Solar power is a great option to add to any RV. It gives you an alternative way to store and use energy when not plugged into shore power. You can add many different setups to almost any rig. However, installing an RV solar panel kit is probably the easiest way for you to start. This will give you a basic system you can add to as your solar power needs grow. Let’s look at these solar panel kits to see what you might need on your RV. We’ll also show you how you can use them.
What Is an RV Solar Panel Kit?
An RV solar panel kit usually consists of at least one solar panel, a charge controller, brackets, and wires needed to mount the panel on an RV. Keep in mind that a solar panel kit doesn’t include everything you would need to use the sun to power your appliances and accessories. The kit is just a starter setup. You must add batteries to store the sun’s energy. You also need an inverter to use that energy to run AC-powered appliances.
Pro Tip: Before investing in batteries for your solar setup, read The Beginner’s Guide to RV Batteries.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run an RV?
The number of panels needed to run power throughout your RV depends on how many appliances you wish to run and how frequently you’ll use them. The number of watt-hours or amp hours you’ll use will determine how many solar panels you need. It also depends on how big your battery bank is. One panel could be an 80-watt, 100-watt, or even a 180-watt panel. And a battery might offer 100 amp hours of energy or 200, depending upon the type of battery and its size.
You’ll need to do some calculations to determine how many watts of solar you need. Check out our step-by-step guide for help with this process: How Much Solar Power Do You Need for Your RV?
Can You Run an RV Air Conditioner With Solar Power?
Most RV solar panel kits don’t generate enough power to run an air conditioner. Your battery bank would need to be rather large, as well. That’s because AC requires a few thousand watts of power to keep an air conditioner running for a couple of hours. If you are off-grid, you can use a generator to run the air conditioner, as long as there is fuel in the tank.
→ Not all generators put out the same amount of power. Find out what size generator you need for your RV.
Brands like Coleman and Dometic are now producing 12-volt air conditioners that can run from battery power. But again, you would need a larger battery bank and several solar panels to run it for a decent amount of time.
Most air conditioners require 1,500 to 3,000 watts to start up. However, some RVers have found adding a “soft start” mechanism to their air conditioner compressor brings that number down quite a bit. Therefore, that might be an option.
The other option is to have a secondary alternator attached to your engine that charges your coach batteries while you drive. However, this is only useful for air conditioning if you have a large battery bank. That’s because the air conditioner will probably require at least 300 amp hours of battery storage.
Pro Tip: Set up your RV with solar by using this guide on How to Find Reputable RV Solar Installers Near You.
5 Best RV Solar Panel Kits for Your Camper
We have selected five types of RV solar panel kits to give you an idea of the different ways solar energy can be harnessed and used. Here are our suggestions to get you started.
1. Renogy 400 Watt Solar Panel Kit With 40A MPPT Charge Controller
About: With 400 watts of possible solar power, this Renogy kit provides you with energy to run most smaller RV appliances.
- 【Efficient Performance】The Premium Kit will produce an...
- 【Solid Quality】Advanced encapsulation material with...
- 【Ready to Install】Pre-drilled holes on the back frame allow...
The kit comes with everything you need to mount the panels and controller, including wires and a protective fuse. The panels have pre-drilled holes to make installation a breeze. You’ll need to add your own monitor and battery, and an inverter is necessary if you power 120-volt appliances.
What’s Included: Four 100-watt Renogy solar panels, a 40-amp MPPT solar charge controller, a Bluetooth fuse, Z brackets to mount the panels, and adaptor kit and tray cables.
Wattage: 400 watts
Pro Tip: Find out why a battery monitor is The First RV Electrical Upgrade You Should Make.
2. WEIZE 200 Watt Solar Panel Starter Kit
About: This kit by Weize has one large 200-watt monocrystalline solar panel and a PWM charge controller.
- High Efficiency: WEIZE solar panel is constructed with...
- Durable: The anodized aluminum frames, tempered glass and sealed...
- Versatile: The industrial-standard solar panel features 39.96" x...
It protects against overcharging and reverse polarity. It has the cables and mounting brackets to install the panel and the controller. But you’ll need to add an inline fuse, a battery monitor, a battery, and an inverter to complete the solar system.
What’s Included: One 200-watt solar panel, a 30 amp PWM solar controller, two extension cables, two tray cables, and mounting brackets and screws.
Wattage: 200 watts
3. Renogy 100 Watt Portable Solar Panel Suitcase With 20A Charger Controller
About: Better suited to charge portable power stations and power banks, the Renogy 100-watt suitcase solar panel is one you can set outside.
- 【Plug and play solar kit 】complete kit includes a 100W solar...
- 【Highly portable design】 foldable solar suitcase small in...
- 【Remarkable efficiency】Renogy solar panels using grade A plus...
You can also adjust to the sun’s angle with an attached kickstand. It has a solar charge controller and can plug directly into a power station. Additionally, you can fold the whole thing into a 24-inch by 20-inch suitcase.
What’s Included: Two 50-watt solar panels that fold together, a 20 amp solar charge controller, and connecting wire between panels and charger. Since it’s a portable panel, no mounting brackets or tray cables come with the kit.
Wattage: 100 watts
Pro Tip: Love using solar while camping? Use our Ultimate Guide to Solar Cooking on your next adventure.
4. Topsolar Solar Panel Kit 100 Watt With 20A Solar Charge Controller
About: With a solid 100-watt monocrystalline solar panel and a 20-amp charge controller, you will have the beginnings of a good solar setup with this Topsolar kit.
- 100W solar panel kits ideal for 12v battery charging, designed...
- This kits include 4pcs Z mounting brackets and 1 pair Red and...
- With the 30A charge controller with PWM function, it can prevent...
Just add your own battery and monitor, plus an inverter if you will be running 120-volt appliances from your battery. This kit also includes the cables and mounting brackets to install the panel.
What’s Included: One 100-watt solar panel, a 20 amp solar charge controller, tray cables, and mounting brackets
Wattage: 100 watts
5. QDG 1200 Watt Flexible Solar Panel Solar Kit With 40A Charge Controller
About: This large solar kit by QDG provides up to 1,200 watts of solar energy on a full-sun day.
- ☀High Efficiency：300W solar panels made of high-efficiency...
- ☀Solar Generators：This solar panel photovoltaic packs 300W of...
- ☀Waterproof Controller：Improved waterproof case eliminates...
You can attach the flexible panels to uneven surfaces, each collecting 300 watts of energy. The kit has two solar charge controllers to protect your battery from overcharging. It has all cables and clips to attach the panels to the chargers.
What’s Included: Four 300-watt flexible solar panels, two 40-amp solar charge controllers, alligator clips, and MC4 connectors and carabiners. You’ll have to provide batteries that can store up to 1,200 watts. You’ll also need to provide an inline fuse, a battery monitor, and an inverter to run 120-volt outlets.
Wattage: 1,200 watts
Do Any RV Solar Panel Kits Come With Inverter and Battery?
Most RV solar panel kits do not come with an inverter or a battery. However, some manufacturers with bundle some of these components together for a more robust system. For instance, one of our favorite companies, Battle Born Batteries, offers camper solar panel starter kits with one of their lithium batteries. However, the inverter is still something you’ll need to get separately.
Pro Tip: Can you harness the wind to make energy for your RV? Learn more about Why Don’t You See Many RV Wind Turbines?
Is an RV Solar Panel Kit Worth It?
There are a wide variety of solar kits available to meet just about any need. You can run some small appliances and portable power stations directly from some of these kits.
Meanwhile, others would benefit from having a battery hooked up to the charger with an inline fuse for protection. You can use any of them with an inverter to power some 120-volt/AC appliances. An investment in an RV solar panel kit is a good one—as long as you put it to use.
New to RV solar power? We’ve put together The Beginner’s Complete Guide to RV Solar Battery Chargers to help you get started!
Need Batteries? Get $50 Off Per Battle Born Battery with discount code MORTONS at checkout!
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Thinking about adding solar to your RV? Start here with our solar calculator to get an idea of what might be right for you!
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