Solar energy kits are becoming very popular. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that rooftop solar panels could produce 40% of commercial and residential electricity. And you can use them for RVs as well.
You can update any RV to solar power by installing a solar RV kit. But you might have trouble choosing the appropriate one. First, you need to match the RV solar kit to your travel style. So come along as we learn more about RV solar kits and which one might be best for your system. Let’s get started.
What Is an RV Solar Kit?
An RV solar kit is a group of equipment that forms a fully functional solar panel system. They’ll all contain solar panels and a charge controller. Each may have additional components that make it unique. Because they come with different features, you’ll want to pair your RV solar kit with your travel style.
The Benefits of RV Solar Kits
One of the most apparent benefits of RV solar kits is having access to energy and recharging their batteries even if they don’t have access to electrical hookups. For this reason, RVers that boondock can greatly benefit from one.
They also help maintain and preserve battery life. Because solar panels slowly charge your batteries, you can extend their life. Additionally, when using solar, you don’t need to purchase propane or other fuel for every trip, saving money and being more eco-friendly.
How Many Watts of Solar Power Do You Need for Your Travel Style?
The amount of solar panels depends on the amount of power you use on a daily basis and how much battery power you have. You can write down the amount of power each appliance uses and how many hours you use it in excel to get a great approximation.
A simpler way to get your power usage is to install a battery monitor to track your usage for you. They just go camping like normal and write down your usage according to the battery monitor.
The fact that power usage fluctuates based on what you use. You’ll need to understand your travel style before purchasing an RV solar kit.
Important Features to Consider in an RV Solar Kit
There are many features and factors to consider when researching an RV solar kit. For example, you need to choose the right type of charge controller and solar panel. You also need to consider the kit’s ability to mount and expand. Below you will find more information on each of these factors.
Type of Charge Controller
A charge controller is a crucial component of your RV solar kit. The charge controller regulates the amount of power sent to the battery. When your battery level is low, the controller sends a high power stream. But it only sends a low power stream when the battery level is high.
For example, a high-quality phone charging cable will shut off the power supply when it reaches 100% and restart charging if it detects the charge has dropped below 100%. Managing the power stream helps preserve the health of your battery and prevents overcharging.
RV solar kits typically use two types of charge controllers: a Pulse Width Modulated and a Maximum Power Point Tracking controller. They each have their unique characteristics and pros and cons.
The Pulse Width Modulator (PWM) has a little higher functionality. The PWM will shut off the power when the battery is fully charged and control the incoming power stream. It also does a better job at trickle-charging when the battery is close to fully charged. This charge controller is an excellent entry-level controller at an economical price.
The Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) controller is more expensive than the PWM controller. But the increased price also brings improved functionality. MPPT controllers are up to 30% more efficient than PWM controllers and provide even better control and expandability.
Ability to Expand
Our energy needs can change over time, and you may need more energy than you initially planned. Higher energy needs mean you will need to expand your solar energy system to include more panels.
Most solar kits will have an extension. If not, another extension kit may work with your system. But you might have trouble finding one. When you first install your system, choose an RV solar kit that you know has an extension.
Type of Solar Panel
There are three main types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous. Each has its pros and cons.
Monocrystalline panels work most efficiently but also cost more. Nevertheless, they will do the best job of converting solar energy into usable energy. So, if you can afford these panels, they are the way to go.
Polycrystalline solar panels are less efficient but less expensive. Therefore, they are an excellent middle-of-the-road option.
If budget is a concern, then Amorphous solar panels might work best. Amorphous solar panels cost the least but are also the least efficient. This means you may need more. However, they have more flexibility than the other two, benefiting RV owners with curved roofs. Additionally, you have to use an adhesive, which can lead to complications when mounting your panel.
Ability to Mount
Most solar panels mount in two ways: mounting brackets with screws and adhesive. Mounting brackets and screws work best. You can easily change location or replace a panel as needed without damaging the roof. You can’t easily move ones mounted with adhesive. Additionally, they may cause severe roof damage during removal.
The Best RV Solar Kits for Your Travel Style
Each RVer is different, which means we all have our travel style. And, these different RV lifestyles mean we also have different energy needs. Therefore, we need to choose a suitable solar kit for your RV travel system.
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of each RV lifestyle and which kit we would recommend for each. So, read on to find the one that best fits your style.
Best for Full-Time RVers: Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit
Renogy is one of the top brands for solar panel kits. The Renogy 400W 12V Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit works great for full-time RVers. It has 21% efficient solar panels and a 97% efficient MPPT charge controller. Ultimately, this kit is ready for any off-grid adventure and to power your RV full-time.
- Monocrystalline solar cell efficiency: 21%; MPPT charge controller peak efficiency: 97%
- This kit includes our 40A MPPT charge controller which uses Maximum Power Point Tracking technology, transferring power...
Best for Adventure Seekers: Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Station Kit with Boulder 50 Solar Panel
The Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Station Kit with Boulder 50 Solar Panel features a 50W monocrystalline solar panel. It comes with a Yeti Powerbox that can accommodate up to seven sockets at once. This unit will allow you to bring all your electrical toys out camping. You can easily pack the panel and take it wherever you want to go.
- Kit includes one Yeti 400 portable power station with wall plug, and one Boulder 50 Solar panel with 8mm cord and...
- 396Wh lead acid battery portable power station can power up to 7 devices at once (33Ah @ 12V)
Best for Weekend Warriors: Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit
Renogy’s 100W 12V Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit is a good option for weekend warriors. You will typically have fewer power needs than full-timers. However, this unit provides the same quality features as Renogy’s 400W model and at a smaller price. If you find you need more power, you can also expand this unit up to 400W.
- This kit includes our 40a mppt charge controller which uses maximum power point tracking technology, transferring power...
- With a renogy 100W mono-crystalline starter kit mppt, you won't have to wonder about whether you're getting the most out...
Best for Budget-Conscious Travelers: Topsolar Solar Panel Kit 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline
This budget-friendly kit still has high quality. It features a 100W monocrystalline panel — the highest quality available. This smaller unit should be sufficient for short trips or small devices. But, be aware; you may be unsatisfied with this kit if you are a full-time RVer or want to power major appliances.
- 100W solar panel kits ideal for 12v battery charging, designed for RVs, cabins, homes, boats, caravan s, back-up and...
- This kits include 4pcs Z mounting brackets and 1 pair Red and Black Solar Cable makes it easy to set up. Easy to install...
Which Kit Do You Choose?
Solar panels allow RVers to produce electricity for free. However, each RV lifestyle is different. Make sure to find the right RV solar kit for your travel type. Do you need to power major appliances or simple electronics? Regardless of your travel style, you can find an excellent one that will fit your needs.
Last update on 2021-11-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API