldn’t get hold of them, which is a bad look.
12. SUNGOLDPOWER 200 Watt RV Solar Panel
SUNGOLDPOWER’s 200 Watt 12V Monocrystalline RV Solar Panel Kit would be a fantastic starting option when looking to buy motorhome solar panel kits. It comes with two top-tier 100W solar panels ready to ensure you get the necessary power for your batteries and devices.
But this kit doesn’t just come with these excellent panels; buyers will also get a solar controller, a 10ft connector cable, a pair of solar panel Y branch connectors, and Z brackets for mounting purposes.
Each of these pieces is crucial in setting up an RV solar system. Therefore, SUNGOLDPOWER did everyone who buys this package a favor by reducing any need for additional product research. It makes this entire process much easier than you might’ve expected.
The solar controller happens to be this kit’s standout item. It comes with an LCD display, 2 USB ports, 12V/24V system auto-sensing, and PWM charge management. Due to these additions, it should make using their solar system a straightforward task for anyone.
I was thrilled with this product’s ability to adapt to many situations. This kit has proven to be useful on golf carts, electric cars, yachts, boats, tents, RVs, caravans, and various other applications. It’s genuinely an adaptability product, which almost all customers would find useful in their lives.
Besides these delightful features, you can expect this kit’s solar panel to offer high conversion efficiency without much trouble. This panel will also come with a 25-year warranty, while the other parts have their own one-year policies.
13. Zamp Solar 140-Watt RV Solar Panel
The Zamp solar Legacy Series 140-Watt Portable RV Solar Panel Kit is a perfect fit for any rig owner who wants solar panels for RV trailer use. It fits into this role thanks to the foldable design featuring a 140-watt panel, which should provide sufficient energy for a rig.
In fact, this model is known for being designed with top-tier solar cells to ensure its performance will never disappoint a buyer. The product’s storability was another area where this model appealed to my personal preferences.
For instance, it comes with a nylon carrying case to ensure moving the solar panel around isn’t much of an issue. It’ll protect the solar panel when stored in your rig’s storage areas, as well, from potentially damaging situations.
The product’s setup process is another feature, which stood out above the others. As a portable model, it won’t need to be installed onto your RV’s roof. You can instead set it up anytime or anywhere you need in a matter of about five minutes.
Its usage will also increase your rig’s battery lifespan by three times compared to the normal longevity. As a result, the product ends up saving you money. You shouldn’t overlook its other included components, either: alligator clips, SAE plug, and a 10 amp digital charge controller.
RICH SOLAR 100 Watt RV Solar Panel (Outdated)
Our last product happens to be a unique one among our other choices. RICH SOLAR’s 100 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Monocrystalline RV Solar Panel is considered a flexible solar panel. What does this mean?
Flexible solar panels are much lighter than their counterparts and feature much easier installation processes. These reasons are what makes this type of solar panel appealing to rig owners. But it’s worth noting that these models are a lot less efficient than the other types.
This particular flexible option is an acceptable option when looking to buy solar panels for camping purposes. One main reason RVers end up choosing this panel is they’re rather durable with its design featuring tear, corrosion and fire resistance.
You can also benefit from its flexible ability up to 30 degrees. This feature helps find the perfect position for the device during the day with ease. In other words, maximizing a sunny day’s sunlight is much easier with a certain level of flexibility.
This flexible solar panel doesn’t require any maintenance, either, because rainfall will clean any dirt or debris. As you might expect, I was more than pleased with this feature, considering I have no desire to clean these types of products.
But again, its main attraction is the ultra-lightweight design and easy installation process. Honestly, the other options cannot compete with this model in these areas. It could make your life much more comfortable and less stressful than choosing a rigid solar panel.
WindyNation 100 Watt RV Solar Panel (Outdated)
WindyNation’s 100 Watt RV Solar Panel Kit is another package deal that includes every component required for a viable RV solar system. If you’re looking for RV solar system kits, I don’t think you’ll find a much better one available today.
This model comes with one 100w solar panel, 30 amp solar charge controller, 40 feet of 12 AWG solar cable, mounting hardware, connectors, and a manual. Each of these items will help provide your rig with an average of 350Wh or 33 Amp-hours per day.
I was especially pleased with this package’s pulse width modulation solar charge controller. It comes with user-adjustable settings to ensure the using process is as simple as possible. The controller’s LCD screen wasn’t too shabby, either, as it should help keep you informed on a long list of valuable information.
The kit’s solar panel should have no issues meeting your needs with its 100 watts of power. It’s actually received a lot of praise for its ability to adapt when used in off-grid situations. It has shown no problem being a vital power source when there’s no access to shore power or generators.
This kit has a reputation for being easy to install, as well. I’m not the best when it comes to installation projects, but I wouldn’t even have trouble getting the kit configured. After all, its manual’s directions are readable and the solar has a lightweight design.
Renogy 200 Watt RV Solar Panel (Outdated)
Are you looking to buy portable solar panels for camping purposes? Renogy’s 200 Watt Off-Grid Portable Foldable RV Solar Panel would be an excellent choice. It features two 100 watt solar panels located on a foldable kickstand.
This design provides the product with a great deal of portability. Rig owners could bring along on camping trips to remote locations and run their preferred portable devices. As with any set of Renogy solar panels, their performance is top-tier and does precisely what a buyer would expect without issues.
I was also happy that this option came with a protective casing that should protect it when used outdoors. In fact, its corrosion-resistant aluminum stand and heavy duty handle will ensure this model doesn’t become a victim to the natural elements over the years.
The inclusion of alligator clips is another excellent addition. These clips will ensure a secure connection to whatever you intend on charging or running with the device. It’s been known to work with sealed, flooded, and batteries, which means you have plenty of operations.
Buyers will also love that this model features a low-voltage system, which ensures the avoidance of electric shock hazards. It’s just another way Renogy makes sure the person using their solar panels remains completely safe.
As with other portable solar panels, this model comes with a built-in charge controller. This particular one can work with several appliances, including boats, trailers, RVs, and motorhomes. It’s fair to say this model offers one of the highest adaptability levels among our products.
RV Solar Panel Buyer’s Guide
Certain factors will have an impact on which RV solar panels fit your needs. This section will discuss each of them to ensure you’re capable of making a responsible buying decision. As a result, this entire process should go much smoother than you initially anticipated.
One of the first things to think about when buying solar panels for RVs is their efficiency. This factor will determine how much sunshine the device can turn into usable electricity. In other words, the higher your panel’s efficiency, the more energy it’ll produce.
Most panels will have an efficiency rating of about 15%, which is the standard for functional options. But the best solar panels can have it rise well above 20%. You’ll need to take your onboard appliances’ expected power consumption into account. It’ll ensure making a decision about what efficiency rating works best isn’t a difficult choice.
In most cases, RV solar panels will be installed on your rig’s roof because of its exposure to those crucial sunrays. This location means RVers need to think about panel size before choosing their ideal solar panels.
Finding the panels with appropriate measurements will optimize your roof’s available space. I’d suggest using your roof’s dimensions as a resource to ensure you’re getting devices suitable for your situation.
It’s also worth noting that solar panels will have to share roof space with other hardware, such as an air conditioner or antenna. You’ll need to think about these pieces of equipment when making this decision, as well.
Picking the right solar panel is only half the battle, considering you’ll need to install them to provide your rig with usable power. This process can prove tedious without a panel with lightweight construction.
As a result, I’d suggest looking for panels on the lighter side to ensure this installation isn’t a burdensome process. But please, make sure these lightweight options are still sturdy and reliable. Some brands will only focus on making their products weigh less rather than making sure they remain durable.
These lightweight panels will also keep your rig’s chassis from becoming overloaded. It’s just a simple way to ensure your new devices don’t cause more headaches than solutions.
As most RVers know, energy stored inside your batteries is accessible in two different ways. Devices built to operate on 12v DC current can access it directly. But most appliances will require 110V DC power, which has a different process of obtaining this stored energy.
Converting the current in your batteries into AC will require an inverter. These devices are necessary for anyone looking to run AC appliances onboard RVs. Most solar panel kits will come with an accompanying inverter to make this process easier.
The first thing to know about inverters is they’re rated in watt output. For example, a 1500 watt inverter can operate most small appliances that require 10amps AC current. These appliances include TVs, coffee makers, computers, interior lights, and radios.
If you need solar power for RV air conditioner units and vacuums, buying kits with a higher wattage inverter will be necessary. A 3000w inverter would be an ideal choice as it creates a maximum available power of 30amps AC currents. It should power these appliances with ease.
You should also note that these inverters have to pair with an appropriately sized battery bank. If they’re not, the batteries will discharge too quickly. Choosing the right size inverter will depend on the max draw on your batteries, which means thinking about how many appliances you intend on powering at once.
Solar Charge Controllers
Another standard inclusion inside the best solar panel kits will be solar battery charge controllers. I’d suggest making sure these controllers are waterproof before deciding on what kit to purchase. This feature will ensure camping out in the open won’t be overly complicated.
You’ll also have to think about the solar charge controller’s amp power output rating. In most cases, a 400 watt rig solar system will come with 30-35 amp controllers, which should have no issues handling moderate power needs.
But some rig owners consume more energy, and these smaller charge controllers won’t fit their needs. In this case, you’ll require a larger solar array of an 800-watt solar system and a larger 60-80 amp charge controller.
If you use a charge controller that’s too small, it’ll bottleneck the power output of your rig’s solar panels. For instance, 35-amp solar panels paired with a 20-amp controller will only be a waste of potential charging power. It ends up not being a very efficient setup.
Your Rig’s Battery
Rig owners looking to use a solar power system will need a deep cycle battery inside their RV. These deep cycle batteries can store the generated power from your solar panels for later usage down the road.
You should also know that solar panels are capable of working with either 12V or 24V RV batteries. Most rigs will have two 6V batteries wired in a series or one 12V battery. The capacity of your particular battery bank is measured in what we call Amp hours (Ah). For example, 100Ah batteries can produce 100 amps per hour or 1 amp pet 100 hours.
A rig’s solar panels should produce enough energy to recharge your RV’s batteries, which will always keep them at or above a safe level. This ability is essential because a battery that’s fully discharged regularly can suffer permanent damage and provide lesser performance.
RVers who keep using more energy than their solar panels can produce will end up depleting their batteries. This issue could be solved by giving them a boost from gaining access to shore power or using a generator.
But the best way to avoid this problem is by estimating your maximum energy usage on a given day by adding all your intended appliances’ amp hours. This estimation will make it much easier to determine your battery bank’s size and inverter’s size.
Let’s say you intend to use a rig’s interior lights, water pumps, and your laptop for 2 hours. If it requires a total of 103.5AH and your batteries can’t get lower than 60% without causing damage, you’d need a charging system of at least 258Ah (103.5 divided by 40%). Honestly, it’d be best to get as many amp hours of current as possible with your available space.
For instance, this same person buys a system of four 225Ah 6V batteries and wires them in series with parallel capabilities to create a 450Ah 12V system. They would only draw the batteries down to about 80% based on the scenario laid out above. It would fall right within the safe limit for discharging to ensure damage-free battery usage.
Your solar panels will need to be replaced at some point. In fact, you might be reading this article because your old ones became unusable. But you’ll want to prolong the lifespan of your solar panels as long as possible.
Due to this, buying solar panels with a reputation for being durable would be a smart move. I’d recommend looking for products made from heavy duty materials. These models should have a better shot at making it several years without needing replacement.
You’d be wise to read through numerous customer reviews for each option, as well. These reviews would provide an excellent picture of the panel’s long-lasting capabilities. After all, nothing annoys people more than a product that needs replacing sooner than expected.
RV Solar Panel FAQs
Our FAQ section will provide answers to any question or concern still rattling around in your mind. It should act as the ultimate resource to ensure picking the right RV solar panels becomes a smooth, stress-free process.
What is the best solar panel for RV?
Choosing the top-rated solar panels for RV, trailer, or camper usage shouldn’t be complex. But there isn’t a single answer to the question of the top-rated solar panel for RVs. It will end depending on what you deem essential feature-wise and finding a model capable of meeting those demands.
Once you do find this model, the most suitable solar panel for RVs will be in your possession. It ends up being that simple at the end of this process.
Who is this for?
RV solar panels happen to a unique device capable of converting the sun’s energy into usable electricity for a motorhome. But why these devices are worthwhile investments comes down to two primary abilities:
- Charges Your “House” Batteries: Solar power can offer a slow, reliable charge to your batteries. This method happens to be the way batteries are built to be charged and increases their lifespan. It’s a lot like a car battery; if it sits too long, its longevity will suffer and it might not be able to hold a charge even when charged back up.
- Provides Electric Power: You could be in the most remote location in the world, and solar panels will still be able to provide power for your onboard devices. It could also be a godsend when you find yourself in an emergency and need a backup power source.
Given these two abilities, I don’t see how solar panels wouldn’t be a good fit for most RVers. It’s a sensible way to ensure there’s always enough power for powering the essential appliances onboard your rig.
What are the different types of solar panels for RV?
RV solar panels are usually separated into three types: polycrystalline RV solar panels, monocrystalline RV solar panels, and amorphous RV solar panels. I’m going to discuss a little about each one to ensure you know what type fits your situation.
Polycrystalline RV Solar Panels
Polycrystalline solar panels are usually constructed from several silicon blocks and contain several small solar crystals. Rig owners have been using them on their recreational vehicles for a long time to utilize solar energy.
These panels are a popular choice because they take up half the space of amorphous types and are only slightly less effective than monocrystalline options. In many cases, buyers end up thinking they’re the best of both worlds.
Monocrystalline RV Solar Panels
These solar panels are built from one large silicon crystal and contain a high charge output. Due to these factors, monocrystalline solar panels are considered more efficient than other types. You can also expect them to supply and produce more elevated amounts of power in low light situations.
Rig owners who intend on camping in foggy areas might consider buying these panels over the more popular polycrystalline options. In these situations, you aren’t going to find a more valuable solar panel type.
Amorphous RV Solar Panels
Amorphous RV solar panels, also known as thin-film panels, are created by spreading silicon on a large bed. This building process guarantees these solar panels don’t have an expensive production cost. As a result, they have the lowest average price tag of any types.
But they also produce the least amount of power among their fellow solar panels. Plus, it requires about three times more space on your roof than polycrystalline or monocrystalline options to provide the same power supply.
How does an RV solar panel work?
Understanding the basics of how an RV solar panel works isn’t a complicated process. These devices capture sunlight and convert it into electricity, which passed through a charge controller. It’s then fed at an optimal current to your RV batteries for storage.
In more scientific terms, the process is called Photovoltaics: converting light/photons into electricity/voltage. It’s also important to note these solar panels are composed of many smaller units called photovoltaic cells.
Solar panels work by allowing light particles (photons) to knock electrons loose from atoms, which produces flows of electricity. This process has become more and more efficient over the years as technology improved.
As I noted earlier, most solar panels will work at 15% efficiency, which conveys that 15% of the sunlight captured is converted into usable power for your RV. But the latest models have increased this percentage to higher levels, topping out at 21% efficiency.
You should also know that your rig’s batteries will store the power generated by these panels. Solar power happens to be somewhat sporadic, which means you can’t use it effectively based on what your panels are getting from the sun at a single moment.
Like I stated before, the stored energy is accessible in two ways. The first method would be direct access for 12V DC appliances. It’s also possible to use an inverter and convert the current into 110V AC power to run AC devices.
Are solar panels worth it on an RV?
RV solar panels aren’t a necessary investment, but they’re a beneficial one. These products provide several advantages and could make your RVing lifestyle much more manageable. Let’s look at a few to see whether buying these panels would be worth it for you:
- Solar panels are a cost-effective way of obtaining power for your rig.
- Their power source is inexhaustible, as the sun is not going away anytime soon. Winter months and cloudy days even produce some sunlight from time to time.
- It’s a clean power resource, which is good for our planet. After all, solar panels don’t burn fuel and don’t produce exhausted fume or waste.
- RV solar systems don’t require much maintenance. These systems don’t have any moving parts, which means there isn’t anything to break. Once they’re installed, these systems can last several decades when cared for and maintained properly.
- Solar power systems have little to no recurring costs. Rig owners who decide to expand their systems for more power can easily do so without revamping it entirely. Therefore, the expenses remain way down compared to other means of powering your rig.
- You can expect these panels to extend your battery’s lifespan. In most cases, RV batteries will last from two to three years and cost a lot of money to replace. A solar power system can increase their lifespan from anywhere between 50% and 75% longer. Therefore, you won’t have to replace your rig’s battery for six or even eight years.
- RV solar panels provide the freedom to enjoy even the most remote locations. The sun and your stored energy will always be there to provide power when it’s needed.
But RV solar systems aren’t perfect as there are some disadvantages, as well. These disadvantages boil down to an expensive initial investment and complicated installation processes.
In my opinion, these two issues shouldn’t stop a person from seriously considering an RV solar system. Their provided benefits are definitely worth paying extra upfront and dealing with a complex setup.
How do I choose a solar panel for my RV?
I’d suggest following our buying guide above to clarify what RV solar panel fits your needs. You just need to use the information during your search and the right choice should become rather apparent.
What is the price range of solar panels for RVs?
The price of solar panels for campers can vary dramatically. In most cases, the difference comes down to a solar panel’s power output and type. For instance, a 200 watt solar panel for RV like Newpowa’s 200 Watt RV Solar Panel will cost more than a 100-watt option.
But regardless of power output and type, most RV options will cost between $40 and $200. So for buyers who are creating a budget, this range would be an excellent place to start. They can then use factors like power output and type to narrow their parameters significantly.
What other equipment will I need to use solar in my RV?
Complete solar power systems for RVs will need much more than panels. Buyers must obtain solar charge controllers, inverters, batteries, and other necessary hardware. All of these components are crucial pieces to effectively using RV solar systems.
Of course, RVers can always buy a solar power product like ExpertPower’s 5KWH 12V kit, which comes with battery and inverter as well as panels. I often recommend this route, especially to people who aren’t experienced with going green.
What is the best size solar panel for a motorhome?
Most motorhomes with solar panels use 100-watt or 200-watt options. These panels often fit and mount very easily on RV roofs, making the installation process less burdensome.
In my case, I started by purchasing a 1000 watt complete RV solar system with batteries. It came with five 200W panels that meet my needs perfectly. I’ve since upgraded them to better quality options, RICH SOLAR’s 200 Watt RV Solar Panels, but the system was a solid starting point.
What is the highest watt solar panel for an RV?
400-watt panels are the highest output I’ve seen used in RV solar power systems. But this rating is a bit of a rarity for motorhome usage. As mentioned earlier, most experts recommend using 100W or 200W panels to provide RVs with solar power.
Is 200 watt solar enough for RV?
A 200w RV solar kit with inverter is the lowest output anyone will use on an RV (most people will go for 600W). Of course, 200W won’t get them much as it’ll only run a 12V fridge. But some people utilize a panel this size to save electricity as RV refrigerators often use much more power than people realize.
Anyone who wants to use a 200w solar system should consider buying Renogy’s 200 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Starter Kit. It’ll offer an excellent starting point for building an extensive system in the future.
Who makes RV solar panels?
As you might expect, several manufacturers have thrown funds into making RV solar panels. It has become a rather lucrative marketplace over these last few years. However, all these new brands have made separating the top ones from the lousy ones much more difficult.
But if you stick to the brands mentioned in our product review section, I don’t see why you wouldn’t come away with top-tier solar panels. Each of these brands has gained a stellar reputation for providing excellent options within this marketplace.
Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels for RV: Which one is better?
Both these types could provide rig owners with usable solar power for many years. But choosing which one’s better comes down to your circumstances. For instance, RVers looking to travel in foggy places regularly should invest in monocrystalline solar panels.
Monocrystalline solar panels tend to work better in low light situations and are more efficient, which could benefit many rig owners. But these models are more expensive than polycrystalline options.
As a result, most rig owners proceed to pick polycrystalline options because of their low cost and only slightly less effective performance. You’ll have to decide whether you value higher efficiency or bargain prices to determine what type best fits your preferences.
How many solar panels do I need on my RV?
The process of determining how many panels are required isn’t a tricky one. You just need to take a closer look at your onboard appliances and their power consumption levels. Use this information to do a few calculations and estimate how much electricity your devices need.
Once this estimation is done, divide it by your chosen solar panel’s energy rating. This calculation would provide an absolute answer to your rig’s required quantity. You’ll also need to make some alterations based on how roof space is left on your RV.
How to install?
Before installing your RV solar panel kit, there are a few safety measures to follow. Each of these actions will ensure nothing dangerous happens during the installations:
- Review any safety directions within your solar kit’s manual or included materials before starting the installation.
- Make sure to avoid touching any active electrical parts, such as terminals, when your panel’s exposed to light (even indoors).
- The installation process should only be done in dry, good weather.
- Use a cloth or other material to cover panels during the installation. This action will prevent them from becoming charged and causing a potentially dangerous situation.
- Never step or sit on the panels.
The installation process itself will consist of four straightforward steps. I’ll go over them in detail to ensure you can do this entire process yourself. But remember, there’s no shame in hiring a professional to do the job.
Step 1: Mount The Solar Panels
As you would expect, rigid solar panels will usually need to be installed on your roof using screws. Flexible solar panels are capable of being mounted with either screws or adhesive. Your roof’s membrane will determine what kind of adhesive is usable during the installation. It’s worth noting many solar power kits won’t come with adhesive and only include the mounting hardware.
You should layout your flexible or rigid panels where you want them and ensure everything fits. Proceed to mark their locations after having them where you want them. If you’re bolting the panels on your roof, install the kit’s mounting hardware to the solar panel’s frame. Secure the panel onto the roof.
If you’re using brackets, make sure to apply a sealant under each one to create a water-tight seal. The correct sealant will depend on your roof’s material. Once the panel’s secure, proceed to screw it onto your roof.
Step 2: Run Your Wiring
The next move would be running a power cable from your solar panels down into the rig to the charge controller. You can run the wiring in a couple of methods:
- Using the Refrigerator vent: The most common method and simplest. After all, it ensures you don’t have to put any more holes in your rig, which is always a plus.
- Running the Wiring Through/Beside the Plumbing Pipe: Some rigs have their fridge vent located in a slide-out or a significant distance from the battery compartment, which is near where the charge controller’s installed. In this situation, you might want to try running the wire through or beside your plumbing pipe. You should then apply sealant around holes that were made during the process.
- Drilling: The last resort option is drilling holes where you might need them for the wiring process. I’d suggest drilling near interior walls or cabinets, which allows you to hide the wire inside your rig. Remember, please use a weatherproof entry port or sealant.
Step 3: Connect the Charge Controller
Locate a suitable mounting location for your charge controller, which is extremely close to your batteries to minimize line loss. After mounting your charge controller to the wall, you must make your connections to the power wires dropped through your fridge vent or other location.
You should then use a multimeter to test wire polarity and mark each wire properly using some type indicator, such as tape. Proceed to make your connections to the batteries and solar panels as recommended by your kit’s manufacturer.
Step 4: Install an Inverter
Rig owners looking to use AC appliances like microwaves and laptops will need to install an inverter. These devices will convert your panel’s DC into AC. Your inverter will require an installation location near your batteries and away from several problematic elements: corrosive battery gasses, heat, etc.
Please follow any directions included inside your device’s manual during this installation. But in most cases, you can proceed to connect the negative and positive wires to the inverter. You can then make the connections into your rig’s electrical system. The negative side needs to be connected first when connecting the inverter to the house battery’s posts.
How to use?
Your solar panel’s using process will consist of gathering energy from the sun, which you can then use as a valuable renewable energy source. The device will then charge your rig’s various accessories ranging from laptops to smartphones.
In the end, using an RV solar panel isn’t a complicated process. But I’d suggest reading the manual before using or installing one to ensure maximum efficiency. Otherwise, you might miss a particular direction or tip that could improve your device’s performance.
Any care and maintenance tips?
Most RV solar panels come with included directions about maintaining and cleaning them within their respective manuals. It’s just a simple matter of following these instructions, and keeping them in good shape won’t be difficult.
But in most cases, soft cloths and warm/soapy water should be more than enough to keep them clean. I’d recommend refraining from using cleaning solutions, which could cause damage to the solar panel’s construction.
After reading our article, finding the best RV solar panels shouldn’t be a challenge. I’ve provided you with everything you need to make a smart, responsible decision. You’re now a solar panel expert who’s fully capable of picking the right ones to maximize your rig’s solar system.
In any event, there’s also a comment section below for anyone who does run into any more trouble. I’ll make sure to answer each post and get your search back on track as quickly as possible. Thanks for reading!
Hi, I am Dane Heldt, a full-time RVer since 2016. I am always passionate about building and joining an RV community where people share their love for RV lives. This blog is a dream of mine, as I can finally share my experiences to help people who want to start living differently. So, feel free to reach out to me!