Solar Panel Kits – RV Solar Panels
Have you seen the movie RV, starring the late Robin Williams? If you have, then at one point you must have wondered what it would be like to travel in an RV on road trips. What an adventure it would be, right? Imagine parking your RV near the lake to camp and light a bonfire while eating s’mores. How amazing would that be? But if you have not watched RV or have no idea what exactly an RV is, let us provide you some useful information that might even convince you to buy or rent an RV!
What is an RV anyway? Simply put, RV means recreational vehicle. Surely, you can do more than just recreation with this vehicle. Some call it a motorhome or camper, but most people are more inclined towards the term RV since it slides off the tongue. This vehicle enables people to travel long distances while providing the same comfort that you get while at home.
Most RVs have built-in beds, cabinets, toilets, and even a fully functioning kitchen. These features make it easier for the vehicle owners to go about their typical lives even in the middle of the wilderness; they even have refrigerators and TVs.
One might wonder about whether there is electricity inside the RV. How will appliances work? For the longest time, most RV owners had electricity in their vehicles through the use of propane generators. A propane generator works by burning propane, and this process of combustion converts energy to electricity. But due to the increasing cost of propane, its odor, and the negative effects to our atmosphere, there must be another way.
This is where RV solar panels come in handy. These panels have been around since the 19th century, although they were not as advanced as what we have now. Solar panels work just as efficiently as a propane generator. Not only that, solar panels are definitely more eco-friendly compared to generators.
With all the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that have already badly damaged the ozone layer, going green is a good way to go. Solar-powered cells work by soaking up the sunlight’s energy to charge a battery. The battery is what powers up electronic appliances both in homes and RVs alike. It is that simple.
Types of RV Solar Panels
Choosing the right sun-powered cells involves considering what is the best fit for your needs as well as what will work for your RV. There are five types of solar panels. The first three types are based on what the panels are made of.
These are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous solar panels. The other two types are classified as flexible or rigid solar panels. Let us go into detail and find out the differences among the five panels to help you decide which one to get if you have an RV or if you are planning to invest in one.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are said to have the highest efficiency ratings and are the most space efficient among the panel types. They have a longer lifespan, stretching up to 25 years of continuous use.
These monocrystalline panels are made from a single crystal, and each panel’s individual cells are created with a single piece of silicon crystal, hence the term monocrystalline.
Do note that this type of panel is also more costly compared to other solar panel types, and it is sensitive to dirt and snow, which can sometimes result in a circuit breakdown. The good thing about this one though is that it can produce more power in low-light conditions.
Polycrystalline or Multi-Crystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline or multi-crystalline solar panels, on the other hand, are made from several fragments of melted silicon crystal that are poured into a square mold. Once the silicon has cooled, it is then sliced into squares or wafers to create its polycrystalline shape.
This type of solar panel appears to be the most popular, and it is cheaper than monocrystalline panels since the manufacturing process is a lot simpler and not much silicon is wasted. Polycrystalline solar panels provide better performance in higher temperatures. But due to low silicon purity, they have significantly lower efficiency compared to monocrystalline panels, and they require a larger installation area.
Amorphous Solar Panels
Amorphous solar panels are made from a thin film of panels where the cells consist of a thin layer of silicon attached to a backboard. This thin film is at least a hundred times thinner than a polycrystalline panel.
This is why amorphous panels are significantly cheaper than mono or polycrystalline solar panels because they are easier and less expensive to produce. The downside is that this type of panel is less efficient and requires a larger space for installation for it to produce enough power.
Flexible and Rigid Solar Panels
Apart from the three panels mentioned above, there are flexible and rigid solar panels as well. Flexible RV solar panels are lighter in weight, and these are the type that one can directly install on the roof of an RV. Rigid solar panels, on the other hand, can be a lot trickier to install, but they are more durable and can be mounted in a tilted position to increase the efficiency of energy production.
When choosing between the two, it is important to note that flexible panels are thinner than other solar panels. If flexible panels are installed directly on an RV’s roof, they might cause heat buildup on the roof’s surface as the panels get hotter. Also, these panels have to be glued on the roof, so you might want to consider that factor before purchasing them.
Also as an alternative, you can use Backyard Revolution. It is a guide on how to create solar panels in your home using the zig-zag method. And we’ve prepared a more detailed review of this method which you can check here.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need for an RV?
Deciding how many solar panels you will need for your RV should be easy since the deciding factor should be based on two things. First is the size of the RV, and second is how much electricity you need to power up the vehicle and your appliances. To elaborate on this, let us give you a few examples.
Most of the solar cells available can produce 100 to 800 watts of power. So, how would you know how many solar panels to purchase based on the wattage? Again, this will depend on how much electricity you need. For example, a common light bulb uses 60 watts of power. So if the light bulb is on for a good 8 hours a day, then multiply the 60 watts by the number of hours it is being used.
Based on this example alone, a light bulb will require 480 watts of power. Now, to determine the amount of electricity a solar panel can produce, all you need to do is to multiply the wattage of a solar panel by the hours it is being charged in the sunlight. With that said, a solar panel with 100 watts that is charged for 9 hours can produce 900 watts in total.
If calculating all the math is giving you a headache, this is completely understandable. To make it easier for you to calculate the wattage that your home appliances consume on a daily basis, there are online calculators that you can easily find to help you.
In this way, you will be sure that you can get the right quantity of solar panels that you need to power up your TV, light bulbs, and microwave. Do note though that RV solar panels are usually able to power up most small electronic appliances, but larger refrigerators or other energy-hungry appliances may be an exception. Some panels may be able to power up these appliances but not for significantly long hours.
What to Look for When Purchasing RV Solar Panels
Solar panels for RV are great and can definitely help in providing electricity for RV owners even in remote areas as long as there is sunlight. This means that as long as the sun shines even through clouds, solar panels will get charged with enough energy to power up common electronic appliances. But it does not mean that you can purchase the first solar panel that you see.
Apart from knowing how many panels and how much wattage you need, it is imperative to know certain qualities of solar panels before ordering them. It is always good to know what you are getting before purchasing any item. Here we list some of the things you should look for when purchasing RV solar panels.
Efficiency – Although RVs have specific functionalities and facilities that make them almost as comfortable as an actual home, we cannot deny the fact that RVs have limited space, which can make it challenging to move around if you bring a lot of things with you in your RV.
With this in mind, it means that it is imperative to look for RV solar panels that can easily fit in small spaces without sacrificing efficiency. The efficiency of a solar panel is measured by the amount of solar energy that it can collect in order to convert it to electricity.
The effectiveness of an RV solar panel is not only based on its size; more importantly, it is based on the quality and type of materials used to create the actual panel. You can choose from the five types of RV solar panels that we have discussed.
If the solar panels are removable, make sure they will fit inside your vehicle nicely and be able to supply enough energy to power up your electronic devices and appliances.
Wattage cells – This specifically refers to the electric current that every cell on your solar panel can produce to switch your appliances back to life and make them work. This means that the higher the wattage, the more power it can provide. Having a higher wattage will result in longer hours of potential use.
There is no denying the fact that solar panels are not that cheap. Therefore it is essential to get the right type of solar panel that can produce the amount of electricity necessary to make things easier while living inside your RV.
When choosing RV solar panels for the first time, it is advisable to purchase one or two panels at the beginning so that you can test it out and see if it will be sufficient. This way, you will not have to spend and waste hundreds of dollars for something that you will not actually need.
Portability – It is best to pick solar panels that are portable enough for you to easily carry around and that cause much less hassle to install, which means huge and bulky solar panels are out of the picture.
Living or traveling in an RV means you will be moving from one place to another and be on the road a lot longer. Your solar panel should be portable so that it moves with you and can be installed or removed with ease if need be.
Reliability – Since RVs are designed and created to have a mobile but livable space while travelling, it will not always be easy to find electrical resources to charge your RV’s battery or power your appliances such as light bulbs, a TV, radio, or electric stove.
This is why RV solar panels were invented to provide electricity for RVs without having to use generators that are not so sustainable or readily available.
When purchasing your first solar panel, do note that you have to get a unit that will not let you down. This means that your solar panel should be able to absorb a good amount of energy on a daily basis to supply a steady flow of current or electricity.
And as they say, it is always best to start small. So, do not be compulsive and get the biggest solar panel available. Start with just one; then add more if it is not enough for you.
Durability – Almost every item that we humans possess can wear out over time. A solar panel is not an exception to that, so be sure to get ones that are made with high quality materials.
Compared to low-end and cheaply-made solar panels, which can easily break or wear out, solar panels that are of high-quality can provide you with the assurance that they will last a lot longer and will be worth every penny spent. If you choose low-quality panels, then there is a chance that you will have to replace them more often. What a waste that would be!
Price – Of course, it goes without saying that one of the first things to consider when purchasing a solar panel for your RV is your budget. Some solar panels come with a hefty price tag, but there are a few that are reasonably priced.
Most RV solar panels that are made with premium and high-quality materials will naturally cost a lot more than the mid-range models, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing mid-quality solar panels as long as they can cater to your needs. Just opt out of low-quality panels because they might appear to cost you less upon initially purchasing them, but they will definitely cause you to spend more in the future.
Top 5 Best Solar Panels for RVs
There must be at least a hundred brands of solar panels both locally and abroad. With so many varieties to choose from, it will be tough work to go through all of them. So to further assist you in deciding which solar panels to get, we have listed the top 5 best solar panels for RV to make things easier for you.
5. HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt Polycrystalline Solar Panel
HQST’s 100-watt polycrystalline solar panel is definitely among the best RV solar panels on the market today. This panel can easily withstand heavy winds or snowfall. The back panel has a waterproof junction box, and it also features anti-reflective and high-transparency tempered glass with impact resistance to ensure that it is efficiently protected against environmental phenomenon.
Installation is a breeze because there are pre-drilled holes on the back part of the panel. All you need to do is secure it in place. It can either be installed on the roof of your RV or mounted on the ground. Its maximum power is up to 100 watts, and the item itself only weighs 15 pounds. Product dimensions are 35.6 by 25.9 by 1.4 inches.
- Waterproof back panel
- Plug-and-play feature
- High efficiency
- Easy installation
- A bit heavy
4. Go Power! Weekender ISW Complete Solar and Inverter System
Go Power’s Weekender RV solar panel weighs in at 60 pounds, and its product dimensions are 64 by 31 by 18 inches. The package includes a 30-amp transfer switch. This solar panel is able to convert both solar and shore power, which is great if you park near the shoreline. Another great feature is that it is expandable into a full-time system that can provide up to 800 watts.
Most people who purchased this product are satisfied with this solar panel’s overall performance. The Weekender is a monocrystalline solar panel, so you can expect quality performance with an efficiency rating of 16.4%. This solar panel is able to power up energy-hungry appliances such as refrigerators or vacuums, so small electronics such as light bulbs, TVs, or radios should not be a problem.
- High wattage
- Easy instructions for quick installation
- High efficiency
- Package does not come with a battery
3. WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Kit
The WindyNation solar panel kit comes with a 4-piece 100-watt polycrystalline solar panel system and a solar charge controller. The 30-amp charge controller has an LED screen where it shows amperage, temperature, amp hours, and voltage, so you should be able to customize its settings to your liking.
This solar kit also includes four 100Ah absorbed glass mat batteries (total of 400Ah), so you will not have to purchase it separately. This RV solar panel system can provide up to 1700 watt hours and can be used on cabins or even boats. The solar panels have a 5-year warranty, while the company provides a 25-year warranty for its power output.
- Battery included
- Fast-charging batteries
- Easy installation process
- Sturdy panel frames
- Can withstand tough weather
- Sensitive to shade
2. WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Kit
Compared to the other solar panel kits being sold, WindyNation’s solar panel kit is significantly cheaper considering its great quality. The product dimensions are 40 by 1.4 by 26.4 inches, and it weighs only 19 pounds. The solar panel kit can produce 100 watts of power.
Upon purchase, you will receive all the necessary materials and installation kits to ensure a complete and full solar panel system experience. Users can easily adjust the settings of the charge controller such as amperage, voltage, and temperature to fit their daily needs. For first-time users, there is no need to be stressed out because installation is simple.
- Highly efficient and reliable
- Extendable for adding more panels
- Offers customizable charge settings
- Relatively affordable
- Quality of the panel itself is not perfect
1. Renogy 400W Monocrystalline Solar RV Kit with 30A Charger Controller
Our top pick for the best RV solar panels for sale is the Renogy monocrystalline solar kit, which is specifically designed to be an off-grid and complete solar panel system that works exceptionally well for different types of RVs, caravans, and even boats.
With an efficiency rating of up to 21%, this solar panel’s typical daily output reaches up to 2000 watt hours per day, depending on its exposure to the sunlight. Its frame is made from aluminum, which makes it resistant to corrosion. This means it is ideal for use in harsh weather because it can withstand heavy rain, wind, or snowfall.
- Highly efficient
- Can function well even in low-light environments
- Complete components for a full-time solar panel system
- Has a charge controller
- No fasteners included to secure wiring
Installation of RV Solar Panels
Using solar panels at home means having a larger space where you can place the unit. They can be installed in your backyard or on the roof. But for RV owners, there is such limited space given the size of the RV. In this case, it is best to place solar panels on top of the RV’s roof.
This is because the roof is where the unit can get the most sunlight and will generate a steady stream of current. Although the solar panels will still work on cloudy or rainy days since the sun does not really go away, they still work best in direct sunlight. Since you now have an idea where to situate the solar panels, the second step is their installation. Of course, it is not as simple as just laying them on top of the roof and leaving them there; it does not work that way.
The panels have to be secured in place so that they do not fall off when your vehicle moves. Secure installation also means that the solar panels will not be carried away by raging winds. Most solar panel frames already have pre-drilled holes and different types of brackets so that they will be a lot easier to install. The panels do not always have to be laid flat on top of the roof. There are some that tilt to get maximum exposure to the sun, but it is really up to you as to how you would like to set them up.
Solar Kits for an RV and Their Cost
Investing in a quality sun-powered system either for your home or your RV is a good way of saving both money and Mother Earth. For the simplest and smallest ones, the cost starts at roughly $600, while the larger installations will cost $2000 or more.
Spending a few thousand bucks on a solar panel might be expensive initially, but do know that paying monthly electric bills for your home or spending a lot on propane generators for your RV regularly will equal more money. Since solar energy is more sustainable, in the long run you will notice that you have more money in your pocket.
Most companies that offer solar panel systems provide complete RV solar panel kits to make sure that everything is set up properly for RV owners. But what do these kits include? Here, we have listed all of the four main components of solar panel units and solar cell kits.
1) Solar Panels
This is the integral part of the whole system. Without the solar panels, there is no way you will be able to capture the sun’s energy and have it converted into electricity.
The panels are exposed to the sunlight and absorb its power, which the system uses to provide a steady current of electricity to power up your electronic devices or appliances such as a lamp, radio, TV, and air conditioning system.
2) Charge controllers
This controller makes sure that the batteries of your sun-powered system do not get overcharged. It controls the amount of energy that the batteries receive, and it also enables users to customize settings such as amperage, temperature, and voltage.
Without charge controllers, the system’s batteries can become drained and in turn get damaged. The charge controller shuts down the system if necessary.
This is where all the stored energy from the sunlight goes. The energy stored in the battery is what is being used to power up the electronic devices found in your RV. The battery’s cost ranges from $100 up to a thousand dollars.
But there are 3 main types of batteries that you can choose from that can fit your budget. The first one is the lead acid battery, which is the least expensive among the three. The second one is the absorbed glass mat battery, which is a bit better than the first one since it can store up to 15 percent more power and charges faster.
The last option is a lithium ion battery, which is the most expensive, but the good thing about it is that it weighs much, much less compared to the other two and that it lasts up to four times longer.
This item converts DC power from the solar panels to AC, which in turn enables your devices to switch on and do their thing. Without the inverter, there is no way your battery can power up your appliances even if it is fully charged.
5) Solar Panel Kit Extras
Additional features such as a Bluetooth module, cables, replacement batteries, and other items that you can purchase separately can cost from $300 up to almost a thousand dollars. These solar panel kits can supply up to 400 watts of power.
The world has advanced in a way that we could have never really imagined. Since most of us live busy lives, we also need to have things that can keep up with our demanding needs. Nowadays, we do not usually pay much attention to the fact that our resources, which were once abundant and sustainable, are already being depleted because of our constant use of electricity.
We continue to expel greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere through the use of power plants and factories. Having said all that, we should think of more ways to keep this planet healthy. And what better way to start this initiative than to use sun-powered cells to get more from the sun without inducing further damage to nature?
And for those who seek fun and exciting activities outside of their busy schedules, traveling on an adventure in an RV has all the perks. It offers you the freedom to do whatever you want or go wherever you please at any time of any day. Although being on the move for a long time has its challenges like possibly being off the grid in remote places where there is no electricity, traveling and enjoying nature while spending time together is worth the adjustment.
But we cannot deny the fact that in order to live normally in your RV, electricity is essential so that you can use electronic devices for your daily needs like cooking food on your electric stove or switching on lamps. Therefore, installing a solar panel system can help you live life just like you usually do at home without the constant noise of generators and the smell of propane. Let the sun give you all the electric power that you require.