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Living off the grid can seem desirable at times - away from all the noise of the city, no set address, reducing your personal carbon footprint, and just enjoying a different view than all the usual electronics and screens. However, your experience out in the wilderness can quickly turn sour if you have no power at all to run your necessary appliances and recharge your devices. Something as simple as lighting once the sun goes down is a must when living in an RV, but how do you collect this energy without connecting your vehicle to the grid?
Luckily, solar panels have become much more portable in recent years and can easily be brought along on an RV adventure to keep all your electronics running. Today we’ll be looking at solar panel kits which are not only portable enough to take on your expeditions but also include all the necessary accessories that you need to connect your solar panel to your battery.
Most portable solar panel kits are designed for temporary use and can be packed up after a week of using while at the campsite. However, if you’re looking for something a little more permanent, you can also get models that are designed to be permanently fixed on top of your RV’s roof. Bear in mind that more permanent alternatives are less portable as they’re not designed to be transported from place to place. We’ll be looking at models with varying levels of portability so you can find the right one for your needs. We’ve also included a buyers guide below to give you some helpful tips before you commit to your new portable solar panel kit.
Top 4 Portable Solar Panel Kits for RVs
Solar Panel Material
31 x 20 x 2.8 inches
6.5 x 4.3 x 1.8 inches
40 x 1.38 x 26.4 inches
50.2 x 20 x 0.09 inches
Charger Controller Included?
Briefcase design, alligator clips and 10 feet worth of cables
MC4 connectors, mounting hardware and a tray cable
Comes with connectors and mounting hardware
4.3 out of 5
4.5 out of 5
4.5 out of 5
4 out of 5
Number of Reviews
Solar panels have proved excellent for use in an RV or campervan, as you don’t need to rely on anything other than the weather. Although an RV battery recharges while driving and you may have access to mains power at campsites, it’s always worth having a backup plan. RV batteries have a tendency to leak and therefore lose power when the vehicle isn’t driven for a while, so having a solar panel for emergencies can prevent any inconveniences. It can also help to keep your devices charged, such as a phone, in case you need to call for help.
Living off the grid doesn’t mean you have to live completely free of power - electricity is often needed for safety purposes rather than considered a luxury. If you find yourself stranded in a worst-case scenario, emergency lighting, heating, and communication methods are going to be necessary. Even if you don’t use the power for anything other than emergencies, solar power energy could potentially be a lifesaver.
Solar panels are becoming more accessible and more people are opting to invest in a solar power system to save money in the long run and reduce their personal emissions. This means that prices are lowering and the installation is becoming easier, so now is an excellent time to make the leap and invest in one or two solar panels for your RV.
Portable Solar RV Kit Reviews
Below we’ll have a more in-depth look at the best portable solar panel kits that you can get on the market right now. We’ll be paying particular attention to the power capacity, durability, output types, accessories, and the size of each model, as these factors will determine most whether the kit is a good fit for you. Let’s get right into it, shall we?
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Best Portable Solar Panel For RV 2020 - Comparison Table
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Best Portable Solar Panel For RV 2020 - Reviews
The ECO-WORTHY 120W Folding Solar Panel Kit is extremely portable due to the useful foldable design so that you can reduce the size to half of the original size. Moreover, the handle is sturdy enough to transport the solar panel with ease. There is a charge controller already installed and the solar panel is already wired and ready to charge a 12V battery. You can literally take this solar panel right out the box and let it get to work without having to do any of the work!
However, ECO-WORTHY has not designed this solar panel for its longevity - it was created to be a quick and temporary fix for emergency situations or short camping trips. Therefore don’t expect to be able to expand this model into an extensive power system. Having said that, if you’re looking for a solar panel to take with you on your RV excursion to help keep your devices charged and ready to go, this is an excellent choice to take out with minimal setup.
- Ready to use straight out of the box thanks to the pre-installed wired 12V system and controller.
- A briefcase-style of solar panel, meaning it’s much more portable than other models.
Kit Includes …
- 15A charge controller already installed.
- Two 30A alligator clips.
- Two 60W monocrystalline solar panels.
- Pair of pre-installed cables, 10 feet long.
- Durable aluminum frame with an adjustable stand that can be folded.
- It can collect power even on overcast days.
- No setup needed so you can use it straight out of the box.
- The guaranteed power is 90% within the first 10 years, and 80% within 25 years lifetime.
- Many customers have stated that they received no instruction manual with their kit.
- The solar panel legs aren’t made of the most durable materials.
Renogy’s solar panel starter kit includes a monocrystalline solar panel which can be expanded up to 400W more, making this a great choice for anyone who thinks that their energy needs may increase over time. This kit is called a starter kit, and it does not disappoint. You’ll receive everything you need from the hardware to the cables, making it perfect for newbies in the solar panel world.
Unlike the ECO-WORTHY solar panel that we looked at above, Renogy’s alternative has been designed to be installed on top of your RV’s roof to collect sunlight day in and day out for as much time as you need. However, this means that the 100W monocrystalline solar panel included with this kit is not as portable as other potential models.
Looking at the customer ratings, users are loving how easy it is to install and use, and how well it works with minimal maintenance. You can choose to purchase another mount which gives you the opportunity to tilt the solar panel to ensure you get the optimized angle to capture as much sunlight as possible, however, you certainly don’t need it to get an impressive amount of energy. Moreover, tilting your solar panel slightly will allow dirt, snow, and rain to fall off easier so you don’t find yourself having to clean the panels every other day.
- The controller can be used with a number of different batteries, including flooded, sealed, and gel.
- Equipped with pulse width modulation technology.
- A 50Ah battery can be recharged within 3 hours from 50%.
- You can expand this system up to 400W.
- Designed to be used on RVs with a battery that’s negative is on the chassis.
Kit Includes …
- 20 foot MC4 adaptor kit.
- Z brackets with all the necessary hardware.
- 100W monocrystalline solar panel.
- 10AWG tray cable, 8 foot.
- 30A charge controller.
- Great large number of customer reviews, the majority of which have given high ratings.
- You have access to instructional videos to aid you in the installation process.
- The system can be expanded.
- Safer than some other kits thanks to negative grounding.
- It can be slightly tricky to install, and you may find yourself needing to consult a professional.
- Not as portable as other models as it’s designed to be permanently installed onto your RVs roof.
The solar panel that comes in the WindyNation 100W Solar Panel RV Kit is made of polycrystalline, and you have the ability to expand your system with a maximum of four additional panels. This is particularly helpful if you find yourself needing to collect more solar energy over time, so you’re not stuck with an underperforming system that only offers enough electricity for half of your needs. Four solar panels is more than enough to power an RV and all your devices in it, however, bear in mind that this is likely to take up much more room when you want to store them away. The more solar panels you have will also make it less portable due to the bigger size and weight.
Many customers have taken to the review section to express their amazement and love of the versatility of the controller, including its range of features and options. This charger gives you accurate information about your solar panel so you can monitor its efficiency properly. You will also be able to see your energy consumption, which will give you a better idea of whether you need to expand your system or not. Happy customers also rave about how reliable this kit is as well as how easy it was to install and use.
- Temperature sensor to monitor the battery.
- LCD display on charge controller which shows your helpful and accurate information, such as voltage, temperature, amperage, amp-hours, and your current energy load draw.
- The controller can monitor up to four solar panels.
- You can expect an average charge of 350Wh/33Ah a day, depending on how strong the sunlight is.
Kit Includes …
- 100W polycrystalline solar panel
- 40-foot durable solar cable
- Mounting hardware
- Charge controller
- MC4 connectors
- Installation instructions
- Reliable solar panel.
- Comes with easy to read instructions.
- Possibility to expand the system if you find that you need more energy over time.
- May require you to purchase an additional fuse system.
- You may need to add a transfer switch to your system if you’re planning on powering more than just your RVs battery.
- The connectors that come with this kit aren’t the best quality so you may find that you need to solder them before using.
One solar panel kit that strays from the norm of our list is the ALLPOWERS 50W Flexible Solar Module, as instead of being made of monocrystalline or polycrystalline, it is actually made from a thin and flexible material. This helps to position your solar panel on uneven surfaces as thicker models can sometimes be awkward to use if where you’re laying it on isn’t completely flat.
This solar panel is so flexible that it can bend up to 30 degrees, making it ideal for installation on the side of a tent or awning. If you’re someone who prefers to switch up the position of your solar panel every day, or perhaps even every hour, to ensure the maximum efficiency of the sun, this could be an ideal model for you.
Unfortunately you’ll only be getting the solar panel with this kit, and you’ll need to purchase all the wiring and connections needed separately. Due to the thin material, it is also not considered the most durable solar panel out there, however, if you need a quick fix for an RV holiday, you may prefer this model to other more expensive solar panel kits.
- Weighs 3.9 pounds.
- 18 month guaranteed warranty.
- Unique flexible design that can bend up to 30 degrees.
Kit Includes …
- 50W bendable solar panel
- User manual
- Flexible solar panel which is much more lightweight and portable than some other models.
- It can be set up anywhere thanks to its portability.
- This kit doesn’t come with all the cables and connectors that you need, and it does not come with a charge controller either. You have to purchase all of these components separately.
Best Portable Solar Panel For RV 2020 - Buyers Guide
A portable solar panel kit enables you to be able to connect your RV or campervan to a power source that is both free and unlimited. Solar power is an incredibly impressive invention and you’ll soon find it to be much quieter and safer than using a fuel running generator in your RV. Sure, solar power is an investment, but it quickly pays itself off in the long run and you’ll find that it’s a great solution for all your needs when traveling or living off the grid. Don’t forget that it’ll reduce your carbon footprint!
That’s great and all, but how do you know which solar panel kit to purchase? Solar panels can be made of various materials, each of which offers individual features and benefits - some of which are likely to help you more than others. Let’s have a look at some of the different materials solar panels can be made out of.
Solar panels made of polycrystalline are blue and you’ll be able to see tiny specks within the material. These models often have a short lifespan when exposed to very strong sunlight and temperatures, and they offer slightly less efficient than other materials. Having said that, they’re often less expensive.
Monocrystalline solar panels are dark and what we often think of when we imagine the look of a traditional solar panel. This type is very efficient and has a higher output than polycrystalline alternatives. They’re also more durable as they’re not as phased by higher temperatures. However, all of these impressive features make them the most expensive type of solar panel.
Thin-Film Solar Cells
This solar panel alternative is often cheaper, durable, and flexible. A flexible solar panel allows you to be creative with the installation and often means it's easier to store in small spaces. However, this decreases its lifespan considerably and many people are put off by how large they tend to be.
How do you determine what portable solar panel kit is right for your needs?
Pay attention to the durability
The durability of a solar panel that's designed to be installed onto a fixed place, such as a roof, can be slightly lower than portable solar panels as they aren’t designed to be moved around time after time. However, if you’re looking for a portable solar panel to take with you in your RV or campervan, you’re going to need a much more durable model.
When looked at all the different options of solar panels, remember to look at not only the durability of the solar panel itself but also all its hardware and accessories. These can include cables, connectors, and clamps, as well as the frame that holds the solar panel altogether. It’s likely that you’re going to be moving your panel around and disconnecting and reconnecting the cables much more often than a permanently fixed solar panel, so the durability should really be one of the most important factors to determine your decision.
How to install your solar panel kit
If you’re looking to purchase a solar panel kit, you’re going to need either some prior electrical knowledge, or some time to teach yourself the basics. You can choose a kit that offers 24/7 support and comes with a user manual, however, you will need to feel confident enough in your abilities to install a solar solution correctly. Perhaps the most important knowledge to have is in regards to connecting fuses, how inverters work, and the difference between different terminals.
You may have a vague idea of electrics and what all the terminology above means, but it’s important to remember that electrical installations can be dangerous. You can’t drive your RV into the sunset if you’re injured! If you’re unsure you have the ability to install your solar panel kit, it’s always better to talk to a professional electrician before getting into it.
Where is the best place to install solar panels?
Many solar panels are designed to be installed onto the roof of a house or campervan, as this is the best place to absorb as much sun as possible. Just remember that if you’re going to place your solar panels on the roof of your RV to not park under a shaded area or near any trees that could potentially decrease the solar panel effectiveness.
Having said that, you may prefer to keep your solar panels detached from your RV and only bring them out when you’re parked and enjoying the sun yourself. Just bear in mind that you’ll need enough cable to be able to run your solar panels from your battery. Don’t just go for the longest cable you can find though, as energy can be lost during the journey through the cable.
Overall, you can install your solar panels wherever is most convenient for you, however, just keep the cable as short as possible to make sure you’re collecting as much power as possible.
Before purchasing your portable solar panel kit, make sure you consider where you are going to install the cells. If you have ample space on your roof, it shouldn’t matter too much about the size and material of your model, however, if you have a smaller space you will have to choose a model that can be adapted to make sure it’s still effective and creating energy.
Do you need a battery, an inverter, or a charge controller?
If you’re planning on using your solar panel to charge up the battery of your RV and recharging all your devices through the carports in the RV, you may not need anything other than the solar panel itself.
However, if you’re planning on using more power than your solar panel allows, you’re going to want to look into deep cycle solar batteries. This stores the energy that your solar panel has collected during the day so that you can use it during the night time or on rainy days where you cannot collect any decent energy levels.
If you need to run small appliances such as a minifridge, you will need to look for an inverter which converts your DC power from the solar panel into AC power. This will increase the versatility of your solar power system and you’ll get much more use out of it.
After all of this, you may find that you need more batteries to handle all of your needs. It is possible, however, then you’re going to have to invest in a solar charge controller. This protects your batteries from becoming overcharged thanks to your solar panels collecting more energy than the batteries can handle.
Before you know it, you’ve got a full solar power system in place! One more thing - if you’re going to rig the power to go straight from the solar panel to your outlets in the RV, you may need a transfer switch. All this does is make sure the correct amount of energy is going to the correct places, as you don’t want to fry your devices with too high of a voltage.
How much power do you need?
You’ll have to decide whether you want your solar panel to simply charge up a battery once or twice to keep a limited number of devices running, or whether you want one that can run a number of appliances and keep you surrounded by power all day and night. Some solar panels are designed to offer small amounts of power for urgent instances, while others are meant to catch as much energy as possible so that you have a great backup supply.
It is advised that you measure how much energy you’re likely to need and use before deciding which solar panel to go for, as you don’t want to be left stranded without a sufficient amount of energy. Bear in mind that larger solar panels will also be less portable, so don’t just go for the biggest one you can find without knowing that you need that much power or not.
For years campers and outdoor enthusiasts have relied on classic generators to power their appliances and devices, and they’ve been known to tolerate the loud noises, expensive gas prices, and potentially unsafe fumes. Due to the fact that these generators often disturb the environmental peace and serenity thanks to the loud and constant rumbling noises, and also spit out harmful gases, more and more people are beginning to make the switch to solar energy instead.
Solar-powered generators are just as efficient as fuel generators, and they don’t make any noise or pollution to ruin your relaxing holiday. Thanks to the popularity of solar power solutions in recent years, there are plenty of models on the market to choose from and you shouldn’t have any problems finding the best model for you. No matter if you’re a seasonal camper or only find yourself out in the wilderness once in a while, your ideal solar panel kit is just waiting for you to find it.
Don’t just buy the first one you see or the cheapest model, either. All of the models we’ve mentioned above are excellent potential suitors, however, you’ll still need to read the specifications properly to ensure it’s going to perform how you need and expect. The most important factors to consider include the capacity, durability, size, output types, and the additional accessories that come with the solar panel.
Our favorite solar panel kit would have to be the Renogy 100W Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit as it is easy to install and use, durable, and features a reasonable price tag for how high quality the model is. You can use this model while on the move or while parked up, so you can use it whenever you need a top-up of charge. We hope you’ve found our article helpful and maybe even found your new portable solar power kit!