Welcome to our ultimate guide to the best campervan solar panels available! Whether you want a more affordable portable solar system or want to fix high-end solar panels to your van, our expert blog post will get you on the right track to keeping your batteries topped up with solar power.
Solar panels are a valuable investment for any camper van or RV owner. Maybe you’re about to embark on an epic road trip, or maybe you’re interested in boondocking your way across the country.
Perhaps you’re just looking for a way to make your RV more environmentally friendly.
Having campervan solar panels has many benefits, especially if you’re planning on spending a lot of time on the road or camping off the grid.
Along with other accessories, like the ones we have listed in this comprehensive blog post, a solar kit will allow you to recharge your battery bank when you’re not connected to shore power, so you can still watch TV or charge your computer or cell phone.
Not to mention, it’s a low maintenance way to generate and conserve clean energy while saving you money in the long run.
But with so many different brands, styles, and types of panels on the market, choosing the right solar panel for an RV can be difficult.
We’ve done the heavy lifting to tell you what to look for in a solar system and to help you decide which solar panel is best for your camper van needs.
CAMPERVAN SOLAR PANELS
WHAT WE LIKE
THINGS TO CONSIDER
RENOGY 200W SOLAR PANEL KIT
WINDYNATION 100W POLYCRYSTALLINE KIT
RENOGY 100W 12V MONOCRYSTALLINE FOLDABLE PORTABLE SOLAR SUITCASE
ACOPOWER 120W PORTABLE FOLDABLE SUITCASE
ALLPOWERS 100W FLEXIBLE SOLAR CHARGER
DDY BENDABLE SOLAR PANEL
RENOGY 100W FLEXIBLE SOLAR PANEL
SUNPOWER 170W FLEXIBLE HIGH-EFFICIENCY SOLAR PANEL
HQST 100 WATT POLYCRYSTALLINE SOLAR PANEL KIT
NRGGO 100W MONOCRYSTALLINE SOLAR PANEL
The Best Solar Panels for RVs
We looked at a few key features to determine the best solar panels; this includes energy efficiency, size, weight, ease of installation, and of course, price.
Based on this research, we’ve compiled this list of the best solar panels for van and RV owners.
Renogy 200w Solar Panel Premium Kit – The Best Campervan Solar Panel on the Market
The Renogy 200w Solar Panel Premium Kit is by far the best option on the market for van lifers who want to maximize the performance of their camper van solar system, go off-grid and don’t want to kill the budget either (especially when you combine it with our exclusive 10% discount code we worked hard to get below).
This kit comes with everything you need to hook up your van and battery to solar, including 2x 100w panels, a specialised charge controller giving 98% peak conversion efficiency and Z mounts, plus it even connects to Bluetooth so you can monitor your power input on your phone in real time. Trust us, it’s a feature we always use!
These rigid panels can be used on the ground or van-mounted, and combined with multiple units for extra power. While it’s suitable to charge 12V batteries, it can also be outfitted to charge 24V or 48V batteries as well.
In addition, it’s one of the quietest and more durable panels out there. In the rare event that something does break, the Renogy panel comes with a 5-year warranty on material damage and a 25-year warranty on solar output.
|* Huge 98% power efficiency Lightweight|
* Pre-drilled holes for mounting
* Included control charger and mounting brackets
* Extremely durable
|* More expensive price point|
Don’t forget to use “VanLifeTheory” at checkout on the Renogy Site for 10% off all Renogy Products!
WindyNation 100W Polycrystalline Kit
The WindyNation 100W Polycrystalline Kit is an affordable, straight out of the box option. It comes with everything you need for set up, including cables, mounting brackets, connectors, and an LCD screen display charge controller.
The ability to adjust different settings on the LCD screen is one of the kit’s biggest selling points because it displays detailed information (temperature, voltage, system’s amp-hours) while allowing you to adjust the level of power.
* Easy to use charge controller
* Durable, weather-resistant materials
|* Below average 350-watt hours per day|
Renogy 100W 12V Monocrystalline Foldable Portable Solar Suitcase
As one of the most well-known companies on the market, Renogy has some of the best solar panels for RVs and vans – that includes their 100 watt Portable Solar Suitcase.
Although it packs up small (19.9 x 27.2 x 2.8 inches), you can expect it to be made with the long-lasting and durable materials that Renogy is known for.
It’s super easy to set up, and the LCD display screen makes it easy to understand the operating information, which is great for first-time buyers.
|* Compact and portable|
* Easy to read LCD charge controller
* Overcharge protection
|* Expensive price point|
ACOPOWER 120W Portable Foldable Suitcase
This foldable panel system packs a huge punch in just a light 8.4-pound kit. With a total of 120W, it’s more powerful than other portable panels of its size, while still portable enough to bring with you around the campground.
Best of all, it comes with everything you need (charger cable, suitcase with handle, built-in bypass) and can be set up in as little as a minute.
|* Comes with a durable suitcase|
* Can be used practically anywhere
* Easy to set up and use
|* Not waterproof|
* Hard to close with all cords
ALLPowers 100w Flexible Solar Charger
The ALLPowers Solar Panel is one of the best flexible panels on the market today. Its low-profile design is bendable up to 30-degrees and only weighs a minimal 4.7 pounds.
What’s most notable about this flexible charger is that it’s extremely energy efficient. While most other monocrystalline panels get around 19-20% energy, the ALLPowers cells can offer up to 23.5%.
But if you want more juice from it, you can always connect it with additional panels using an MPPT 30A controller.
|* Lightweight at 4.7 pounds|
* Pre-drilled holes for mounting
* 23.5% efficiency
|* Rain resistant, but not waterproof|
DDY Bendable Solar Panel
The practical, 40W DDY Bendable Solar Panel is a great addition to your solar panel toolkit. It provides just the right amount of power to charge your smaller electronics while camping without taking up too much space in your van.
While it can be connected with chords, this flexible panel can also be hung with suction cups for a quick on-the-go power session.
It still charges in cloudy weather, but it’s better to keep it out of the sun because the plastic backing can melt if it gets too hot.
* Can be mounted with chords or suction cups
* Great for small charges
|* Melts if it gets too hot|
Renogy 100w Flexible Solar Panel
Clocking in at just 4 pounds, the ultra-lightweight Renogy flexible panel is a must-have for any van lifer. It can bend up to 248 degrees, which means you’ll have no problem mounting it to the curved roof of your campervan or airstream trailer.
With 18.4% efficiency, it’s not the most energy-efficient panel on this list. However, its high-quality construction and ability to conform to most surfaces are its unique selling points.
* Most flexible solar panel on the market
|* Prone to scratches|
* Not as energy-efficient
SunPower 170W Flexible High-Efficiency SOlar Panel
When it comes to high-efficiency solar panels, look no further than the SunPower 170W Flexible High Efficiency Solar Panel. Each panel produces 31% more power than previous models – great if you’re short on van or rooftop space.
It’s also the only panel built on a copper foundation, which provides protection and support against cracking and high temperatures.
Although it’s not the cheapest panel on the market, it’s certainly one of the best van solar panels.
|* Very high energy efficiency|
* Durable and waterproof
* Shorter than average warranty
HQST 100 Watt Polycrystalline Solar Panel Kit
If you’re a first-time solar panel for RV buyer, then the HQST Solar Panel Kit is a great option. It’s relatively small (35.6 x 25.9 x 1.2 inches) and comes with mounting hardware, pre-drilled holes, and easy to follow instructions.
In sunny conditions, it can produce up to 500Wh per day – great if you’re purchasing a solar kit to power minor applications.
|* Small, compact, and quiet|
* Comes with all necessary hardware
|* For more detailed setups, more hardware will be needed|
nrgGO 100w Monocrystalline Solar Panel
The sleek, all-black nrgGO Solar Panel is just as efficient as it is elegant. Compared to polycrystalline panels of its size, the monocrystalline cells can produce up to 33% more energy, which you can use for a variety of ways while travelling in your van.
However, the solar panel works best in ideal sunny conditions. If the weather is cloudy or rainy, this could have a large impact on the panel’s charging efficiency.
|* Attractive, all-black design|
* Easy to install
|* Weather can impact efficiency|
Choosing the Best Campervan Solar Panels
Let’s dive deeper into what actually makes a good van life solar panel.
When researching solar panels, you’ll see that most panels come in either 50W, 100W, or 200W power. The number of watts you need depends on what you’re using the solar panels for. This daily power consumption is referred to as watt-hours (Wh).
On average, a 100W panel will supply around 400Wh of power per day. To put this into perspective, powering a 60W lightbulb for six hours uses 360Wh while watching a 200W TV for four hours uses 800Wh.
If you calculate that you’ll need more power for your trip, you might consider purchasing multiple solar panels for RV electricity. Of course, the amount of energy you get from your solar panel depends on the weather conditions; don’t expect to get a full charge in indirect sunlight or on a cloudy day.
Weight and Size
The difference in weight between solar panels can be drastic. Some flexible panels weigh as little as four pounds, while large solar panel kits can be as heavy as 40 pounds. If you’re planning on mounting a fixed panel to the top of your RV, you’ll need to make sure the roof can support the added weight.
When looking at flexible or portable panels, you should also consider the dimensions to make sure the panels can be easily stored inside your van.
Fixed vs. Portable Panels
Fixed solar panels are permanently mounted to the roof or side of your van or RV. They are constantly exposed to the light, which means they collect energy even while you’re driving on the road. If you have a large RV or campervan with plenty of roof space, then fixed panels are a worthwhile investment.
On the other hand, portable solar panels are sold as individual units or solar suitcases. They have to be set up at your campsite and manually positioned towards the sun. For many campervans where exterior space is limited, portable solar panels are the best option.
The size of your camper van, the amount of power you need, and your budget are all factors to consider when choosing between fixed or portable panels.
Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline
When choosing solar panels for a campervan, you’ll also need to consider the type of solar gathering cell that’s used.
Panels that use monocrystalline cells are from a single source of silicon, making them more efficient compared to panels that use polycrystalline solar cells. Monocrystalline panels are smaller and more compact, although they also tend to be more expensive.
Polycrystalline panels have blended silicon sources and are generally cheaper and bigger per watt. Polycrystalline cells are less efficient than monocrystalline cells, which means you’ll need more panels to get the same power.
This post is a great resource if you’d like to learn more about the difference between Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline panels.
Rigid vs. Flexible Panels
RV solar panels come in both rigid and flexible materials.
Rigid panels are the most typical solar panels used for vans, houses, and even solar farms. When it comes to the solar panel setup for a campervan, most rigid panels are bolted or mounted directly onto the roof.
Because they are mounted under temperate glass and protected by an aluminium frame, the panels are incredibly durable and are made to withstand even the harshest of outdoor elements. Price-wise, rigid panels also tend to be cheaper per watt when compared to flexible panels.
The low profile look of flexible panels makes them a great option for stealthy campers. Most of them weigh less than six pounds and are less than an inch thick, which allows them to bend around certain surfaces. And because they don’t need to be mounted or drilled, flexible panels are easy to set up and use immediately.
When buying solar panels, it’s important to look at any additional features or products included with the initial solar panel product.
For example, portable solar panels need charge controllers, connecting cords, and clips. Sometimes these are included in the panel kit, while other manufacturers require you to purchase them separately.
If you’re mounting a fixed panel, you’ll need a charge controller and mounting hardware. Again, it’s important to check the details to see if these are included with your purchase.
Rigid panels can also be attached to a tilting mount, which can increase your solar capacity by 25% by allowing them to directly face the sun. To maximize the efficiency of the panel, it’s worth looking for a model that includes the tilt mount with the panel.
Renogy 200W Solar Kit
We’re just going to come out and say it now – the Renogy 200w Solar Power Premium Kit is by far the best bang-for-your buck product you can get if you want high quality and affordability.
Besides having a massive 98% efficiency rating and up to 25-year warranty, the kit also comes with everything you need to get set up for off-grid living.
Because we love this kit so much we managed to get an exclusive 10% off discount for VLT readers too! Just use the code ‘vanlifetheory’ at checkout on the Renogy site.
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