There aren’t many better ways to unwind than heading outside into nature. But having a loud gas generator running in the background instantly brings you back to reality.
Consider purchasing RV solar panels to make your camping trip the peaceful retreat you’re hoping for. In addition to lowering noise levels, they also reduce pollutants.
Finding the best RV solar panels, though, can be challenging. Because of this, we’ve outlined what to look for when purchasing them and revealed our top selections for the finest RV solar panels available.
Note from the editor: We have no financial connections to any of the businesses featured in this review, and we do not get compensation from affiliate marketing. This blog’s material is based on research and data that were accessible at the time it was written.
Top picks for RV solar panels
|Solar kit||Key features||Price|
|Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Solar Premium Kit||(4) 100 W panels, charge controller, mounting equipment, cabling||$799.99|
|WindyNation 100 W Solar Panel Off-Grid Kit||(1) 100 W panel, charge controller, mounting equipment, cabling||$439.99|
|Go Power! 130 W Portable Solar Panel Kit||(1) 130 W foldable solar panel, charge controller, cabling, carrying case||$499.68|
|HQST 100 W Polycrystalline Solar Panel Kit||(1) 100 W solar panel, charge controller, mounting equipment, cabling||$99.99|
|Renogy 100 W 12 Volt (V) Flexible Solar Panel and Charge Controller||(1) 100 W flexible solar panel, charge controller||$230.35|
What are RV solar panels and how do they work?
Although they may power lights and small appliances, the batteries found inside RVs are short-lived. You will want an additional power source if you wish to utilize appliances like your microwave and TV. RV solar panels can help with that.
Similar to a typical residential solar system, an RV’s solar panels turn sunshine into electricity. With the exception that they recharge your RV’s batteries rather than powering your home.
Additionally, you can purchase additional batteries that the solar panels can recharge, giving you access to even more electricity while you’re camping.
Four key parts make up an RV solar panel system:
- Solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity
- A charge controller to prevent your battery from overcharging
- An inverter to convert the DC solar electricity into usable AC power
- A battery to store the electricity
Do you really need RV solar panels?
RV solar panels are excellent, but they are not required. In fact, the majority of RV campers likely don’t require solar panels; if you spend the most of your time camping in areas with power hookups, RV solar panels are generally not for you.
But for everyone who boondocks, RV solar panels are a fantastic, economical purchase. Boondocking is camping without power or other amenities found in campgrounds. RV solar panels can be useful in this situation. You can use them to maintain the charge on your batteries and to charge additional batteries for backup power.
Furthermore, since the solar panels slowly recharge your batteries, they may wind up extending the lifespan of your RV batteries. Additionally, you don’t need to worry about purchasing propane for every trip, unlike conventional generators that you can use to assist power your RV. There are almost no further operational costs after making an investment in RV solar panels, unless equipment needs to be changed.
How much do RV solar panels cost?
What you require from your solar system will determine how much you spend on RV solar panels. You’ll need to buy more equipment if you use a lot of electricity, which will increase the overall cost of your RV solar system.
RV solar panel kits range in price from $100 to more than $1,000. Your specific energy needs will determine this. An RV solar panel starter package costs between $200 and $500 if you’re just getting started.
When you first start using solar, a kit in this price range—which often includes a charge controller, solar cables, and one or two solar panels—is a terrific place to start. But to supplement your usage, you’ll probably still need a generator. You might need to purchase extra panels once you assess how well the solar panels are serving your needs.
What to consider when buying RV solar panels
Your power consumption
Determine how much power you use while camping in order to determine which solar panels will work best for your RV. You may calculate the number of solar panels and any additional batteries you would require based on that.
The average RV camper uses 20 kWh of electricity each day. You will require more solar panels as a result of your increased electricity consumption as more appliances are added to your home.
However, two or three solar panels will typically be able to provide enough energy to power the majority of your small appliances. You’ll need a generator or more panels and batteries if you want to run heavy equipment like a refrigerator or air conditioner.
It’s okay if you don’t know the exact amount of power your RV consumes. You can always buy a cheap RV solar kit and test it out to see if it works for you. The system can then be expanded if additional panels or batteries are required.
When you get solar panels for your RV, you can use them one of two ways:
- Manually set up portable solar panels
- Mount the panels on your roof
The majority of boondockers find manual setup to be rather simple. Your solar panels need only be set up, connected to your battery, and pointed toward the sun. Then, to boost solar output, just turn the panels toward the sun every couple of hours. However, keep in mind that you must set it up and take it down every time you visit a site.
If you don’t want to set up portable solar panels, another choice is roof-mounted RV solar panels. However, because the roof needs to be exposed to sunshine, you won’t be able to park your RV in the shadow. In order to gain a little additional juice, you also won’t be able to turn the panels toward the sun. Although roof-mounted systems could cost a little more, full-time boondockers may find that they are more convenient.
Type of solar panels
Solar panels come in three primary varieties: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous. The most effective and costly materials are monocrystalline. Monocrystalline panels are unquestionably the ones for you if your space is restricted. Although slightly more expensive than monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels are marginally less effective.
Flexible thin-film solar panels are known as amorphous solar panels. They are the least expensive alternative, but they are also the least effective. In order to create anything like to what monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels produce, you would need more of them. Additionally, they must be glued directly onto the top of your RV in order to be fitted, which might damage the roof and make removal challenging.
To store your solar energy if your RV has solar panels, you should probably get some extra battery banks. The majority of RVers select 12v batteries. For your RV, you can choose between lead acid and lithium-ion batteries, but each has advantages and disadvantages of its own.
The most typical type of battery used by RV campers is a lead acid battery. They are so well-liked because they are affordable and strong. However, they often need to be changed after five years, and based on the kind of lead acid battery you use, it can need routine upkeep.
Lead acid batteries are significantly less expensive than lithium-ion batteries. They are more effective, endure longer, and store more energy. Lithium ion batteries are pricey, but they’re well worth it for folks that boondock full-time.
However, you can get away with a few lead acid batteries if you only use the batteries for a few excursions per year.
Reviewed: 5 best RV solar panels
We picked our 5 top solar panel kits for RVs and motorhomes to help you narrow down your search.
1. Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Solar Premium Kit
Renogy’s 400 W solar kit is a great all-around starting point for RV solar. Image source: Renogy
Renogy’s 400 Watt solar kit gets our pick for best overall RV solar kit. It comes with four 100 watt monocrystalline solar panels which have a 25-year production warranty and an efficiency rating of 21%.
The kit also includes a 40 Amp MPPT solar charge controller, four Z-Brackets for mounting, and Renogy’s Bluetooth module, which lets you monitor and manage the system from your smartphone.
- With 400 watts of power, this kit will cover much of your energy usage
- Easy-to-follow instructions make DIY installation a breeze
- High efficiency
- Solar panels, solar charger, cabling, and brackets included
- Fair price
- Batteries not included
- Large, might not have room for four panels on roof
- Cables might not be long enough for larger RVs
2. WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid Kit
Best: Runner up
WindyNation offers a 100 watt, 12 Volt solar panel kit that is great for boondockers who don’t use a lot of power. The kit includes one panel with a power output of 100 watts, a 20 amp PWM charge controller, four Z-brackets for mounting, cabling, and solar connectors. It also includes a 100 Amp-hour absorbed glass matt (AGM) lead-acid battery.
According to WindyNation, this panel will produce 350 watt-hours (Wh) of electricity per day. That isn’t a lot, but the charge controller included is able to handle up to four 100 watt panels, so you can expand the system in the future. This kit’s great online reviews and included equipment are what make it our best overall runner up RV solar kit.
- Comes with a lead acid battery
- Cabling and mounting equipment included
- Charge controller allows for future system expansion
- High user reviews on Amazon (4.5 out of 5 stars)
- Only one panel, so it won’t cover all of your electricity usage right off the bat
- Inverter not included
- Warranty information not clear
3. Go Power! 130 Watt Portable Solar Kit
Best: Portable RV solar setup
Go Power!’s 130 watt portable solar kit is great for RVers who don’t want to install a roof-mounted solar system. The foldable, 130 watt panel is easy to store and to deploy with its adjustable legs and carrying case. The kit also comes with a 10 Amp PWM charge controller, cabling, and battery clamps for recharging. The panel has a 25-year warranty.
Go Power! gets our pick for best portable RV solar kit because it is lightweight, foldable, and comes with a storage case. Plus, it can be paired with an existing rooftop system or just as supplemental power. What more could you want from a portable solar panel?
- Portable, easy setup at only 28.7 pounds
- Panel is foldable for easy storage
- Built-in charge controller
- No installation required
- Must set up every trip
- Inverter not included
- Will not cover all of your energy needs
- Not compatible with lithium batteries
- High price
4. HQST 100 Watt Polycrystalline Solar Panel Kit
Best: Polycrystalline solar kit
The HQST 100 Watt polycrystalline solar panel kit is a great RV solar starter kit. It includes one 100 watt panel, a PWM charge controller, connector cables, and Z-brackets for mounting. You can purchase the kit with either a 10A or 20A charge controller, but the 20A charger will bump up the price a little bit.
- Great value
- Charge controller included
- Options to upgrade charge controller make it possible to expand solar power system in the future
- Polycrystalline panels are less efficient
- Too small to produce the amount of power needed to run an entire RV
- Inverter not included
5. Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Solar Panel and Charge Controller
Best: Flexible solar panel for RV
Renogy not only makes great rigid solar panels, they make flexible solar panels that are great for RV owners, too. This kit includes one 100 watt flexible monocrystalline solar panel and a 30A charge controller. The panel can be installed using silicone structural adhesive on the backside of the panel.
This is our pick for best flexible solar panel because Renogy is a reputable brand, so they can likely help you if there are problems or warranty issues. It also has outstanding reviews on Amazon.
- Renogy is a reputable brand
- Can be installed on irregular surfaces, like the roof of an Airstream
- Remain flat against the roof so the panels are barely visible
- Includes charge controller
- Does not include cabling
- Does not include adhesive needed for installation
- Does not include inverter
- Amorphous panels have lower efficiency ratings, which can lead to low production
- Not large enough to power an entire RV
Keep your camping trip clean with RV solar panels
As you can see, there are numerous factors to take into account before purchasing RV solar panels. It might be challenging to determine your exact needs for an RV solar system due to the limited space and power output.
It’s worthwhile to at least connect your generator with a set of solar panels if you frequently camp off-the-grid. The RV solar panel kits we listed will undoubtedly be a wonderful place to start when switching to solar power.
But why do you halt at your RV? By using a domestic solar panel system to power your entire house, you can reduce your energy expenses and do your part for the environment. You can find out how much solar energy can save you on your particular property using our solar panel calculator!