Best Solar Panels for RV Solar Power System (2021)
A good RV camper offers the serenity of nature along with the basic comforts and conveniences of the modern world. To make your travels more eco-friendly, it's smart to invest in one of the best solar panels for RV use.
Gas generators are fairly common in the RV world, yet they tend to be quite noisy and can disrupt your outdoor idyll. A better option may be to embrace the clean, renewable energy of the sun, investing in solar panels to keep everything in your RV humming along.
5 Best Solar Panels for RV Use
To help you make an informed purchasing decision, we've evaluated many of the best solar panels for RV camping, rating them according to durability, performance, efficiency, cost and other factors. We've determined that these are the five best options when it comes to solar panels for an RV roof:
Best Solar Panels for RV Use
Renogy 400W 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar RV Kit
WindyNation 100W Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Kit
Best Basic Kit
Renogy 100W 12-Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Best Flexible Panel
Goal Zero Nomad 100-Watt Monocrystalline Portable Solar Panel
Best Portable Panel
Renogy 100W 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit
Best Kit Under $200
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Here is a quick overview of each product.
Best Overall: Renogy 400W 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar RV Kit
The Renogy 400W 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar RV Kit is our choice for all-around best solar panels for RV use. The kit provides you with four 100-watt panels and comes with an efficiency rating of 21%. This is one of the most efficient solar panels for RVs; in fact, there are a lot of residential solar systems out there that don't provide as much power. And Renogy backs its solar panel kit with a 25-year warranty, generous consumer protection that speaks to the durability of these panels.
Something else to note is that the kit comes with all of the mounting hardware and cables you need to install the panels on your RV's roof, as well as easy app integration that allows you to control your solar energy panels from your phone or tablet.
- Industry-leading efficiency
- Great value, including a heavy-duty 25-year warranty
- Lots of options for easy, customizable solar panel installation
- It's a fairly large system, and smaller RVs won't have the roof space for four solar panels
Why Buy: Optimizing performance and value, Renogy's solar power kit is the one to beat, especially for mid-sized or large campers.
Best Basic Kit: WindyNation 100W Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Kit
If you're looking for something a bit more basic (and a bit less expensive), you might consider this WindyNation kit. It comes with a single 100W solar panel, plus everything you'll need for a quick and easy installation.
If you don't need a ton of electrical power, this single solar panel system should more than accommodate. A nice thing about this RV solar panel kit is that if you find the power output is lower than you need, you can always expand your solar setup with additional panels.
- Comes with all the solar cable and mounting equipment you need
- Easily expandable if you need a higher amount of power
- Great basic option for small campers or for solar novices
- Decent price point
- For some RV campers, this simply won't offer enough on-the-go power
- Inverter needs to be purchased separately
Why Buy: If you're looking for a modest solar power system for RV use, WindyNation is a great brand with a stalwart reputation. And if you like the system but need more wattage, it's pretty easy to add additional panels.
Best Flexible Panel: Renogy 100W 12-Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel
What if you need a solar power system that can be installed on irregular surfaces, like the hood of an Airstream? Renogy's flexible solar panels are up to the task. This 100W panel is not only extremely durable and able to withstand high winds and heavy snow loads, but it's also backed by the same robust warranty and rock-solid reputation that make Renogy's other products so recommendable.
- Lightweight, flexible, portable and great for use on irregular surfaces
- Comes with a solid warranty
- Will not provide enough power for a full-sized RV
- Standalone panel does not come with cables, solar charge controller, adaptor kit, battery bank, inverter, or the adhesive you'll need for DIY solar panel installation
Why Buy: Not everyone needs flexibility in their RV solar paneling. But if you do, this Renogy product is one of the best solar panels for RV roofs that aren't standard.
Best Portable Kit: Goal Zero Nomad 100-Watt Monocrystalline Portable Solar Panel
Some owners may not want to go to the trouble of installing solar panels on their RV, instead preferring to simply hook up a foldable solar panel for powering their air conditioner or small appliance chargers. The Goal Zero Nomad 100-Watt Monocrystalline Portable Solar Panel is our choice for best portable solar panel kit.
We love it for its ruggedness and durability, lightweight nature, portability and incredible ease of use. You can also chain it with other solar panels, meaning it's a simple way to augment your existing RV solar system.
- Easy to transport
- Easy to chain with other solar panels
- Reasonable price point
- Built-in carrying case for easy portability
- Warranty information is unclear
Why Buy: If you want a solar panel you can take anywhere, unfolding whenever it's needed, then we can't recommend this product highly enough.
Best Kit Under $200: Renogy 100W 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit
In terms of sheer affordability, the Renogy 100W 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit is one of the best solar power systems for RV use. For under $200, you get a Renogy 100-watt panel along with a charge controller, tray cables, adaptor kit and z-brackets for easy mounting. And while a single panel likely won't be enough to power your entire motorhome, this does boast Renogy's 21% efficiency level, which is nothing to scoff at.
- Especially low price point
- High efficiency rating
- Easy installation
- Likely not enough power for your entire full-size RV
Why Buy: If you're looking for an affordable entry into RV solar systems, this is a great place to begin.
How Do RV Solar Panels Work?
As you shop for the best solar panels for your RV, it may be helpful to know how solar panels actually work.
Generally speaking, a solar power system for an RV works like a residential solar system. The panels draw energy from the sun and an inverter turns it into an electrical current, which is then distributed throughout your RV's electrical system. A battery may be used to store any excess power that's generated by the solar cells so that you can still power your system on low-light days or at night.
Types of RV Solar Panels
There are three basic types of solar panels for RVs: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film solar panels.
Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are both made from silicon. The difference is that monocrystalline panels are made with a single, unbroken silicon crystal, while polycrystalline panels are pieced together from silicon fragments. As such, monocrystalline panels tend to be a bit more efficient, but also quite a bit more expensive.
Thin-film panels can be made from a number of different materials. They're the least expensive option, and also the least efficient. One big plus is that they tend to be more lightweight, flexible and portable, which makes thin-film solar panels well-suited for RV use.
Types of Batteries for RV Solar Systems
Battery banks are an important component of an RV solar power system. Most RVs will only need a 12V battery, but some owners may opt for higher voltage depending on what needs to be powered.
You'll also need to choose between lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries. While lead-acid batteries are a common choice, they typically need to be replaced and maintained more frequently than lithium-ion ones. If you camp most of the year, springing for the more efficient, longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries is probably a good idea.
How Much Do RV Solar Panels Cost?
The cost of an RV solar system can vary according to a number of different factors: Size, type of panels, number of panels and more. If you want the best RV solar panels, it may not be cheap. Although you can get a single, high-quality panel for under $200, a full, professionally installed system may total more than $2,000.
Keep in mind that the price point can also fluctuate depending on accessories you acquire, like extra panels, batteries, mounting equipment and more.
Choosing the Best Solar Panels for Your RV
Ultimately, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing the best solar panels for your RV. Primary considerations include:
- System size: You'll need to think about the number of appliances and accessories that need to be powered, as well as the size of your RV and the total surface area that's available for solar paneling. Also, consider the number of nights you'll be staying at a designated campground with a power hookup versus off-grid boondocking.
- Installation process: Ease of installation is another important point: Will you be able to install your panels yourself, or will you require a professional? And will you need to buy additional parts or accessories before your solar panels can be used? Look out for features like pre-drilled holes that fit specific mounting brackets.
- Budget: The cost of solar panels is always a driver when seeking the best system for your setup. You may need to spend a little more if you plan on using your panels as the primary power source for a full-size RV, as a low-watt solar kit will likely not put out enough energy.
- Durability and warranty: Always seek high-quality materials and robust warranties when you buy solar panels, as these can provide you with some peace of mind about the longevity of your solar panels. A corrosion-resistant aluminum frame and a highly rated junction box are sure to hold up long-term, for example.
Final Thoughts: Is an RV Solar Power System Right for You?
After learning more about mobile solar systems, it's time to decide: Are solar panels worth it for your RV camper?
Solar can be a great option if you consistently camp at sites that have electric hook-ups and you wish to reduce your environmental footprint. They can be an even wiser investment if you frequently camp where you don't have access to the power grid. Make sure you do your due diligence, finding the best solar panels for your RV, your budget and your camping lifestyle.
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