RV Solar Panel Buying Guide
Full RV Solar & Inverter Install ~ From Start To Finish
With the extreme popularity of RV solar panels for travel trailers and RVs, it is no longer surprising to see people installing one or a couple of these units into their vehicle. With the aid of this solution, RV owners get the chance to enjoy the amenities of home. Here are the factors that you have to consider in your search for good solar panels:
Efficiency – Despite all the amenities and facilities that you can have onboard your RV, remember that its space is still less spacious if you compare it to your home. With that in mind, you need a highly efficient solar panel – one that makes use of only a little space while still maximizing its output.
Also, remember that the efficiency in solar panels for camping trailer and RVs can be defined as the
specific amount of solar energy converted to electricity. Such amount is usually reflected in the form of a percentage.
When searching for the best solar panels for RV use, make sure that the electrical output is sufficient
enough for the onboard electronics in your RV. You will instantly know that the solar panel is highly efficient if your RV will receive enough voltage. When identifying the efficiency of a solar panel kit, check its type.
Note that solar panels come in three different types with each one having varying efficiency based on its make. One type is the amorphous solar panel. It is the most inexpensive type but take note that it is also the poorest in terms of efficiency.
You can also pick the polycrystalline type with an efficiency rating measured at around 16 percent. This specific type produces two times the current created by the amorphous type. The third type is the monocrystalline, which has an efficiency rating of more than 16 percent. Such efficiency is a bit higher than polycrystalline.
Wattage cells – Your chosen solar panel’s wattage can be defined as the current that the solar panels are
capable of outputting. You can determine such wattage based on the current that every cell within the panel can output.
It is actually beneficial to have an RV solar panel with a higher wattage as it also means that it can produce current capable of supporting numerous electrical activities. A higher wattage can also guarantee a higher efficiency rating each time you connect your electronics and appliances to the source of current.
However, prior to choosing to buy high-watt solar panels, make sure that this is the voltage that you need exactly. It is mainly because these solar panels are often expensive. It would be best to choose a small solar panel at first. You can just upgrade into a 2-panel set later on.
Portability – Another contributing factor in your final decision is the portability of the unit. Remember that it is crucial to invest in the most portable solar panels for RV. It is mainly because you will need to carry it to your RV from time to time.
It is also advisable to pick portable RV solar panel kits as these promote ease of installation. If
unfortunately, you have chosen a solar panel kit, which is a bit big, then a wise tip is to opt for one that is already equipped with cables as such promotes ease of movement.
Reliability especially when you are on the road – One of the major advantages of installing an RV solar
panel is that it is capable of offering a more reliable and convenient source of electricity once you start
driving on the road. Some of the systems offered today are, fortunately, inexpensive.
They are also capable of providing more than enough power designed to recharge the battery of your RV. You can also find more robust systems capable of providing a more reliable source of power for radios, lights, televisions, and appliances.
Once you are prepared to invest in a solar panel, take into consideration its reliability and efficiency. You should then consider starting with a small set with two panels. Avoid making the mistakes committed by RV owners who tend to overestimate their needs by investing in a larger solar system.
It would be best to start small at first. Note that if you start small then you always have the option of
expanding once you figure out your specific energy requirements later on.
Geographical location – Another thing to keep in mind is that your present geographical location has a
say on the specific type of solar panel kit you specifically need.
In case you encounter sunlight problems because of your current location, ensure that you choose a highly efficient solar panel kit. A highly efficient solar panel is a major help in dealing with sunlight issues.
Durability – While it is true that solar panels are prone to aging and wearing out, make sure to buy one,
which is highly durable so it will last for a long time. Avoid going for cheap and low-quality ones as these might only serve you for the short term.
They tend to wear out too soon, causing you to buy a new one frequently. This is not actually helpful if you are planning to save money.
Other Important Factors to Consider
What is an RV Solar Panel?
An RV solar panel refers to a device, which works effectively in converting sunlight into electricity/power. It is a great investment for any RV owner as it provides solar power wherever you are.
While it is a bit time-consuming to install, especially if you choose to do it using the DIY route, it is still beneficial considering the fact that it provides free energy and power. If you love to camp out or go off the grid, then ensuring that you have a solar panel around can help you a lot.
It lessens your energy consumption without requiring too much on your part. All that’s needed to make it work is the open run and some sunlight. It lets you run all your onboard electrical appliances without
requiring anything except the sun’s rays.
With that, you can relax since you no longer have to operate a generator, which might only produce a lot of noise. It is even the best solution for serious RV enthusiasts and boondockers. Aside from being quieter, it is also safe for the environment.
It is costly to set it up first, though, but eventually, you will realize that it is a more cost-effective choice than having to fill up your liquid propane tank all the time.
To get to know more about how solar panels for recreational vehicles work, its different types, and what benefits you can gain from them, I advise you to continue reading the remaining sections of this article.
How does it Work?
An RV solar panel works by providing solar power. Actually, there is a need for you to invest in a few solar panels so you can efficiently run the appliances in your motorhome via solar energy/power. The first thing that you have to do is to mount the solar panels on the roof of your RV or along the rig when you park it.
The number of solar panels you specifically need will be fully dependent on the amount of power you need.
Once installed, the solar panels will start to function by converting the energy of the sun to power. The
generated power will then be transmitted to the wires that connect all the solar panels together.
This will then be taken down to your vehicle. However, prior to providing your RV with solar power, the whole process has to make some stops. The first one is the solar charge controller, which refers to the device that transmits the power generated and created by the panels to the battery system of your RV.
With the help of this device, it is possible to regulate the power received by your RV’s batteries, thereby preventing them from getting overcharged. It can preserve the longevity and functionality of your batteries, making it a vital device. It is because overcharging your batteries might only cause irreparable harm to them.
Once the generated power gets transmitted to the controller or battery charger, you can expect it to be
ready for use. One last thing that you have to remember, though, is that the power that is already stored in the battery bank is still the DC version.
This is the type of power, which runs cigarette adapter-style plugs, such as the phone charger in your
vehicle. You can’t expect to use the stored power/energy unless every device in your recreational vehicle uses such type of plug. Fortunately, it is now possible for you to invest in an inverter.
With this inverter, it would be easy for you to transform the stored energy or power to AC. Once the power passes this stage, you can expect the generated energy to run into your breaker box then to the outlets in your RV.
Types of RV Solar Panels
Before investing in any of the RV solar panels introduced in the market today, it pays to understand each of its types and how each one works. Here, I have outlined the different types of RV solar panels and some information about each one:
Polycrystalline – Containing a few small solar crystals, the polycrystalline solar panel is often taken from several blocks of silicon. This type of solar panel is commonly used in many recreational vehicles.
While the power it produces is less than one percent of what monocrystalline solar panels produce, it is still a great investment because this power loss is easy to neglect.
Monocrystalline – This type is constructed from one large silicon crystal. Many consider this type as the most effective solar panel considering the fact that it yields a high charge output. It is also capable of producing and supplying a higher amount of power when used in low light conditions.
Amorphous – Also called thin-film panels, this type is created by spreading silicon on a large bed. What is good about these solar panels is that they are not that costly to make. However, they also produce the lowest output of power out of the three.
Also, while this solar panel functions well, it still needs up to three times more roof space than
monocrystalline and polycrystalline when providing the same amount of power.
Benefits of RV Solar Panel
As an RV owner who constantly goes camping or travel on the road, solar panels are cost-effective and
wise investments. Here are some of the many benefits that you can get out of installing solar panels in your recreational vehicle:
Effective in charging your house batteries – One advantage of the solar power provided by your solar
panels is that it supplies a steady and slow charge to your RV batteries. It is beneficial because it is the
natural way of charging batteries. With that, it is possible for you to maximize and prolong battery life.
Provides electrical power – It ensures that you have a constant supply of electrical power. This is
possible no matter how remote your present location is. This also lets you lessen your worries when
exploring breathtaking views while in a new location. It also gives you a backup power in case of an
Clean and quiet – Another thing that you can enjoy from RV solar panels is its clean and quiet operation.
This makes this source of solar power easy to use and manage. Note that solar panels do not consume
any fuel. They do not emit waste, too. With that, you have an assurance that the panels are clean, making them safe for the environment.
Furthermore, an RV solar panel does not come with any moving parts. This is the main reason why it does not produce a mechanical noise. With that, you know that it can give you the power you need without causing you to deal with too much noise. It is also easy to use as you just need to place it under the sun to generate power.
Maximizes the life of your RV’s batteries – It is mainly because of the ability of the solar panels to
generate pure DC electricity each time you expose them to sunlight. This is what your RV batteries actually want. These electrons can saturate the batteries slowly and steadily every day.
With that, you can minimize the risk of the batteries from experiencing deep discharges repetitively. Note that such discharges can negatively affect the life of the batteries, especially if they are the lead-acid type.
With the help of a well-designed and fully functional solar battery charging system, you can increase the life of lead-acid batteries by up to two times.
Promotes electrical independence – An RV solar panel guarantees electrical independence provided you
get a system, which comes at a proper size and features appropriate parts. With such a system, you can
park wherever you wish without worrying about where you can find shore power. There is no need to run a generator, too.
Requires the least amount of maintenance – Remember that solar panels do not require the use of fuel.
They do not have moving components, too, so there is a lower risk for them to wear out soon.
You do not also need to change fuel, oil, or air filters in the solar panels. The only maintenance that you
need to do is to clean up the panels’ surface.
Highly reliable and safe – In most cases, RVs run at lower than 30 amps and at exactly 12 volts. This
results to a lower risk of experiencing electrical fires or getting electrocuted. Solar panels installed with the right fuses and wire sizes can also be expected to make your electronics safe and reliable.
Cost-effective – You will also love the fact that solar panels are cost-effective. While you may need to
spend some money during the initial setup, you will still get great returns, in the long run, considering the fact that you will be able to get power directly from the sun.
Promotes freedom – It is primarily because it lets you freely enjoy the natural settings outdoors as well as the breathtaking views on the road. The freedom can be taken from the fact that you are free of any worries as far as power and electricity are concerned.
Produces the least amount of noise – One possible reason why you love to camp out on your RV is to
get in touch with nature. You may want to take yourself away from too much noise. In this case, you may not want to use a generator, which produces disturbing and annoying noises.
You do not want your source of power to be a nuisance while you are on the road just because it is noisy.
In addition, a noisy power source, like a generator, can quickly leave an unwanted impression on the
people around you.
Fortunately, you can now install solar panels that are totally silent. You can operate them without worrying about the noise because they work quietly.
Guarantees fewer emissions – If you are concerned about the environment then you will love the fact that the best RV solar panel is good for the environment. It is mainly because it generates less emission.
While you can also use generators that follow strict emission guidelines, you can still choose to install RV solar panels as they are guaranteed to be not bad on the environment. Also, solar panels do not carry the risk of causing carbon monoxide poisoning, which is a common issue when using generators.
While such poisoning does not take place all the time, it still happens. True, the generators come with
carbon monoxide detectors. However, you can’t fully rely on them as they also tend to malfunction. With that in mind, installing RV solar panels can help you a lot.
You will also love the fact that the solar panels are easy to use. Once installed and there is enough
sunlight, you can expect the panels to work like magic by letting you generate free power and electricity.
Managing the solar panels is easy, too. Just make sure that you also take good care of the solar panels, so you will be able to enjoy using them for quite a long time.
What is so favorable about using RV solar panels is that they require only a little maintenance. Provided the solar panels are well-designed, you have a hundred percent assurance that you will not deal with a lot of trouble maintaining them.
It is mainly because the solar panels do not come with moving parts that tend to wear out too soon. Also, they do not consume fuel. Solar panels do not also have filters that might have to replace often. All it takes to maintain their excellent condition is to use a non-abrasive cleaner to clean them occasionally.
Ensure that the fasteners and mounts are tight, too. Note that certain factors, like expansion, vibration, and contraction brought on by the changes in temperature might cause the mounting hardware to loosen.
If you are using flooded batteries then one maintenance tip is to check their water level monthly or
quarterly. Add just the right amount of distilled, pure water if necessary. Make it a point to monitor the wire connections, as well. Clean them right away in case you detect any corrosion.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the different types of RV solar panels?
Solar panels actually come in three common types. There is the mono-crystalline solar panel, which is
constructed from one large silicone crystal. It is considered to be the most efficient while having the ability to yield a higher charge output. It is also capable of producing a higher amount of power in low-light conditions.
Another type is polycrystalline, which comes from silicon blocks containing a few small solar crystals. It produces approximately one percent less power when compared to mono-crystalline solar panels.
Polycrystalline is also one of the most commonly used types of solar panels today.
Also called the thin film, amorphous is the third type of solar panel that you can pick. It makes use of
silicon, which creates a panel by spreading it on a large bed. It is the most inexpensive type.
However, it also yields the least power output among the three types. While it functions well, note that it also needs about three times the roof space used by mono-crystalline and polycrystalline for just a similar power yield.
How do RV solar panels work?
RV solar panels work by converting sunlight into electricity or power. The panels create an electric current each time the sun hits them. The produced electric current is then fed into a charge controller. This is the one that will control the amount of current that gets into the battery.
After that, the batteries will create DC power. There is also an inverter, which converts the DC power into AC, which is the specific type of power you need to operate items, such as laptops, phone charges, and blenders.
What are the benefits of an RV solar panel?
One of the major benefits of installing a solar panel in your recreational vehicle is that it is easy to use,
quiet, and easy. It does not consume fuel nor give off waste. The fact that there are zero moving parts also means that it does not produce any mechanical noise. Solar panels also work in maximizing the life of your battery.
It is mainly because solar panels are capable of generating pure DC power each time you expose them to the sun. That’s what your batteries specifically prefer. With the solar panels around, you also have the chance of parking wherever you want.
You can gain electrical independence since you know that you will receive power anywhere. Aside from that, they are beneficial as they are safe and reliable to use while requiring the least amount of
What are the types and purpose of a charge controller?
If you are planning to install a solar panel into your recreational vehicle then take note that you have three options. The first type is the simple 1- or 2-stage controller. It comes with shunt transistors designed to regulate the voltage in just one to two steps. The main purpose of this controller is to short the panel when a specific voltage is reached.
The second type is the pulse width modulated (PWM) controller. This charge controller is known as the
traditional form, which is also considered as the industry standard at present. Lastly, there is the MPPT or the maximum power point tracking.
This controller works by identifying the ideal voltage and amp of a solar panel exhibit. This results in an additional power, around ten to thirty percent more of the sun-oriented cluster.
With the help of any of these charge controllers, you will have full control over the voltage of your device. It also opens the circuit and halts the charge just in case the voltage of the battery gets higher than a specific level.
How many solar panels are needed to run an air conditioner?
The answer to this is actually dependent on the specific amount of power consumed by your air
conditioning unit. In most cases, though, RV owners need around three to four solar panels. Such number is enough to give enough solar power for RV air conditioner.
How much solar do I need on my RV?
One way to compute the specific power requirements of your RV is to boondock without using an AC
generator. You will find that useful in determining the length of time it takes to make your vehicle run with normal usage and without the use of any generators, only batteries.
In case your batteries consumed up to 3 days to drain, then take note that such batteries are capable of
supplying approximately 200 amp-hours of energy, which you can derive. One issue with this is that you are only allowed to utilize approximately 75 percent of such energy.
With that in mind, only around 150 amp hours are what you can use. Divide such figure by the length of time spent for your batteries to drain during the time when you boondock. That means you have to divide 150 amp-hours by 3 days. The result is 50 amp-hours, which specifically determines the specific energy consumed regularly.
It should be noted that a 100-watt solar panel can produce approximately 6 amps per hour of having the
sun at its peak. You can translate this to around 30 amp-hours every day. That said, there is a chance that you will require two 100-watt solar panels to either recharge or supply full power to your vehicle every day.
How to size my RV solar panel system?
Sizing an RV solar panel system is actually doable if you are fully aware of how it is done. The first step actually involves identifying the appliances that use AC and DC power as well as the specific number of hours each one operates or runs daily. The next thing to do is to compute the total amps every week.
The figures that you use should be the total amp hours daily that you need to multiply by the specific
number of days every week. After that, you should consider matching the total amps every week with the ideal solar power solution.
Do I require additional hardware?
Yes, there are certain items and hardware that you will need to use when it comes to installing RV solar
panels. Fortunately, most of these items and hardware already form part of the best RV solar kit.
Some of the hardware and items you might need for the installation are T-knobs, mount adapters, rocker mount sets, mounting L-feet, sealant, tape, and tilt bar sets.
What are good RV solar panel brands?
• Go Power
With the best RV solar panels and kits, you will find it easier to charge the battery bank of your vehicle with the aid of free and abundant power source. The best solar panels for RV battery are actually beneficial for you, especially if you are into a kind of camping, which involves dry camping and boondocking.
The best RV solar system kits can also help ensure that you will never run out of power while you are on the road. This can give you peace of mind and make you feel the comforts and conveniences that your home provides even if you are away from it.