Electricity production is one of the biggest issues you will face when traveling in a recreational vehicle (RV). You can use liquefied petroleum (LP), such as butane or propane, to generate electricity. But, you’ll find that this costs a lot of money over time and depletes LP reserves that you could have used for cooking. That’s where solar panels can help. There are several options available if you’re looking for the individual best solar panels for RV use, and separate options for the best solar panel kits, so let’s take a look at some of the best.
Our Picks: Best Solar Panels for RV Use
Single Solar Panels
Full Solar Panel Kits
Scroll down to see our individual reviews of each product
How much electricity do you need to generate?
This depends on the appliances you use. Each appliance has a power-rating, measured in watts (W). You need to take this wattage and multiply it by the number of hours you use the appliance each day. By doing so, you come up with the watt hours (Wh) required.
Do this for every appliance you use and add up all the Wh totals to create a daily watt consumption figure. You then need to choose a solar panel capable of meeting that Wh figure.
Bear in mind that solar panels aren’t perfect. For example, you can expect a 4W panel to produce between 24 and 28 watts daily. Make sure your panels can produce more watts than you consume each day.
Will you need a regulator?
This depends on the sizes of your battery and solar panels. As a general rule of thumb, you can find out if you need a regulator by checking your battery’s amp hour (AH) rating and divide it by 10. If that number is lower than the solar panel wattage, you won’t need a regulator. If it’s higher, you run the risk of overcharging your battery if you don’t use a regulator.
Why do some solar panels look different to others?
Some manufacturers make crystalline panels, while others make amorphous panels. Amorphous panels have a thin film on top. Most people consider crystalline panels to be the superior choice, as they are more efficient and last longer.
Pros and cons of solar power and the panel kits
Ultimately, you have to factor in all the pros and cons with regards to the use itself, and then the specific products. The pros of solar power are freedom, lack of noise, continuity, increased safety when compared to the alternatives, and low maintenance. The cons include unpredictable outputs, extra space needs of the setup, and of course the high starting costs and the installation. These can be tricky and expensive depending on where do you get it done. Then ideally, you try to choose a panel kit that limits these potentially negative aspects.
The Renogy solar panel offers 100 watts of power and is suitable for use with a 12-volt battery. Better yet, you can link several panels together to up the voltage. This makes it one of the best solar panels if your RV has a powerful battery. It’s one of the sturdiest units around, as it can withstand up to 2,400 Pascals (Pa) of wind pressure and 5,200 Pa of snow loads.
- Generates up to 500 Wh per day
- Features a strong aluminum frame to protect the panel
- Comes with diodes already installed
- 25-year warranty on power output
- 5-year warranty on manufacture and materials
- You may find some manufacturing issues, such as poorly-placed diodes
The Renogy 100 Watts panels are some of the most reliable on the market, as you can tell from the extensive warranties you get when you buy one. Though some people have mentioned product defects, you should be able to clear these up and get new panels thanks to the 5-year manufacturer’s warranty. You’ll also find that combining several Renogy 100 Watts serves your needs if your RV has a large battery.
One of the best solar panels to use if your RV doesn’t have flat surfaces to place panels on, Allpower’s panel offers a maximum of 23.5% efficiency. This compares well against typical monocrystalline panels, which offer between 17% and 19% efficiency. Its low weight also makes it one of the most portable panels on this list.
- Weighs less than 5 pounds
- Can bend up to 30 degrees
- Max efficiency of 23.5%
- Comes with an 18-month guarantee
- Customer service isn’t as responsive as you might like
Allpower’s 100W flexible solar panel is one of the most versatile panels available. While you may want to use it for your RV, it also works well for your home and a range of other vehicles. Its flexibility is a major selling point if you struggle to place traditional panels, plus the low weight means you don’t have to reinforce your RV’s roof. The only worry is the customer service, which is the worst of the three panels listed here.
Much like with the Renogy panels, you can use WindyNation’s 100-watt panels in a series if you need to power larger RV batteries. These panels also come with aluminum frames and the same 25-year power warranty as the Renogy panels, meaning there is little to choose between the two. But, WindyNation’s panel can generate a maximum of 600 Wh per day compared to Renogy’s 500 Wh, though you’ll need ideal conditions for this level of performance.
- Between 300 and 600 Wh produced daily, depending on weather conditions
- Uses Grade-A solar cells
- Comes with a 25-year power warranty
- Additional 5-year warranty for parts and manufacture
- May get damaged during delivery
Some minor delivery issues aside, the WindyNation panels perform well and should be all you need to keep your RV’s battery topped up. The ability to generate 600 Wh in ideal conditions makes this a great option, especially if you spend a lot of time in sunny areas.
The Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit is a high quality, in demand kit and a popular choice among RV enthusiasts. In addition to land vehicles, it is suitable for use on boats. With its 100 watt power, the Renogy kit is considered powerful, and thanks to the straightforward design, connecting multiple panels is a breeze.
- 500Wh daily output, plenty to use even for families
- With its 47 X 1.5 X 20.9 inches dimensions, the kit is not too big, leaving plenty of space
- The kit includes various useful accessories, including a branch connector and adapter
- The in-built diodes help the unit maintain its power
- The controls are not the most versatile, MPPT (maximum power point tracing) could work better
This very convenient kit is not just easy to use, but also easy to install. Many of these accessories have a bulky design, but not the Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline, which is actually very slim. If you want grid independence and a quality choice that will keep everything charged for days at a time, this accessory is probably right for you.
5. HQST 100 Watt 12Volt off Grid Polycrystalline Portable Foldable Solar Panel Suitcase with Charge Controller
The HQST 100-Watt Solar Suitcase has a plug and play design and features a controller, the HQST 20 A PMW. It is compatible with various systems, adding to the kit’s versatility. This is a portable system, which – in addition to its size and other dimensions – makes it a popular choice, especially thanks to the many convenient features. The HQST 100 Watt Solar Suitcase comes with a very impressive LCD screen that you will be able to read even in bad viewing conditions.
- Features a junction box called IP65, which happens to be waterproof
- The 10 feet cable is very practical
- The panel is made of aluminum and is weather resistant
- Comes with a very nice LCD screen featuring good viewing angles
- Panel can be placed in direct sunlight while you park your RV in the shade
- Needless to say, the foreign-language manuals aren’t always helpful
- Not intended for permanent roof mounting (this can also be of benefit depending on your situation)
The HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt is a very versatile kit with awesome features. Thanks to the long extension cord, you can park your RV in the shade and still have solar energy, depending on what kind of battery you use.
6. WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Boat Kit with LCD PWM Charge Controller + Solar Cable + MC4 Connectors + Mounting Brackets
As you’ve probably figured out from the title, the WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel design is a very versatile kit for those who either wish to get on the road in an RV, or take out the boat and enjoy a little time on the lake.
- This kit is very easy to put together
- The WindyNation panel is convenient to import
- In-built battery temperature sensor
- The kit can provide about 350-watt hours with a single charge
- A sophisticated LCD screen displaying a lot of information, including amperage, voltage and the load draw of the kit.
- The kit may not always respect the controller’s cut-off values
The WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Boat Kit was designed to be versatile. You can use the kit in RVs, boats, but also in cabins or at home, making your life more comfortable. If you have any mechanical talent whatsoever, you will probably find the installation easy. If you can find the best settings suited for your specific needs, this solar kit will be a faithful travel companion.
Power output only makes up part of the equation when you’re looking for the best solar panels or solar panel kit for RV use. You also need your panels to stand up to any weather you may encounter when traveling. Each of these panels fits the bill, as they each offer durability backed by extensive guarantees. They’re ideal for RVs with 12-volt batteries, and you can use them in series to power larger batteries.
Best Sellers in 'RV Solar Panels'
- Adjustable, corrosion-resistant aluminum stand as well as a heavy duty handle and latches for longevity. Folded size: 19.9 x 27.2 x 2.8 inches. Ideal output: 500 watt hours per day (depends on sunlight availability).
- Compatible with gel, sealed, lithium, and flooded batteries. Charge controller with LCD display for displaying operating information and data.
- 20A built-in 5-stage solar charge controller provides overcharge protection, reducing fire risk.
- High Module conversion efficiency. Ideal output: 1000Wh per day (depending on the availability of sunlight).
- Advanced encapsulation material with multilayered sheet laminations to enhance cell performance and provide a long service life.
- Corrosion resistant aluminum frame for extended outdoor use, allowing the panels to last for decades as well as withstand high winds (2400PA) and snow loads (5400PA).
- Negative grounding controller with battery reversed, overloading, short-circuit and over charging /discharging protection ensures the broader off grid applications and safety. Especially can be used on a vehicle which has battery negative on the chassis
- The charge controller has been upgraded to Renogy' s new 30A PWM Negative-Ground Charge Controller - the Renogy Wanderer
- With the Renogy Wanderer 30A PWM Charge Controller, you can expand your system up to a maximum of 400W
- The charge controller has been upgraded to Renogy's new 30A PWM NegativeGround Charge Controller the Renogy Wanderer
- With the Renogy Wanderer 30A PWM Charge Controller, you can expand your system up to a maximum of 400W
- The kit now includes an 8ft 10AWG Tray Cable to connect your charge controller and battery
Last update on 2019-01-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API