Best solar panel kits for RVs, Campers & trailers

Install the best RV solar panel kits to make your RV camping trip the peaceful getaway you desire. They’re perfect for campers and trailers as well.

Getting Started

Dry camping is often known as Boondocking. It is an exciting and adventurous side of off-grid RVing. You may be one of the hundreds of individuals who are fascinated by this type of backcountry retreat. Then this post is probably for you.

camper with solar panel on it

Boondocking may seem exciting and liberating. Taking your family to the great outdoors without access to mundane luxuries and great utilities is pretty tricky and squandering. When going on a trip, one way to experience the comforts of home away from home is to use daily household utilities. Services such as hot showers and entertainment devices may be hard to leave behind. The gadgets and cooking sets are hard to leave behind as well. You will indeed require a large amount of electricity to handle everything to make them run.

What kind of power source would you consider then? Dry camping or boondocking is dwelling outdoor without using a hookup or other comparable amenities within the campground. One of the most crucial components of boondocking is “electricity.” You’re on a campsite with no direct wire path for electricity. You may as well consider adding a piece of dependable power. Get your power equipment to keep things running. The best one to invest in is most likely one of the best RV solar panel kits.

On a side note, you may look for the best gauge extension cord here.

look at a camper with a solar panel

Off-grid RVing relies on power produced by a generator or a solar panel. Some have both choices and alternate between them based on pressing demand and season. Both sources have gone a long way in generating enough electricity to power RV electronics. However, one has benefits that the other does not have. Suppose you want to extend your off-grid time. In that case, it is a better alternative to a generator that depends solely on fuel supply and tank capacity. With it, you get a consistent charge that has the highest possibility of charging your batteries 100 percent. That means you’ll have a consistent source of electricity, letting you stay at the camp a little longer. You can stay as long as the weather is favorable.

The chart below compares the potential of this system against a generator based on its scope of operations.

SYSTEMPOWER SOURCENOISE LEVELOPERATIONRUN-TIMEFUNCTION
SOLAR PANELSOLAR: It’s generally maintenance-free and doesn’t require you to carry fuel to run electronic essentials.It is a silent operation and eco-friendly.Power is at work and ready and easy to operate.It extends your time in the camp.It runs on a 12-volt system and requires an inverter with a large battery bank to handle low-watts and high-watts 120v appliances.
GENERATORGAS/DIESEL: It requires enough gas for continuous operation, an upfront expense.It creates background noise.Requires someone capable of starting up an engine, especially with pull-start and choke.Camping depends on fuel supply and tank capacity.It uses a 120-volt system to supply power to all appliances.
champion generator

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Top 4 best solar panels for RV? And which one suits your needs?

A solar power system provides useable power by converting light into electricity. It supplies it to electrical devices utilizing semiconducting materials, making life a little better. These generate direct current power by using sunlight as an energy source. It was first used for remote residences and small institutions, but it quickly became popular for RVs.

rv

RV panels can be portable or permanently installed on the unit’s roof. The suggested sizes to charge a device sufficiently are between 75 and 260 watts or even more. These sizes are capable of accommodating nearly all electronics to their max potential. Smaller sizes are also available. They are mainly helpful for charging stand-alone batteries used as backup power supplies.

Some firms offer services ranging from refueling your daily power consumption to outfitting your RV with new solar systems. These companies include AM Solar.

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#1. Portable

Suppose you are looking forward to having enough power without plugging into an electrical stand. In that case, a portable solar panel is a good alternative system. It can even supplement real good power to deep cycle marine batteries used in RVs.

The significant advantage of having a portable unit is that it is considerably easier to put up than a permanent solution. They may be stand-alone units or portable carrying cases that you can keep in your vehicle. Take them out when you get to the campground.

Some of the best systems simplify installation for individuals with little to no background. It also provides a greater wattage to enhance the system’s capacity. Because of their versatility and weatherproof characteristics, portable systems are ideal for curved roofs and other complex surfaces.

In general, the roof is the most traditional location for this panel to be installed. It may be set up wherever it is most practical for direct sun exposure due to its portability.

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#2. Permanent and fixed

Full-time RVers and families living nomadic lifestyles often settle someplace without a reliable source. They would likely consider installing permanent solutions. Electricity is essential for RVers of such a kind, especially while Boondocking in the countryside away from hookups.

RVs and trailers are supplied with air conditioners and refrigerators. They may have a few TVs, and many electrical gadgets certainly require a decent power source. In such a case, a permanent option is the ultimate option for powering such devices. There is an extra supply for computers and internet access, appliances you don’t want to live without.

Fixed systems permanently mounted on the roof. The biggest challenge is finding adequate space for the components because the build is likely more extensive than a portable type. A successfully installed permanent unit is capable of energizing large amperage circuits. It can run high-energy consuming devices simultaneously.

Tilt mounts for solar panels are also helpful for manually adjusting the angle and obtaining the most heat. When they are at the proper angle, it constantly absorbs energy as long as the sun is out. It can handle power-hungry equipment that requires more than 200 watts of electricity.

#3. Rigid

Rigid panels are the best performance and durability since they come with tempered glass. Some are in an aluminum frame for protection and sustainable application. Because their top layer consists of glass, UV degradation is not an issue. A rigid panel will always be more energy efficient than a flexible option. In terms of durability, rigid systems have a maximum of 20 to 30 years. One of the best units is the Renogy model.

#4. Flexible

The top layer of flexible panels comprises protective transparent plastic. It makes them more susceptible to UV light degradation, unlike rigid options. As a result, you may see foggy chalky inside. It limits the quantity of sunlight that reaches the solar cell and the module’s output.

They are also much lighter than rigid ones, which provide 27 watts per pound. Average flexible ones will always perform less well than rigid ones regarding the amount of energy produced. They’re just less efficient than the total solar power that reaches the panels. However, high-quality flexible kits like the Go Power! Solar may work better than the worst rigid models.

Do you love to DIY your projects? We prepared an in-depth post about the best amp wires and circuits for you.

What to look for

If you are a frequent traveler, it is in your best interest to know how to do so without too much hassle. It’s especially the case regarding power supply. And the simplest way to do it is to install something that meets your needs.

Choosing the best system for your needs may be challenging. It usually requires a careful assessment of whether it will match your current demands or is just too huge for your unit. It is important to note that each family has various demands. Their setups require different amounts of electricity.

  • Determine your consumption
light bulb

First things first, estimate how much electricity you will consume while traveling. It’s done to establish how many panels and backup batteries you require.

Let’s say you regularly use water to wash dishes and take showers. A water pump will operate every few minutes if your children love watching movies or using the computer. Maybe the weather turns cool frequently, and the furnace is constantly switched on. Overall, the power consumption is relatively high. It demands extra batteries or additional panels to extend the system.

In any case, you may do a test run with a basic system to see whether it matches your needs.

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  • Battery storage

You’ll probably need some more battery banks to store your energy if you want to increase the system. You can figure out how much storage you’ll need to keep enough amp-hours of energy charge.

Most RVers utilized 12v batteries, either lead-acid or lithium-ion. However, there are special power banks designed mainly for solar systems. They are far more helpful than a standard power bank. They are designed to hold large current quantities for a more extended time. Aside from that, they are built to last and be used many times. It makes them highly cost-effective.

When choosing a battery, it’s a general rule of thumb to choose one that can store 3-4 times your daily power requirements. It will supply you with enough amp-hours for your system to keep you safe while camping.

  • Configuration options
a series of light bulbs

You may utilize them in two ways: manually setting them up or permanently mounting them on the roof.

Manual setup is straightforward and quick to install.

Step 1: Position your panel in the direction of the sun. It could be anywhere you want outside your rig.

Step 2: Connect them to your battery.

Step 3: Face them towards the sun every time the sun moves for consistent solar generation.

Remember that a portable unit must be set up and taken down after usage.

Roof-mounted ones are also an excellent choice, particularly for full-time Boondockers. You can install as many as the roof can support larger and faster electricity generation. The only drawback is that you cannot park your RV in the shadow since the top must be exposed to sunshine. Aside from that, you can’t reposition your panels to obtain more power from the sun.

  • The price point

The cost of each kit will vary depending on how much electricity you require. It is based on the number of items you want to bring on your trip.

You may start by purchasing a starter kit, ranging from $200 to $500. The kit contains a charge controller and wirings, and it comes with brackets and 1 or 2 solar panels. It is an excellent starting point. If you do not want to install it yourself, you may need to pay a professional installer. The whole system may be acquired for less than $1000, including installation. You may need to purchase more once you’ve determined how well the system works for you.

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FAQ

How many panels do I need to run an RV?

As an RV owner, you will always find ways to extend your stay when you’re staying off-grid. How many you need will depend on your needs and the number of appliances you use. Figure out the number of hours you use them.

You may operate your air conditioning unit for 4-8 hours each day. You also operate your lights and kitchen equipment. You have a water pump going and plenty of other rechargeable devices. These things use a lot of power, so you’ll probably need more solar.

The more efficient the system is, the higher the energy output per light energy hitting the cell. The more likely it will cover your complete energy requirements.

Are solar panels worth it for an RV?

Yes, RV solar panels are worth the investment.

For most owners, solar is an excellent way to obtain the required power during the camping season. Because they do not rely on petrol or tank capacity, they allow you to stay in camp for a bit longer.

Aside from that, they are now more affordable than ever. While the initial cost of installing them varies depending on the number required, the total savings are well worth it. Furthermore, the roof-mounted system is intended to be long-lasting and low-maintenance. It has no additional running costs unless the system has to be changed. Nevertheless, choosing a less efficient one may not usually be the most cost-effective option.

What will a 100-watt solar panel run in an RV?

A 100-watt solar panel is convenient and easy to install. Most importantly, it is portable. It makes it ideal for your RV. While it is still a viable energy source, it can only power small devices and other lower-requirement gadgets.

A single 100-watt one can dependably power a few small gadgets. It depends on the type of battery used and the quantity of energy required by particular devices. You may need to run between each device alternately.

Can I run my RV air conditioner with solar panels?

You can power your RV air conditioner using solar panels, but a large amount of power is to be generated. Precisely, 1800W should be produced by the solar panel to keep the air conditioner running. But to get the air conditioner started, high power is required. This means a vast system of high-voltage solar panels would need to be set up.

Can any solar panel be used on an RV?

An RV typically supports any solar panel. However, other factors come to play when selecting the ideal solar panel. Firstly, you need to look at the available space. Since most RV roofs do not have a lot of space, smaller solar panels would work best. Secondly, examine the voltage at which the panels operate. Generally, RV solar panels are used in the 17-20 volt range.

How long do Renogy solar panels last?

Renogy solar panels come with a performance warranty of 25 years. As per the industry standard, any good solar panel offers a life of 25-30 years. The Renogy solar panel’s performance reduces by 1% each passing year.   

Let’s look at the chart below to see what consumption statistics of common appliances this type can handle.

AppliancesMaximum watts
Laptop60w
LEDs10w
Lights and lamps14w
Internet router15w
Smartphones5w
22” – 49” LED TV17w – 85w
Air cooler80w
Air purifier30w
Computer monitor30w
Cooker hood30w
Electric shaver20w
Fluorescent lamp45w
Audio system95w
PS 490w
Water filter and cooler100w
Wall fan60w, etc.

You may network panels together to boost the overall output and run electricity-hungry equipment. AC units and microwaves all require lots of power. If you link two 100-watt together, the energy will be doubled to 200 watts. Three panels generate 300 watts, and so on.

Using another panel to an existing setup is a simple and effective way to generate more electricity. Because it is so compact, it is the most cost-effective rooftop system available.

solar panel on camper

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Wrapping Up:

Exploring the beauty of nature in an RV with your family will be the best experience you will ever have. Solar energy is a free power source that can be used on a journey using the systems covered in this article.

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