RV solar panels are the ultimate symbol of freedom. An RV invites you to travel off-grid, live anywhere, and constantly experience new things. Previously, you might have been hindered by the fact that you’d have to recharge the vehicle’s batteries at a campground or RV park with access to shore power. Today, you can become energy independent by investing in RV solar panels. You’ll enjoy more freedom and protect the environment you love at the same time.
Windy Nation 100W RV Solar Kit
HQST 100W Slim Solar Panel Kit
- 1 The Best RV Solar Kits for Trailers in 2020
- 2 Are Solar Panels for RVs Worth the Investment?
- 3 How to Properly Assess the Best RV Solar Kit?
The Best RV Solar Kits for Trailers in 2020
Similar to DIY solar panel kits, solar panels for RVs are a fantastic way to try solar energy for the first time and begin your own journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle. In the following article, we’ve put together reviews for the best RV solar kits out there, which we’ve graded in terms of quality, ease-of-use, and cost.
1. Windy Nation 100W RV Solar Kit
This kit by Windy Nation features at the top of our list of best solar panels for RVs due to a combination of excellent quality and convenient price. It’s not the most famous kit on the market, but it gets the job done well and it doesn’t cost a fortune to purchase or install.
The set includes everything you need to go solar with your RV. It comes with a 100Watt monocrystalline solar panel, a 30A P30L charge controller with an LCD display and battery temperature sensor, 40ft of AWG cable, MC4 connectors, and all the installation hardware you’ll need to mount the panel on your RV.
On average, the solar panel will provide 350Wh or 33Ah of charge each day, depending on the amount of sunlight it is exposed to. If needed, you can connect up to 3 additional solar panels to the same charge controller for faster charging times.
- Quality components built for durability
- Attractive price for the complete kit
- Easily installed on RVs, cabins, boats, and more
- Not the most powerful solar panels on the marketCLY 60 LED Solar Flood LightsWill not charge a decent size battery in a single day unless more solar panels are added
2. Renogy KIT-RV200D
Featuring some of the best solar panels for RVs currently on the market, this RV kit by Renogy is our top pick for quality and high wattage. It can be purchased with one to four solar panels, but we recommend two for an optimal ratio of charging time to cost.
The set is ideal for people who are new to solar energy because it is easy to install and includes all the components you need to get started. With the two 100W 12V monocrystalline solar panels, you’ll receive a 30A PWM charge controller, a 30ft 10AWG MC4 adaptor kit, 16ft of 10AWG tray cable, one weather-proofed cable entry housing, as well as Z-brackets for mounting the panels.
Each of the solar panels comes with an in-built bypass diode that ensures power drops from shade or poor weather are minimal. The panels are enclosed in aluminum frames that resist corrosion and are therefore able to withstand snow loads and high winds.
- Excellent quality for durable components
- The complete kit includes everything you need to install and use the solar panels
- Can support up to four solar panels for a total PV input of 400W
- More expensive than other options
3. AcoPower UV11007GD 100W Foldable Solar Panel Kit
The AcoPower UV11007GD consists of two 50W high efficiency monocrystalline solar panels that can be folded together, as well as an in-built 10A charge controller pre-wired for 12V battery charging.
The kit comes with a folding suitcase for ease-of-transportation, 2 pairs of MC4 connectors, 1 pair of Anderson connectors, as well as one pair of Alligator clips. With these accessories, you can use the AcoPower solar panel to charge portable solar generators and batteries, but also 12V car batteries and marine batteries (flooded, sealed, or GEL).
The solar panels are easy to carry and can be installed in less than one minute. They are ideal for extended outdoor use thanks to their corner protectors, corrosion-resistant aluminum frame and diode junction box.
- Highly effective solar panels, at 15.4% conversion efficiency
- Can be folded into a suitcase that is easy to store and transport
- Can be used to charge solar batteries and generators, car batteries, and marine batteries
- Not the most powerful solar panels on the market
4. Renogy 100W Flexible Solar Panel
Although this solar panel by Renogy does not come in a complete kit, we mention it in our top best solar panels for RVs due to its extraordinary flexibility and versatility. Unlike other solar panels, this model can be mounted on a curved roof, which greatly extends its applicability.
Renogy’s flexible solar panel features a standard PV input of 100W, but it is ultra-lightweight and therefore very easy to carry and install. When laid flat on its surface, it is only a tenth of an inch tall, which is no less than 95% thinner than standard solar panels. Its lamination is barely noticeable.
In spite of its shape, however, this 100W monocrystalline solar panel by Renogy is built to withstand severe weather, including harsh winds and heavy snow loads. Thanks to its extreme flexibility, you can use it to power up appliances while camping, travelling in your RV, sailing a yacht, and much more.
- Flexible 100W monocrystalline solar panel that can be installed on curved surfaces
- Ultra-lightweight and easy to carry
- 95% Thinner than standard solar panels
- Not sold in a kitCLY 60 LED Solar Flood LightsThe edges are quite sharp, so it must be handled with care
5. HQST 100W Slim Solar Panel Kit
Also one of the best RV solar kits on the market, this set by HQST is a more affordable alternative to products by Renogy or other well-known manufacturers. It is designed as a starter kit for those who are new to solar energy and, as such, it is super easy to install and use.
The kit includes one slim 100W monocrystalline solar panel, a 30A PWM charge controller with LCD display, a pair of 12ft AWG adaptor cables, as well as Z-brackets and other installation hardware. On the panel, you’ll find pre-drilled holes that make it even easier to mount on any roof.
According to the producer, this kit will provide an average of 500Wh of charge per day and will be able to recharge a 50Ah battery from 50% during one day. For additional charging speed, you can add up to 3 other identical panels for a total PV input of 400W.
- Very attractive cost to quality ratio
- Complete kit with solar panel, charge controller, and installation hardware
- Can be extended with additional solar panels
- Heavier than other models
Are Solar Panels for RVs Worth the Investment?
One thing everyone says about solar energy is that it’s more expensive than traditional electricity. Is this really the case and, if so, are RV solar kits worth the investment?
The advantages of RV solar kits include:
- Cost efficiency. It’s true that even though the cost of solar panels has decreased by more than 70% over the past decade alone, they are still slightly more expensive to buy and install than an electric generator. Similar to solar grills however, once the initial investment is out of the way, you will save money long-term on your electricity and gas bills.
- Sustainability. Solar energy is clean and renewable so you don’t have to worry about fumes or fire hazards. What’s more, you can enjoy more freedom with your RV because you don’t have to stop at campsites or RV parks to recharge your batteries and appliances (like your solar refrigerator). You can do it all on the go.
- Low maintenance. Like solar lanterns, most RV solar kits are user-friendly and very easy to install. You’ll likely need only a couple of hours when you first set up your solar system and only a few minutes to start it up in the future. If installed properly, these panels require minimal maintenance and will last for up to 10 years.
The drawbacks of solar panels for RVs:
- The initial investment. Like with portable solar generators, to purchase one of the best RV solar kits out there, you’ll have to invest up to $500, which is slightly more than the cost of a traditional electric generator.
- A little tech-savviness may be required. Solar panels for RVs are generally very easy to install and use, but before you buy anything, you’ll probably want to become more familiar with the way solar power works and what it can do in terms of your specific energy consumption. It’s nothing too sophisticated, but it does take a little time and consideration.
How to Properly Assess the Best RV Solar Kit?
Most reviews for RV solar kits and camping solar panels include plenty of technical details, which can be intimidating at first. Below, we’ve put together a checklist that can help you accurately assess any of the best solar panels for RVs.
PV input and energy conversion
PV (or photovoltaic) input refers to how much energy a solar panel can absorb from sunlight. The higher this number, the faster you will be able to recharge your solar batteries. Equally important, however, is the energy conversion rate of a solar panel. Even if two panels share the same PV input, the panel with a higher energy conversion rate will require less space on your roof and charge batteries faster. For an RV, you should consider only solar kits with a minimum PV input of 100W and an energy conversion rating of at least 15%. That will ensure you can power your solar power banks and solar screens.
Durability and temperature coefficients
RVs see all kinds of weather so your RV solar panels should be built to withstand extensive outdoor exposure. Look for kits that are designed with durable components, corrosive-resistant frames, as well as weather-proof connectors for rain and snow. You’ll also want to make sure that the solar panel you choose has a small temperature coefficient, which tells you that it will remain effective even during extreme heat.
Charge controllers, inverters, and other components
Solar panels are sold both on their own and as part of kits. Our recommendation is to purchase sets rather than stand-alone panels (unless you are looking to extend an existing kit), primarily because, when you buy the various components together, the cost tends to be lower and the compatibility between them is assured. For a complete kit, you need one or more solar panels, a charge controller, an inverter, as well as connecting cables and mounting equipment.
Monitoring and equipment warranty
To properly maintain your RV solar kit, you must be able to monitor its PV input and usage. Many of the best RV solar kits can be monitored using the in-built LCD screen on their charge controllers or a Bluetooth connection with a phone or similar device. Since solar panels for RVs are an investment that should last upwards of 10 years, you’ll also want to make sure that the producer you buy from offers an extensive warranty for the equipment and that this guarantee is bankable. Last, but not least, consider that, at a future point in time, you might feel the need to expand your RV solar kit with additional solar panels for faster charging times. Plan for this event by double-checking whether the kit of your choice can be extended and for what cost.
Switching to solar energy can change the way you travel with your RV for the better, not only for the environment, but also for yourself. For this to be the case, however, take some time to estimate your energy needs so that what you buy is enough to power your devices and appliances on the go. Then, browse through and assess some of the best RV solar kits on the market, but don’t forget to apply the criteria above in order to arrive at an optimal purchase. (Looking for more cool solar items? Check out our list of our favorite solar battery tenders.)