Renogy 100W RV Solar Kit
After putting it through its paces, the Renogy 100W topped our list to become our best RV solar kit. This Renogy solar kit is a terrific portable option for the astute RVer of today.
How so? For starters, it has a monocrystalline solar panel boasting high efficiency cells. Being a monocrystalline panel, it produces a higher energy output than most other options and performs better in warmer weather as well.
The panel has iron-tempered glass for protection, making it resistant to wind, hail, and snow loads. Meanwhile, the junction box and MC4 connectors are IP65 and IP67 waterproof rated, so they can withstand up to three feet of water immersion.
In other words, this Renogy model is built for the camping life. However, since the legs mount onto thin plastic blocks that have the potential to crack, we recommend packing it away and taking shelter inside if the weather at your campsite takes a severe turn for the worst.
Bottom Line: The Renogy 100W has one of the best solar panels for RV use on the market. From its power output and efficiency to its durability and quality construction, it ranks right up there with the best in the business in all of the categories that matter most.
Best RV Solar Kit for Powering Your Outdoor Pursuits
Solar power and the camping lifestyle go hand-in-hand. By outfitting your “freedom rig” (as we like to call RVs), with a solar power kit, you can enjoy the off-grid freedom your inner “Jeremiah Johnson” desires.
However, in our experience not all solar panels for RVs are created equal. To get the lowdown on the different types of panels and the amount of power they generate, make sure to keep reading. Learn all about RV solar kits and discover some of the best options on the market today!
Looking for the Best Solar Kit for RVs?
- Why you need camper solar panels
- What you should consider when buying.
- Reviews of the top RV solar kits on the market
- Our unbiased recommendation on the #1 solar panel kit for RV use
How to Choose the Right Solar Panels for an RV
Despite being simple to use nowadays, RV solar power systems can be a little intimidating to the uninitiated. For more information you can check out our RV electrical systems guide here.
The truth is it helps to know a little bit about them in order to not only feel comfortable relying on solar 40 miles from the nearest gas station but to also pick the best one for your experience and off-grid solar power needs.
So, let’s start by taking a closer look at some RV solar panel kits and go over how they work, what features you need to consider, and lastly, how to calculate your energy needs. Then, we’ll get to the good stuff.
Solar Panels for RV – How Do They Work?
Solar panel kits make use of panels constructed of solar cells. These cells absorb energy from the sun and convert it into electricity (or as we like to call it, “free power”).
That’s the general concept. In more explicit terms, photons from the sun, which contain natural kinetic energy, continuously hit the silicon wafer of a solar panel. When they do, electrons are released, creating electricity that then flows through the panel’s cells.
However, RV portable solar panels don’t store electricity; they merely generate it and act as a power source.
The Direct Current flows from the cells through the PV wires and to the inverter, where it’s converted to usable Alternating Current power. Then, it runs through the charge controller, which stabilizes the voltage before reaching the battery where it’s stored for use.
RV Solar Panel Kits – Key Features
While there are a few solar kits for RVs that stand out ahead of the rest, the right one for you will largely depend on your RV and specific energy needs.
That said, all good RV and motorhome solar panels and kits have some common key features:
The solar panel is the meat and potatoes of any kit. It allows you to capture the sun’s energy, and with higher-quality RV solar panels, you can even do so on days when the sunlight is less than ideal.
As mentioned, each panel is made up of solar cells, with each cell made of silicon. The purer the silicon used and the better the construction of the cells, the higher the output and the greater the conversion efficiency of the panel.
When shopping for RV solar panels, you’ll find two types of portable solar panels to choose from. Monocrystalline solar panels are constructed from purified silicon, making them more efficient and effective. Polycrystalline solar panels, on the other hand, have less pure crystalline structures, making them less efficient but also less costly.
If you’re living or camping in an area with limited sunlight, you’ll want to go with higher-grade monocrystalline panels. However, if you’re in the desert southwest or somewhere with plenty of sunshine, polycrystalline panels will likely serve you just fine.
Unless you only plan on setting the system up on the ground next to your battery bank while camped for a day or two at a sweet little spot, you’ll need enough roof space to mount it without obstruction by the air conditioner, antenna, or other hardware.
The energy produced by RV solar panels isn’t steady. Instead, it surges and ebbs and flows, which can damage or affect the performance of the battery.
A solar charge controller solves this dilemma. This device, which is included in every solar kit, uses a process known as pulse width modulation (pwm) to automatically regulate the electric pulses being sent from the solar cells to the battery.
By receiving a steady supply of electricity, the battery is able to charge more quickly and maintain its charge level.
Batteries aren’t included in most solar panel kits for RV travel, but they’re a critical component of RV solar setups and worth discussing. Without a battery bank, you can’t store the power generated from your solar panel for later use.
Most RV batteries are 12 volts and rated for 100-ampere hours (Ah). A 100Ah battery can supply you with 100 amps of power for one hour, 10 amps for 10 hours, one amp for 100 hours, and so on.
However, you should never run your battery all the way down to the point where it’s fully discharged. Doing so can result in permanent damage.
Ideally, installing a solar panel should provide enough power to recharge your batteries and keep them above 50 percent. If not, you may need a generator or an electrical hookup to keep them level.
Batteries only store energy as direct current (DC). However, most appliances and devices run on alternating current (AC). A power inverter is needed to convert the power from DC to AC.
Power inverters are rated in watts. A 1500W inverter should be just fine for operating a TV, laptop, lamp, coffee maker, and other small appliances. Still, you’ll need a more powerful inverter to run an air conditioner, refrigerator, and other large appliances.
Just remember, the more power you use, the sooner your battery or batteries will need to be recharged.
To maximize the efficiency of your RV solar setup and make sure you have enough power to stay comfortable in the great outdoors, you need to calculate how much solar power you need.
Remember, the number of ampere-hours (Ah) your batteries can store will determine how much power you’ll be able to use. Meanwhile, the output of your RV solar panel kit will determine how quickly you’ll be able to recharge your batteries.
How to Calculate Your Solar Power Needs
Calculating your power needs comes down to a little math. Let’s start with the conversions.
To convert AC to DC, simply multiply by ten: 10A AC = 100A DC.
Conversely, to convert from DC to AC, you divide by ten: 100A DC = 10A AC.
Why is this important? Well, let’s say your TV runs at 110V AC, which most do, and is rated for 90W. Since Amps = Watts/Voltage we can then calculate that this will draw around 0.81A AC. When we convert it to DC, it draws 8.1A DC.
So, using this example, watching an hour of TV would use 8.1Ah. If you have a 100Ah battery, you would be able to watch around 12 hours of TV before depleting the battery.
However, since you should keep your battery above 50 percent, you would in reality only be able to watch around six hours of TV per charge.
By considering the devices and appliances you plan on using, thinking about how many hours per day you plan on using them and taking note of how many amps they draw, you’ll be able to put together a plan of how much solar power you’ll need.
Not only will you need an RV solar panel kit capable of producing the solar power you need, but you’ll also need enough batteries to store it to genuinely enjoy living off-grid.
The Best Portable RV Solar Kit – The Reviews
Best for Camping
If you’re new to solar power for RV use or indeed RVing in general, the WindyNation 100-watt kit is a great option to keep on your shortlist. Not only is it surprisingly affordable, but it provides everything needed to begin harnessing free and clean solar energy.
With this kit, WindyNation delivers an efficient, reliable solution for portable off-grid power. It’s centered around a 100 watt polycrystalline panel. On an average day, it can produce up to 33-ampere hours and 350-watt hours, which is more than enough to charge an iPhone and power a TV.
The included charge controller is also pretty well-made and allows you to monitor the ampere-hours, amperage, voltage, and load draw. While you can leave the settings as is, experienced users can also fine-tune them for better charging and increased efficiency which is a nice touch.
Best of all, it can handle up to four 12 volts 100-watt panels, so you can add panels as needed without buying another kit. Of course, you’ll need extra batteries then as well.
Speaking of batteries, the solar charge controller is compatible with any deep-cycle battery. However, unlike many other models, this WindyNation kit already comes with a deep-cycle 12 volts 100Ah AGM BattaMax battery. You also get MC4 connectors, a 40-foot solar cable, and mounting hardware, so you’re all set from the get-go!
The panel itself could do with having a beefier frame to better stand up to the elements, but unless you’re driving down the interstate in a hailstorm with it attached to the roof, it should be just fine.
- Includes everything needed to go off-grid
- Simple, straightforward installation
- Can easily add additional panels and batteries
- Panel could be more durable
Bottom-Line: This WindyNation is excellent as a camper van solar panels kit and includes everything needed to help power your off-grid adventures.
Renogy 100W Solar Kit
It doesn’t come with a battery, but the Renogy 100W checks every other box, making it our top pick for today’s best overall solar power system for RV travel.
What other boxes does it check? Good question. Let’s start with arguably the most critical feature, the solar panel.
The Renogy offering is a monocrystalline solar panel for higher energy production and efficiency. It also performs better in warm weather, making it ideal for summer camping trips.
For added durability, the panel is protected by iron-tempered glass. It can handle wind, rain, hail, and snow loads. Meanwhile, the MC4 connectors are IP67 waterproof, and the junction box is IP65 waterproof, so they’ll withstand the heaviest of downpours.
The only downfall of the Renogy 100W is that the panel’s legs are mounted onto thin plastic blocks. So, despite the durability of the rest of the panel’s construction and the other kit components, it’s smart to mount it to the roof of your RV or at least pull it from the ground when the conditions get rough.
- Durable, weather-resistant design
- Great power delivery and efficiency
- Great warranty
- Legs are a bit flimsy
Bottom-Line: The Renogy 100W is well-made and designed to deliver top performance, making it our top pick for the best all-around RV solar kit on the market today.
If you like the complete kit approach of the WindyNation 100W but yearn for a little more power, the WindyNation 400W might be just what you’re after.
It comes with not one but four polycrystalline 100W panels, providing a total power output of 400 watts. Realistically, you can expect it to produce 150-ampere hours and 1,700-watt hours a day. However, as is always the case with solar power, this depends on the weather.
To help you harness so much energy, the kit also comes with four deep-cycle 100Ah AGM batteries, providing you with a whopping 400-ampere hours of power storage. That’s enough to run the AC, refrigerator, microwave, and even a few devices.
In addition to its array of panels and batteries, the kit also includes a P30L charge controller with an LCD screen, which makes it easy to view and adjust the load draw. However, its pulse width modulation unit does this automatically to avoid overloads and the possibility of a short circuit.
Of course, it comes with an inverter, MC4 connectors, solar cable, battery connection cables, and mounting hardware, as well.
Like the WindyNation 100W Kit, the panels could be more durable. However, the only real drawback is the inverter. It works okay, but an upgrade to a better-quality inverter is recommended.
- Lots of solar panels and power
- Batteries included
- Great value
- Inverter isn’t the best
Bottom-Line: The WindyNation 400W Solar system is a superb solution for any camper with high energy demands. It comes with everything you need to cook, relax, and stay cool and connected in the great outdoors.
HQST 100W 12 Volt
Best 24V Solar Kit for RV Use
The HQST 100 watts 12 volts Solar system is another excellent option for those seeking a little more power than the average kit provides. It’s fit for both 12-volt and 24-volt arrays and suitable for several off-grid applications. Whether you want to power a water pump, outdoor lights, or your RV, this kit can do it.
It has an average output of 500-watt hours and 40-ampere hours a day, which is slightly higher than the output of many other setups. From 50 percent, you can expect to fully charge a 100Ah battery in about five hours. If you’re camping in a sunny locale, you can add an extra battery and double your charging time to run the AC, lights, and more.
Since it’s a kit, it also comes with a pwm charge controller, which automatically recognizes either 12V or 24V system voltage. The charge controller is also rated for 400 watts, so you can string several panels and batteries together before needing to invest in another.
A power inverter is also included so that you can power any appliances or electronic devices. However, like many other products on this list, the HQST doesn’t come with a battery or battery cables, so you’ll have to purchase them separately. It’s also a bit bulky and heavy, so while it does come with mounting brackets, the bulk makes installation a little difficult.
- Great for 12V and 24V setups
- Good power delivery
- High-quality, weather-resistant construction
- A little heavy and bulky
- Battery not included
Bottom-Line: The HQST 100 watts 12V model is a well-made, versatile solution for a variety of campers and 12V or 24V setups.
Newpowa 100W 12V Polycrystalline Kit
The Newpowa 100 watts 12 volts Kit features a 36-cell polycrystalline panel that’s suitable for charging any deep-cycle 12V battery. While it won’t charge it as fast as a monocrystalline panel, it will do the job.
Since it’s a kit, it also comes with a charge controller and power inverter, so you can power your RV appliances and devices without buying anything else other than a battery.
Where the Newpowa shines is in its construction and durability. The cells are encapsulated in a protective EVA material, and the back of the panel is covered with TPT for added protection as well.
Unfortunately, this added protection equals a little more weight. While you can still set it up on the ground for use as needed, we recommend taking the “set it and forget it” approach.
- Solid materials and construction
- Easy to install panels
- Good bang for the buck
- Heavier than some other kits
Bottom-Line: The Newpowa 100W 12 volt Solar Panel Kit is durable, budget-friendly and a great option if you’re looking for reliable, weather-resistant off-grid power.
Allpowers SunPower RV Solar Panel
Best RV Solar Panels
The Allpowers SunPower RV Solar Panel is unlike any other on this list. While other solar panels are flat and rigid, the SunPower is bendable. In fact, it can bend up to 30 degrees, making it super versatile and ideal for installation on rounded roofs and angled or uneven surfaces.
Thanks to its frameless design, it’s also incredibly lightweight and portable. Only weighing 4.7 pounds, it weighs ¼ as much as most other solar panels, including the Newpowa above. This means you can pack it up and take it with you virtually anywhere off the beaten path.
Despite the lightweight, flexible solar panel design, the Allpowers SunPower panels are also quite durable. It can withstand up to 113 pounds per square foot of snow load and one-inch hail impacts at over 50 mph. If that weren’t impressive enough, the flexible solar panels are also monocrystalline, so it’s incredibly efficient and performs well in a wide variety of conditions.
Unfortunately, while the panel is excellent, that’s pretty much all you get. If you don’t already have a charge controller, battery, and cables, you’ll need to purchase each of these separately in order to get the panel up and running.
- Versatile bendable design
- Extremely lightweight and portable
- Charge controller, cables, and battery not included
Bottom-Line: The Allpowers SunPower RV Solar Panel Kit is super lightweight and has a unique bendable design, making it a versatile and highly portable solar camping solution.
Go Power! GP-PSK-120 120W Portable Folding Solar Kit
Most Powerful RV Solar Kit
Did we save the best for last? If you define the best RV solar kits as the ones that have the most power, then yes, we certainly did.
As its name suggests, the Go Power! can produce a hefty amount of energy, making it great for powering multiple devices and living the on-the-go camper lifestyle.
Unlike other solar kits, its panel can generate up to 120 watts of power each and every hour. This is more than enough to comfortably live the RV lifestyle for days, weeks, and even months on end.
In addition to its powerful panel, the kit also features a built-in 10-ampere charge controller, XLR-style solar plug adapter, and a carrying case, so all you have to do is buy a battery and you’re good to go.
If we had to nitpick, the only thing we weren’t impressed with was the side latches that are supposed to keep the panel folded and closed. They’re just a little flimsy, especially for frequent off-grid use.
- Generates 120 watts of electricity
- Able to power multiple devices
- Portable foldable solar panel design
- Latches are a little flimsy
Bottom-Line: The Go Power! GP-PSK-120 120W Portable Folding model is both portable and powerful, earning it two thumbs up in the two categories that matter most for off-grid living and RVing.
Our final thoughts on the Best Solar Panels for RV
We hope you enjoyed our guide, and now have a fuller understanding of which solar panels are best for you. Remember to always start by calculating the amount of power you’ll need from solar energy, and then use that to help narrow down the best RV solar system kits for your rig.
Last update on 2021-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API