Are you heading out for a weekend of glamping in your RV? What are you going to do for electricity? Sure, camping in the great outdoors under the stars is romantic, but what are you going to do when your cellphone battery dies? You’re away from home, without a phone or any lights.
Some campsites offer electrical outlets to provide the power you need to cook and charge your devices. However, what if you decide to go somewhere off the beaten path?
Fitting a solar kit to your camper provides you with the power you need when you’re out in the wilderness. Advances in solar power technology mean that you can charge your solar system fast, providing you with plenty of power, even during overcast conditions.
In this review, we’ll look at the best RV solar panel kits. We’ll give you recommendations on our top choices to suit your budget and camper. If you need help choosing the best system, check out our buyer’s guide to help you select the solar kit that’s the right choice for your rig.
But, if you’re in a hurry, just check out our quick picks below!
Our Reviews Of The Best RV Solar Kits
We searched for the best RV solar kits available online. After much deliberation, we settled on five options. Choose the model that’s the best fit for your RV and your needs.
200W Renogy Solar Panel Kit
The Renogy KIT-RV200D RV solar kits win our top choice as the most popular RV solar solution. When unboxing, you’ll find two solar panels, a charge controller. Connectors, cables, and mounting brackets. Renogy also offers different accessory kits with this model, featuring a Bluetooth module, as well as additional cables and solar panels.
The Renogy KIT-RV200D Solar Panel kit features High-Module conversion. As a result, it runs efficiently, pushing out over 1000Wh of electricity every day, provided you have optimal sunlight conditions. The solar panels use advanced encapsulation materials, featuring multi-layered laminations to harness more energy from the sun’s rays.
The encapsulation method enhances the individual solar cell performance while extending the service life of the panels. This kit is weather-resistant, and it can handle the most demanding weather conditions, such as high winds and heavy snowfalls. However, hail may damage the panels.
Renogy offers excellent customer service, and you can expect this high-quality product to give you no issues.
The 200W Renogy RV solar panel systems are off-grid solar panel energy systems suitable for your camper, caravan, boat, or your greenhouse. The system features a monocrystalline setup on the panels, with reports showing the solar cell efficiency of the panels as 21%.
These RV solar panel kits comes with a corrosion-resistant frame made from aircraft-grade aluminum, and it can absorb minor bumps and knocks without any problems. The Adventurer 30A PWM flush-mounted charge controller rapidly charges the batteries safely.
100W WindyNation Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Boat Kit
If you’re looking for the best value in your new RV solar kit, then we suggest the 100W WindyNation off-grid solar kit. This system offers you the best value for your money, and it’s a surprisingly functional system considering the low power output.
This affordable solar kit for your camper features a sturdy charge controller with a temperature sensor included to prevent overcharging or damage to the batteries. The system carries a 30-Amp rating, allowing you to expand your kit with up to three extra solar panels.
Reviews suggest that people who purchased this system find it to be an affordable and effective means of powering your boondocking expeditions. This WindyNation RV solar kits feature design and construction with premium materials, and it offers more functionality than any other 100W kit available.
The WindyNation solar panels included are a bit thick and outdated when compared to the other slimline offerings from manufacturers. The panels are somewhat heavy, weighing around 18-lbs each. However, the panels are relatively small, measuring at 40-inches x 26.4-inches x 1.4-inches.
The robust look and feel of the panels make them look durable. The aluminum frame is weather-resistant and can handle high wind speeds and heavy snowfalls.
When unboxing the kit, you’ll find the durable solar panel, as well as a user-adjusted, 30-Amp Solar charge controller with an LCD and a battery temperature sensor. You get 40-feet of UL-listed 12 AWG solar cable included in your kit, as well as MC4 connectors to write it into your RV, and a mounting system for the panel.
With optimal weather conditions, you can expect this solar RV system to push out 350Wh per day. That might be a third of the power provided by our top model in this review. However, it’s enough to do the basics in your camper. If you want to do tasks like boiling the kettle, using the microwave, and charging your devices, then that’s all you need.
You have the option of expanding this kit with additional solar panels. We feel this unit has the essentials for your RV, and it’s an affordable option for those boon dockers on a budget.
200W WindyNation Solar Kit with Batteries
This model is the next step up from the 100-watt model we covered earlier. This kit comes with everything you need for your camper or RV, including deep cycle batteries. Considering batteries are expensive items, it’s nice to see them included with this kit as a standard feature.
This off-grid solar solution features two 100-Watt polycrystalline solar panels, which are the same models that feature in the 100-watt version. You get a 2,100-Amp-hour AGM deep-cycle battery, and a 1,500-watt VertaMax DC to AC Inverter included in the kit.
The WindyNation 200-wat solar RV kit comes complete with all the cables and mountings you need to set it up in your camper before you head out for some off the grid boondocking. According to user reviews, installation is easy, and the biggest challenge you’ll have during fitment is deciding where to place the charge controller.
The 30-Amp controller is an excellent addition to the kit, featuring an LCD with adjustable settings. According to the manufacturer’s specifications, this unit delivers 800-watts of energy, or 67-Amp hours, per day – depending on the light conditions. However, the panels and system will work in slightly shady or overcast conditions as well.
The 200 Amp-hour battery power bank that comes with this model is suitable for everyday use. You also have the option of upgrading your kit with additional solar panels and batteries. Overall, this kit is durable, affordable, and provides consistent results to your off-grid power needs.
400W WindyNation Solar Kit with Batteries
WindyNation makes some of the best off-the-grid solar kits for campers. This brand gets another mention in this review, with its 400-watt model. This comprehensive kit is an excellent mid-range solar kit for boon dockers that find themselves using more electricity during their trip.
With this 400-watt kit, you get everything you need to ensure you have power when you need it, and there’s no need to add any additional panels to this setup. You get the inverter and a battery bank of 4-deep cycle batteries included with your purchase.
WindyNation also makes some of the most affordable solar RV systems, and this 400-watt model is no exception. This model is suitable for powering small appliances, like the kettle and microwave, and it comes with the same ease of installation as the previous 100-watt and 200-watt models.
According to online reviews of this system, users state that the comprehensive kit includes everything you need to power your RV. There are some issues with the solar inverter, but we think it might come from pushing the system too hard. If 400-watts is not enough power for your camping needs, then you might have to consider upgrading to an 800-watt model.
When unboxing your 400-watt WindyNation solar kit, you can expect to find 4 x 100-watt panels (the same panels featured in the previous two WindyNation models), along with a 30-Amp charge controller, and a 1,500W VertaMax power inverter. The system also includes 4 x 100-Amp hour deep cycle batteries.
The polycrystalline panels aren’t the most efficient that are available. However, they manage to provide enough power to the battery bank, even under low-light conditions. The sturdy panels are weather-resistant, and the system comes with a PWM charge controller, instead of the MPPT model.
This system is the ideal choice for your RV and suits other applications like houseboats as well. You can expect 1,600-watt-hours from a full charge, depending on the light conditions.
800W Renogy Solar Panel Kit
For those boon dockers looking for the ultimate solar energy solution for your camper, we recommend the 800-watt Renogy model. This superior system can even serve as a backup to your home if the grid goes down temporarily.
This Renogy kit is both reliable and efficient. When unboxing your parcel, you’ll find the new version of the 100-watt Eclipse/Mono Solar Panel. This panel is lightweight, sleek, and features leading solar cell technology that’s ultra-efficient.
You also get the Rover Li 40A MPPT Charge Controller included with your kit. This unit features a multi-phase synchronous rectification, along with Maximum Power Point Tracking technologies, for efficient charging of the battery bank.
We like the Bluetooth functionality in this unit, allowing you to pair the system with the Renogy BT App. This app will enable you to remotely monitor your system from your smartphone, ensuring that you know how the system is working and if it’s experiencing any issues.
You also get a complete installation kit with your purchase, including the branch connectors, z-brackets, and a 20-foot 10AWG MC4 adaptor kit. There is an 8-foot 4AWG tray cable, as well as fusing components to protect the battery and controller.
You also have the option of installing this system in a ground-mount position, allowing you to use it as an off-grid solution for your home when the power grid fails due to a blackout.
The monocrystalline panels feature highly efficient solar cells, consisting of 21% regular monocrystalline, and 22% eclipse monocrystalline. The bypass diodes will also assist with minimizing the power drop when charging in the shade.
The Rover charge controller included in this kit offers peak conversion efficiency of up to 98%, as well as high tracking efficiency of up to 99%. The panels feature thick, transparent, anti-reflective iron-tempered glass with an IP65 rated junction box. As a result, you get excellent impact resistance with enhanced impact and weather resistance.
The corrosion-resistant frame feature design and construction with aircraft-grade aluminum, and these panels will provide you with extended service life.
The Best RV Solar Kits Buyer's Guide (With FAQs!)
Selecting the right solar kit for your recreational vehicle can be a confusing experience, especially if you don’t have specialized knowledge of how electrical systems operate. In this buyer’s guide, well unpack everything you need to know about selecting the right system for your rig.
Can My RV Benefit from a Solar Kit?
A solar kit for your RV is an expensive item. While the products in this review might be somewhat pricey, they’re worth the money when you consider the convenience they provide on your glamping trips.
However, before you go out and buy a kit, you need to ask yourself if you need one.
If you only camp around sites that already offer electrical outputs, then why bother with the expense of a solar kit?
If you already have batteries in your RV, and you charge them externally with a power-point, you might not require the use of solar panels to charge your system. To test the battery life, run all your electrical systems in your RV, and check how long it takes to deplete 70% of the battery life.
If you think you’re going to run out of power while on the road, then installing a solar kit for your rig makes good sense. However, if it takes two or three days to deplete your batteries, and you only take weekend trips, you might not need a solar kit for your RV.
For those adventurers that like to get out on the road for days or weeks on end, a solar kit is a must-have system for your RV. Camping sites will charge you for using the electrical outlet. In most cases, the charge is around $50 for the day.
So, if you avoid using the facilities, and rely on your new solar system for power, you could recoup the costs of the system over 25 camping weekends.
The decision to go solar requires some careful consideration. Do you think a solar solution would enhance your rig and your glamping experience? Then the next step is to look at the equipment available and choose the kit that best meets your power requirements.
What does it take to get your camper running on solar?
That’s a common question with a complicated answer. Solar panels for campers come in different capacities, with the four primary components of the system being the following.
- Solar panels
- Battery banks
- Charge controller
- Battery bank monitor
The solar panels harvest energy from the sun’s rays, charging the battery bank. The charge controller regulates the safe flow of energy into and out of the system. Your battery bank monitor measures the charge remaining in the battery bank, letting you know how the system is performing.
All four components are critical, and the solar panels are the only “non-essential” part. You can charge a battery bank at home, and then leave on your trip, but make it a short excursion before the battery’s die.
However, solar panels for campers are handy to have if you find yourself out on the road for more than 2 or 3 days at a time. A solar array will keep your batteries at full charge, ensuring you’re never out of power. During the evening, you use the energy in the battery bank, and during the day, you recharge back to full capacity.
Your battery bank is the core of the system; it stores the energy from the solar panels, allowing you to power your appliances, lights, devices, and other electronics. The capacity of your system depends on the Amp-hour rating of the battery. How you use the system also plays a significant role in, and how many batteries you have in the bank. It’s common for people to use 100-Ah or 200-Ah deep-cycle batteries to power the rig.
A 100-Ah battery could power two laptops, two phones, and the lights in your RV every night quite easily. If you want to start running air-con, fridges, and other appliances, you’ll have to increase the Ah-rating, and the number of batteries you need to match your power requirements.
Deep cycle batteries are powerful, but they have some limitations in performance. For instance, you should never drain the battery completely. Leave at least 30% remaining in the battery before you start the next charging cycle. Draining the deep cycle unit too far reduces service life, and they are a costly replacement.
What Kind of Solar Capacity Does My RV Need?
Battery banks are critical, but it’s no use having five deep cycle batteries in your bank, and only one solar panel to charge everything. In that scenario, one panel would undercharge the system, and five batteries would be pointless.
You need to match the power of the battery bank to the capacity of your RV solar panel systems. Therefore, if you are running three or four batteries, you’ll need four panels or so to produce the required energy to fill the cells during the day.
When looking for the solar capacity on a system, check the manufacturer’s wattage output specifications. If you want a light-use solar kit with one panel, look for a 100-watt system. Heavy-duty systems can go up to 800-watts, and most of them come with battery banks included.
It’s also important to note that the panels will not be running at 100% efficiency the entire time. Some days are overcast, or you might need to park in a shady area. In that case, the solar panels might lose up to 70% efficacy in drawing energy from the sunlight.
At the minimum, you should look for systems generating around 9 to 10 kilowatt-hours per day. A good midrange system will produce between 12 to 20-kWh. However, as mentioned, deep cycle batteries are expensive, and buying three or four of them is a significant investment in your RV.
Therefore, it’s a good move to reduce your energy consumption in your rig. For instance, swapping out old incandescent bulbs for efficient LEDs can dramatically drop your energy use. These bulbs produce the same amount of light as a 60-watt traditional bulb, while only drawing 8.5-watts of power. LEDs also last longer with the average service life being 25,000-hours, as opposed to the 1,200-hours in conventional incandescent bulbs.
Changing your lighting is only one example of how to save on money and energy consumption. There are plenty of other ideas you can use to drop your usage, such as removing cellphone chargers from plug points, and ensuring your laptop or TV is turned off instead of on standby.
How Much Does a Solar Kit Cost?
If you enjoy boondocking out on public land, then investing in solar panel kits for recreational vehicles is a great idea. With a solar system, you have no limitations on where you can go with your camper.
Camp out on the side of a lake or take a road trip across the country. Your solar system will keep your RV running with all the creature comforts of a home on wheels. You need to set a budget for your project based on your energy needs. Let’s unpack the costs of your new solar kit.
Solar panels are the most expensive part of your solar kit. It’s challenging to nail down a price in this category. There are so many products available, all of them varying in capacity, quality, efficiency, and design.
Polycrystalline Vs. Monocrystalline Panels
The improvements in solar panel technology over the last two decades is nothing short of tremendous. However, there are thousands of different panels available, all varying in efficiency, cost, and quality. If you’re looking for the best low-cost solution for your RV solar panel kits, then we suggest you look at the polycrystalline rigid solar panel.
Polycrystalline panels are affordable, with a panel costing you around $200. One of these panels produces sufficient energy to provide 1-kWh of use. Therefore, using that math, you’ll require $200 for each kilowatt-hour of electricity you want to use.
If you want to live off-the-grid in your camper, then you’ll need a system that produces a minimum of 10-kWh. Any less than this, and you might run out of power before you have to go to bed.
The second type of solar panel features construction with monocrystalline silicon. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline refer to the structure of the silicone inside the panels. Monocrystalline solar panels cost you more because they feature a purer version of silicon. The enhanced silicon harvests energy from the sun’s rays more efficiently than polycrystalline.
Most panels come in 100-watt versions, and the difference between the two comes in the size of the panel.
Monocrystalline panels will be smaller than polycrystalline types because they are more efficient.
Manufacturing monocrystalline solar panels require the manufacturer to use more energy and time during the production process. As a result, they must sell the panels for more to cover the manufacturing and material costs.
If you’re looking for the best system money can buy, then go with monocrystalline. However, if you’re on a budget, then there’s no need to go to the expense of using monocrystalline if you don’t need to. Let’s face it, your camper doesn’t have much in common with the International Space Station, and we think you’ll be fine using polycrystalline.
Polycrystalline is less efficient than monocrystalline. Therefore, if you live in a region that has plenty of overcast weather, consider going with the monocrystalline panels. These panels harvest more energy, even in low light conditions, such as gloomy days and when you park in the shade.
Flexible Vs. Solid Solar Panels
Flexible solar panels are an exciting improvement to the typical solid-state panels you see in most installations. Flexible panels are typically thinner, with a sleeker design compared to traditional fixed panels. Flexible panels are the most expensive option, but if you want the best, then they are your best choice.
The flexible panels contour to the shape of your vehicle, allowing you to position them on curved surfaces. Flexible panels usually feature design and construction with monocrystalline silicon, so you can expect that to reflect in the price tag.
Battery’s – Deep Cycle Vs. Lead Acid
So, what are your battery options for powering your RV? What’s the difference between lead-acid, and deep-cycle battery’s?
The difference between the two options is easy to understand. A lead-acid battery gets its name from the chemical reaction between lead, lead oxide, and sulfuric acid, producing a volt of electricity. When the battery isn’t in use, there reverse of the chemical reaction charges the cell.
How does that work? Lead-acid models consist of lead and lead oxide plates suspended in an electrolyte bath. The solution of 65% water and 35% sulfuric acid creates a chemical reaction, releasing electrons. These electrons move through conductors, generating electricity in the battery.
When the battery starts to lose its charge, the electrolyte acid solution starts to react with the lead oxide and lead plates. The reaction transforms the chemical consistency into lead sulfate. As the battery begins to recharge, this process reverses, with the lead sulfate reverting to the chemicals lead and lead oxide.
After returning to its original condition, the plates are ready to undergo the discharge and charge cycle again. This chemical reaction produces a significant amount of energy over a short period. It’s for this reason that lead-acid batteries are most commonly used in cars to provide the jump the motor needs to roar to life.
It might surprise you to learn that a deep cycle battery uses the same chemical reaction between lead, lead oxide, and sulfuric acid to create electricity. The difference between the standard lead-acid battery and a deep-cycle version is that the lead plates are thicker.
As a result, there is less surface area, reducing the instant power on tap that you get with standard lead-acid type batteries. Deep cycle batteries have a design that enables them to lose up to 80% of the total charge. However, we recommend that you limit that 70% to extend the service life of the battery.
Deep-cycle batteries allow for prolonged use, providing continuous power for activities like running an air-con system or lighting your RV up at night.
To summarize, both battery types use the same chemical reaction between lead plates, lead oxide, and sulfuric acid to produce electricity. The difference is that lead-acid batteries are suitable for supplying jolts of energy. At the same time, deep-cycle models provide a consistent power output. This strategy suits the inside of your camper, rather than under the hood in the engine bay.
Deep cycle batteries are pricey, and you’ll pay two or three times the price, depending on the Amp-hour rating, and the brand name. An average deep-cycle array can cost around $200, but some models sell for $500 or more.
The charge controller is the piece of equipment that sits between the electrical pathway and your battery bank. The charge controller regulates the flow of energy from the solar panels to the electrical system on your RV.
The charge controller cuts the flow of electricity to the batteries when fully charged. As a result, you don’t run the risk of overcharging that can lead to damage to the battery, and potential explosion if things get out of hand.
Always choose a charge controller rated to handle more than your current system specifications. You have the option of choosing from two types of charge controllers.
MPPT controller cost more, but they allow you to harvest more energy due to higher efficiency levels. However, in most cases, you can get away with a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) controller, and they are usually half the cost of the MPPT models.
A PWM charger can cost you between $100 to $200, depending on the specs and brand you buy. Make sure you do your research before buying your controller, as there are plenty of cheaper brands that offer inferior quality components that can damage your system.
The battery monitor helps you manage the system. Think of it as the fuel tank on your camper. If the fuel tank breaks, how do you know how much gas you have in the tank? Sure, you could put 50 bucks in the tank and drive around for a bit each day, but you’ll always have the uncertainty in the back of your mind that you might run out of gas.
Without your battery monitor, you don’t know how much charge you have, and you could run the battery’s dry, damaging the cells. A good quality battery monitor can cost up to $100.
Installing Your RV Solar Kit
Fitting RV solar panel kits requires some technical knowledge and experience in working with auto-electrical components. If you’re a whizz with a toolbox, then you’ll probably figure out to install the kit yourself. After all, it’s not rocket science.
However, if you have no experience working with electronics, it is probably a good idea to use a professional for the job. Tinkering around with your camper’s electrical system when you don’t know what you’re doing results in bad things happening to your vehicle and you.
Electrical systems produce current, and if you accidentally touch the wrong connections or wires, it could end up in a trip to the emergency room.
However, a professional fitment does have some benefits, even if it does drive up the costs of your solar project. You get a guarantee on the work, and you know that your system is set up correctly and won’t let you down when you’re out on the road or at the campsite.
Be careful about listening to professional installers. Some of them might try to upsell yours to a more expensive system that you don’t need. A professional installation of your kit can range from $100 to $1,000, depending on the size of your camper solar panel kits.
Tips for Setting Up the Panels
Most solar panel kits for recreational vehicles have a basic setup with the panels on the top of the roof. You’ll need to secure the panels to the roof of your RV using a frame and fasteners.
Once again, you’ll need to use a professional if you don’t have any power tools and no knowledge of how to work with mechanical and electrical parts.
For those that do have the skill set required for a DIY fitment, we recommend you mount your solar panels on a hinge system.
This setup allows you to tilt the panels into the sun as it moves through the sky, improving the efficiency of the solar panels as they charge your battery bank. When you need to get back on the road, you simply release the hinge, secure the panel to the roof, and drive away.
For a tip, always park your camper on an east-west axis and tilt the solar panels to face south. The further north you go, the more this hinging functionality matters to your charging time and efficiency.
RV Solar Kit Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is it possible to run a TV, fridge, and an air-con using RV solar panel systems?
A: Yes, many RV fridges run on AC or DC power, and the solar system is also useful at powering your water pump for hot water. However, your TV works on AC power, so you’ll need to get an inverter for that.
Q: How long can I expect the batteries in my solar system to last?
A: That’s a challenging question to answer because it depends on the usage. The more appliances and devices you have consuming power, the faster you’ll deplete the batteries. In general, you’ll need at least 10-kWh of power on tap to run a full electrical setup for your RV where you are living entirely off the grid.
Q: What are the differences between volts, watts, and amps?
A: Imagine that your solar kit is like a gas station. The amps are the gallons of gasoline filling your RV’s battery bank, and the volts provide the pressure to move the gas into your tank. The more volts, the faster the fill rate, and the sooner your battery bank reaches full charge.
By now, you should have a good understanding of RV solar kits, and which one you need for your glamping setup. In case you need some help making your selection, why not rely on our choices?
The 100-watt WindyNation kit offers tremendous value, and it’s a great starting point for your solar system. You can add panels and batteries to scale it to your needs, and its reputable model with a good reputation from glampers online.
However, if you want to Rolls-Royce of camper solar panel kits right out of the box, then choose the 800W Renogy Solar Panel Kit. This kit has enough power to ensure that the lights never go out on your next RV adventure.