Best Solar Panels: Light Up and Power Your Life
Save money and conserve energy with these high-quality solar panels
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If you want to live off the grid, travel in an RV, or save money, using solar panels to power your equipment is a great alternative to purchasing power from an electric company. By using the sun’s rays, each panel stores a charge and converts it into electricity to power a variety of devices. If you need to heat your camper or cabin and live the life of luxury no matter where you are, check out the best solar panels in our buying guide below.
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Benefits of Solar Panels
- Save money. One of the main reasons why people install solar panels is because they save them a lot of money. Over time, efficient solar panels will slash the cost of your electricity bill.
- Use them year-round. While a solar panel system works best in the sunny summer months, the best panels also produce a lot of electricity in the winter (even on cloudy days).
- No maintenance is necessary. Solar panels do not require regular servicing. While the inverter may need replacement every 10 to 15 years, that's about it. Otherwise, you’re good to go for an extended period of time.
- Long-lasting. Many manufacturers in the solar industry back their products with a 25-year warranty because they're so durable. It's not uncommon to get as much as 40 years of service life from some solar panel companies.
Types of Solar Panels
This type of solar panel is made of silicon wafers, which are stacked in a rectangular shape. They are cut from a single piece of silicon and contain black cells. Monocrystalline panels look black in color because of how the light reacts with the panel's pure silicon. The back sheets of these panels may be black, white, or silver, while the frame is usually silver or white.
These panels contain a melting pot of silicon crystals. They are rectangular and are covered in glass. While they are cheaper than monocrystalline panels, they are not as efficient. The combination of silicon crystals and sunlight produces a bluish shade. That's because light reacts differently with polycrystalline panels versus pure silicon crystals, which are used in monocrystalline panels.
Thin-film panels are composed of several materials, including cadmium telluride (CdTe) as well as amorphous silicon (a-Si) and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS). The a-Si panels resemble monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, but they are not solid silicon wafers. Instead, they contain non-crystallized silicon that's inserted on top of glass or plastic. These panels are the lightest type but are not as efficient as monocrystalline.
This renewable energy company is based in Ontario, Calif., and was started by several students from Louisiana State University. The company produces solar products for RVs, boating, homes, and businesses. One of its popular products is the Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit.
This solar panel supplier is based in Montclair, Calif. It produces solar panels as well as solar charge controllers, inverters, batteries, and complete DIY solar kits. One popular product is the RICH SOLAR 100 Watt Polycrystalline 100W 12V Solar Panel.
Founded by a former engineer for Apple and Z. Sun, a design pioneer, Jackery uses modern battery technology to enhance the solar experience. By specializing in powering outdoor environments, Jackery promotes a wide range of innovative products. The company prides itself on quality and an aim to move life in a forward direction. One of their leading products is the Jackery SolarSaga Portable Panel For Explorers.
Solar Panels Pricing
- Under $100: You can purchase a single cost-effective solar panel in this price range, but you will need to purchase other components to get the unit to function on your RV, boat, etc.
- Over $100: Solar panel off-grid, RV, or boat kits are going to cost you a little more than a single panel will. You may pay a few hundred dollars for a good starter kit, and they usually include everything you need to get a system up and running.
Not all solar panels or solar systems generate the same amount of power. They each have a different wattage or power rating. The wattage indicates how much power a solar panel generates. Most solar panels are typically 250 to 350 watts, depending on what they’re used for. The ones in this review have less power, but are used for RVs and boats. Higher-wattage panels are usually more efficient, but they cost more and tend to be larger in size.
It's vital to have a solar panel that has a high efficiency so that it produces optimum power. The more efficient a solar panel is, the better it will be at converting sunlight into electricity. Look for solar panels with the highest efficiency ratings. Higher-efficiency panels have the ability to transform more sunlight into more power.
This is how a solar panel operates in conditions that are imperfect. Similar to other types of electronic devices, solar panels perform best when they are cool, i.e., less than 77-degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature coefficient informs you of the product's performance during really hot days. Electricity production will drop at each degree over 77-degrees Fahrenheit. For better performance, look for products with a lower temperature coefficient.
- Size and Space: After you take into account quality and performance, you need to consider size. Determine how much roof space you have on your RV, boat, or off-grid dwelling. Will it accommodate the size of the product you are considering? In addition, how large are your energy needs? Will the selected panel provide for them?
- Product Warranty: As we mentioned earlier, many brands offer long-lasting warranties. Make sure you know what you're getting before making a purchase. Also, choose a brand that is well-known and that will be around for several years to come should you need to contact them for repairs.
- Tax Benefits and Incentives: Many people buy solar panels with the intent of taking advantage of local tax benefits. However, not every state offers the same incentives. In fact, these incentives can vary considerably, depending on where you live. For example, Connecticut offers both a property tax exemption and a sales tax exemption if you use solar panels.
Best Solar Panels Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- No matter where you use solar panels, make sure they are properly secured. This is especially true if you attach them to the roofs of RVs.
- If you want to get the most out of your solar panels, consider manually moving them to follow and track the sun throughout the day.
- Place stationary solar panels in an area with the most amount of sunlight. Make sure no shadows can reach them, or you will risk losing a significant amount of power.
Q: How much solar power do I need to run devices?
A: This depends on the type of device you are using. You also need to keep in mind how many different devices and appliances are in your trailer or home. In addition, calculate how much space around or on the roof you have for mounting the solar panels. The more panels you have, the more power they produce. To find out how much energy you need, you can find calculators online.
Q: Are solar panels weather-resistant or waterproof?
A: All solar panel manufacturers design panels to be weatherproof so they resist rain, snow, and dust. You can check with the specific manufacturer to see what weatherproofing it has fitted on its particular solar panels.
Q: What is the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline?
A: Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single crystal and feature a thin layer of silicon. They include small square cells across the surface and perform better in low light conditions. Polycrystalline panels are developed out of smaller crystals in each cell. They have rectangular solar cells and may also include a blue coloring.
If you want to switch to solar energy and desire a great starter kit, consider the Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit.
You can check out the Newpowa 100 Watts 12 Volts Polycrystalline Solar Panel, which is a powerful polycrystalline panel at a less expensive price.