Roving around in an RV is great for taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But this doesn’t mean you have to completely detach yourself from the outside world. In fact, GPS and other communication devices are essentials for RV campers – especially when you’re heading to remote areas.
Installing solar panels on your RVs is a cost-efficient and sustainable way of bringing backup electricity along with your travels. These panels will power your navigation and communication devices, and they also make having a cold drink in the fridge possible.
Things to Consider When Buying RV Solar Panels
Not all solar panels are the same. The solar panels used in homes may not be suitable for your RV. Here’s a quick guide of the features to watch out for when picking a solar panel for your RV.
Solar Panel Type
Amorphous crystalline panels are the least efficient, yet they work well in low lighting and high-temperature conditions. They are great choices for traveling to or camping around low latitude areas and in extremely hot places.
Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient type, yet they are also the most expensive. They work well almost everywhere, so it’s a great choice when you’re traveling along with diverse climate conditions.
Polycrystalline lenses sit in the middle when it comes to efficiency and cost. They are more energy-efficient than amorphous ones but are less expensive than the monocrystalline ones. In terms of performance, they do well in dim conditions like amorphous ones, and their durability is comparable to the monocrystalline panels.
Keep in mind that most RVs have flat roofs, so pick panels that are, when installed, point towards the sun.
Fixed solar panels are the easiest to mount on the RV roof. But because of its flat installation, it essentially absorbs only 80% of solar energy if not exposed to direct sunlight.
Flexible solar panels are great for curved RV rooftops. They enable you to adjust the panel angles, to efficiently absorb solar energy.
Portable solar panels are cheaper, but because they are portable, they are not as large as the roof-installed ones. They may not, therefore, be able to power up your entire RV. However, they are enough to power up small appliances or gadgets in your RV.
When picking the power of your solar panels, take into consideration where you are traveling. Places with unreliable or low sun exposure will mean you would need more efficient or higher-powered solar panels.
You also need to consider your energy demands. What appliances and gadgets are in your RV that need powering? Calculate these and ensure you pick a solar panel power and size that powers all these comfortably.
RV Solar Panel Frequently Asked Questions
Do RV solar panels work like most household solar panels?
Yes and no. Yes, because it uses the same principle of harvesting solar energy from the sun. No, because RV solar panels generally need two more components to be effective. These are the solar charge controller and the solar inverter.
The controller is responsible for monitoring and modifying when needed, how much energy reaches the battery to avoid overcharging. The inverter, on the other hand, converts solar energy from DC to AC power. This conversion enables you to use your RV appliances and gadgets.
How do I check the quality of RV solar panels?
A good indicator of quality is the price. However, we all know this isn’t always the case. To ensure you pick a good quality solar panel, check that the joins don’t have any gaps between them.
Look at the back panel and ensure they are flat and even, without any bubbles seen between the solar cell and glass. Pay attention also to the cables, and check they are heavy-duty with neat and even silicone seals.
How do you efficiently charge RV solar panels?
The charging efficiency as well as power all depends on the quality and make of your panel. However, you can also help with efficiency by paying attention to your RV’s location. While it’s more comfortable for you to park in shaded areas, this will not help with the solar energy absorption of your RV.
Even tree branches can have an impact on how much solar energy your panels can absorb. Mounting is also important, so if you have a TV aerial on the RV roof, ensure you mount your solar panels well away from this.
RV Solar Panels & Kits Reviews
1. Renogy 100 Watt Solar Panel Kit for RV
Renogy started as a small group project by students from Louisiana State University. They have since flourished into becoming a major player in the renewable energy industry and pride themselves on having the highest quality solar products.
It’s great for you if you have just started your solar energy journey because it comes as a kit. It comes with everything you will need to power up a new solar-powered system. A 100-watt solar panel, 30A PWM controller, adaptor kit, 8ft tray cable, and Z brackets set.
The panels are monocrystalline, which means you can rely on them to work well despite low-light environments. It is an extremely efficient solar cell panel with a 21% efficiency rating, higher than similar products on the market.
The Renogy Solar 100W solar panel is also extremely reliable and durable. It comes with an aluminum frame resistant to corrosion, which means it can last years despite extended outdoor use. The junction box is also IP65 certified, which means it has complete protection against harsh environmental elements such as rain, frost, or heat.
The 100-watt panel is powerful enough to provide for your basic RV energy needs. If you have a larger RV or more appliances onboard, don’t worry. The Renogy panels are designed to be expandable, powering up a system up to a maximum of 400 watts (need 3 more 100 watts solar panel).
Again, because they come in a kit, you pretty much have everything you need to install and start-up your system. Additionally, the panels come with pre-drilled holes on the panel’s rear, allowing you easy and secure panel mounting.
Finally, the Renogy 100-watt panels are equipped with many electronic protections to ensure your safety on the road. These systems guard your unit against short-circuits, reversed polarities, overloading, and overcharging.
Our only issue with the Renogy kit comes with the terminal screws that come with it. They are not the highest quality screws, and they seem to be too tiny for the heavy-duty cables. You also have to be very careful not to tighten it too much as they tend to break easily.
Overall, however, the Renogy 100W Solar Starter Kit is a good value-for-money option, especially for the first set of RV solar panels.
- Comes as a kit with everything you need to start up your RV solar system.
- Powerful 100-watt panel – expandable to a maximum of 400 watts.
- Reliable and durable – corrosion-resistant aluminum frame and IP65 junk box.
- Easy installation – comes with pre-drilled holes at the back of the panel.
- Equipped with electronic safety systems – prevents overcharging, overloading, short circuits, and reversed polarities.
- Monocrystalline panels with a 21% efficiency rating.
- Terminal screws are too tiny and fragile for the heavy-duty cables.
2. WindyNation 400 Watt RV Solar Panel Kit (Premium Pick)
WindyNation is a California-based manufacturer of solar and wind generators with their target market geared towards the DIY community.
The WindyNation 400-Watt Solar Kit comes with four units of polycrystalline 100-watt panels, a charge controller, connector, cables, and the necessary hardware for installing and setting up your RV solar system. It’s a great large starter kit for those new to solar and wants a fuss-free setup.
Another great standout feature of the WindyNation 400-watt kit the amount of total power it generates per day. On average, this four-panel kit will produce up to 1600 watt hours on normal sunlight conditions. It’s great for powering your large RVs and the multiple high-energy appliances in it.
Another unique feature is the adjustable settings of its charge control. These settings are also visible via the integrated user-friendly LCD screen that displays system amperage, voltage, temperature, amp-hours, and DC load draw.
It comes with 16 sets of stainless-steel fasteners and 16 anodized aluminum Z-brackets, which makes setup relatively easy and hassle-free.
The obvious setback of WindyNation is its price. It is quite an expensive RV solar panel kit for a polycrystalline variety. But if you’re willing to invest in a high-quality multiple-set solar panel, this shouldn’t be a major deal-breaker.
In short, if the large daily power output is needed and the price is not a concern, consider the WindyNation 400-watt kit.
- Comes as a complete kit for fuss-free setup – 4 panels, controller, connectors, cables, and hardware.
- Generates a massive average power of 1600 watt hours daily.
- Adjustable charge control with user-friendly LCD screen.
- Relatively easy to set-up and install.
- Lower cells efficiency compare to monocrystalline solar panels
3. Newpowa 20W RV Solar Panel (Value Pick)
Newpowa is another American brand. The company brands itself as the leading brand when it comes to off-grid solar applications. The 20-watt monocrystalline panels are Newpowa’s high-end yet more affordable range, which is great for smaller-sized RVs.
Despite its low wattage output of 20 watts, the monocrystalline make of the Newpowa panel maintains its solar absorption efficiency. A single unit may not be enough to power up the entire RV, but it’s powerful enough for many onboard applications. It’s also a great solar power solution if you only have a few appliances and gadgets to power onboard.
Installation-wise, it has is extremely versatile with multiple mounting options. The small size is also a plus as it allows for mounting onto tilt-adjustable brackets and poles.
The compact size also makes it very portable, which is again another great thing when you’re out camping. Install one or a few on the RV roof for your built-in RV appliances and have one handy for your portable accessories.
The Newpowa 20-watt range is durable and reliable, with a rugged design and heavy-duty anodized frame to protect from extreme wind, hail, and snow. It also comes with the IP65 certification, ensuring that the unit is protected from water and other external weather conditions.
The drawback? Because it is smaller than most RV solar panels in the market, it obviously has lower power output. But again, as we stated earlier, if you have a relatively small RV or minimalistic onboard electronic applications, this should be a negligible issue. Alternatively, you could purchase a few of these 20-watt units for a collectively higher-powered RV.
All in all, the Newpowa 20-watt range is the top pick for a budget-friendly RV solar panel. It’s perfect if the budget is constrained and you’re RV is small or if you have limited appliances to power.
- High-quality yet extremely affordable.
- Highly-efficient monocrystalline solar panel.
- Versatile installation – capable of being mounted on tilt-adjustable brackets.
- Compact, portable, durable, and reliable.
- Relatively low-powered – only 20 watts per unit.
4. Newpowa 200W Solar Panel for RV
If you’re after an extremely powerful and highly-efficient single solar panel, the Newpowa’s 200-watt monocrystalline make may impress you. When tested in real-life conditions, it averaged between 165 to 175 watts, 85% of the claimed wattage. This is actually not too bad, as typically advertised wattages are normally 20% off in real-life situations.
Like most high-end solar panels, the Newpowa 200-watt is made of monocrystalline panels, so it should generally work well anywhere.
Installation-wise, the Newpowa is super versatile as it supports a wide range of mounting options. You can install them flat on your RV’s roof or at an angle for optimum solar energy absorption. They are compatible with angled mount brackets, which are sold separately. The panels come with pre-drilled holes, so installation should be easy, whatever type of mounting you may choose.
In terms of reliability, Newpowa is also a tough contender. The high-performance cells are EVA coated for long service life. The EVA protects your solar cells from air entry, moisture formation and prevents sunlight degradation. It also comes with a TPT back sheet to dissipate heat and ensure that your panels have optimum performance and a longer lifespan.
The Newpowa panels are also extremely durable, thanks to its rugged design, ensuring it withstands wind gusts, hail, and snow. The solar panels are strengthened and protected by heavy-duty anodized frames, and the entire unit has an IP65 rating. This means that the solar panels are water and weatherproof.
A possible downside is that you would have to purchase a few of the things you need for installation, such as mounting brackets. But if budget is not a problem, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
In summary, Newpowa is a top choice if budget is not a problem and if you’re after a high-quality, high-powered RV solar panel.
- Extremely efficient and powerful – 200 watts.
- Monocrystalline panel works efficiently in most areas.
- Versatile, easy installation – flat or angle mounted, comes with pre-drilled mounting holes.
- Reliable – EVA coating and TPT back sheet for a longer lifespan.
- Durable – rugged design and IP65 rating withstand extreme weather conditions.
- You have to purchase some installation products separately – like mounting brackets.
5. Jackery SolarSaga 60W RV Solar Panel
Jackery is an outdoor power solutions brand founded by a former battery engineer from Apple. Their products include solar panels, portable power stations, generators, and related accessories.
The Jackery SolarSaga panel is made of monocrystalline silicon solar cell panels with 60-watt power. It has a highly efficient solar generator with a conversion efficiency of up to 23%. Both these features mean you get good solar energy power wherever you may go.
A standout feature of the SolarSaga is its portability, despite its relatively decent size. The panels measure 33.7 x 21.11 x 0.2 inches unfolded but shrink to as small as 16.7 inches when folded. This foldable and lightweight solar panel weighs 3.3 lbs and comes with a TPE rubber handle for easy handling.
Another unique feature of the SolarSaga is its dual USB output. With one USB-C and one USB-A outport port, you are free to charge your devices simultaneously. It also has integrated safety features that protect it from overcharging, surge, and short circuits.
Installation is a breeze. In fact, you don’t even need much as the SolarSaga comes with a foldable standing bracket. This bracket enables you to pop the panel on the RV roof at an angle for optimum solar energy absorption. Alternatively, you can fold the brackets and simply set the panels on the RV roof.
Other than the inability to permanently mount it on the roof, one notable setback for the SolarSaga is waterproofing. Although it is made of durable EFTE material resistant to extreme temperatures, it is not waterproof. This is a huge setback, especially for an outdoor accessory. Perhaps the design thought around it was because it’s foldable, you can easily store it on rainy days.
Overall, the SolarSaga is a great option for a portable and foldable RV solar panel for use in dry weather conditions.
- High conversion efficiency – 23%.
- Lightweight and foldable – compacts to only 16.7 inches when folded and weighs only 3.3 lbs.
- Innovative extra and safety features – two USB ports for simultaneous device charging, protection from overcharging, surge, and short circuits.
- Easy installation – comes with a foldable bracket for flat or angled mounting.
- Not waterproof – can only be used in dry weather conditions.
- It cannot be permanently mounted on an RV rooftop.
6. nrgGo 100W Solar Panel for RV Use
nrgGO is a US-based online retailer of various power solutions, ranging from power banks, power stations, solar panels, and kiosks.
The nrgGO 100-watt solar panel features highly efficient monocrystalline cells made from the highest-grade silicone. These nrgGO panels boast of high energy conversion of around 19-20%.
Speaking of power, the nrgGO 100-watt solar panels are versatile in their use. Other than powering up your RV and its accessories, it can also be used to charge car batteries. This feature is always a great plus when on the road.
The panels come with industry-standard connectors that make it easy for you to chain together multiple panels. This is extremely helpful when you need more than a few of these panels to power up a larger RV or more appliances.
Another selling point of the nrgGo is their claim that the panels have an extremely long life compared to similar products. According to the brand themselves, these 100-watt solar panels have a lifespan of over 25 years, which is pretty impressive. It also comes with a two-year out of the box warranty, just if you encounter any problems in the shorter term.
These are great RV solar panel choices if you want one permanently mounted onto your RV. However, if you’re after the flexibility of mounting, this may not be the brand for you. The nrgGO panels are extremely heavy and have a fixed design for mounting. They also don’t come with a kickstand bracket to help you adjust or prop up the panel for optimum sun exposure.
In short, keep an eye on the nrgGO if you want a long-lasting solar panel that is permanently mounted to your RV.
- Monocrystalline panels with a high-efficiency conversion of 19-20%.
- Versatile in accessories and gadgets – can also be used to power car batteries.
- Long panel life of 25 years and warranty of up to 2 years.
- Industry-standard connectors to allow chaining together of multiple cells.
- Extremely heavy and is only able to be mounted permanently – weighs 16 lbs.
- No kickstand, so it is not possible to adjust at an angle for maximum sun exposure.
7. TP-solar 100W Portable RV Solar Panel Charger Kit
TP-Solar is an Amazon retailer of a wide array of solar power products and accessories. Some of their products include solar panels, solar chargers, solar lights, and cables and chargers.
A standout selling point of the TP-solar 100-watt panel is its foldable and portable design. Folded out, it’s a relatively large solar panel of up to 52.3 inches long. The folded size goes as far down as 11 inches long and 5.1 lbs heavy. It also comes with a carry bag with a handle for easy portability.
Despite its ability to be extremely compact, the TP-solar is actually relatively energy efficient. It is made of monocrystalline panels with a remarkably high conversion rate of up to 22%.
It’s also extremely durable with its fully laminated technology resistant to extreme heat, scratches, and shock.
But wait, we’ve saved the best for last. The best feature of the TP-solar is its wide compatibility and multifunctionality. It comes with two USB ports for simultaneous charging and is compatible with a long list of devices, accessories, and batteries with power requirements of 5 volts and even 19-25 volts. You can use it to power most laptops, generators, power stations, and batteries for cars, RVs, boats, and more.
On the downside, the TP-solar may improve more when it comes to writing their instructional manual. If you’re not technologically or electrically savvy, it may take you hours figuring out which cables and attachments go where.
Another thing is that when tested in real life, normal sunny day conditions, the maximum power we achieved was only 65-watts. This is relatively powerful in itself but is obviously a big 35% off the advertised wattage.
Overall, if you’re after a portable and foldable multifunction and extremely compatible RV solar panel, the TP-solar is one to consider.
- Portable, foldable, lightweight, and compact – 11 inches and 5.1 lbs when folded.
- Energy-efficient at 22% conversion rate.
- Durable, fully laminated technology – heat, scratch, and shock-resistant.
- Wide compatibility and multifunctionality – two USB ports, compatible with a long list of 5V and 19 to 25-volt devices.
- Poorly written, unclear instruction manual.
- Maximum power, when tested in real-life conditions, is 35% off the advertised wattage.
- Meant for temporary and not permanent use.
- Actual power is 65 watts – 35% off the claimed power.
8. PAXCESS RV Solar Panel
Paxcess is a California-based retailer of a wide range of solar panels and a few households and outdoor solutions. In addition to various solar stations, they also manufacture poll cleaners, pressure washers, power stations, chainsaws, leaf blowers, and more.
Like the preceding two brands, the Paxcess RV solar panel uses its portability to appeal to consumers. What makes it different from the other portable brands is Paxcess’s adjustable kickstand design. This allows you to hold your solar panels at a 45-degree angle for maximum solar energy absorption. It also comes with a sturdy TPE rubber handle, allowing you to easily and comfortably carry it around.
The lining of the solar panels is made of durable Oxford cloth with high-quality zippers and PET material. This material combination makes your portable solar power source resistant to water and heat and perfect for outdoor use.
When it comes to power, the Paxcess also competes with the market with a 120-watt advertised wattage and a conversation rate of up to 23%. This means that your devices and appliances would essentially charge faster than other similar products in the market.
Functionality and compatibility-wise, the Paxcess is equipped with a USB port and a Type-C port, powering a maximum of 24 watts and 18 watts, respectively. The pack also comes with four different-sized adapters to ensure it is compatible with most solar generators out there.
One setback for the Paxcess is its relatively expensive price for a portable RV solar panel. Its price is on the higher end and is almost comparable to the permanently mounted ones. The price makes it the unideal choice for occasional RV trips. However, if you go around in your RV a lot and prefer a flexible mount one, it may be worth your investment.
It’s also a bit large and heavy for a portable solar panel, weighing 10 lbs and measuring 21 x 14 x 1 inch when folded.
Overall, if you want to invest in a high-quality portable RV solar panel, the Paxcess may well be a top consideration.
- Portability with the added feature of an adjustable kickstand for angled mounting.
- High-quality, durable materials – Oxford cloth and PET material.
- 120-watt power with a 23% conversion rate.
- Multifunctional and compatible with a lot of devices.
- Relatively expensive for a portable solar RV panel.
- Relatively large and heavy for a portable solar RV panel – 21 inches at its widest when folded and weighs 10 lbs.
9. TP-solar 20W RV Solar Kit
The TP-solar 20-watt range is TP-Solar’s smaller sized RV solar panel kits. Although relatively smaller, it comes with the same high-quality monocrystalline solar panel that the larger TP-Solar panels have. It may be small, but it is powerful enough to power 12-volt devices and appliances, which is the generic standard for RV use. It has an optimum operating voltage of 18 volts, maximum power of 20 watts, and a maximum system voltage of 1000Volts DC.
In terms of durability, the panels are lined with an aluminum frame that is resistant to corrosion. The panels themselves are also coated with tempered glass, which gives them extra protection from extreme weather and wears and tear elements. The controller is IP67 certified, which means it is fully protected from all types of weather conditions. It also means the unit is protected from overcharging, short circuits, and other related issues.
It’s a great option for those just starting out or discovering solar panels because it comes as a kit. It comes with all the necessary things you need: solar panel, charger controller, extension cable with clips, and O-ring terminals.
These small and portable panels also come with mounting holes and are extension cable ready. This makes it easy for you to mount them on your RV’s roof, wall, or even on the ground. The pack also comes with a U-shaped mount tilt rack, so you can adjust the solar panel’s angle for improved solar efficiency.
The size can be a bit of a setback, especially if you want to power a large RV or a few appliances and gadgets. A more major issue for us is the sharp-edged corners of the panels. If you aren’t too careful, they are extremely sharp and can cut or scratch your skin.
Overall, if you are after an affordable, portable, and small RV solar panel starter kit, consider the TP-Solar 20-watt range.
- Small yet high-quality monocrystalline solar panels with relatively high-powered output considering the size.
- Durable – aluminum frame that is corrosion-resistant, tempered glass coating, IP67 controller.
- Easy installation – comes as a kit and has everything you need to set up the system.
- Includes a U-shaped mount tilt rack to allow angled mounting.
- Size and power may be too small for larger RVs or RVs with more appliances to power.
- Extremely sharp panel corners may cause injury to the skin during installation or mounting.
10. WEIZE 200 Watt RV Solar Panel Kit
Weize is another Amazon retailer of solar panel technology. The Weize 100-watt solar panels’ major selling point is its high-power output of 100 watts, maximum. This monocrystalline solar panel has a highly efficient solar cell conversion rate of up to 21%.
Another selling point is that the Weize already comes as a kit. It’s another one to consider if you don’t want to be separately buying most of your solar system’s components. It comes with a solar panel, a charger controller, a pair of 20-ft extension cables, a pair of 8 ft battery tray cables, and a set of mount brackets.
Installation is also easy, thanks to the pre-drilled holes behind the panel. These panels are also made to be compatible with Z brackets or pole, or tilt mounting.
The Weize solar kit has a junk box with an IP65 waterproof rating. The panel, on the other hand, is composed of multiple layers of sheet lamination and encapsulation. These design and material combination enhance the long service life of your Weize 100-watt solar power kit unit.
A criticism that we have with the Weize is that as it is somewhat of an incomplete kit. Although it comes with most parts of the kit, it does not come with an inverter and battery.
We also noticed when putting two similar panels together (Weize also sells them in packs of 2). Each panel gave a different power reading from the other, with a pretty significant difference. Slight variations are tolerable, but we wonder why there is such a significant difference in a pack of similar panels.
Overall, however, the Weize is one option for an RV solar panel kit with a power of up to 100 watts.
- Monocrystalline panels with a high-power output of 100 watts and 21% conversion efficiency.
- Comes as a kit: solar panel, charger controller, extension and tray cables, and brackets.
- Durable materials – IP65 junk box, multi-layered sheet lamination on a panel.
- Easy installation – pre-drilled holes and compatible with most mounting brackets.
- Incomplete kit – you would still need to purchase a battery and an inverter.
- Similar panels seem to give off significantly different power output readings when tested alongside each other.
Installing RV solar panels is a great way of having sustainable electricity while enjoying your time off the grid. If we ever get an RV, our top pick for the best RV solar panel to install on it would be the Renogy 100 Watt RV Solar Panel Kit. Its 100-watt solar starter kit has everything you need to set up a great quality RV solar panel system.
The fact that it comes as a kit also wins in the installation department. The panel is also reliable, durable, and packed with electronic safety systems. Finally, it’s relatively affordable considering it has all features you need when traveling around the great outdoors.
2 thoughts on “How to Choose Solar Panels for RV?”
I used this panel a touch differently than most. I used it in conjunction with a controller and a bunch 24 deep cycle battery to drive 2 x 12v fans for my wife’s farm building. Everything except the battery was purchased through Amazon. Overall the system works as I expected. The panel puts out about 55.2 amps in direct sunlight, the fans together draw about 2.08 amps, so I have about 2 amps of panel output left to charge the battery. Controller voltage reads approximately 12913.0 volts with a totally charged battery and fans humming. The chickens seem to love them staying under the vents instead of starting off.
I am literally searching for this discussion as I am really worried about how to choose the best quality solar panels for my camper. Also I am curious about the means of its installation as I am thinking that installing a solar panel to my camper roof could damagethe roof’s membrane. Your discussion makes it easy for me to take steps. Thank you so much. Good luck.