Life on the open road is a joy, as we’re sure any RV-advocate would agree. But it can also be costly, or at least time-consuming, when one is forced to keep a close eye on the charge level of their RV’s battery, and make frequent stops to recharge it, in order to keep using their onboard appliances. But with so many motor-home products available with which we can harness the power of sunlight, it goes without saying that RV solar panel kits are great for RV trips.
Not only is a solar system environmentally friendly but also highly cost-effective. Though solar kits can be expensive, once they’re up and running they require minimal maintenance and zero cash injections while continually producing electricity for free, thus enabling you to enjoy the freedom of the road without the constraints of conventional battery-charging. Moreover, a good RV solar panel kit can optimize the unused space of your RV’s roof, in order to produce maximum amps, whilst occupying minimal space. Solar power is remarkably easy to install too, making it truly the best option for the eco-conscious traveler.
Having researched the market, we’ve determined our top solar panel kits for RVs, at a glance.
Our top pick due to its compact design, versatility, reliable tech and incredibly high efficiency at an extremely advantageous price. Other features that cement its top dog position are its durability and easiness of installation all from a leading brand of the solar sector.
A smaller solar panel kit that could be classified as a solar charger that in any case functions as a perfect trickle maintainer for 12V batteries of cars, motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, tractor and basically any other vehicle you can think of.
A heavy duty panel (as evidenced by its higher price) our top premium pick again by Renogy is an immensely powerful solar panel with an incredibly high solar efficiency due to its high-tech mono crystalline panel that incorporates Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) technology through its included solar charge controller.
How Do Solar Panel Kits for RVs Work?
Kitting out your mobile home with renewable energy is a guaranteed way to save you money on gas, keep your on-board appliances working, and ensure that you’ll never again suffer the consequences of a dead battery. But just exactly how do they work? There’s no denying that solar panel arrays for your RV require an expensive initial investment, and as such, you don’t want to rush into it without first getting your head round the fundamentals of solar technology. Equipped with the right knowledge, you can make the best, most informed choice.
Let’s start with solar panels. Whilst they might look space age in construction, solar panels are fairly straightforward generators of electricity. A single panel is comprised of many individual photovoltaic cells, housed in a waterproof, weatherproof, UV-resistant and often lightweight casing. These cells are typically polycrystalline or monocrystalline silicon wafers, with electrical contacts (busbars) printed onto them. When exposed to sunlight, these cells react chemically and physically in what is known as the ‘photovoltaic effect’, converting the energy of that sunlight into consumable electricity.
Once solar panels have converted the sun’s energy, thus generating electricity in the form of DC volts, the electricity passes along wiring from the panels into whichever batteries and/or appliances you’ve connected your setup to. On board a motor home, you may choose to power a specific appliance (like a fridge-freezer or television) with your solar array, or you might be charging a battery, to store the generated electricity.
RV solar panels are typically mounted on the roof of the vehicle (unless small enough to be stored away for use only at rest stops), and can often be mounted on tilting brackets, ensuring that you can maximise their exposure to the sun no matter in what direction you’re driving. Since solar panels can only generate electricity during the daylight hours, many RV owners like to connect their solar kits to a battery which then feeds into their appliances. This allows you to store any surplus energy generated during the day, to keep your appliances running and charged overnight.
The final important aspect of solar RV kits to talk about is the charge controller, which is included in most good quality kits. The charge controller is a crucial element of any solar setup, since it not only allows you to track the energy production of your panels, but more importantly monitors and corrects the energy production, to ensure that the voltage and wattage of electricity produced is maximised for the battery or appliances receiving it. In other words, a charge controller means that you don’t have to worry about your solar panels overcharging batteries or shorting appliances on a really bright day, just like you don’t have to worry too much about it not producing enough energy on a dull day.
Pros and Cons of RV Solar Panel Kits
We’ve explained for you the detailed workings of your RV solar panel kit, but what are the base line pros and cons?
- Green energy. The environment may not be your first consideration when looking to invest in solar panels, but it’s nonetheless one of the most important issues facing us today. With so much of the world being torn down and dug up to produce fossil fuels, and with the global temperature continuing to rise at an alarming rate, doing our bit for the planet has never been more important. Solar energy produces no dirty carbon emissions, and helps out a world in need.
- No fuel costs. Instead of having to power your on-board appliances with gas or expensive electricity, you can do so for free, forever, with an RV solar panel kit. Though installation and initial purchase can be expensive, solar arrays are hardy and long-lasting, and will pay for themselves several times over come the end of your road-tripping years.
- Space conscious. Whether mounted on your RV’s roof or folded and tucked away in an on-board compartment, RV solar panel kits are designed to make the absolute most out of very little space. We know that for mobile home owners, space is of a premium, and you’re not likely to want to give any of it up. With solar panels, you don’t have to.
- MPPT charge controller optimisation. If your chosen kit comes with an MPPT charge controller (MPPT standing for ‘maximum power point tracking’), then you don’t ever have to worry about whether you’re getting the most out of your kit; you’ll know you are, at all times.
- Ready to go! RV solar panel kits come with everything you need – the screws, brackets, fixings, wiring, panels, and controller – to install your solar array yourself and have it up and running straight away. No additional purchases required.
- Expensive. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Solar panel kits are, though much more affordable than ever, rarely cheap, and when it comes to the size of kits needed to power mobile homes, they can be downright expensive. Still, with the cost cutting to fuel and electricity bills they bring you, and given how sensible an investment they are for the future, we maintain that the money’s worth it.
- Light dependent. As with all solar technology, the amount of electricity generated by RV solar panels varies depending on their exposure to sunlight. Whilst high-quality monocrystalline panels tend to generate power quite nicely even on dull days, some – like lower-quality polycrystalline panels – will struggle to generate any electricity when the weather’s overcast. Depending on where you plan to tour, solar kits may or may not provide you the electricity you require.
Best RV Solar Panel Kits Reviewed
Now that we’ve had a glimpse at a few of the best the market has to offer, let’s take a more detailed look at the leading brands’ solar kits for RV use.
Renogy 100W 12V Monocrystalline Solar Panel
- Brand: Renogy
- Advanced encapsulation material
- Positive output tolerance (0-3%)
- Use it for your RV when camping
Our top overall pick combines a compact, durable and versatile design with an elevated power output, energy conversion rate and compatibility with almost all modern vehicle batteries.
Let’s first discuss the build and composition. This solar panel kit is encapsulated in durable and multi-layered sheet lamination and corrosion-resistant aluminum frame allows for extended outdoor use that also enhances cell performance and ensures the unit lasts for decades. It is able to withstand all kinds of inclement weather and temperature extremes. For example it can withstands high winds (2400Pa) and snow loads (5400Pa).
Another major draw is this models is obviously its wattage. This is a ultra-high efficiency 100W mono crystalline panel that provides you with the one of the highest efficiencies per space of any panel on the market, even ones with higher outputs. and wattages. This is also due to its bypass diodes that minimize power drop caused by shade and ensure excellent performance in low-light environments.
On a last note of easiness to use and versatility, the Renogy 100W 12V Panel comes installation ready with pre-drilled holes on the back of the panel that allow for fast mounting and securing. These pre-drilled holes included for grounding are compatible with different Renogy mounting systems such as z-Brackets, pole mounts and tilt mounts. To top it all off this model comes at an exceptional price, an extended warranty (25-year transferable power output; 5-year material and workmanship) from a brand that is a global leader in the solar sector.
- All round high marks in every category
- Extremely high efficiency and energy conversion rate
- Extremely versatile and easy to install
- Efficient even in low-light conditions
- Extended warranty and well-respected brand
- Almost none, some reviews complain of receiving the wrong specs when ordering the 100W model
DOKIO 220 Watts Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel
- Brand: Dokio
- Foldable and lightweight easy to carry
- Perfect choice for outdoor and emergency life
- High conversion efficiency
- Free solar controller
From Dokio comes a powerful and entirely foldable PV panel that a packs a staggering 220W of power yet is only 0.9inch thick and weighs only 9lb, making for increased versatility concerning mounting,transport, hanging, and removal. The full dimensions are 21.2 28.7 0.9 inches.
The panel is made of a durable, highly resilient but also malleable thick fabric pocket sewn. A practical carrying handle is also available making it easy to carry and use also incorporating a 118 inch cable length stretching from panel to controller that is highly ideal to use for RV and caravans but also: Motor homes, cars, motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, tractors and basically any other vehicle with lead or acid compatible batteries.
The high efficiency mono crystalline panel guarantees an improved solar power conversion rate. This model is one of the most popular on the market for a number of reasons aside from its power though. It also comes with a free solar controller that implements smart 4-Stage PWM charging (Bulk, Boost, Float, and Equalization) that increases battery life and improves system performance and feature intelligent protection against such possible hindrances such as reverse polarity, overcharging, short-circuits, and reverse currents.
- Very powerful panel with an excellent conversion rate
- Compact and foldable panel that is also highly durable
- Improved compatibility with many different batteries
- Improved safety features
- Comes with its own solar charge controller
- May struggle to reach max advertised watts on a cloudy day
ECO-WORTHY 12V 10W Solar Car Battery Charger
- Brand: Eco-Worthy
- Plug & Play SAE connector
- Cigarette Lighter
- Alligator Clip Adapter
- Built-in blocking diode
From Eco-Worthy comes a small but very adequate trickle charger/maintainer for 12V batteries of cars, motorcycles but even RV’s, taking our best budget pick due to its affordable price.
This is a great device to give anything from a spruce up to a complete charge of almost any kind of 12V rechargeable battery especially in the event of an emergency. Perfect during travels, road trips, outings or camping. It is extremely easy to install and use and is completely maintenance-free as it runs completely on clean, renewable solar energy.
Getting to the specs and extra-features, this solar charger/panel kit comes with a cigarette lighter adapter, 1 pair of battery clips and 4pcs PVC suckers. For such a small and affordable model, it presents uniquely designed-high quality clips that increase the energy conversion rate and prevent short circuits.
The panel itself is made of both durable and eco-friendly material ensuring environmental protection and energy saving with a built-in blocking diode that prevents reverse discharges. This in turn not only maintains the battery lifetime, but also extends its usage life. All this at 40$ (the cheapest price on our list make for a great budget alternative to power up your vehicle or any small appliance you bring with you in said vehicle.
- Versatile and affordable trickle charger
- Also doubles as a USB solar charger
- Made of eco-friendly and durable material
- Built-in diode prevents reverse discharges
- Protective plastic film can be a hassle to take off for some
- Not compatible with many solar controllers.
Renogy 200 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
- Brand: Renogy
- Renogy 200W Monocrystalline Starter Kit MPPT
- Monocrystalline solar cell efficiency: 21%
- MPPT charge controller peak efficiency: 97%
- transferring power up to 30% more efficiently than PWM charge controllers
Our premium pick due to its heavy duty power at a higher price. This kit includes Renogy’s very own 40A charge controller which uses Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) technology that transfers power at a rate of up to 30% more efficiently than traditional PWM charge controllers
With the Renogy 200W Monocrystalline Starter Kit MPPT, you won’t have to wonder about whether you’re getting the most out of a heavy duty solar system. The high-tech mono crystalline solar cell tech it employs boasts an efficiency of 21%, with the MPPT charge controller peak efficiency at 97%. Values that are higher than solar panel kits designed for powering up RV’s and campers of the same size. Versatility is also covered as you can expand the system up to a maximum of 400W (12 Volt) or a whopping 800W (24 Volt) with using the same Renogy 40A MPPT Charge Controller.
Despite its heavy duty chops the Renogy 200W Solar Power Starter Kit is perfect for newer customers too. Coming from a popular brand that puts an emphasis on intuitiveness even for novices of the solar sector. This solar panel kit is ideal for all kinds of off-grid applications, such as obviously: RVs, trailers, boats but also fixed systems such a for a house, barn, warehouse, shed or cabin. A major benefit is the eco-friendly and constant supply of clean and quiet power production and the grid independence that comes with it. Even if it is a premium pick the price range is not exaggerated.
- A powerful solar panel kit from an established brand with an exceptional conversion rate
- Comes with its own MPPT charge controller
- Versatile system that can be expanded up to 800W (24V)
- Intuitive despite its power
- Quiet, clean energy production
- Some complaints toward Renogy of missing parts with some purchases
WEIZE 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel Starter Kit
- Brand: WEIZE
- High Efficiency
- The anodized aluminum frames
- Perfect Design
From WEIZE comes a great mid-range solar panel that is great alternative to other products listed. The model in question is constructed with durable and high-performance mono crystalline solar cells that offer an efficiency of up to 21% than their poly crystalline counterparts in sunny weather conditions. Models such as these guarantee a provides a long service life while being virtually maintenance free (including installation).
Durability is a main issue with solar panel kits, especially if you’re bringing them on the road. The anodized aluminum frames, tempered glass and sealed junction box make this unit highly resistant to corrosion, temperature extremes and water (IP65 waterproof resistant).
Moving on to measurements, though this industrial-standard panel is not foldable, it is highly compact measuring 36.4″ x 26.8″ x 1.2″ in size and coming with a handy 2.6ft cable with connectors. The panel generates around 5.3 amp power,and charges 12 volt batteries making it ideal for RV’s, cabins, sheds and any power source that needs solar recharging in remote locations and other small power generation needs.
It also extremely intuitive to use and install. All necessary accessories are included such as: A 10A charger controller, 1 pair 20ft extension cables, 1 pair of 8ft battery tray cables, 1 set of mount brackets and screws, though the battery and inverter are unfortunately not included.
A high point of this product and brand is that quality customer service is directly provided by the manufacturer. WEIZE is supported by an attentive and caring customer service that make helping their customers with any issues a vital priority.
- Good mid range panel with a decent energy conversion rate
- Affordable price
- Compact build
- Durable composition
- Comes with all accessories for a quick installation
- Very attentive and helpful customer service
- Not foldable, limiting versatility
- Battery and inverter not included
RV Solar Panel Kits Buyers Guide
What features should you be looking for when buying an RV solar kit?
By their very nature, mobile homes have limited space. Typically, your roof is where you’re going to want to install your new solar panels, but this is not always possible, depending on what you already use your roof for, or how its shaped. Thus, one of the first things we’d recommend thinking about is how much space you have to spare for your new sustainable energy kit. If you’ve plenty, then you could certainly look at some of the really expansive, 400-800W kits. If you’ve some, but not much, then certainly those kits which offer 200W in one panel (essentially, more wattage for less space) are your best option. And if you’ve really no space to spare at all, then we’d recommend you look at the small, less powerful foldable panels.
What wattage output do you need? It’s a simple question, but a crucial one to know the answer to before you start solar shopping. First thing’s first, determine which of your onboard motor home appliances you want (or need) to power via sunlight, and total up the daily amps it takes to power them. Now you can look at solar panel kits and determine the exact system you’ll require to keep those appliances constantly powered. For example, to power your RV’s air conditioner (which you might use for five hours a day, say), you’ll need at least 107Ah from your panels. Likewise, to keep your refrigerator running on solar, you might need four or five large panels charging constantly, and with a good-quality means of harnessing surplus energy for running the fridge overnight.
Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline?
The difference in solar cells matters a lot when you’re out on the road. Mono crystalline technology is designed to charge even in low-light conditions, and whilst you can get away with Poly crystalline during bright weather, you’ll still not be pulling as much power from the sunlight as you would be with Mono crystalline cell solar panels.
With a lot of wiring and power generation going on, there is always the potential for fire. Thankfully, this is not something you should be too worried about, as almost all (if not all) of the RV solar kits on the market manage their power output carefully and safely, via charge controllers, which allow you to monitor the power being fed into your batteries, and stop them from overheating. However, safety must always remain your primary priority, which means making sure the panels/wattage/voltage you have running through your charge controller is kept within its range of safe operation.
Taking into consideration price, manufacturer-reliability and provided warranties, space, and energy efficiency, our final verdict is that the Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel is our top overall pick.
Check out our updated Pinterest board with the best rv solar panel kits:
Ranging from zero-installation required, to kits which require a little more time and consideration, you face many problems kitting out your RV with a renewable energy source. Most kits come with all the adaptors and clips you’d need to wire your panels up to your battery in minutes.
Well, that depends. But given the right setup, you could feasibly expect to run your RV’s appliances entirely on solar power, keeping its battery charged at all times, and ensuring the only stops you’ll ever need to make (aside of course for when you’re setting up camp) are at gas/petrol stations along the way.
Whilst some kits hardly cost more than filling up your tank the once, there are those which will make quite a dent in your wallet. And yet, that shouldn’t put you off – whilst it’s important to make sure you know what you need before you buy, so that you’re not paying more than you need – what you do pay now will pay off dividends years down the line, when a decade from now you’re still powering your RV’s aircon exclusively via solar power, and you find that kit you shelled out for ages ago has paid for itself twenty times over.
That also depends on the space you’ve got to use, but generally speaking, on the roof of your RV. You’ll actually find that, whilst during driving you’ll want them secured flat, to maximise exposure to sunlight, many kits can be fixed up to rigs which allow you, when stationary, to raise and tilt your solar system, angling it toward the sun either side of the RV.
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