Adam holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Linguistics, and creative writing has always been his greatest passion. For more than 25 years he's been working for several well-known automobile and travel magazines as an editor and expert consultant, but when Adam started his writing path here, at WisePick, it turned out that he's capable of writing practically anything about everything.
Initially being an engineering specialist, Tom has never stopped learning and acquiring other knowledge and skills. Now he’s involved in technical support for a well-known household appliances manufacturer, so no wonder he knows everything about almost everything you buy for your home.
Last updated: July 01, 2021
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As an RVer, one of the most frustrating things you can experience when on board is being without power. It’s a really terrible experience that you must take all measures to avoid. To do this you need to consider the best solar panel for RV. One incredible thing about having an RV is that it offers you the liberty to travel without needing to ever stop, and equipping your vehicle with a solar panel allows you to do just that. You can feel at home wherever you are and you can prolong and enjoy your expedition as long as possible.
While it’s easy to figure out the need for a solar panel as an RV user, choosing the right one is not so straightforward. However, to help you eliminate the guesswork, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten products on the market. Our picks were chosen based on some key criteria we considered such as the power of the panel, its current and voltage at the maximum power, weight, and dimensions.
This article is a masterwork created from a very profound research that took tens of hours. Not only have we comprehensively reviewed each product picked, but we have also included a buying guide designed to help you with each step in your bid to purchase the right solar panel for your RV. Before you take a plunge into the more profound sections of the article, though, take a glance at the comparison table below as it will give you a peek of what to expect.
If you are in search of extra power during your long RV trips, then the Suaoki 100W 18V 12V Solar Panel might just be the ideal option for your needs. At up to 22 percent, the monocrystalline solar panel comes with a very high conversion efficiency. It is also outfitted with both DC and USB ports which enable it to charge laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Furthermore, the monocrystalline solar panel is secure with a waterproof material and weighs just 7.35 pounds, making it a very lightweight unit. As a result of its lightweight nature, it is easy to transport and carry around. It is also weatherproof, which means it can be safely used outdoors in any sort of weather. Moreover, there is an inbuilt smart IC for every port which allows the panel to automatically identify the current of your appliance and accelerate charging times accordingly.
Apart from a well-designed, easily foldable dual-port charger, this solar panel also comes with a DC-to-DC cable and a 10-in-1 connector cable for charging laptops. Therefore, while being on the more expensive side, it gives you a great value for money with the added security and accessories. But despite being so expensive, it only comes with a one-year warranty, which is rather unimpressive.
If you ever decide to go after a rigid solar panel for your energy requirements, then you can’t go wrong with this super sturdy, weatherproof panel. With a consistent output power of 100 watts, owing to its super-efficient monocrystalline panel, this option from Eco-Worthy would be an excellent pick. The panel has an aluminum frame which helps it last for many years. It is also both compatible with off and on-grid inverters while offering incredible flexibility. It also sports a very sleek design which means that it is less bulky than several comparable solar panels.
One of the most impressive benefits of this model is its incredibly easy installation. The panel also allows for an extension as you can connect extra panels according to your energy requirements, owing to the addition of MC4 connectors. To charge 24V or 48V batteries, just ensure you connect the additional panels in series. Also, the product comes with a remarkable 25-year warranty which will give you a lot of confidence in your purchase.
The bypass diodes and monocrystalline panels mean you can garner even more power in low-light settings and they also improve the product’s longevity. Undoubtedly, this high-quality solar panel guarantees to deliver your onboard energy requirements for many years to come. Just hope it doesn’t develop any fault because there are several negative comments from buyers about the customer service of the company.
The WindyNation 100 Watts Solar Panel Kit is an excellent starter kit and totally merits its spot on this list. For a relatively affordable cost, it comes with everything you require to harness the free solar energy. This is an efficient and reliable solution for backup power or off-grid situations. The polycrystalline panel included is capable of delivering a maximum power output of 100 watts, which is quite impressive.
Averagely, it delivers a total output of about 350W hours or 33A hours, depending on the conditions of the sunlight. It also comes with a very versatile and high-quality P20L charge controller, which allows you to monitor Ampere hours, amperage, load draw temperature, and even voltage while charging.
Furthermore, you can improve efficiency and fine-tune the charging if you’re knowledgeable, thanks to the incorporated user settings. The controller included is capable of handling a total of four 100-watt and 12-volt panels, which means that you can add extra three ones, or utilize eight 100-watt 24-volt solar panels instead. The controller works with AGM, lithium batteries, and lead acid.
With MC4 connectors, mounting hardware, and 40 feet of AWG cable, you have everything you need to get started. This solar panel is the ideal fit if you’re looking for a seamless introduction into the world of solar energy. The fact that it also allows you to be flexible and effortlessly expand your set up with more panels is a huge plus. Apart from the fact that the wirings are short somehow, this is a decent option overall.
Newpower is a name that might not really ring a bell in your ears at first, but that takes nothing away from the incredible consistency the company has been delivering in recent years. The Newpowa 160 Watt 12V Solar Panel is one of the best products on offer from the company. Apart from being very powerful and efficient, the Newpowa 160 Watt 12V Solar Panel is very affordable. It’s just the perfect fit for an RV user that is tight on budget.
This solar panel is capable of generating an output power of 160 watts, which is more than what can be offered by any product on this list, impressively. It is enough power to effortlessly run all your onboard gadgets and appliances, without needing to stop your RV. It also has high-performance cells which are compressed in EVA (ethylene-vinyl-acetate) and placed between a durable TPT back sheet and high transparent low iron tempered glass, making this a very durable panel.
Further, this model is corrosion-resistant, which improves its durability. It’s specifically designed to be used on an RV, so you know it will definitely be compatible with your vehicle. Its design is also high efficiency, which allows for more powerful operation. Generally, this is a reliable product with great value for money. But, while the advertised output is 160 watts, many users are claiming they don’t get as much as that.
Being one of the most flexible solar panels on the market, the Renogy Flexible 100 Watt Solar Panel can be mounted on top of RVs as well as on any curved surfaces. It is bendable up to 248 degrees, so it can be mounted on a wide variety of irregular surfaces that you won’t dare install traditional panels on. The efficiency rating of the solar panel is 15.45 percent, which is rather low compared to the other solar panels on this list. Although it still produces an output power of 100 watts to use on teardrop trailer, cabin, boat or in an RV.
Furthermore, the Renogy Flexible 100 Watts Solar Panel uses EFTE material, which allows the unit to provide extended service and higher light transmission than traditional PET material. Besides, the ETFE is known for its non-corrosive nature, self-cleaning abilities, and high-temperature resistance, which are all attributes that make this panel a favorite for a lot of people. It performs optimally on a daily basis.
Weighing in at four pounds only, this solar panel is 70 percent lighter than conventional solar panels, owing to the use of high-quality polymer materials. Consequently, transportation and installation are very easy. This solar panel is extremely sleek, which makes it ideal for concealed solar installation. Also, the lightweight build is said to decrease mpg on cars, let alone the ability of the panel to hold up to heavy snow loads of up to 5400pa and winds of up to 2400pa. The product also comes with a five-year warranty which is a huge plus.
What are our favorite features?
Incredible durability and performance
Lightweight build allows for easy installation and transportation
Coming from a fairly unfamiliar company, you would be forgiven for regarding the BougeRV ISE020N 100W Solar Panel as just another low-quality solar panels out there. In truth, the BougeRV ISE020N is the opposite of low-quality. It is very powerful and sports a special frameless design which features three metal-reinforced holes for hanging, fixing screws, and removing the solar panel. The unique design also allows for easy installation. Besides, the panel weighs only 5.73 pounds, making it a very lightweight unit.
The BougeRVISE020N also utilizes solar cells with around 23 to 25 percent efficiency on an average, making this model one of the most efficient panels on the market. It also comes with a blocking diode which works to prevent reverse current drain, particularly during the night. Apart from that, the panel also uses ETFE film to guarantee anti-corrosion, anti-fouling, high-temperature resistance, and optimum durability.
Being semi-flexible, water resistant, and ultra-durable, this solar panel is ideal for boats, RVs, crowded areas, or tight spaces that are usually off limits for aluminum and traditional models. It is bendable to around 30 degrees, so it can be flexed gently, mounted on RV, van, truck, cabin, boat, curved roof, or any other surface that is irregular. Moreover, it can be utilized for Bitcoin Mining as well, thereby saving cost on electricity. And if you’re skeptical about the durability of this panel, it is backed by an 18-month warranty. The only problem we have with this panel is that it is not fireproof.
The Renogy Monocrystalline Solar Panel Kit is a total charging beast! Whether you are off the grid, camping, or just in search for an effective way to safely power your devices and appliances, then you can trust the Renogy 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel for all your needs. You will find all the essential accessories in this excellent kit, so it’s a perfect fit for all RV users.
The kit contains a monocrystalline solar panel, a 30 AMP PWM charge controller, and a a 20ft 10AWG MC4 Adaptor Kit. You also need to keep in mind that this kit enables you to put the charge controller near the panel so an extension cable may not be compulsory. With a power output of 100 watts, this solar panel is very efficient and provides you with loads of power. And because of its monocrystalline cells, its energy conversion is very high and the panel can, therefore, charge your battery in the least possible amount of time.
The things that we are most impressed with about this solar panel are its weatherproof properties and extreme durability, which are ideal for RV users since it will be used outdoors a lot. Generally, the Renogy 100W Monocrystalline Solar Kit contains one of the best solar panels for RV. Although it is a bit heavier than other models, the panel is powerful enough for pretty much anything you’re likely to power in your RV.
What are its best features?
Includes all the accessories necessary
Allows the addition of more panels
Can hold out harsh elements
Constructed from high-conversion efficiency modules
With an ultra-durable frame and sleek design, the Renogy Eclipse 1000W 12V Monocrystalline Panel is a magnificent unit with incredible power. Featuring high-powered solar cells that improve module efficiency, this panel from Renogy is able to offer you the highest efficiency for each area and is the ideal option for off-grid uses. These solar panels also have a very beautiful fit and finish, which matches the high performance they offer.
Furthermore, the Renogy Eclipse 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Panel packs 100 watts of power, which shows how efficient and powerful it is. Due to the fact that the panel is produced using monocrystalline cells, its energy efficiency rate is very high, even up into the lower twenties. This enables the panel to successfully charge your battery in the least amount of time possible. The solar panel also comes with bypass diodes which reduce power drop triggered by shade and guarantee outstanding performance in low-light settings.
What’s more, this fantastic solar panel is compatible with a variety of Renogy mounting systems like pole mounts, z-brackets, and tilt mounts. In addition to that, the solar panels are made with extra-thick, low iron-tempered glass, high-transparency, anti-reflective, with improved impact and stiffness resistance. This unit is generally a great option for your RV, provided you can afford it.
Featuring a very portable design and a durable construction, you don’t need to be told that the TCXW 100 Watt Portable Solar Panel is made for travelers, and it is the perfect buddy for every outdoor activity. Apart from coming with an MC4 connector, this solar panel also features a DC and USB port, which allow you to use it for charging your mobile devices. With the four lanyards attached, installation is a breeze and the angle can be easily adjusted to the sunlight.
Built from highly efficiency monocrystalline solar cells, the panel can effortlessly transform solar energy into usable power, up to 20.5-22.5 percent efficiency. And since it is outfitted with a DC 18V/5.0A port and USB 5V/2.1 power, with the former being for 18V-powered units and the latter suitable for 5V-powered devices, there is no limit with what this solar panel can do. Besides being foldable, it also comes with a carrying handle which makes transportation easier.
Made from durable PET polymer, this solar panel is sewn into a sturdy polyester canvas and offers supreme durability and weather resistance. While this panel can be a little bulky and folds only one time, we are impressed with its ability to produce 5A at 18 volts.
Featuring a 10A controller with an easy-to-read LCD display, it is very easy to figure out that the DOKIO 100W Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel is the real deal. The controller is also compatible with 12-volt and 25-volt systems, but there have been questions about the longevity of the controller. Weighing only 5.2 pounds, this solar panel is one of the most lightweight models on our list, so it’s easier to set up and move around. And despite its incredibly portable construction, the solar panel still packs an output of 100 watts, which is enough to handle all your off-grid power needs.
Furthermore, the solar panel from DOKIO has a highly efficient monocrystalline cell, which means you’ll get better power efficiency despite the fact that this solar panel is smaller than traditional models. The solar panel is adequately sheltered in a thick fabric. Besides, it comes with a handy carrying handle which makes it easy to transport and use. The handle also makes it perfect for a picnic, camping, hiking, climbing, charging car batteries, and emergencies.
The solar panel also comes with a special foldable design, which allows it to be mounted on all sorts of irregular surfaces such as a tree, car, tent, cabin, boat, or an RV. Beyond that, the panel is made using a durable and robust material, which makes it lightweight, waterproof and extremely bendable for easy and quick installation.
Having provided in-depth reviews of all of our picks, we will now move to the buying guide section which contains all the necessary information to find the best solar panel for your recreational vehicle.
How do solar panels work?
A solar panel is a quiet method of generating electric current. All you need to do is out the panel in an open space, such as the top of your RV or home roof. This will help the panel gather as much solar power as possible. Then, the solar energy collected is converted into electric current before being stored in a battery, which must have been linked to the system. While this sort of current is not the most powerful, it is capable of running 12-volt lights and other electrical appliances inside your RV.
The benefit of having a solar panel is that it requires no fuel whatsoever. All it needs is an exposure to direct sunlight. The only expenses incurable is on the maintenance of the battery. Also, solar energy is environmentally friendly since it produces no hazardous fumes.
Features to consider while choosing a solar panel for RV
Shopping blindly for something as complicated as a solar panel is one of the most unwise decisions that anyone could make. Below are some features you need to take a look at before deciding on a particular model.
One of the most vital things to think about is the maximum power the solar panel is capable of generating. Monocrystalline solar panels are the most powerful in most cases, despite requiring less space. What this means is that they are ideal for smaller spaces such as an RV roof.
Besides the panel’s efficiency, the number of solar panels is also vital. This number totally relies on the amount of power you need to create. Most larger recreational vehicles require four panels at least. Smaller vehicles such as vans use one to two panels generally.
Voltage and current
It is very vital to consider these terms when choosing panels and solar system components. We advise you to make sure the voltage is very close to the Vmp as solar panels always have a particular internal impedance and you’ll only be able to get optimum power when the output voltage is close to Vmp. The panel will become a lot inefficient if it is loaded down to a lower voltage. So, Vmp should be somewhere around the MPPT tracking range of the controller if you’re utilizing an MPPT controller. This may be a wide array of voltage, thereby giving you lots of flexibility when choosing panels.
The open-circuit voltage and short-circuit current are two interrelated factors you must also consider. Open-circuit voltage is the voltage at the output of the solar panel when it is unloaded and exposed to full sun. While the open-circuit voltage is not really fundamental to the output of the panel, it allows you to make sure that every appliance connected can handle the panel’s Voc. You could, otherwise, be risking a damage to your equipment when the sun hits the solar panels and they aren’t already loaded.
On the other hand, the short-circuit current is used to test the panels and determine the sizing of your controller and wiring. Basically, it’s the current through the solar cell when there is zero voltage across the solar cell. You ought to get short-circuit current in full sun, and it means the panel is working properly if you do. Any connection to the panels and the controller must be able to handle the array’s short-circuit current.
The portability of the panel is a very important consideration you can’t ignore when buying a solar panel for your RV. Highly portable units are the most ideal for RVs because of their easy installation and lightweight construction. In case the type of panel you desire is fairly large, you can choose the model that has cables, for less difficult movement.
In this case, it would be best to just invest in smaller ones. You can just buy at least two panels so you can gain a high output and efficiency without having to deal with the bulkiness and heaviness of the unit. Ensure that you go for a unit that is both compact and lightweight such as the BougeRV Solar Panel and the DOKIO Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel as you don’t want to be dealing with the trouble that comes with bulky models on your RV.
However, it might be difficult to find a compact and lightweight unit, particularly if you’re looking for a high-efficiency rating. This is because solar panels with higher efficiency ratings are always bigger in size, so it might be a daunting task finding one that is compact and simultaneously efficient.
You also need to consider if the unit comes with extra features such as controllers, warranty, wires, and waterproof properties. Since solar panels are usually expensive, it wouldn’t be a wise decision to choose a model without a warranty as it usually signifies quality. You also need to check if it comes with some hardware you may need in setting it up.
How to maintain solar panels?
Although solar panels for RV don’t require as much maintenance as natural gas powered and gasoline generators, they still need to be taken care of. Below are a couple of tips on how to maintain solar panels properly.
Put it under direct sunlight
Regardless of its type, the first step towards maintaining a solar panel is getting it out under direct sunlight. What a lot of people fail to realize is that you need to make sure that nature never stops the sun from getting to the panels. If you are in a cold region, you may have to be scrapping the ice and snow off of the panels carefully. During the fall, you may have to be brushing falling leaves away.
Clean as required
In dry weathers, it usually involves washing the solar panels to remove dust. In fact, you may have to use water and safe detergents to wash the panel since any sort of caked on dirt decreases power capacity. And you will be wrong to think that the occasional rain will be sufficient to get rid of this job. You need to be careful when choosing a detergent type because the wrong one could rust the solar panel.
Utilize cleaning solutions specifically made for solar panels. Use a very gentle, soft brush when doing this so you don’t end up scratching up the solar panels and wearing its efficiency away. You can utilize a monitoring system to keep an eye on the amount of energy being generated by the panels and go clean the panels when you notice a drop in the efficiency.
Inspect if there are cracks when cleaning the panels. And if you detect any crack, have it fixed by an expert before it spreads, rather than trying to fix it by yourself. Also, always ensure to guard the units from direct impact. Discoloration and burn mark deserve a check by an expert.
Generally, while solar panels require very little maintenance, their electrical connections have a proneness to failure and deterioration. Damage and corrosion to the wires connecting the panels to the batteries are more detrimental than damage to the solar panel. When cleaning them, take a look at the wirings and have spoiled wires repaired or replaced.
That depends on what you have already installed in your RV and which solar kit you choose. In our selection, we’ve specified what exactly is included and what you’ll need. If you are new to off-grid electricity and solar power, you might have to get a complete set. If you have a power inverter and batteries already, just panels or a smaller set will be sufficient. Additional accessories needed could as well be a switching kit to ease going back and forth between solar and shore power.
While Monocrystalline uses only one cell for extracting electric current from solar energy, polycrystalline panels feature several cells functioning as a network. Monocrystalline panels are believed to be more space-efficient. They also boast higher efficiency rates and longevity being, however, pricier than polycrystalline ones. The question on the lips of everyone is which one is better out of the two options, and the answer is simple: monocrystalline cells are better for your RV as they can generate about 5 percent more energy than polycrystalline panels.
An RV solar panel can charge your batteries so basic functions such as your 12-volt lights, water pump, and other appliances can continue running even when you have no alternative power sources. You can charge your phones, laptops, fans, and TVs with an RV solar panel, depending on which one you choose.
Depending on the type, solar panels can be installed and used in a variety of places and locations, including boats, rooftops, vans, trucks, and cabins. There are even some flexible solar panels that can be installed on curved surfaces.
Solar panels produce more energy on fine days with plentiful sunshine, which isn’t surprising. However, are solar panels effective in cloudy weather? The answer is yes, but not just really as effective. On a gloomy day, normal solar panels are capable of producing 10 to 25 percent of their graded capacity. The precise amount will differ based on the clouds’ density, and may as well differ by the sort of panel; some types are more suited to receiving diffused light.
Having reviewed all our picks in detail, our top pick is the Suaoki 100W Solar Panel, which packs a lot of power in a lightweight foldable construction. While it is quite expensive, the performance it offers totally matches its hefty price tag, making it an ideal choice for any avid RVer.
Our pick for the runner-up is the ECO-WORTHY Monocrystalline Solar Panel, which despite being a budget-friendly option, sits side-by-side with more expensive models. Its supreme durability is highlighted by the 25-year performance warranty it comes with.
The WindyNation Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Boat Kit is our third pick; despite being quite affordable, it packs enough power to perfectly handle your RV power needs. Besides, it comes with all the accessories you’ll need to get started.