LAST UPDATED: April 26, 2021
Best RV Solar Panels & Kits: Top Picks for Energy Efficiency
Say goodbye to expensive electricity bills with these reliable and efficient energy alternatives.
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PUBLISHED ON April 26, 2021
With renewable energy solutions growing in popularity, lowering in price, and advancing rapidly with more efficient and reliable technology, there’s never been a better time to outfit your RV with solar power. Think of being able to go anywhere you want without relying on crowded campgrounds for power hook-ups. It’s liberating and opens up a world of undiscovered travel possibilities.
Today’s solar panel kits are economical and can be customized to suit your particular power requirements, whether you want to independently power your entire RV, run a few key appliances or devices, or just have a backup power supply for emergencies. The options are plentiful and can be confusing if you’re unfamiliar with electrical circuits and systems. We’ve got you covered with our informative buying guide that will teach you exactly what to look for in solar panels and kits for RVs, as well as many in-depth product reviews of some of the top options on the market today.
Renogy makes the best RV solar panels on the market, and this starter kit is perfect for first-time users.
- Renogy solar panels are incredibly lightweight, made with a durable aluminum frame, and have the option to expand with additional panels.
- Users who require a battery will have to buy one separately.
Windy Nation offers the best solar panel kit for the money. This RV solar kit is a great power source at an attractive price.
- This solar panel is affordable, offers a range of different mounting options, and comes with adjustable charge controller settings.
- Might be difficult to assemble for some users, and not all wires are included.
This kit comes with folding RV solar panels, which are excellent for traveling. Go Power! is a great option for RV use.
- This 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.
- This is the most expensive option—more than double some competitors.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products 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.
- Self-reliance. Many people are looking for ways to become less dependent on privately owned resources, like electricity. Off-grid living is being sought by many, and solar panel kits are one of the most budget-friendly and quick ways to make your RV completely self-sufficient.
- 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 their 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 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, including the 400 Watt Solar Kit.
Goal Zero was founded by a passionate humanitarian named Robert Workman after a life-changing trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help impoverished people. The company’s mission is to provide portable solar energy sources that empower people and keeps them connected. It makes innovative products like the Venture 30 Solar Kit.
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 the 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.
- $450 and up: 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 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 ways in which solar panels are made affect efficiency and cost. If you're limited on space but don't mind spending more money, then 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 2021
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 be 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 the 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 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. 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.
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.
Another excellent starter kit suitable for powering your small RV is the Lion Energy Foldable Solar Power Kit. It comes equipped with a 100-watt folding solar panel, a Savanna CC charger controller, a Savanna IV 400-watt inverter, and 25 feet of connecting cable. Unfortunately, you will need to purchase mounting hardware and a 12-volt battery separately, which adds an extra cost.
This is also a good option if you’re looking to independently charge or power a few items on a larger RV, like electronic devices, small appliances, tools, or using it as a backup power source in the event of unplanned or long-term power outages. You can purchase and link additional solar panels together to provide quicker battery top-up and replenishment.
The solar panels also come with a hard case that they can fold up into for easy and secure carrying and transportation, making this an excellent portable system.
The WEIZE 100 Watt 12-Volt Solar Panel Starter Kit gets a shout-out for being a great little starter kit for your RV off-the-grid conversion at a refreshingly reasonable price. You get a durable, corrosion-resistant 100-watt solar panel that’s made with high-performance monocrystalline solar cells that boast up to 21 percent greater efficiency than polycrystalline panels.
You also get a 10-amp charge controller, necessary extension cables, and mounting hardware and screws. You will need to purchase a 12-volt inverter and battery separately, which will add to the overall cost of the system.
Depending on how many solar panels you’ll need to power your RV, you may also need to purchase another charge controller. If that’s the case, and you need to buy the charge controller, battery, and inverter separately, you might want to look elsewhere for a more complete system.
If you’re looking for something super portable that can do double duty, the Goal Zero Portable Solar Panel Kit might be just what you’re looking for. The kit includes a 50-watt solar panel that can be folded and easily transported for your charging convenience.
It also comes with a Yeti 400Wh rechargeable lithium battery that’s perfect for using your 12-volt, USB, or AC accessories. It’s able to charge up to seven devices at once. It’s great for charging laptops, tablets, phones, cameras, running a small fan, powering a television, or even a small hot plate or portable fridge.
While this isn’t a good source to power your entire RV, it’s a great way to get portable power for essential items that can be easily and compactly stored in your RV until you need or want to use it. The battery can also be recharged by being plugged into your household outlet or your vehicle’s 12-volt power supply if there isn’t enough sunlight.
This explorer solar station comes in 160, 240, 500, and 1,000 watt power stations. The solar panels do not require installation, as they temporarily stand on the included legs. An LED indicator light, USB-A, USB-C, and DC ports are on the back of the solar panel. The ports come with over power protection, surge protection, and short circuit protection.
What’s nice about these solar panels is that they don’t require installation. You can take them anywhere on your RV adventures and have power production. They also come pre-wired for easy plug and charge functionality with all of your devices.
One thing to note about these solar panels is that they aren’t designed to support a car battery. This means you cannot use them to charge or maintain your RV’s battery. This can limit the functionality of these solar panels.
These solar panels come in either 175 or 200 watts. They measure 48.95, 58.35, or 64.57 inches in length. The width of all of the panels is 26.57 inches. A junction box comes with a panel that has pre-installed diodes and 3 feet of cable.
What makes these panels stand out is their durability. They can handle high winds of 2,400PA and snow loads of 5,400PA. They can also produce a maximum power of 200 watts and 11.76 amps.
One thing you’ll find frustrating about these panels is that they don’t come with hardware meant for RV roof installation. All of the brackets are the same size, so it’ll be challenging to install them on an RV roof with different heights throughout. The panels may not produce the level of power claimed.
These flexible solar panels can produce 200 watts of power and can be used in 12V applications. They come with a junction box and diodes for safety and easier installation. You can connect these panels to other panels in a series or to the included LED controller. They have a 25-year warranty for transferable power output.
What makes these solar panels stand out is their flexibility. This gives you more freedom in how you install them because the panels can bend around the varying heights of your RV roof. You can bend them in up to a 30-degree arc.
The downside of these panels is that they aren’t as durable as other solar panels on this list. The panels may also lose their flexibility over time from sitting in the sun. The panels can also crack if pressure is applied to them.
If you’re looking to get everything you need to initially install a comprehensive and reliable solar kit that will power your entire RV, check out the Renogy Mountable Solar Panel Kit. It’s also an excellent option for off-grid powering your tiny modular home, shed, or boat. The kit comes equipped with four 100-watt monocrystalline solar panels, a 30-amp PWM negative-ground charge controller with LCD, a pair of 30-foot 10-AWG MC4 Adaptor Kit, a pair of 16-foot 10-AWG Tray Cables, and more.
The kit is fully expandable so that you can customize and upgrade it to meet your specific solar needs. This kit is one of the priciest, being that it’s a complete kit designed to meet all your RV off-grid power needs. The only drawback is that you will still need to purchase your inverter and deep-cycle batteries separately, adding even more to the overall cost. It will also take some serious time and planning to install, so you may want to enlist the help of a professional.
- 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?
If you have a solar panel/battery/inverter set-up that generates enough power, you can use it to power your AC unit. Remember that AC units are huge power drainers, so you likely won’t be able to run your unit non-stop for days at a time.
Q: How much power do I need?
This is a tricky question, as everyone has different power needs or desires. If you want to completely power your RV, you’re going to need more solar panels and batteries than if you just want to run a few essential appliances, tools, or lights. Check out this helpful article that discusses how to calculate your power needs.
Q: Is my solar panel weatherproof?
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?
To get the most out of your solar panels, position them in a location that receives the greatest exposure to direct sunlight—for RVs, this is usually on the roof. Try not to park in shady spots or in places where access to direct sunlight is blocked. Also, be sure to periodically rinse off any dust or debris that might cause your panels to charge less efficiently.
Now that you know all you need to know to start going green with your RV, it’s easy to see why we chose the Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit for our top pick. The kit is priced exceptionally well and comes with everything you need to get started. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, we like the WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Boat Kit. It’s a reliable and efficient system without a cringe-worthy price tag.