Renewable energy sources are transforming the way we think about fulfilling our power consumption needs either at home or on the road. Choosing one of the best RV solar panel kits can help you remain independent while traveling through areas where you don’t have access to the utility grid.
It also enables you to boondock in style regardless of where you decided to spend the night.
Gathering solar energy instead of relying on generators to power the appliances in your RV minimizes your ecological footprint and helps you stay compliant with noise regulations in national parks and camping grounds.
RV solar panels occupy less space than propane or gasoline-powered generators, which allows you to use the vehicle’s storage capacity to carry other types of gear you might need while you’re off the grid.
In this guide to the best RV solar kits, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the benefits of powering the appliances in your vehicle with solar energy and help you choose the panel that fits your power consumption requirements.
The 5 Best RV Solar Panel kits
|Mighty Max Battery MLS-100WP||Polycrystalline||100W||$$|
|Lion Energy Folding Solar Panel||Monocrystalline||100W||$$$|
|Renogy Solar Starter Kit||Monocrystalline||100W||$$$|
|Go Power! Portable Solar Kit||Monocrystalline||100W||$$$|
|Renogy Solar Power System||Monocrystalline||400W||$$$|
Which types of solar panels are included in solar panel kits?
Most RVers don’t really need an external power source, because camping sites usually offer a utility grid hookup. However, if you’re considering RVing or boondocking full-time, then you’re going to need a reliable energy source that will ensure you can use all appliances without any restrictions.
Take a look at the tips that can help you decide if you’re ready to RV full-time if you’re still having second thoughts about living a nomadic lifestyle. One of the things you’ll have to consider once you decide to spend most of your time on the road is the power system you’ll be using.
In order to do so, you will have to learn how to differentiate between types of panels you can find in different solar panel kits. Rigid or fixed solar panels are weather resistant which makes them a great choice if you’re searching for panels you can install on an RV’s roof.
The solar cells in rigid panels are protected by tempered glass that cannot be damaged by high and low temperatures or environmental factors. They come in an aluminum frame and they’re available in a broad range of sizes.
It is worth adding that the majority of solar panel kits contain one or more solar panels. Flexible solar panels don’t have a frame and their cells are protected by a plastic layer. As a result, they adjust to the surface they’re mounted on, which is the reason why they’re a popular choice for teardrop RV owners.
The protective plastic layer on flexible solar panels is prone to scratches, and they’re not as durable as rigid solar panels. However, almost all industry-leading brands offer flexible solar panel kits, so finding a model that can fit on your teardrop trailer shouldn’t be too hard.
Solar panel cell types
Arguably, the most important feature you have to pay attention to while choosing a solar panel kit, are the cells that are located underneath the panel’s protective glass or plastic layer.
Most kits come with solar panels that have Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline, and Amorphous cells, but you might run into kits that include panels equipped with CdTe, HCVP, or CIGS cell types.
Even so, the majority of kits feature either monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels that are equally durable and efficient.
The panels equipped with monocrystalline cells aren’t bulky so it is unlikely that you’ll have issues fitting them on your RV’s roof or struggle to find storage for a portable version of these panels. Polycrystalline solar panels are a bit larger than their monocrystalline counterparts are, but they are more affordable.
Solar panels that utilize amorphous cells are bulky and don’t generate the same amount of energy as other types of panels, but they perform better in cloudy weather than any other type of solar panel cells.
Go through our guide to setting up your RV to find useful tips that can improve your camping experience.
Key components of a solar power system
Panels are just one component of a solar power kit, and you won’t be able to use the energy the panels gather without several other components. So, the system you install in your RV needs to have a controller that prevents the battery from overcharging as well as a couple of battery banks.
You’ll also need a solar power inverter, that will turn the DC electricity into usable AC electricity. Optionally, you can get a battery monitor, if you want to keep track of the battery’s remaining runtime.
Opting for a solar panel kit that contains all of these components may be a good idea if you’re setting up your first RV solar power system because it will spare you the trouble of looking for compatible parts.
Check out our guide to the most popular RV accessories that can make your life off the grid easier.
RV solar panel kit installation process
RV owners who don’t want to install panels on the roof of their vehicle should opt for portable solar panel kits. The setup process is straightforward since you just have to position the panels facing the sun and connect them to a battery.
You have to keep rotating them as the sun moves along the horizon, and you’ll have to pack the panels when you no longer want to use them. Installing solar panels on the RV’s roof eliminates the need to go through the setup process every time you want to gather solar energy.
This option isn’t without its downsides, as it prevents you from adjusting the position of the panels so that they are always directly exposed to the sun. However, roof-mounted solar panels enable you to gather energy while driving.
Read our guide to the best historical sites in British Columbia if you’re planning your next RVing adventure.
Cost and maintenance requirements of RV solar panel kits
Several factors can affect the cost of an RV solar power kit. For instance, mounting solar panels on RV’s roof will somewhat increase the installation costs of the entire system. The number of panels you have to get depends on your daily power consumption needs.
On average, a single 100W RV solar panel will produce between 300W and 450W per day, which should be enough to power low power consumption appliances. Most RVers choose kits that contain at least two panels in an effort to maximize the power output of their solar power system.
So, if you decide to purchase two solar panels for your RV you’ll have to spend between $200 and $1000, but you’ll have to factor in the price of batteries that can cost anywhere between $50 and $700, as well as all other accessories that aren’t included in a kit.
Once you’ve acquired all the components of the RV solar power system, you won’t have to spend money or time on maintaining it. Read our guide on how to budget for full-time RVing if you need assistance estimating the costs of living in an RV.
The advantages of RV solar panel kits
Minimal ecological footprint
Unlike generators that produce fumes that are harmful to the environment, solar panel kits harvest the energy without affecting the environment. In addition, they reduce the amount of money you have to spend on fuel.
Allows RVers to store energy
Getting multiple solar batteries will enable you to store energy on sunny days. It takes approximately 5 hours to charge a completely drained 12V battery, which means that you can fully charge at least two batteries in a day with a solar power system that contains two 100W panels.
An average life expectancy of a solar panel kit is between 25 and 30 years, so by installing a solar power system in your RV you’re making a long-term investment that will save you a lot of money through the years.
Some components of the kit may have to be replaced more frequently as they are not as durable as solar panels.
The disadvantages of RV solar panel kits
Power collecting capabilities depend on weather conditions
Solar panels need direct sun exposure to harness the maximum amount of solar energy, and if they’re not correctly positioned or if a part of the panel is in the shade the kit will generate less power.
Factors worth considering while choosing RV solar panel kits
Choosing an RV solar panel kit isn’t necessarily a complex process, but paying attention to the model’s features can help you find a kit that meets your demands.
Even a seemingly insignificant detail like the panel’s dimension can become important if you want to mount it on the RV’s roof. That’s why you have to go through the specifications of each component in the kit you’re interested in to find out if it’s suitable for the context in which you want to use it.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important factors you need to take into consideration while choosing a solar panel kit. Go through our guide to traveling alone in an RV if you’re planning to go on the road solo.
Power consumption needs
Estimate how much power you need for an entire day by checking the power consumption of all appliances in your RV. This will enable you to choose a solar panel kit that can generate enough power to run all equipment you use on a daily basis.
How often are you planning on using a solar panel kit?
The upfront cost of installing a solar power system in an RV can be too high if you’re using the vehicle for occasional camping trips. On the other hand, if you’re spending a lot of time on the road, getting several solar panels can turn out to be a great investment.
Panel’s cell type
Besides affecting the cost of a solar panel kit, cell types also affect its efficiency. You should choose a monocrystalline cell type if you want to use the kit even when the weather is partially cloudy.
Opting for the CIGS panel is a good choice if you want to maximize the power output of the solar power system you install on the roof of an RV.
Battery bank compatibility
Lead-acid and Lithium-ion are the two most common types of solar batteries. You must check if the solar panel kit is compatible with a particular type of battery bank. The durability of the batteries is yet another factor you have to consider since some battery types can’t last longer than five years.
Roof-mounted vs portable solar panel kits
Roof-mounted and portable solar panel kits have their advantages and disadvantages. The biggest downside of mounting a solar panel on the RV’s roof is the lack of rotation options, so they won’t receive the same amount of sunlight throughout the day.
On the other hand, portable solar panel kits are only a good option if you want to gather solar energy while you’re at a campsite.
Top 5 RV solar panel kits
Mighty Max Battery MLS-100WP – The most affordable RV solar panel kit
Polycrystalline cells make the Mighty Max Battery MLS-100WP solar panel kit a suitable choice for RV owners who live in warm climates. The panel included in this kit has a sturdy weather-resistant aluminum frame that protects it from hail, snow, or rain.
The MC4 connectors and predrilled holes make the installation of this solar panel a straightforward process. You can charge 12V batteries with the 100V solar panel and you can connect to a series of 24V and 48V solar panels.
The manufacturer offers a one-year warranty for this model, and you have to cover the repair cost if the panel breaks down after the warranty period expires.
- Compatible with 24V and 48V solar panels
- Lightweight and compact design
- Simple installation process
- All other components of the solar power system must be purchased separately
- Polycrystalline cells don’t generate energy efficiently when partially covered by shade
Lion Energy Portable Folding Solar Panel – The most lightweight RV solar panel kit
RVers in need of a kit they can set up or pack quickly should consider getting the Lion Energy Portable Folding solar panel. You can choose if you want to mount the panel to the RV’s roof or use it as a portable panel.
This Lion Energy’s kit comes with the Savanna CC charger controller, a 25-foot connecting cable, and a 400W inverter. You will have to purchase the batteries and the mounting equipment for the kit separately.
This folding solar panel can supply you with enough energy to power electronics but its power output isn’t large enough to power all appliances in an RV.
- Features monocrystalline PV cells
- A tempered glass layer protects the panel from harsh weather conditions
- The panel comes with a controller and an inverter
- Silver backing prevents overheating
- Batteries are not included in the kit
- Low power output
Renogy Solar Starter Kit – Best for novice RVers
Manufactured by one of the industry-leading brands, the Renogy Solar Starter Kit is an excellent option for RVers who are setting up their first solar power system. This kit includes a 100W 12V Mono Solar panel, solar panel connectors, 30A PWM negative charge controller, and mounting brackets for RVs.
The monocrystalline cells have 21% efficiency and are protected by a thick layer of tempered glass. The 30A PWM negative charge controller lets you create systems that have the maximum power output capacity of 400W.
The battery isn’t included in the kit and you must purchase it separately which will increase the overall cost of the Renogy Solar Starter kit.
- A sturdy aluminum frame is designed for outdoor use
- Highly efficient cells
- Charge control enables users to create 400W systems
- Reasonably priced
- Insufficient power output to power an entire RV
- Batteries for this solar panel can be expensive
Go Power! Portable Solar Kit – The best portable solar panel kits
You can set up the Go Power! Portable Solar Kit in just a few moments which enables you to replenish your power supply every time you decide to take a break. The 130W panel features legs that can be easily adjusted to different terrains and it is equipped with monocrystalline cells.
You will get clamps that enable you to recharge batteries, and all the cables you need to harvest solar energy with this panel. In addition, the Go Power!’s model features a built-in 10A PWM charge controller that enables you to pair it with an existing solar power system.
- A carrying case is included in the kit
- Requires a minimum amount of storage space
- The manufacturer offers a 25-year warranty
- Equipped with a built-in charge controller
- More expensive than solar panel kits with similar power output capabilities
- The inverter isn’t included in the kit
Renogy Solar Power System – The most powerful solar power system
The Renogy Solar Power System contains 4 100W solar panels and a 40A MPPT solar charge controller. The panels feature monocrystalline cells that have a 21% efficiency rating, while the controller provides 98% conversion efficiency.
In addition, the controller has a 99% tracking efficiency, and a 4-stage battery charging process ensures that the batteries are charged quickly and safely. All panels in this kit are IP65 rated which means that the environmental conditions don’t affect them.
You will find holes at the back of the panel that allow you to complete the installation process effortlessly.
- Generates enough energy to power most RV appliances
- ANL and In-Line fuses are waterproof
- Bluetooth module enables users to control the system from a Smartphone
- Excellent price
- Short tray and fuse cables
- Might be too large to fit on the roof of an RV
Frequently asked questions about RV solar panel kits
Question: What is the optimum temperature for RV solar panels?
Answer: The operating temperature of most RV solar panels ranges from 176F to -40F, so chances are that the kit you choose won’t be affected by extremely cold or hot temperatures.
Question: How to calculate my power consumption needs?
Answer: The total amount of power you will need depends on the number of appliances you want to use. The best way to calculate the average power consumption is to list all appliances in your RV and then check their surge and running wattage.
Question: Do RV solar panel kits work in cloudy weather?
Answer: Yes, they do, but their performance is between 10 and 25% lower than on a sunny day.
Question: Do I need an RV solar panel kit?
Answer: You don’t need an RV solar power system if you’re using the vehicle occasionally and for shorter trips. However, solar panels are ideal for boondocking as they enable you to use electricity without disturbing anyone.
Our verdict: Which RV solar panel kit should you choose?
Having access to electricity while you’re away from camp can be essential in countless scenarios, and for that reason, a growing number of RV owner chooses to install solar power systems.
These systems can generate enough energy to power all essential appliances for a long time, although you shouldn’t expect impressive power outputs. We recommend choosing the Renogy Solar Power System if you’re looking to maximize the amount of power you can generate in one day.
RVers who are searching for their first solar power system should consider getting the Renogy Solar Starter Kit.
Which of the best RV solar panel kits are you going to choose? Let us know in the comments or continue reading our guide to the best RV travel destinations.