When looking into the best solar panel to rig your recreational vehicle with, you are hoping to upgrade your RV life. One obvious reason why people buy recreational vehicles and motor homes is that they want to live on the road and move from one place to another freely. Maybe, your one of us who prefers to live in a home that can take you anywhere at the same time.
You call your recreational vehicle home, and you don’t have to live the traditional life of having the same location. The things that you could do and the places you can explore are limitless when you have a recreational vehicle. You don’t have to constantly consider staying near the places where you can have access to electricity.
You can have plenty of adventures and wander to different places. And deciding to get a solar panel for your recreational vehicle is probably one of the best decisions you’ll ever make as an RV owner. You’ll be free to roam around and enjoy the benefits of going off-grid.
The solar panel system is probably the cleanest and quietest energy source. And not to mention that this choice is also eco-friendly. Installing your recreational vehicle with one gives you access to excellent benefits, and the best part is you only have to pay one time. You will not have electric bills delivered to you. In fact, if you make an investment in the best solar panel system, you will be recharging your car’s batteries independently.
I don’t have to remind you that solar panel systems are known to last a long time while also not needing frequent maintenance. Solar power panel’s components are readily found on the market. You’ll be proud of your choice because you’re going for a power source that is noiseless, odorless, and non-pollutant. You can have fun without compromises.
Here, we have the top 10 solar panel kits that will help you decided which one is ideal for your needs and RV life. I hope that this shortlist of the top-rated solar power system will be a great help in your search for the ideal model to help you with your needs on the road. I have also included a FAQ section to answer common questions about solar power systems and their components.
The Top 10 RV Solar Panels and Kits of 2019
- Efficient solar power kit for off-grid options
- Promotes independence from electrical grids
- The package is inclusive of all the tools for installation and operation
- 30A Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) which makes it expandable to 400 watts
- Safety features to prevent battery reversal, overcharging, overloading, and short circuit
- Lack of instructions on how to install
- Supplies a generous power at 100 watts
- Allows to run multiple electronic devices simultaneously
- Can be linked to other solar panels to provide extra charging
- Resistant to harsh weather elements including snow and wind
- Equipped to have high solar module efficiency
- This unit is much heavier compared to flexible solar power kits
- Battery recharging without annoying noise
- Features fast and safe battery charging
- Features maximum power at 200 watts
- Features compatibility with off-grid operations
- Made with sturdy and corrosion-resistant aluminum frame
- This unit is a little bit pricey
- High reliability and efficiency thanks to its polycrystalline components
- Solid quality of construction; wind-proof and snow-proof
- Ease of installation and operation
- Convenient to mount and secure
- Features aluminum frame for resistance to corrosion
- This unit a little bit heavy
- Boasts efficiency when used as backup power or when going off-grid
- Power supply at 100 watts
- Equipped with regulator charge to let you monitor and control the values
- Features versatility and compatible with home, boat, and cabin installation
- Offers flexibility for future panel extensions
- This unit has an average quality compared to mono-crystalline types of solar panels
- Charges your car batteries in no time
- Inclusive of a solar charge controller
- Supplies power capped at 120 watts
- Equipped with wires and clamps to easily connect with your auto batteries
- Inclusive of a bag for convenient transport
- This model is a little expensive
- Features compact solar panels
- Features ease of setup and installation
- Compatible and versatile; can be used in different applications
- Comes with a suitcase to protect the panel
- Designed to be portable and manageable
- A vague and confusing set of instructions
- Guaranteed to have an extended service life
- Can be used with different applications thanks to its ability to flex up to 248 degrees
- Thin enough for stealthy arrangements
- Boasts excellent durability
- Features ease of installation
- The solar panel has sharp edges
- Equipped with high-performance solar cells for improved solar panel performance
- Boasts heavy-duty qualities and excellent durability
- Features convenient and fast installation process
- Withstands snowfall, hail, and strong breeze
- Can be used for heavy applications and setups
- Unfortunately equipped with a substandard junction box
- Optimum efficiency and more powerful in comparison to traditional solar panels
- Excellent durability and strength guaranteed
- Features a sealed and water-resistant junction box
- Features bendability to make it versatile for different setups
- Ease of installation and mounting
- The cables are a little difficult to route
Everything You Need to Know About RV Solar Panels
Installing photovoltaic solar panels is becoming more popular among recreational vehicle owners and motor homeowners alike. And why not if this ingenious invention makes you feel at home with its amenities. Good words about its benefits are doing the talking. I have here a list of the important things that may have an impact on your decisions on which model to buy:
You might call your recreational trailer or camper your home because it has the facilities and amenities found in a house. However, the biggest difference it has with a house is, of course, its space. A motor home doesn’t have a wide interior because the aim is to have functional spaces. And this also means you don’t have a wide space to put your solar power panels. You need to go for a model that is in the right size with the space that you have without compromising its output.
And don’t forget that efficiency is equivalent to how much of the harvested solar energy is converted to energy or electricity. The amount is commonly expressed in percentage.
When looking for the ideal solar power panel to install on your RV, you have to be sure that it will be able to supply you with sufficient electrical output to run all the electronic devices and appliances that you have or planning to have in your recreational vehicle. A solar power system can only be described as highly efficient if your vehicle receives enough voltage. So you had better identify the system’s efficiency by checking its type.
There are three types of solar panels to suit different needs. I’d say that amorphous types of solar panels are the cheapest ones that you can find, but I think that’s because you really can’t expect much from them. If you’re looking for an efficient system, this might not be the one to cater to all your needs.
Polycrystalline solar panel systems have efficiency measured at 16 percent at maximum. This system type gives off twice as much in comparison to the amorphous type.
The mono-crystalline type is the best choice. It possesses efficiency that goes beyond 16 percent. This type can be the perfect solution to run all those devices and appliances you have in your recreational vehicle.
Your location also has a say what kind of solar power kit is ideal for your specific needs. It’s important to have your solar panel bask in the sunlight, and it’s best if you can take advantage of it while the sun is high. You might be somewhere that receives lesser sunlight. If so, you need to get a kit with an excellent efficiency rate.
The wattage of a solar panel system is simply explained as the stable current that the system outputs. The wattage is determined by the output current generated by each cell.
Getting a solar panel system that has higher wattage is a good move because it means you have enough supply to support all your electricity needs. Also, it guarantees an excellent efficiency rate for whatever you plug to your power source.
One thing that you should consider before just choosing any model with high wattage is the voltage. It also has to be just the one you need. Solar panel systems don’t come cheap. You might want to consider buying just a small one at first. And then, you have the choice to upgrade it, maybe get a set with a pair of panels later on.
Solar panels are expected to be prone to wearing out and aging since they are exposed to the weathers. But choosing a kit with durable make and materials can extend the life of your solar power kit. If possible, don’t settle on cheap models as these couldn’t possibly be of service for a long time. You don’t really want to be back to reading reviews to look for a replacement too soon. It won’t really help you to save money if you think of it this way. This might even cost you more, and what about the inconveniences and troubles?
Reliability when on the move
You are looking into buying a solar power kit because you already know that going off the grid offers the comfort of knowing that you can still use your electrical devices and appliances. You don’t have to park somewhere to connect to a power source. And we are in luck because right now the systems on the market aren’t expensive.
Use your RV appliances and even recharge your vehicle’s battery. Getting the right one will give you stable access to reliable power to use your radio, television, lights, and other appliances.
When you’ve made up your mind to get a solar power kit, think about how efficient and reliable it will be. Starting with a set with dual panels isn’t so bad. This way you can avoid overestimating and buying a huge solar power kit unnecessarily.
I would advise you to start small because you can always expand later.
Before you seal the deal, check out the portability of the solar power system. You want to have a portable system for your recreational vehicle. Of course, since you’ll be using it with your vehicle you want it to have ease carrying it around.
If it’s portable, chances are it will also be easy and convenient to install. But don’t let this advice discourage you if you already have your eyes on a big solar power kit. I would just advise you to get a kit that has cables to help you move it around.
OTHER FACTORS TO BE CONSIDERED
There are still more things that you have to get acquainted with before you can decide which solar power system can solve your problems with electricity on the road.
What’s an RV solar power kit?
Solar panels can also be installed in recreational vehicles and motor homes if you want to go off the grid. It has panels that collect sunlight to transform it into electricity. This means you don’t have to be hooked up to a power line to use your electronic devices and appliances.
Installation might eat some time especially if you’re going to do it by yourself without professional’s help. But it’s definitely worth going through the trouble because you’ll now have free power. This is an excellent innovation for people who are so into wandering and exploring distant places and
A solar power kit helps you bring down the energy consumption while not asking for too much effort on your end. You’ll only be needing sunlight to energize your electrical devices and appliances on board.
It’s much easier and convenient than sticking with a generator which has the tendency to create much noise when in use. A solar power kit is an answer for the prayers of enthusiasts and RV owners who want to be off-grid. You don’t just enjoy a noiseless power source, but it also makes you proud knowing that you’re not harming the environment in any way.
You might think that it’s kind of expensive, but I assure you that it will pay off. You’ll soon realize that a solar power kit is totally cost-efficient compared to refilling a liquid propane gas tank.
If you still need information about the different types of solar power kits and the advantages of solar energy, I’d advise reading on. The rest of this article might just give you a little more push to add it in your shopping cart.
How does a solar power kit work?
A solar power kit provides solar energy. Actually, investing in some solar panels lets you have access to energy to run your appliances on board. One of the important things that you have to do is to install the solar panel of the roof of your recreational vehicle or wherever you think you can take advantage of the sunlight.
You may have to get more solar panels if you will be energizing a lot of appliances in your motor home. After installation, the solar panels will harvest sunlight and convert it into solar energy. Once converted, the energy will travel through the cables that connect the solar panels as one.
Solar energy then can be supplied to your recreational vehicle. But there aren’t just three steps to give you access to solar power. The entire process also has some stops. Solar charge control is the component which transmits the generated power to your vehicle’s auto battery system.
This component is responsible for regulating the transmission of power to avoid your batteries from getting overcharged. Doing so preserves the functionality and extends the lifespan of your batteries. You want to prevent overcharging because this can cause more complications and more money for repairs or possible replacement.
The generated solar power is now available for use after being transmitted. But don’t go forgetting that the power stored in your vehicle’s batteries is still in the direct current version.
Direct current power can be used by plugging your cell phone charger with an adapter in the cigarette plug. The solar energy will only have limited use in this case. Fortunately, they have also invented inverters.
Inverters easily convert DC power to AC power. Once converted, the solar energy can flow to the breaker box to be distributed to the power outlets in your recreational vehicle. And then you can plug and energize more devices and your appliances onboard.
Types of RV Solar Panels
Currently, the market has three kinds of solar panels. For this part, I’ll be giving you an outline of the differences and a little information about them.
Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Cell
This is the type of panel that is usually installed in recreational vehicles. This type is made up of solar crystals which are few in numbers and small in size. It’s made by melting raw silicon and pouring it into a square mold.
Power loss compared to monocrystalline silicon is higher by one percent but it’s too trivial to have any effects. A model of this type is still a superb investment despite that.
Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Cell
This type is made with a single large crystal of silicon. We can say that this type has the highest efficiency among the three types because the power yield is a high charge. Low light conditions will not be a problem because it’s still capable of supplying high output to cater for your energy needs.
Amorphous Silicon Solar Cell
This type also goes by the name thin-film because it is the silicon solar cells are spread on a wide bed. The best feature of this type is its affordability. But of course, it also doesn’t produce much power. In fact, this type has the lowest amount of output compared with the other two. Panels with amorphous silicon solar cells are still functional, but you will have to allocate a lot of roof space for it. To provide the same power as polycrystalline and mono-crystalline, it has to wider by three times.
Advantages of Having a Solar Panel on RV
If you are constantly on the move jumping from one campsite to another, solar panels will be a cost-effective and practical investment. Installing your recreational vehicle with solar panels opens doors of opportunities.
Electrical Power Supply
When your recreational vehicle is equipped with a solar panel kit, you have a secured and steady supply of power. It doesn’t matter how far you wander to as long as that place receives sunlight. You don’t have to be bound by worries about not having access to electricity. And if ever you find yourself in a pinch, there’s a backup plan.
Efficient charging of your vehicle’s batteries
One of the greatest benefits derived from having solar panels at hand is the steady supply of energy that is up to charge your auto batteries. When you charge your car’s batteries the natural way, it’s possible to maximize and extend the car battery life.
Noiseless and Clean
Who doesn’t want a quiet and clean operation? You will be doing our environment a favor when you opt for solar panels over generators. You don’t have to buy any fuel to run it. And solar energy doesn’t emit pollutants. Plus, harvesting and managing solar energy are both easy. It will make you feel good to have a steady source of energy without causing harm to the environment.
Furthermore, a solar power kit doesn’t have any moving components. So that means that you don’t have to bear with a motor noise just to power your devices and appliances. You don’t have to make that compromise. It’s also a piece of cake to use. You just have to place the panels where it can bask in the sunlight and harvest solar energy for your use.
Maximized Auto Batteries
This advantage is connected with the fact that solar panels generate DC power every time the panels are exposed to the sunlight. This is good news for your recreational vehicle’s batteries because in this way the saturation of your batteries are slow and stabilized every day.
So this means minimizing the chances of your batteries getting deep discharges too frequently. These discharges aren’t good news as they only have negative impacts on your auto batteries’ life especially if you have lead-acid kind of batteries.
A fully functional and well-designed charging system can let your lead-acid type of batteries last up to two times longer.
Launches Electrical Independence
You no longer have to be somewhere near an electric post to use or recharge your electrical devices and appliances. You can go away from civilization and still enjoy the benefits and convenience of modern technology when your recreational vehicle is rigged with solar panels. But, of course, you have to find the ideal model that can generate enough energy for your needs. You have to get the one in proper sizes and has appropriate features. It’ll be much better than running a generator which to some degree gives electrical independence.
Low-maintenance Power Supply
Don’t forget that solar power kits for your RV life don’t need a drop of fuel. And again, they don’t have motors that produce that steady hum or annoying engine sounds. So also means that no components will corrode due to constant friction.
No changing of fuel, air filters, and engine oils necessary. Cleaning and maintenance will only refer to dusting and cleaning the panels.
Excellent Reliability and Security
Most often than not, recreational vehicles run below thirty amps and specifically at 12 volts. Therefore, electrocution and electrical fires have slimmer chances of happening. Solar power kits equipped with appropriate fuses and cables can give you peace of mind.
For the kit itself together with the installation, you will have to spend some good money. But it’s a one-time payment that lets you reap the benefits of solar energy. You will be making a very healthy investment because you don’t have to feed it with fuel. Your power supply will be generated from sunlight which is free.
Promotes More Exploration
Now you can go as far as you want without having to worry about the limited power supply. A solar power kit allows you to go on more adventures and even pay visits to the wilderness. You can have liberation from worries about electricity and power.
Noise at minimum
Are you one of us RV owners who are into camping out to take in the natural scenery outdoors and reconnect with nature? Having a recreational vehicle lets you take some time out from the lights and noises of urban life. So it doesn’t make sense to bring a generator which is infamous for making annoying and distressing sounds.
It’ll be too sad if you have gone to a tranquil place to relax but bring a noisy machine at the same time. Plus, the noise from a generator won’t sit well with the other campers at the campsite.
Fortunately, technology has blessed us with solar power kits which are as quiet as a mouse. You don’t have to ruin the mood or disturb other people while you are using solar energy.
This is my favorite thing about solar power kits. You don’t really need to put serious effort into maintaining them. It helps to get the well-designed solar panels because you’ll also get a 100% assurance that there’ll be no hassles in the maintenance.
This benefit is related to the fact that solar power kits don’t have moving parts which are prone to wear out. You don’t need a drop of fuel to make it run, too. This means you don’t have to buy filter replacements like when you use generators. If ever your solar power kit accumulates dirt, non-abrasive cleaners are all you need to bring back its excellent condition.
From time to time, you also have to check on the mounts and fasteners. They might be loosened by a few factors like contraction, vibration, and expansion brought about by the varying temperatures.
In case you will be buying flooded batteries, I’d advise you to monitor the water level every month or quarterly adding the right amount of pure water when necessary. Wire connections should also be cleaned right away when there are signs of corrosion and wears.
Guaranteed Lower Emissions
You will be a proud user of solar energy knowing that you’re not doing harm to the environment in exchange for your comfort and convenience. This type of energy is a very considerate option for the environment because its emission is way lower than the average for other kinds of energy.
I’m not saying generators are great offenders because manufacturers, of course, stick with the emission guidelines. But when we compare generators and solar power kits, the latter will be a much better option for the benefit of the environment and yours.
Using generators usually pose threats of carbon monoxide poisoning. On the other hand, solar power systems are free of it.
This kind of poisoning rarely happens, but you just cannot dismiss the chances of it happening. Generators are equipped to detect carbon monoxide, but I cannot fully depend on it because there are reports of them malfunctioning. For peace of mind, solar power kits are better options.
I’m glad to share the good news that solar panels are also convenient to use. After installation, you just leave it there to collect sunlight. You don’t have to fiddle too much and put in a lot of effort to have access to electricity.
The management of solar panels is as easy, too. You just have to make to check on the panels from time to time to get rid of dirt so that you can use them for a long time.
RV Solar Panels FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here are some of the most asked questions that pop out when someone is looking for the best solar panel system for their recreational vehicle or motor home:
What are the most common types of solar panels?
There are three common kinds of solar power kits. The first one is equipped with mono-crystalline solar cells. It’s the best choice because it has higher efficiency and higher output yield. You can depend on this time even when there’s only low light.
The second type has polycrystalline solar cells which supply power that is behind by just one percent in comparison to mono-crystalline types. Most of the solar power kits that can be found on the market today feature polycrystalline solar panels.
The last type has an amorphous type of panels. Silicon is spread out on a wide bed to make the panels. This type is the least expensive. However, the power output yield is also the least compared to the other two types. I don’t think you will save much from getting this type because you will need 3 panels of this type to have similar yield with a single panel made with mono-crystalline or polycrystalline solar cells.
How do solar power kits work?
Solar power kits convert sunlight into usable energy or electricity. The panels when hit by the rays of the sun create power. The gathered power is then transmitted into the charge controller. This component of the solar power kit is responsible for controlling the amount of power that goes into the battery of your recreational vehicle.
When inside the battery, the power is converted to DC type. An inverter comes into play next which converts DC to AC. AC is the kind of power that you need to energize and operate your devices and appliances including phones, laptops, coffee makers, and induction stove.
What are the advantages of solar panels for RV owners?
One major advantage is the fact that installing a solar power kit on your recreational vehicle is easy. You don’t have to feed it with fuel and with that, you will not be contributing to the air pollution. Since there are no engines, there will be no engine sounds. Solar power kits also maximize the vehicle’s battery life.
This is due to the fact that solar panels generate DC with every exposure to the sunlight. This is the kind of power that auto batteries prefer. Furthermore, you don’t have to plan where to park just so you can connect to a power source.
You don’t have to plug into a power source and therefore enjoy the privileges of going off-grid. And of course, solar power kits have high reliability and doesn’t require much maintenance.
What are charge controllers for?
When you have made your mind up to buy a solar power system, take note that there are 3 types of charge controllers to choose from. The first one has a simple single or dual stage. This means that it features shunt transistors which control the voltage using one or two steps. It shorts the solar panel when the appropriate voltage has been reached.
The next type is the PWM controller. It stands for pulse width modulated regulator. This kind of charge controller has the traditional design which also makes it the standard form in the industry.
The last one is the Maximum Power Point Tracking or simply called MPPT. It identifies the appropriate amp and voltage which results in more power which is about 10 to 30 percent higher of the sun cluster.
Any of these three gives to full control of the amount of voltage that goes to your devices. They open the circuit and stop the charge when the voltage reaches an alarming level.
How many panels do I need to run my air conditioning unit?
Well, I can’t say for sure because it actually depends on the wattage of your air conditioner. But the average air conditioner unit would need 3 to 4 solar panels to operate properly. So that gives RV owners a good estimate. Be sure to check on your air conditioner’s wattage to confirm the exact number of panels you need for it. Take a look at our in-depth article on the subject for more information.
How much solar energy does my recreational vehicle need?
The easiest way to calculate your recreational vehicle’s exact power requirements is to go camping without an AC generator. Doing so will give you information about how long can our batteries last without help from generators.
If it takes 3 days before you drain out your batteries, then it must mean that your batteries can supply energy that is about 200 amp hours. But the problem is that you cannot fully utilize this energy. Only 75% of this energy is available for use.
Keeping this fact in mind, a battery with 200 amp will give you 150 usable amp. Divide this by the time it took for your batteries to run out. This means 150 amp/hours divided by 3 days. So now you know that 50 amp-hours are consumed each day.
A solar power kit with 100 watts supplies approximately 6 amps in an hour when the sun is high. This means that can supply about thirty amp hours daily. With this information, you might have to get a pair of solar panels with 100 watts to successfully recharge your recreational vehicle to full power.
How do I size my new solar panel?
Sizing is done conveniently if you’re of how to do it properly. First of all, identify and list down all the devices and appliances that you have that runs on direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). And then also write down how long you use them on a daily basis. You have to do the math and compute the sum of amps used in a week.
The daily total amp should be multiplied by the number of days you use in a week. And finally, match the total number of amps with a solar power solution.
Will I be needing additional hardware?
The answer is yes. You might need to make additional purchases that are needed to install your solar panel to your recreational vehicle. But you don’t have to worry too much because almost all of them might already be included in the package when you buy them. Installation kits should have mount adapters, mounting L, tilt bars, T knobs, rocker sets for the mounting, tape, and sealant.
What brands of solar panels are the best for RVs?
Fortunately, you have a lot of choices to choose from:
- Go Power
If you buy the best solar panel for your recreational vehicle or motor home use, you will have an easier time recharging your vehicle’s battery bank with help from a power source that is abundant and costs next to nothing. You just have to choose a spot in the campsite that receives a lot of sunlight. Equipping your vehicle with one of the top rated solar panels comes with a lot of benefits for you. It will be especially advantageous if you’re the type of camper who prefers boondocking and dry camping. Generators also provide RV owners with power, but we are blessed with innovations that make it more convenient to generate power away from home.
The best recreational vehicle solar panel system ensures that you’ll always have access to electricity even when you are away from home. You will have the same level of convenience and comfort that you are used to when you’re at home although this time you can take those comforts with you anywhere, too. Solar power kits allow you to make a one-time payment for an unlimited and free energy source. You’ll be doing yourself a favor, and you’ll also be doing the environment a huge favor when you choose to have a solar power system over a generator.
Thanks for taking the time to read the entirety of this article. Check out our reviews as well as ratings on the best surge protectors and generators to help you choose the best one to equip your recreational vehicle with. Furthermore, we’ve also got a shortlist of the best converters, inverters, and batteries that are guaranteed to make your RV life more convenient and more comfortable. We have them all at our power and electrical supplies for recreational vehicles.