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Balancing your RV electricity use is difficult.
It costs money to stop and charge up, not to mention the amount of time it takes to constantly stop. What if you didn’t have to do that nearly as often? What if you could save your own money by making a one-time purchase instead?
While an RV solar kit isn’t a cure-all, it can fix tons of your electrical needs when you’re cruising down the road, travelling with the family and enjoying the good weather.
The best RV solar kit comes with the necessary wiring, battery bank, panels, inverter and everything else that you need to plug in, and get to charging.
Solar panels don’t even have to ruin the aesthetic of your RV, either, thanks to modern mounting brackets and different ways that you can angle them on the roof.
It’s a one-time purchase for decades of free electricity. Lower bills, minimum maintenance, and more time saved—let’s take a look.
Best RV Solar Kit – Reviews & Buying guide for 2020
Best overall – Renogy Monocrystalline Off-Grid Foldable Solar Panels
There are some RV solar kits on here that you’re going to see, and your head might turn with how many individual pieces they come with (not bags or boxes, but down to each screw and lug), but Renogy didn’t want you to endure any of that.
This has the best RV solar panels, because it’s a simple, all-in-one solution for the RVer who isn’t too savvy with electrical wiring, but still wants to run solar energy to be as clean and green as possible.
It’s a solution that just requires you to unfold the two panels, and position them up on the built-in stand.
With your built-in stand, you get a highly durable aluminum frame that’s entirely corrosion resistant, and it even includes latches to make everything last longer by providing additional support.
It’s going to sit pretty and soak up the sun, but I’m not so certain that this will withstand high speed winds if you leave it propped up on your roof while you’re driving. In fact, I strongly do not recommend that.
However, even though they’re not installed on your roof, they are ultra effective with a high-end 100 watt power supply at 12 volts, which helps to avoid electric shock hazard from the ground up.
There’s a charge controller included with an LCD screen for easy viewing as well, so you know what efficiency you’re getting.
This allows you to position your solar panels however you need to depending on how shade moves and where your most efficient spots are.
That controller has five stages to it, which help to prevent overcharging and damage coming to your solar panel system.
This doesn’t come with a battery, so you will have to purchase a battery separately, just be sure you have the right match for the 20A controller that comes with this.
If you need, you can opt for the 10A controller, upgrade to a 200W panel with the 20A controller, or just get the panel if you have everything else already set at home.
Renogy’s all-in-one solar panel kit comes with a warranty, though it’s not entirely clear which one falls on this kit.
You’re either looking at a five-year or a ten-year warranty, and you may have to contact them to verify the warranty based on the model that you get.
They simply provide a sheet of varying warranties where model names and numbers drop in and fall off, so it’s important to check it out right before purchase.
Runner up – WindyNation Complete Solar Panel Kit
WindyNation is basically the perfect kit that includes everything you need, right on down to the last screw.
This kit includes four solar panels rated at 400 watts each, a charge controller, inverter, cables, mounting brackets for each panel, screws, and more.
The only thing you need to do before knowing that this is 100% enough to set up your RV for solar power is take measurements, since not everyone has the same size RV.
If your RV has enough space, then these are the best solar panels for RV riding down the highway on week-long trips. Your inverter allows for up to 1,500 watts, which is pretty fantastic considering how fast you build up solar power.
You cap off at 1600 watts, but with a 1500 watt inverter. This initially seems like a design flaw, but this is simply in place because each individual watt will have a higher threshold.
It’s unlikely for every panel to hit 400w at the exact same time, and if so, there’s surge protection in place so that you aren’t overloading the charge controller or the inverter. It can withstand up to a 3000 watt surge if need be.
In total, you get 40 feet of UL listed cables, which gives you plenty of room to work with even if you have to finagle around a few corners or niche spaces.
As a heads up, this system only works with a 12V battery, so any 24V needs will have to be met elsewhere.
When it comes to the warranty, it’s fragmented: you get five years of labor on your solar panels, and twenty-five years on a power warranty for those same panels, but around one year on the inverter and charge controller, as well as some other smaller components.
WindyNation has had some issues in the past with smaller pieces not shipping in their kits (screws, mostly), and are quick to fix any issues during shipping with speed and efficiency. Even if you run into a snag, WindyNation has your back.
Alternative – ACOPOWER RV Solar Panel System
A lot of people hail these as the best solar panels for RV use, and for good reason. With an excessive 500 watts per panel and a 12V/24V rating, you can handle just about every potential need you would ever run into in your RV.
ACOPOWER includes all the mounting brackets and fixings to take this from in-the-box, to fully functional and operational in as little time as possible.
However, with great power, usually comes a great price tag, and that’s especially true here. Over the course of a few years (or less, depending on how often you use your RV), you’re going to run up a lot of electricity.
This system, while pricier than others, is designed to be a short-term investment (under 5 years), and save you money depending on how quickly you get use out of it.
This system isn’t designed for your home, but apart from being used for an RV, it is transferable to a cabin, boat, back-up generator (direct connect) as well as some DIY use at home if you wanted to power a home office shed.
Your solar charge controller comes with an LCD screen that shows everything that’s going on. From the DC draw load to the battery’s state of charge, and everything you need to know while your panels are operational.
When it comes to installation, the brackets can be a little fidgety. You’re not going to get the same tactile feel as you would with other kits that we’ve reviewed so far.
A bit of adhesive is recommended (on the brackets, not the panels) when securing these to your RV to avoid any irregularities or jittering while you’re driving.
Just like with most full RV solar kits, you get a 25-year warranty on the power rating for the panels, as well as a one-year warranty on everything else in the kit.
Most of the time, there’s a labor warranty included as well, but ACOPOWER doesn’t make this apparent. You would have to get in touch with their representatives to find out more about the inclusion of labor in the warranty.
It’s a heavy system, and it’s recommended to have two people to install it. The panels are far from lightweight, so if you have a difficult time, grab a buddy and get to work.
Instructions are a bit unclear coming from ACOPOWER, so an installation guide or video will suit you well during the installation process.
Alternative – Eco-Worthy Solar Panel Off-Grid Kit
If you thought 500w panels were amazing, it’s about to get a whole lot better. Eco-Worthy is throwing some major power at you, and in our quest to make these solar system for RV reviews, we were blown away.
To clear things up about why this is so far down on the list, it’s still one of the best, but it’s outside the realm of a normal or standard budget for most RVers.
You’re sitting in the low four figures here, and while it’s worth every penny (and then some), there are some caveats to take into account.
The first being that this is rated for the panels only, so you do not get a battery, and you do not get the inverter for the current price. Adding both of those to your order increases it by 40%, which is not for the faint of heart.
These panels boast an impressive 1,000w, and you get 6 panels in total, which can average about 4kwh under some direct sunshine throughout the day.
That should be more than enough to power your 40’ RV like it’s nothing. These panels are large, at 58” x 26” each, so you’re going to want to calculate your space on top of the RV ahead of time, accounting for fan holes and what-not.
This system supports up to 12/24V on lead acid, gel, and lithium-ion batteries, freeing you up to make your own decisions as to what power bank you go with.
However, for the entire system from top to bottom, you only get a one-year warranty. That means one year on the panels. That’s nothing compared to the 25-year average on other manufacturers.
Here’s the thing: if you go for the charge controller and the battery, it all comes with a six-string combiner box, which can power an office shed or an entirely kitted garage.
We’re not questioning the power behind these, just the price and the longevity based on the lack of warranty.
Alternative – DOKIO Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel
Last on our list of RV solar panel reviews is DOKIO and their fairly simple system.
Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time: this is the easiest time you will have with installation and use, based on everything on this list.
DOKIO’s system folds out like a big mat, giving you the ability to just lay it out and forget about it.
There are some trade-offs of course, because you’re not going to hit those 1000w ratings we just talked about in the last product, but you’re not dealing with chump change, either.
200w is enough to power a decent amount of things in your RV, especially if you opt for a high capacity solar power bank for your RV.
Overall, the entire thing just weighs nine pounds, making it dead simple to just pick up and lay down as you see fit.
You don’t even have to lay it on the roof of the RV if you don’t want—bring two or three of these, roll them out on the ground where the sun is hitting them, and soak up the hundreds of watts of power.
It’s easy, but if you’re wondering why it’s down here, it’s simple: DOKIO is not the best brand to work with. They make high-quality electronics, but their customer service is terrible.
Getting a hold of them to fulfill your five-year warranty on these panels is like pulling teeth. It can take a bit of push and pull.
Overall, you get what you pay for, and in this case it’s a five-year solution. Solar panels slowly lose efficiency over time, and DOKIO isn’t exempt from that fact.
These will begin to noticeably decline after about two to three years, where it will require more time in the sun for the same level of charge you’ve been used to.
RV Solar Power Kit Buying Guide & FAQ
How Much Solar do I Need for an RV?
That depends on your power consumption. What are you running? Additional fans? Air conditioning while you’re driving? Do you have children that are constantly charging their phones or running a console off of your RV TV?
The best solar panel kit for RV comes down to the kits quality, but also to how the RVer will use it.
If you were getting a 1,500wh kit, but it’s just you and you’re energy-conscious, you’ll be storing power while using power at the same time if you keep your electrical usage at an all-time low. Park your RV, and just let it go.
For a bit of context, wh refers to watt hours, meaning if you have 18wh of power and an 18w television running at 12V, then you’re going to have one hour of television use before it runs out of electricity.
The average 32” LED TV takes up about 18wh, while countertop appliances like microwaves, toaster ovens and other small appliances might use up a lot more.
Watt hours are usually referred to by electric companies when they charge you, which you’ll see as kilowatts or kWh on your utility bill.
Notice how you’re charged a certain amount of cents for every kWh that you use? Some appliances will run hot (use more watts), such as microwaves at 500 to 800 watts, while televisions run cool.
Are Solar Panels for an RV Worth It?
If you use your RV more than twice a year for two-day weekends only, then yes, a solar power system with panels is going to be worth it. Not everyone who owns an RV will benefit from panels, and I wouldn’t want to sugarcoat that for a minute.
But if you use your RV every chance you get, and it’s on your mind constantly, then it’s a worthwhile investment. I would say that you should have a couple of weeks in your RV planned every single year to really earn back what you’ve spent on it.
The best solar kit for RV use can also help you charge a dead car battery if you hook it up right, so it has its uses for sure, it just all comes down to how much you’re going to use it.
How to Install the Solar Kits on Your RV?
Installing anything on your RV can be stressful, but thankfully, most modern RV solar kits aren’t too bad. Let’s go over the quick and easy steps to do it properly.
1. Wire up your two panels together. Assuming that you got them from the same kit, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if they’re from different manufacturers, make sure you have the right attachments. Each panel needs to have the same wattage, voltage and amperage.
2. Run the positive and negative wires from your panel to an adapter between the two panels before the wiring goes to your charge controller. If there is no adapter, make sure your charge has multiple ports. Most of them will (usually up to about four).
3. Now that you have your wiring thought out, it’s time to mount your panels. With your panels, you should have received mounting brackets. Using the appropriate instructions in the packaging (some go right into the roof, some have less invasive mounting instructions), attach them to your roof.
4. Run the wiring through your RV to where you’re storing your power banks. Your solar kit isn’t going to come with any, so you’ll have to shop for these separately. Fortunately, we have a buying guide dedicated to solar power banks. Secure your wiring and attach it to the solar panels on the roof.
5. Do a check to make sure you have the right wires running from your panels to your charge controller, then from the controller to the inverter and battery as well.
How Many Watts Can You Expect on a Sunny Day?
A lot of factors go into this: the size of the panel, percentage of effectiveness, and maximum battery capacity, as well as the time of year.
Your daily maximum watts are measured in wh, or watt hours. The more watt hours you have, the more you’ll be able to use your electronics without issue.
A good panel will allow you to have the maximum efficiency (20.5% and up, capping around 24.5% is usually very good).
With all the right conditions, on a nice sunny day, you should be able to get upwards of 1,600 wh or more. Now, you might have a battery pack that can hold more than that, and hopefully you do.
Every RV has more electronic-intense days, such as weekends or rainy days, so you want to be able to draw as much power as you need, when you need it.
It would be good to have a power bank that can hold 2.5x to 3.0x the maximum draw of your panels on a sunny day.
The Self Sufficient RV Owner
Looking to get your RV completely fixed up for the summer? Run your tools through your solar power kit. Recharge your devices in your RV even while it’s sitting in the driveway.
You’ll never have to leave home without a full charge ever again. It’s time to be green, save money, and enjoy your RV more than ever before.