Many RV users are realising the benefits of solar energy. It is environmentally friendly and fits perfectly with the outdoor lifestyle. Setting up a solar system in your RV is more straightforward than you might think, and you will soon be reaping the rewards of free off-grid power from the sunshine. A solar kit is a great place to get started, read on to see some of the best RV solar set-ups on the market.
Best 20W Polycrystalline Solar Panel Starter Kit for RV
ECO-WORTHY 20W 12V Solar Panel Kit Review
If you are looking to dip your toes into solar panel charging kits for the first time, then you could do worse than looking at this polycrystalline system setup from Eco-Worthy, which sell at an absolute steal of a price for such a high-quality system. The package comes complete with a superb 20-watt solar panel, a solar charge controller with 3A and 12V/24V and 3 metres of cabling.
Unfortunately with this kit, you will still need to buy an inverter if you are looking to use AC (mains) power. However, that is the only real downside, as the panel is both waterproof and comes with a rigid aluminium protective frame which will ensure this panel will last for years to come, as highlighted by the 25-year warranty for transferable power output. They also guarantee an 80% efficiency rating for 25-years – so no need to change this in a hurry!
This kit also comes with a highly intelligent PWM solar charge controller which automatically identifies battery voltage, has 3-stage charging, and has great safety features, such as both overcharge (above 14.4-volts) and over discharge (below 10.8-volts) protection. It is also able to to be used with solar panels up to an 80-watt rating if you find you want additional power than you get in the basic kit. You will need to be careful with the charge controller and the connecting wires though, as they are not waterproof.
This high-efficiency panel is capable of maintaining excellent output power even in winter, and coming in at such a great price offers you the opportunity to get to grips with solar power systems before investing heavily to create a truly green off-grid system. So if you are just looking to get started with off-grid power this could very likely be the best RV solar charger kit for getting your feet off the ground.
Q&A: What does PWM stand for?
A: PWM stands for Pulse Width Modulation and ensures your battery gets the appropriate current to meet its voltage and disconnects the charge once peak voltage is reached.
Q&A: Does the solar panel have a blocking diode?
A: Yes, this solar panel has a built-in diode in the junction box.
Best 60W Amorphous Complete Solar Charging Kit for RV
Sunforce 50048 60W Solar Charging Kit Review
The Sunforce solar charging kit is a good option if you’re on a budget and you are new to the solar panel game. So long as you have a battery, this solar kit has absolutely everything you need to get started, meaning you can immediately turn your RV into a sun-soaking power making machine.
For your money, you will get four 15 watt amorphous solar panels, a 7-amp solar charge controller, and a 200 watt modified sine wave inverter. The kit also comes with all the wires and accessories you need to set everything up, including a mounting frame for the solar panels. This lightweight, easy to put up and put down, and impressive charge controller is a great value start-up solar system and one of the best RV solar kits out there.
As these are amorphous solar panels they work great in most weather conditions, so you don’t always have to be worrying about the sunniest spot to park up in (in fact they don’t like the heat). They are also weather resistant and have built in diodes to prevent against battery discharge whilst your sleeping the night away. The included solar charge controller is also there to stop overcharging occurring, so make sure you don’t forget to connect this!
Unfortunately, this is not built to last in the way rigid, and even flexible, solar panels are these days, so is not the best choice if you are hoping to build upon the system as you get more into solar power generation. Nevertheless, it is great to get everything you need in one set and allow you to get started with generating your own power, testing things out, before investing heavily in some of the more technologically advanced equipment. So for getting started on a budget, this could be the best RV solar kit for your needs.
Q&A: Is it possible to hook a battery charger into this system so that the batteries are topped up?
A: Yes, you can wire this in, in parallel, to the solar system and connected batteries.
Q&A: What would be the best battery to get to complete the kit?
A: A deep cycle battery will do the trick.
Best 100W Rigid Monocrystalline Solar Charge Kit
Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit Review
If you want to dive right into the top end of solar energy system technology, but still keep the price down, then this solar power starter kit from Renogy will be right up your street. The kit includes top of the more advanced MPPT charge controlling technology, as well as the higher-efficiency monocrystalline solar panel offering 100-watts of output power with an impressive 18.4% solar conversion efficiency rating.
One of the best features of this starter kit is how easy it is to ‘let it grow’, as it is really easy to hook it up to additional solar panels as and when your power needs increase, with the charge controller being able to handle up to 3 additional 100W panels and the included MC4 connectors. However, if you wish to use AC power, you will still need to buy an inverter additionally to this kit.
The included Z-brackets mean you will be able to easily install this on the roof of your RV, whilst the 28 feet of include cable (1X 20 feet, 1×8 feet) means you have plenty of room for manoeuvre. Moreover, as each component of this kit is such a high quality on its own, you will be able to use this kit for years to come safe in the knowledge that your system is using energy with the finest efficiency ratings.
This kit can produce energy to charge deep cycle batteries, fans, heaters and much more. So, if you are looking for a setup that can easily be added to, and that from the start can offer you efficient power conversion and supply, then this will be the best RV solar system for you.
Q&A: What does MPPT stand for?
A: MPPT stands for ‘Maximum Power Point Tracking’ works like a PWM charge controller but helps you get to get maximum efficiency from solar rays and works better with batteries with higher voltages.
Q&A: Does this system need to be grounded when it is installed?
A: This is an isolated system, so there is no need for grounding.
Best 160W RV Solar Kit
Go Power! Weekender SW Complete Solar Kit Review
This solar kit is the perfect accompaniment for a weekend away camping out with your RV if camping with all the mod-cons is your sort of outdoor living. It is a quality system where you can be assured that you are getting the best products to start up your RVs solar energy system.
First of all, the Go Power! kit contains a monocrystalline solar panel – the crème de la crème of solar panels. This is able to generate 160 watts of solar energy, so perfectly able to supply all of your RVs kitchen appliances, as well as your TV, stereo, laptops and smartphones. An added bonus is that you can add additional solar panels to this kit should you need, so you don’t need to worry if it turns out you need more power than you thought.
It also contains the all-important charge controller – not only can this charge controller control the solar power to one battery, it can handle multiple batteries (should you have them). Its LCD screen will inform you of the charging status of your battery, keeping you up to date on how your solar panels are performing.
The pure sine wave inverter included in this kit is also a real deal breaker. This inverter can handle 1500 watts and will provide pure AC power that you can trust. So if you are after pure sine wave energy for your sensitive device, this kit has all the answers.
Another bonus of this excellent value solar kit is that it can be topped up with expansion packs available from Go Power! So, if you decide that solar energy is a good choice for you and that you want to increase your access to this free and renewable energy source, then you can easily invest in the Go Power! expansion kits to increase your ability to soak up the suns rays.
Q&A: I have 3 12V batteries which I only use sporadically, is this the answer?
A: This is the solution to your problems as it will easily provide the energy to keep these underused batteries topped up, just make sure to invest in a trickle charger to complete the kit.
Best 200W Flexible Solar Monocrystalline Charger Kit
HQST 200 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Marine Kit Review
Just as the best fruit to pick, is the hardest fruit to pick, so it is that the best spot for the solar panel is the hardest place to fit it. Thankfully, some bright spark has invented the solution… flexible solar panels! This HQST starter kit has everything you need to get started if you have difficult mounting spots, with top of the range monocrystalline panels that will help you produce the best RV solar power you can dream of.
The intuitive PWM charge controller allows you to charge more than one battery at a time (up to the 20 amp limit), whilst the inbuilt diodes ensure there is no performance drop resulting from cloud cover or shade. Thanks to the flexibility of this thing, you can put it wherever the sun is gonna shine and to hell with those pesky bumps and curves getting in your way, these panels will find a way.
You will also be pleased to find MC4 connectors included to help you expand your setup if your power needs increase. It is also extremely useful that these connectors, as well as the junction box controlling your system, are both waterproof, meaning you can feel confident that once this is setup you can leave it in place.
These panels are some of the easiest to install you can imagine, come with the appropriate connections to expand your power system, and have a charge controller that will ensure your batteries are protected from the vagaries of over and undercharging. If you know the only place your solar panel is going to fit is in a hard to reach place, then you could do much worse than invest in this high-quality starter kit.
This kit is great to get you started if your power needs are relatively high, you know the installation is not going to be a simple job, and you want the option to expand your system to be available moving forwards. If these are your needs, this product could make you very happy.
Q&A: Does this kit come with everything you need to get started?
A: yes and no! If you have a 12-volt deep cycle battery and do not require mains (AC) energy then you are good to go, otherwise, you need to buy yourself a deep cycle battery and an inverter!
Q&A: How many additional panels can I hook into this setup?
A: This setup will support 4 100W solar panels in series or in parallel.
Best 400W Complete Solar Charging kit for RV
WindyNation 200 Watt (2pcs 100 Watt) Solar Panel Kit Review
If you don’t want the hassle of picking the right inverter to support the other key components of your solar charging kit, then WindyNation are the answer you are looking for as they have complete kits ranging from 100W up to 400W. The 200W kit is perfectly easy to upgrade with additional panels, so if you want to suck it and see, then this is a great way for you to start building your off-grid solar powered paradise.
With 2 100W polycrystalline panels included, you’ll have plenty of output power for your devices to get you started, with up to 800 watt-hours or 65 Ampere hours per day, depending on your weather conditions. A couple of good quality 100 amp hour batteries will complete your system but will need to be bought separately, as will a couple of fuses, if you don’t already have them.
The PWM charge controller with a helpful LCD display also means it will be easy for you to monitor charging and adjust the settings appropriately. You are also able to get read-outs from amperage to voltage and temperature to load draw to help you really get to grips with what is going on in your system. This also protects against overload, reverse polarity and overheating and is able to deal with a variety of battery types.
The 1500-watt inverter offers an impressive 3000-watt surge power to get your power hungry devices started up – such as on those spring days that demand getting the hoover out for yearly spring-clean! Just be aware that the included inverter only produces modified sine-wave so this power should only be used for general appliances rather than your more sensitive electronics.
All in all, this is a great kit for those looking for a first foray into setting up their off-grid solar power supply as it is easy-to-install, has flexibility for power expansion, and will last you for years to come.
Q&A: Could I charge 6-volt deep cycle batteries with this setup?
A: As the system is designed for 12V you will need to connect two 6V batteries in series to charge them.
Q&A: Does this kit offer 110/120 volts AC?
A: Yes, the panels produce a DC voltage and this can be converted by the inverter to 12V 110V AC power.
Q&A: Does this kit come with either a battery?
A: Unfortunately this kit only includes an inverter (albeit an excellent one), a solar panel, a charge controller, and the necessary connecting cables, so you will need to invest in your own deep cycle battery.
Why use solar energy to power my RV?
Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past ten years it will be no surprise to you that there is an increasing need for us to invest in renewable energy. Our fossil fuel consumption has reached alarming rates and if we want to continue with our electricity habits we need to look towards energy sources that protect our environment rather than harm it. A solid argument for opting for solar energy as a means to fuel your RV dreams.
Investing in solar energy also has great financial incentives as well as environmental. While the initial set up of a solar system in your RV may seem a little pricey, the energy you then generate from it is completely free. Eventually, you may break even on your solar energy investment and your pockets will thank you for the savings you have made by not using as much mains electricity.
Aside from the environmental and financial incentives, using solar energy is also incredibly convenient. We all know how frustrating it is to be out in our RV and be unable to find anywhere to power dock it. With a solar energy system your electricity comes from the skies, and with the solar panels on the roof you will actually be generating electricity while you are driving (as long as it’s not too overcast!).
What is a solar power kit?
You can buy all of the elements for your RV solar system individually, but with a solar power kit, these difficult decisions are made for you. With the solar kits reviewed in this article, you can rest assured that the products have been thought about carefully and that they will work in harmony together. They will also provide you with the essentials to get you started on your solar energy adventure.
What is included in a solar power kit and how do they work?
Most solar power kits will come with a solar panel (or panels), a charge controller and an inverter. Not all of the solar power kits reviewed here come with an inverter, but you can easily select one from our article Best Inverter for RV. You will also need a battery to store the solar energy in if you need one of these check out our article on the Best Battery for Solar RV.
So, what do these items actually do and how do they work together? Let’s take a look at each of them individually to give you a better idea:
the solar panel will sit on the roof of your RV and, when they receive photons, or light particles, these will cause atoms to release electrons and thereby create a flow of electricity.
the electricity generated by the solar panel then passes through the solar charge controller which regulates how much energy your battery receives. This is necessary to protect the battery from receiving a surge of energy when the solar panels are in direct sunlight, and when the sun isn’t shining it protects the battery from discharging to a low level. Overcharging and undercharging can both damage the battery so the solar charge controller is essential in preventing these occurrences.
Battery power inverter
the energy that has travelled from the solar panel, through the charge controller into your battery is DC power. In order to use this power in your electrical devices, this needs to be changed into AC power (this is the energy that is supplied to your home). This is done through an inverter which converts DC power into AC power. Another option for AC power is Best Portable Generator for RV.
What do I need to think about before buying a solar kit for my RV?
In the solar power market, there are different degrees of technology, with some products being more advanced and, subsequently, more expensive than others. Before deciding whether you want to splash the cash on your solar energy kit, or would prefer to go for a more modest set-up, it is a good idea to think about the following key considerations.
Thinking about the location your RV will most frequently be sitting or driving in is essential when it comes to choosing a solar kit with the most suitable solar panels for your needs. Despite what you might think, solar panels do not always need direct sunlight in order to gather energy and there are some types of solar panels that are better suited to environments where shade is a more common occurrence than sunshine.
Step up the Monocrystalline solar panel, being formed of a single-crystal silicon this solar panel is super efficient. When in direct sunlight it ensures that it makes the most of those rays and is able to generate an ample amount of electricity. This efficiency makes it the best option for days where the sun is hiding behind a cloud, and a good option if you are travelling in an environment where sunshine can’t be relied upon.
The alternative and cheaper option is a Polycrystalline solar panel. These solar panels are made up of multiple fragments of silicon rather than a single-crystal like the Monocrystalline – this means the electrons that create the electricity flow from the sun have less room to manoeuvre, meaning this type of solar panel produces less power. This feature also means they are not as well equipped to deal with sun-deprived days. Nevertheless, don’t write Polycrystalline solar panels off just yet, they are more than sufficient if your power needs are low, or if you can guarantee your RV will be exposed to sunshine.
Another option is an Amorphous solar panel, also known as thin-film solar panels, are created by spraying silicon onto glass in thin layers. This type of solar panel is cheaper than Polycrystalline solar panels but are slightly less efficient.
How often will you be relying on your solar kit?
Another key factor to consider is how often you will be needing to rely on solar power as your main energy source. This will impact on both the type of solar panels and type of solar charge controller to look out for to ensure the best RV solar set up for you.
Rigid or flexible solar panels?
You will notice that solar panels come in different formats – either rigid or flexible. If you are planning on going off-grid regularly then it is likely to be a worthwhile and economical choice to invest in some rigid solar panels.
Rigid solar panels are the type that sit proudly on top of the roof of your RV and can be titled to ensure they are facing the sun. They can be a little tricky to install (as they require some drilling and bolting so they can be attached to the roof) but once they’re secured their sturdy aluminium frame means they are incredibly durable and can withstand bad weather.
A rigid solar panel is also less susceptible to overheating as air can flow underneath them ensuring the solar panel doesn’t get too hot which reduces efficiency and can cause possible damage. Very important if you need a lot of energy from your solar panels and maybe leaving your RV in a sunny spot for lengthy periods of time.
However, if you are looking for a straightforward solar set up, and are planning on using solar power every now and then for short camping trips a couple of times a year, then a flexible solar panel is a good choice. This type of solar panel can be bent to fit the shape of the roof of your RV and then very simply glued on. They are much lighter than the rigid alternative and are also good power generators. Be wary of their potential to overheat though as the lack of air-flow underneath them makes this a possibility.
PWM or MPTT solar charge controller?
When it comes to selecting the best RV solar kit with the most appropriate charge controller the best way to decide is to, again, think about the frequency with which you will be relying on your solar energy system in your RV.
The cheapest option on the market are Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) solar charge controllers. These tried and tested devices ensure that your battery does not overcharge by controlling the voltage and current that flows from your solar panel to your battery.
A more advanced solar charge controller comes in the form of the Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) device. It does the job of the PWM solar charge controller and then goes one step further. Where PWM controls the charge until it meets the voltage size of the battery and then maintains it, the MPPT is able to use any excess energy generated by the solar panels that your battery cannot immediately handle by turning it into extra current and then uses the power at a lower voltage – optimising the energy from the sun in the most efficient way.
MPPT solar charge controllers are a lot more expensive than the PWM alternative, but if you are going to be using your RV solar set up regularly this would be a good choice to ensure you make the most of the suns rays.
How much power is needed?
The next thing to think about is your power needs. You might just need some solar energy to ensure you can make your cup of coffee in the morning and have the lights on at night. Or you could need your RV to be your home away from home and require your solar set up to power up your AC system, your microwave oven, your lamps, your laptop, flat-screen TV and smartphone all at the same time.
Your power needs are individual to you so the best thing to do is work out the combined amperage of your devices – they should have the number of amps used listed on them and then you can use an energy calculator to work out how this translates into volts (just google ‘energy calculator’ and you will find hundreds!).
Solar panels – which voltage size do I need?
Now you’ve got that sorted it’s time to think about the size of the solar panel you should select in your solar kit to match your energy requirements. Solar panels are rated by voltage, those that have a higher voltage will be able to generate more electricity. It is also the case that the larger surface area the solar panel has the more of the suns energy it can soak up.
For short camping trips in your RV every few months, a 12-volt solar panel will be sufficient. Whereas, if you will be using your solar kit daily to power multiple devices in your RV then you should be looking at kits that have a solar panel rated at 24 volts (and you might want to think about having more than one solar panel).
Inverters – what wattage rating should I choose?
There is no point having a high voltage solar panel and big battery if your inverter doesn’t match your energy requirements. This is because the inverter converts the DC power you have stored in your battery (thanks to the solar panels) into AC power that your onboard devices need to function – and the watt rating of the inverter needs to match the energy needs of all of your electronic devices combined.
Again, you can use an energy calculator to work out the combined wattage of your electronic appliances and this will help you to select an inverter with a sufficient watt rating. Make sure you go for an inverter with a slightly higher wattage than you actually need (around 10% higher) so you can be confident that the inverter can cater to your power needs and make the most of the free solar energy your RVs solar panels have generated.
What devices will you be powering?
If you are going to be using your solar kit to power expensive devices such as a laptop, smartphone or flat-screen TV you no doubt want to make sure that the power you send to these devices is clean and won’t damage them. It is crucial to consider this before selecting a solar kit with the right type of power inverter for your needs.
You may have heard of pure sine waves and modified sine waves. Pure sine waves are distributed in even waves, whereas modified sine waves come in square waves. Pure sine waves are, as their name suggests, a ‘purer’ form of electricity that is more efficient and will not cause damage to the devices it powers. Modified sine waves are less pure and therefore less efficient, they may also damage more sensitive devices and are known to create an annoying buzzing sound in some electronic appliances.
Inverters come in two different types – modified sine wave and pure sine wave with the latter, understandably, being more expensive. Making an investment in a solar kit with a pure sine wave inverter is an economical choice if you are going to be powering more expensive items as you won’t be needing to replace these earlier than planned as the energy delivered to these will be clean. A modified sine wave inverter will work fine if you just want to power the essentials – such as your kettle and lights.
If you are thinking about investing in a solar energy kit for your RV then you have already realised the benefits of this free and renewable energy source. The solar kits reviewed here highlight how easy it is to set up such a system in your RV and you will soon realise how well suited solar energy generation is suited to the outdoor lifestyle.
Make sure you think about your energy needs so that you select a solar energy kit that has the correct types of solar panels, charge controller and inverter that are suitable for you. Once you are set up with the essentials, we are confident that you won’t look back and will be reaping the benefits of this free energy source for years to come.