Best RV Solar Panels & Kits: Top Picks for Energy Efficiency
Save money and energy when you invest in solar panels for your RV
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PUBLISHED ON May 21, 2019
Road trips can be some of the most fun and memorable times in our lives. Thanks to the improvement of technology over the years, it gets even more comfortable to hit the road and explore. Today, RVs are ripe with electronics for entertainment, convenience, and even luxury. You can keep these amenities powered and efficient thanks to solar panels. These are our top choices for RV solar panel kits.
- Best OverallRenogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter KitSummarySummaryRenogy makes the best RV solar panels on the market, and this starter kit is perfect for first-time users.ProsProsRenogy solar panels are incredibly lightweight, made with a durable aluminum frame, and have the option to expand with additional panels.ConsConsUsers who require a battery will have to buy one separately.
- Best ValueWindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Boat KitSummarySummaryWindy Nation offers the best solar panel kit for the money. This RV solar kit is a great power source at an attractive price.ProsProsThis solar panel is affordable, offers a range of different mounting options, and comes with adjustable charge controller settings.ConsConsMight be difficult to assemble for some users, and not all wires are included.
- Honorable MentionGo Power! 120W Portable Solar KitSummarySummaryThis kit comes with folding RV solar panels, which are excellent for traveling. Go Power! is a great option for RV use.ProsProsThis is the most energy-efficient solar panel. It folds and comes with a carrying case, and the kit comes with great pieces like a power controller.ConsConsThis is the most expensive option—more than double some competitors.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Solar Panels & Kits for RV
- Save some money. Minus the initial investment, using solar panels saves you a lot. The free power generated will pay for itself within months of use. Since most panels guarantee over 20 years of generating clean energy, you save a ton in energy costs in the long run.
- Save the planet. Whether global warming and energy conservation is an issue you care about or not, there's no denying the positive effects of using renewable energy. So even if you only want to use solar panels for the financial benefit, you can still take solace in the fact that you're doing your part to go green.
- Low maintenance. While other sources of energy can cost you a lot of money in upkeep, solar panels are amazingly low maintenance. The number of parts that can get worn or break is incredibly small, and the panels don't have moving parts, which also reduces any wear and tear that other power sources are prone to.
- Battery life. A lesser-known benefit of solar power is that it has positive effects on your RV’s battery. The added solar power requires less work from the battery, which can lead to a significantly longer battery life.
Types of Solar Panels & Kits for RV
These solar power panels for RVs are made from a single crystal, often a very thin layer of silicon. The panels have an array of smaller square solar cells laid out across its surface. This technology performs better than polycrystalline solar panels in low light conditions. However, due to the costly purification process, this type of panel is often more expensive.
Polycrystalline solar panels are made up of several smaller crystals in each cell. These panels have rectangular solar cells across its surface, and sometimes have a bluish hue to them. Overall, polycrystalline technology is less efficient than monocrystalline. However, it can also be considerably cheaper.
A newer solar technology comes as a thin film. The cells are still made of silicon, but they are much thinner and flexible. These solar cells come with an adhesive backing that almost works like a tape. Once again, the efficiency is lower than the others, but it is much more cost effective. This is what’s used in the best flexible solar panels for RVs.
Renogy got its start as a college project by students at Louisiana State University. Since then, thanks to support from the Louisiana Business and Technology Center, the business has become one of the fastest growing companies. It produces some of the most popular motorhome solar panel kits like its Foldable Solar Panel Kit and Flexible RV Solar Panel.
Windy Nation is a California-based clean energy company. It manufactures wind and solar generators and has a community forum for do-it-yourselfers to offer each other helpful tips and ideas. It offers a wide range of RV solar packages from the 30 Watt Solar Panel Kit to the 400 Watt Solar Kit.
Established in Los Angeles, ACOPower is a company providing off-grid and portable power solutions. It has been producing high-quality green energy products for over seven years. Its 100W Portable Solar Panel Kit is popular because of its superior weatherproofing and overall versatility.
Solar Panels & Kits for RV Pricing
- Under $200: Smaller solar panel kits and singular solar panels can be found at under $200. These kits are limited as far as power output goes but are great for smaller solar energy needs. The individual panels, sold without any additional pieces, are great for expanding solar panel setups you already have.
- $200 to $450: Some of the best solar panel kits for RV use can be found at this price range. Typically, these include one or two 100-watt solar panels plus kits for installation. These setups often come with handy additions like controllers and adapters.
- Over $450: Once you start getting into these higher prices, you're typically buying similar items as the $200-$450 range but in bigger quantities. These can come with four or more 100-watt solar panels and the additional pieces required for setup.
Solar charge controllers are what manage the amount of power that is stored from sitting in the sun. These are essential for preventing overcharging of a battery during the day and reducing any loss of power overnight. They are currently made in MPPT and the newer PWM technologies. While PWM is better for power management, it is significantly more expensive.
If your energy usage increases or you just want to expand the items you have running on solar power, a useful feature is an expandability. Some solar panel kits allow you to add additional solar panels to generate up to 400 or 800 watts, depending on your camper trailer solar setup.
Having a solar panel is no good if you can't set it up. It's important to pay attention to what is necessary for installation and what parts come included. Some helpful features are pre-drilled holes, mounting brackets, and the overall portability of the solar panels.
- Amount of Power: Before buying any solar panels, it's best to know how much power you need so you know what to buy. Just charging your RV's battery only requires a small setup, but the more amenities you have, the more you might need. If you aren't sure, it's best to start small and increase later if required.
- Weight and Size: Some solar panel kits are very heavy. Depending on where you plan to secure your solar panels and what kind of RV you own, the overall weight and dimensions of the panels could be a determining factor.
- Efficiency: The different way in which solar panels are made affect efficiency and cost. If you're limited on space but don't mind spending more money, than buying a high-efficiency monocrystalline panel is a good idea. If you have room to spare but don't want to spend as much, then investing in amorphous or polycrystalline panels could be a better option.
Best Solar Panels & Kits for RV Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Renogy is one of the most well-known companies when it comes to portable solar power, so it should be no surprise that they are our pick for the best solar system for RV. Not only are these panels amazingly efficient, but they're also sold with everything you need if you've never owned solar panels before.
These 100-watt monocrystalline solar panels are incredibly lightweight. A lot of solar panel setups can by bulky or require heavy-duty equipment to install. Too much extra weight can negatively affect your driving experience and the suspension of your RV. At less than 20 pounds, the Renogy panels are ideal for campers.
Another benefit of this item is how much comes with your purchase. You get mounting brackets, Renogy's most advanced controller, MC4 connectors, 10AWG tray cables, and a 20-foot MC4 adapter kit. Plus, Renogy includes a 25-year warranty for replacement of panels that lose any output over time.
It’s helpful to know beforehand that Renogy's RV solar kit does not come with a battery. Depending on how and when you're planning on using your solar power, buyers might need to buy a battery separately.
If you’re looking to invest in some solar energy tech but don't want to break the bank, Windy Nation offers a great value. This solar panel kit comes with all the necessities for half the price of the competition without compromising on efficiency.
Something that really sets this solar panel kit apart is the different types of mounting hardware that it includes. This makes installation to the roof of your RV easier and makes it compatible with any setup. You can also add additional panels.
Each panel is 100-watts and depending on your voltage system (available in 12 or 24 volts), you can have up to four or eight panels, respectively.
The directions can be hard to follow at times. This is, of course, a subjective issue, but it is possible that if you're new to solar systems that this kit might be challenging to use. Also, certain setups require additional wiring to be purchased.
Honorable Mention: Go Power! 120W Portable Solar Kit
Our honorable mention is made by Go Power! This is an excellent option for travelers thanks to the panel's many features and this kit's included pieces. It's the only product on our list that has battery clamps, which is an incredibly handy feature when working with 12V batteries.
It only takes minutes to set up this product, which is really convenient for customers using it on the go. This kit comes with everything you need for setup and installation, but it is the panel's design that makes it quick and easy to use. The quick setup also doesn't compromise on features. This kit comes with multiple solar cables, brackets (if you choose to install it permanently), and a solar controller.
This solar panel is the most efficient on our list. Despite being smaller than the other two, it produces more power thanks to its monocrystalline design. This highlight is also the cause for this solar panel kit's biggest drawback. The technology is costly, and this kit is more than double the cost of its competitors.
- If you plan on permanently securing your solar panels to your RV, then make sure you're careful about placement and positioning. The last thing you want to do is frequently adjust them after the fact.
- Be aware of positioning in terms of sunlight. Having your panels obstructed or tilted in the wrong direction will result in not getting the full usage of your solar panels.
- Don't assume that a specific RV solar panel kit comes with everything you require. Because everyone's needs are different, every kit comes with different parts. Read product descriptions and lists to know precisely what you'll receive and what you’ll need to purchase separately.
- If you don't live in a particularly sunny area, it might be worth it to spend the extra money to buy monocrystalline solar panels. They work much better than the others in low light.
Q: Can I use an RV solar panel to power my AC unit?
A: As far as power capacity goes, the answer is yes. However, the actual compatibility of your air conditioner and the solar panel setup may or may not be an issue. It depends on the age of your AC unit. Older products may require additional modifications.
Q: How much power do I need?
A: Everyone’s power needs are different. Things to keep in mind are how many appliances are running in your trailer and how much roof space you have for panels. To figure out how much energy your RV consumes, there are calculators online to help figure out your needs.
Q: Is my solar panel weatherproof?
A: Manufacturers make their solar panels waterproof, knowing that they will be outside in the rain. Different companies have varying levels of weatherproofing on their additional pieces, like controllers and brackets.
Q: Am I getting the most out of my solar panels?
A: The location and positioning of your solar panels are going to be the determining factors. Remember, angling your panels isn’t just useful for direct sunlight, but also keeps rain and snow from collecting on the surface of your solar panels.
The best solar panels for RV use is the Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit because the panels are lightweight, easy to install, and perfect for beginners. If you want a more affordable option, the WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Boat Kit is both inexpensive and efficient.