One of the best things about equipping your RV for solar power is that you have the flexibility to go off the grid whenever you choose. You don’t have to depend on electricity from a campground, generator, or your vehicle’s alternator. You can park just about anywhere, especially if you have the best RV solar kit installed. We’ll show you everything you need to know to pick the best RV solar panels.
You’re in charge. Pun intended. The advantages don’t end there.
Solar kits vary considerably. While some kits can handle all your RV energy needs, some are better suited for specific tasks, such as putting a trickle charge on your batteries that RV owners will appreciate. Solar power is environmentally friendly and does not emit harmful greenhouse gases, which is another advantage.
The best solar panels allow you to charge and maintain the voltage of your battery efficiently, whether it is a single unit or a battery bank to receive more power for more RV solar panels. Let those solar cells do their work, and you can reap the rewards. That’s why it pays to do your homework to find one that is suitable for your RV, camping style, and energy needs.
Our guide will provide some recommendations for RV solar kits to make it easier. We’ll also walk you through the process of choosing the right one for you.
You’ll find that many serve specific purposes whereas other kits are more niche-oriented with well-known names like WindyNation and Renogy.
We’ve included both types.
The good news about tapping into solar power is that technology continues to improve and get more efficient. It also means that these items are more affordable too. After doing the research, here is our shortlist of the best products we found to get you started on your path off the grid.
You can use more than one product. That’s why we’ve included the best solar panel for RV battery charging. There isn’t any upper limit as long as you have the right sun exposure. We can’t also ignore the fact that the source is free.
The Renogy 100 Watts Solar Starter Kit is an excellent choice for those with smaller RV campers or fewer appliances to run. It includes everything you need, except for the battery. It comes with a Wanderer 30 aH PWM solar power controller, cable, adapter kit, and all the mounting hardware to get set up fast. The Renogy kit has a more efficient monocrystalline solar panel with an output of 5 amps.
The Renogy RV solar panel is a manageable size at 47 inches long by 20.9 inches wide by 1.5 inches deep, weighing in at less than 20 pounds. Installation is easy with clear instructions that are simple to follow. Overall, it’s a well-made product that is backed by stellar customer support. Power input is consistent, whether or not you decide to add a tilt mount on your RV.
The TP-Solar 120 Watt Solar Kit is another portable model. Portable solar is a thing. The monocrystalline solar panel is foldable and comes with a 14.5-volt charge controlling box, mounting hardware, cables, and a carrying case. The design and accessories make it one of the more versatile and user-friendly products we reviewed. It is also highly efficient. The RV solar panel is only 41 inches long and weighs just under 8 pounds.
You can charge both your RV and car batteries with this kit and its accessories. You can even top off your USB devices or computer. It’s an excellent choice that goes far beyond the standard RV solar kit. It is well-constructed to handle the elements with a laminated coating to keep it protected. The carrying case is even well-made. You can use it as an RV boat model too.
The DOKIO 220 Watt Solar Panel with Charge Controller makes solar power easy to use and portable. That makes it a sound solution if you want to use it in other setups or don’t want to mount it permanently on your RV. The monocrystalline solar panel is both foldable and lightweight, coming in at just over 10 pounds. Its larger capacity makes it a good choice for those with larger rigs or more devices.
The kit includes only the solar panel, charge controller, and a user’s manual. You can use it with either 12 or 24-volt batteries. On the downside, it is a bit spendy, considering what you get. While it is lightweight, some may find the RV solar panel is long and unwieldy at 85 inches. Then, there’s the wind.
However, the manufacturer backs up their product with a five-year parts warranty and 25 years on the power output.
The ACOPOWER UV11007GD 100W Solar Panel Kit has several features that showcase the manufacturer’s attention to detail. The kit consists of two monocrystalline panels, a 10-amp PWM charge controller, MC-4 connectors, and a carrying case. The two-panel design makes the kit portable if you’d prefer a temporary power solution.
Each portable solar panel measures 25.4 inches long by 19.9 inches wide by 2.9 inches thick. Having two instead of just one makes them more manageable to handle and easy to install. The product is well-made and sturdy with top-notch materials. The rounded corners make the panels easier to handle too. Overall, it’s an excellent choice for individuals who prefer a portable solution for solar power.
The Mighty Max Battery Solar Power System is ready to go, out of the box. The polycrystalline solar panel comes with the mounting hardware attached and pre-drilled holes for a quick installation. The product includes just the panel with the necessary accessories. You’ll need to get a compatible charge controller to complete the installation.
The panel’s dimensions are 41.5 inches long by 28 inches wide by 2 inches deep, weighing 19 pounds. It is well-made and delivers reliable power as described. The output is 100 watts, decent for any mid-sized rig. The polycrystalline design keeps the price reasonable for those new to solar power and its possibilities. It’s an excellent choice for the consumer and the environment.
The ECO-WORTHY Solar RV Kit ticks off a lot of the boxes we like to see in these products for portable solar. The pre-drilled holes on the 120-watt solar panel make installation a snap. They are well-designed to deliver more energy with a smaller footprint while being highly efficient. The kit also includes the controller, which has several safety features in place to ensure a continuous supply of power. The LCD display is bright and easy to read.
We also liked the fact that a 30-foot extension cord comes with your purchase. That makes it simple to install wherever you need solar energy. That along with the other components make it handy to use for a variety of applications in addition to its use with an RV. The solar kit is a good choice that is user-friendly from installation to its versatility. The price is reasonable for what you get to for the best RV solar panels.
That makes it an even better choice if you want to explore solar energy but are unsure if it’s right for you.
The WindyNation Solar RV Kit includes everything you need to go solar, even the deep-cycle, 100 aH battery. It’s a smart option if you want a complete setup with no worries about whether everything is compatible. It is also user-friendly. The PWM solar charge controller provides additional information about the health of your system, including the DC load draw for keeping track of your usage.
The 100-watt polycrystalline solar panel and battery provide a reliable 33 amp-hours of power each day, suitable for most RVs and one of the best portable solar panels. The controller allows you to adjust the output to your needs. The battery is top-notch, delivering enough power to run most devices and appliances.
Even though getting it at the same time as the kit is costly, what you get is well worth the price for RV solar panel kits.
The SOLPERK RV Solar Kit differs from other products in this roundup in that its purpose is for solar charging devices that you may use while RVing. You can use it to keep your car or RV battery topped up or other vehicles with which you travel. It uses an intelligent charging system to protect against overcharging. The setup is simple with its plug-and-play design.
The best solar panels for RV battery charging are a thing for peak efficiency.
The kit includes a 20-watt solar panel with a bracket to adjust for the sunlight’s angle. It also comes with the necessary hardware, cable, and a solar charge controller. The unit is lightweight and compact, measuring 18.1 inches long by 13.8 inches wide by 1 inch deep. It’s a smart choice if you need a trickle charge on your batteries and don’t want to invest a lot in an alternative power source for solar charging.
The obvious benefit of going solar is that it gives you flexibility. You’re not dependent on something else to provide power to your RV. That opens up a lot of possibilities for where you put down stakes. It even makes a difference in the campground. Non-electric sites are now on the table. If your experience is like ours, they are some of the most desirable ones too. It is possible because of RV solar panels.
You can also talk about cost savings if you’re dumping fuel into a generator or paying extra for that hookup at your campsite. We also have to address the benefit that you, as an outdoorsy person, can appreciate. You’re doing your part to pay forward and reduce your carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions with the best solar panels for RV use.
It’s the proverbial win-win for everyone with the best portable solar panels for RV.
Sure, RV solar kits cost some serious cash. However, the things you get out of using one don’t have a monetary value. Camping is all about connecting with nature. It reduces stress and can improve your quality of life. Saving some money is the gravy.
Solar energy is environmentally friendly and does not emit harmful greenhouse gases. The best solar panels for RV allow you to charge and maintain the voltage of your battery efficiently, whether it is a single unit or a battery bank to receive more power for more RV solar panels. They will contain all the necessary components such as MC4 connectors, junction box, and monocrystalline panels for maximum output from the install.
Let those solar cells do their work, and you can reap the rewards.
We’d be remiss if we only posited this rosy picture of being eco-friendly with using solar power. It also has to make sense with your kind of camping. If you only take to the road once or twice a year, you have to do some serious thinking about whether it’s a viable option for you. Many factors come into play, so it’s not a cut-and-dry answer.
On the other hand, if you’re serious about your RVing, going solar is a natural segue. Not only will you save money, but you will also add to your satisfaction of making environmentally friendly choices. It’ll also bring the enjoyment of peace and quiet without a generator running all the time with the kit providing the necessary output.
The move toward solar isn’t horribly expensive if you have a smaller rig and fewer appliances, especially if they are DC instead of AC. However, it is still a part of the mix. It’s an important point to note that cost usually isn’t a significant barrier, especially if you have a smaller camper and use a portable or smaller solar panel model.
You’ll get the most value out of a solar-powered system if it will fulfill a significant portion of your energy needs. That applies to individuals who like to take longer runs off the usual power sources. You also have some additional options if you are RVing year-round or like winter camping. An RV solar kit offers options you might not otherwise have. These are all valid reasons to explore this power source.
The first thing you need to consider is how solar power will fit in with your usual camping style. It’s best suited toward RVers who like to go boondocking, preferably someplace where it’s sunny most of the time with reasonably warm temperatures. Many of these kits have specific operational temp ranges that vary with the component. Some will also have other uses for an RV boat.
Nevertheless, that sounds like our kind of camping.
It’s essential to remember that elephant in the room—your battery capacity. They power your appliances, lights, and other gadgets. Solar power, your rig’s alternator, your generator, and shore power also play a role in keeping them charged at full capacity. It simply a matter of deciding which ones are suitable for a given outing. Your RV is a mini power grid with you in control.
That gives you a lot of options with all parts of the process. Your job is to make the most of them.
Using solar power allows you to bypass the other three and have it do the heavy lifting. A complete kit, therefore, includes one or more solar panels, your RV battery or batteries, a charge controller, and inverter. We will say upfront that a kit may or may not include all of them. We’ll explain each component in detail and why they matter to your solar power system.
The parts of an RV solar panel kit include:
Solar or photovoltaic (PV) panels come in three flavors: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film or flexible. Each one has its pros and cons. The difference in efficiency and cost lies with the arrangement of the solar cells and how that translates into solar power with the MC4 connectors, junction box, and mono-crystalline solar panels.
The monocrystalline panel is made with whole silicon crystals. They have a peak efficiency of 20 percent. Because they are a single unit, they are smaller and look less obtrusive.
A polycrystalline panel, on the other hand, consists of sheets of multiple silicon crystal bits. Their peak efficiency hovers around 16 percent because of this design for solar. They are larger and more noticeable compared to the former at the same energy capacity. Hence, they are less expensive.
There are several different materials used with thin-film products to give them their flexibility. They’re also lightweight. Using the best flexible solar panels for RV on the top of your rig is more aesthetically pleasing and aerodynamic since you can shape them in the form of your roof. However, they cost more and don’t deliver the same performance as the previous two even if they do look better.
Unless you have little real estate on top of your rig, the polycrystalline products will work fine and save you some cash over the monocrystalline solar panels for an RV. If you’re in doubt, measure your roof to make sure you’re getting the right size for the best RV solar panels.
The most common type of solar panels for RVs are 100 watts, although you will see products with higher or lower capacities. This size works well with most RVs. It’s also the most economical. After all, you can only tap your batteries so much where extra power generation isn’t going to make a difference. We’ll discuss how all of these components all come together later.
You also have some choices with your battery, which will store the power that your solar cells on your PV panels capture. The typical choices are a lead-acid battery or a lithium one. While the latter is the most efficient of the two, it’s all the costliest. It will also require a different setup than what we’re discussing here.
The 12-volt, deep-cycle, lead-acid battery is a popular choice for RVing. There are several types that require varying degrees of maintenance. The chances are you’ll need more than one 12-volt or perhaps a 24- or 48-volt type if you’re running high-end electronics. The critical thing to remember with these kinds of batteries is the 50-percent rule.
That means you shouldn’t discharge them more than half to get the most life out of them. Some premium products push the limits even more. We suggest going with the manufacturer’s recommendations about the depth of discharge (DOD). Most RVs have a display with the current voltage to help you stick within these limits.
You’ll see the capacity for batteries as amp-hours (aH). That means, 1 amp current for one hour equals 1 amp-hour or 12 watts if you have a 12-volt battery. (Watts equals volts times amps.) This figure tells you how much power for how long you can get out of your battery. For example, a battery that can deliver 10 amps per hour for 10 will have a 100 aH spec, 10 amps times 10 hours.
These numbers and calculations will come together when we discuss matching the best RV solar panel kit for your coach.
The solar panel charge controller is an essential part of your rig’s power grid. Its function is to ensure that the output in volts of your PV panels correlates with that of your batteries to prevent overcharging them.
There often exists a disconnect between the two components when it comes to this spec. The solar controller end of things measures it in maximum power voltage (Vmp) and is often higher than 12 volts. The charge controllers make sure they play nice even with their differing capacities.
There are two types of devices: pulse-width modulation (PWM) or maximum power point tracking (MPPT) controllers. With any energy system, there is always some loss. The MPPT type manages it better but at a price. The PWM will work well for most setups unless you go RVing year-round and could benefit from optimal performance during colder weather conditions.
Fortunately, many modern RVs provide this data, which makes it easier to determine the best RV solar panels for your coach. The essential thing is having a ballpark estimate from which to begin.
The solar inverter, sometimes called the converter, takes the DC output of your solar panels and switches it to AC power to run your appliances powered by 120-volt electricity. It’s also a useful device if you have DC devices and are using shore power.
You can save money if you buy a kit that includes all of these basic components. At the very least, you’ll know that they are compatible. However, there are few things about RVing that are cut-and-dried. That is, after all, the essence of the hobby.
You customize your rig for your energy needs. You might swap out different appliances for your camping style, perhaps sticking to just DC, AC, or a mix of both. That’s saying nothing about how you cook your meals and how much you depend on your RV to provide your food. Freedom is at the heart of camping and RVing. Solar power is a natural choice.
Now that you know what you can get in a solar kit we’ll delve into the specifics of choosing one for your RV and camping style. The first step is to figure out what your power grid needs if you want to use the system for your primary energy source.
It involves a bit of math, but we promise to make it easy.
The first question you probably have is how many watts of solar do you need on your RV? Which brand will deliver it most efficiently? Renogy? WindyNation? Another brand?
Let’s begin with the PV panel since it’s the business end of the operation. The key spec is the wattage. You’ll find a wide range from trickle-charge units to manage your batteries during the off-season to full-blown kits for boondocking for long stretches—and everything in between!
Your goal is to balance the energy coming in from the solar kit versus what’s going out from using the stuff inside of your coach, powered by your battery.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Let’s start with the easy one with a quick-and-dirty approach to arriving at a figure. That means finding out how much you use on the typical camping trip. You’ll need your RV batteries charged to full capacity. Then, take it to the road. Then, you find a place to camp for a few days.
The hitch is that you’re not going to use any power at all. That means no generator, no hookup at your camping site, and no alternator charging from driving your RV. You’re going to rely totally on the juice in your batteries, so you will need to know the amp-hour capacity. Don’t do anything different from what you normally do. That’s essential to getting this baseline figure.
Monitor your batteries’ voltage until it gets to the critical tipping point of 50 percent or about 12.1 volts. Bear in mind that the typical figure for 100 percent for the battery is usually just over 12 to start. Once you’ve noticed that you’re heading to the danger zone, note the time it took to get you there.
For example, let’s say you have a 100 aH battery. All is well for two days, then, you have to power up to avoid going below 50 percent. Doing the math, that means you used about 25 amps per day (100 amps minus 50 percent, divided by two for the number of days).
Now, let’s go back to our 100-watt solar panel. The essential thing to understand is that this spec is the maximum output in ideal conditions. The weather is bright and sunny without a cloud in the sky. The air is clean with no wind blowing leaves or dust. Oh, and your PV panels are spotless. The chances are that usually isn’t the case.
Your setup’s efficiency is probably less than 100 percent, which is normal with all things considered. Generally speaking, that 100-watt PV panel will deliver about 30 amps per day. For this scenario, one panel of that capacity is sufficient to get the job done with some room to spare.
These specs will also tell you if the solar kit is a good fit for your rig. Be sure to check the system voltage if you are running something other than the typical 12-volt battery to find out which types of solar panels you’ll need. You’ll see some standard sizes measured in watts. It’s not a precise spec. Instead, it’s a rounded number, given the varying efficiency of your RV solar panels.
The system capacity refers to the watts that the kit including the controller can handle. We’d suggest getting a product with a higher figure than what you need. That gives you the option to expand your setup if you decide to upgrade any appliances or devices in your RV.
The best RV solar kit has parts that can hold up to the elements, whether you’re driving across the country or holed up at a site for several days. Products with corrosion-resistant materials like an aluminum frame are a godsend. They also can make the components lighter and easier to handle when it comes to the installation. Also, find out if it can handle snow loads if you go winter camping.
We prefer kits that are easy to install.
Sometimes, only some items can handle being outdoors. While the panels have to be outside, you may need to keep the controller protected with the weather and inside of your RV. Be sure to check the user manual carefully about the proper installation and where to put the aluminum frame.
We like it when the manufacturers make it simpler with videos that explain the process in detail. After all, doing it correctly is imperative if you’re going to depend on the kit for your power. In the middle of nowhere is not the place to find out you did something wrong. Therefore, test out your system before it becomes mission critical and right after the install.
That’s especially vital when you’re dealing with the setup as your sole power source.
Now we come to another essential question in the decision to use solar energy—whether you opt for a permanent and easy installation or a temporary one that is easy to install and disassemble.
Making it permanent makes it a hands-off solution. You drill the holes and install the hardware including the mounting brackets, aluminum frame, junction box, tray cable, and MC4 connectors. The advantage is that it is a one-time thing for efficiency. Set it and forget it for an easy solution.
The disadvantage is that it can affect the aerodynamics of your ride by adding drag and thus, lower your fuel efficiency. It may add to the cost with mounting brackets and other parts included in your price. On the plus side, it can save you money if you can tap into the benefits of tilting your RV solar panels to reduce snow loads and increase its output.
A temporary unit is easy to install and take down when you hit the road again. The question of aerodynamics is moot. Many of these RV solar panels are portable or foldable so that you can install them only when you need them. That feature makes them appropriate for a wide range of camping styles.
Depending on the type, you might not see a lot of variety in price. However, it also opens up the possibility of specific uses. Some models work best as backups for trigger charging. Others will take on the task of being the sole power source. This one parameter opens up choices.
That is the greatest benefit of using solar energy for the best solar solution.
Most reputable manufacturers will cover both of these bases if just for manufacturing defects. We suggest that you read the fine print when it comes to warranties. Some may require that you register the product within a certain time frame from your purchase. You may also need to hang onto your original receipt to make a claim.
Don’t forget to check the return policy carefully. Find out if both parts and labor are covered. We’d also recommend looking at the shipping and who pays the cost. Don’t set yourself up for any nasty surprises. Look into whether there are authorized service centers in your area in case you need to get something repaired.
The benefits of going solar rest on balance. RV owners get it. That means having enough energy input to compensate for your output. The same things that you do at home to reduce energy costs apply for taking life on the road. The difference is that small changes have a lot more weight in an RV than they do at home.
Little things matter.
For example, switching from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs carries some significant cost savings. Your average 100-watt incandescent bulb can take an energy toll of about 876 kWh. If you swapped it out for a 16-watt LED, you’d cut that amount by over 80 percent to 14 kWh.
Do the math. This simple change will pay off with a solar-powered system.
You should also consider upgrading your appliances if they are a bit older. You may find it worthwhile to invest in an Energy Star model in a newer vintage. The savings can easily eclipse the initial cost. Solar power with an RV is probably more a game of numbers than it is in an on-grid situation, especially when you’re trying to save dollars.
We think it’s good advice in either scenario for portable solar.
If you’ve questioned whether RV solar panels are worth it, the answer is yes. It’s simply a matter of determining your energy needs and finding a kit that can handle your camping style and provide enough reliable power with some wiggle room to spare to make the most out of solar energy.
Our top pick is the Renogy 100 Watts Solar Starter Kit. The Renogy model meets all our needs for a quality product that provides reliable power. The Renogy name is well known in the industry.
There’s no denying the benefits of getting some quality time outdoors. With a solar kit, you can enjoy the peace and quiet without the hum of a generator. You also have the satisfaction of knowing that you made an eco-friendly choice to reduce your carbon footprint even when you’re camping. That fact alone makes RV solar panel kits priceless.