Best solar panel kits for RVs, Campers & trailers

Make your RV camping trip the peaceful getaway you desire by installing the best RV solar panel kits, perfect for campers and trailers as well.

Getting Started

Dry camping, often known as Boondocking, 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

As far as we can tell, while Boondocking may seem exciting and liberating, taking your family in 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 and services such as hot showers, entertainment devices, gadgets, cooking sets, and more. You will indeed require a large amount of electricity to handle all that stuff to make them running.

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

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look at a camper with a solar panel

Off-grid RVing relies on power produced by a generator (diesel or gas) 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 terms of generating enough electricity to power RV electronics. However, one has benefits that the other does not have. One example, 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 to 100 percent. That means you’ll have a consistent source of electricity, letting you stay at the camp a little longer as long as the weather is favorable.

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

SYSTEM POWER SOURCE NOISE LEVEL OPERATION RUN-TIME FUNCTION
SOLAR PANEL SOLAR-Maintenance-free and doesn’t require you to carry fuel to run electronic essentials. Silent operation and eco-friendly Power is at work and ready and easy to operate. Extends your time in the camp. Runs on a 12-volt system and requires an inverter with a large battery bank to handle both low-watts and high-watts 120v appliances.
GENERATOR GAS/DIESEL-Requires enough gas for continuous operation, which is an upfront expense. 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. 120-volt system to directly supply power to all appliances.

champion generator

Similarly, you may skim through our guide about amp wire size & its chart.

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 and supplying it to electrical devices utilizing semiconducting materials. These generate direct current (DC) power by using sunlight as a source of energy. It was first used as a system for remote residences and small institutions, but it quickly became popular for RVs.

rv

RV panels can be either 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, although they are mainly helpful for charging stand-alone batteries used as backup power supply.

Some firms, such as AM Solar, offer services ranging from refueling your daily power consumption to outfitting your RV with new solar systems and all other necessities.

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#1. Portable

If you are looking forward to having enough power without plugging into an electrical stand, 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 and take them out when you get to the campground.

Some of the best systems simplify installation for individuals with little to no background. Other than that, it 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 by far the most traditional location for this sort of panel to be installed. Still, it may be set up wherever it is most practical for direct sun exposure due to its portability.

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#2. Permanent/fixed

Full-time RVers and families living nomadic lifestyles or are settling someplace without a reliable source 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, campers, and trailers supplied with air conditioners, refrigerators, a few TVs, and a bunch of electrical gadgets certainly require a decent power source. In such a case, a permanent option is the ultimate option for powering such devices. In addition, there is an extra supply for computers and internet access.

Fixed systems permanently mounted on the roof. However, the biggest challenge is finding adequate space for the components because the build is likely more extensive than a portable type. But a successfully installed permanent unit is capable enough to energize and load large amperage circuits to 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 and can handle power-hungry equipment that requires more than 200 watts of electricity.

#3. Rigid

Rigid panels are the best in terms of 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 a UV degradation is not really an issue. A rigid panel will always be more energy efficient than a flexible option. In terms of durability, rigid systems have a maximum lifespan 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, making them more susceptible to UV light degradation, unlike rigid options. As a result, you may see foggy chalky inside, limiting the quantity of sunlight that reaches the solar cell as well as the module’s output.

They are also much lighter than rigid  ones, which provide 60w/kg (or 27w/lb). Regarding the amount of energy produced from the total amount of solar power that reaches the panels, average flexible ones will always perform less well than a rigid ones. However, high-quality flexible kits like the Go Power! Solar may work better than the worst rigid models.

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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, especially 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, and 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, and their setups require different amounts of electricity.

  • Determine your consumption

light bulb

First things first, estimate how much electricity you will consume while traveling so as to establish how many panels and backup batteries you will require.

Let’s say, you regularly use water to wash dishes and take showers, in which case a water pump will operate every few minutes or so. Or if your children love watching movies or using the computer on frequently, and when the weather cools, the furnace is constantly switched on. Overall, the power consumption is relatively high, demanding 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. In this manner, 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 since 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, making 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. This 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: to manually set it up or permanently mount them on the vehicle’s 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. For larger and faster electricity generation, you can install as many as the roof can support. 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 based on the number of items you want to bring with you on your trip.

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

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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. So, the answer to how many you need will depend on your needs, the number of appliances you use, and the number of hours you use them.

Assume you operate your air conditioning unit for 4-8 hours each day while also operating your lights, fans, kitchen equipment, water pump, 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, the higher energy output per amount of light energy hitting the cell, and the more likely it will cover your complete energy requirements.

Are they 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. And 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?

A 100-watt solar panel is convenient, easy to fix, and, most importantly, portable, making 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, depending on the type of battery used and the quantity of energy required by particular devices. You may need to run between each device alternately.

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

Appliances Maximum watts
Laptop 60w
LEDs 10w
Lights and lamps 14w
Internet router 15w
Smartphones 5w
22” – 49” LED TV 17w – 85w
Air cooler 80w
Air purifier 30w
Computer monitor 30w
Cooker hood 30w
Electric shaver 20w
Fluorescent lamp 45w
Audio system 95w
PS 4 90w
Water filter and cooler 100w
Wall fan 60w and etc.

You may network panels together to boost the overall output and run electricity-hungry equipment such as AC units, microwaves, portable heaters, and similar items. For example, if you link two 100-watt together, the energy will be doubled to 200 watts, three panels to 300 watts, and so on and so forth.

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

Additionally, here are the best generators by wattage.

Wrapping Up:

Exploring the beauty of nature in an RV with your family will be the best experience you will ever have. And 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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