The 6 Best Solar Panels for RVs

The Renogy 200-Wall Solar Starter Kit is our top pick for RVs.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Couple installs a solar panel on an RV

swissmediavision / Getty

If you’re interested in building a tiny home or exploring with an RV, adding a solar system makes you independent and energy efficient. By going off-grid, travelers can avoid having to plug in to pricey RV parks everyday—and scrambling to find last-minute availability. When boondocking, it’s also a quiet alternative to noisy, gas-guzzling generators. These days, there are a lot of solar options on the market including portable panels, low and high wattage units, rigid crystalline panels, and self-installation kits for beginners.

We researched the market to find the best solar panels for RVs.

Best Overall

Renogy 200-Watt 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit

5
Renogy 200-Watt 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit

Amazon

What began as a student project at Louisiana State University has grown into one of the most established solar companies in the United States, and Renogy’s 200 watt starter kit is an excellent way to get started with solar power in your RV. Its combination of value and performance makes it our top pick.

The moderately priced kit includes two 100 watt monocrystalline panels, enough to power a small refrigerator, lights, fan, electronics, and other small devices (with the right batteries). It also comes with a 20 amp MPPT charge controller, an adaptor kit, cable, and brackets. For stability, the solar panel frames are constructed from anodized aluminum, and the junction box and connectors are waterproof.

The charge controller has a number of helpful features to ensure you get the most out of your system, including protection from short circuiting, overcharging, and overloading. You can also connect two additional panels to the system, for a total of 400 watts.

Price at time of publish: $235

Best Budget

Newpowa 100W 12V Monocrystalline Solar Panel

Newpowa 100 watt solar panel

Walmart

The Newpowa 100-watt solar panel is an excellent option for a durable, efficient panel at an affordable price. Newpowa has been specializing in solar panels and off-grid systems since 2014, and its products can withstand the elements.

The 100-watt monocrystalline panel is waterproof, and can withstand winds up to 140 mph winds, as well as heavy snow and hail. The panel frame is made from durable anodized aluminum. Measuring 40 by 27 inches, it’s ideal if you’re looking for a compact, square-shaped panel at a budget cost.

Price at time of publish: $85

Best Splurge

ACOPOWER 800W Monocrystalline Panel Solar RV Kits

ACOPOWER 800W Monocrystalline Panel Solar RV Kits

Amazon

If you’ve determined that you’ll need more power than the average RVer, the ACOPOWER Monocrystalline Panel Solar RV Kits provides as much as 800 watts of energy. The 800-watt kit is enough for RVers going completely off-grid and powering just about anything, with eight premium, 100-watt panels and a 60amp MPPT solar controller for maximum efficiency.

The panels can be connected in parallel (12 volt) or in series (24 volt) and are compatible with lead acid, AGM, gel, and lithium batteries. The kit comes with cables and housing and mounting hardware for self-installation; however, it does not include an inverter or battery.

Price at time of publish: $1,223

Best Flexible

SunPower 110 Watt Flexible Solar Panel

SunPower 110 Watt Flexible Solar Panel

Amazon

For a lightweight, space-saving unit that packs a punch, check out the Sunport 110-watt portable solar panel. Built on a copper foundation, this flexible, monocrystalline panel has a rated current of around six amps and is ideal for uneven spaces, like rounded portions of an RV or van roof, and can bend up to 30 degrees.

Installation is less intrusive and can be done easily using adhesive or stainless-steel grommets. The panel measures 46 x 22 inches and is less than an inch thick, weighing in around 4.5 pounds.

Best High Power

Nature Power 215-Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel for 12-Volt Systems

Nature Power 215-Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel for 12-Volt Systems

Amazon

While many solar panels generate 100 watts of power, if you need more power than that you’ll have to load up on multiple solar panels. However, the Nature Power monocrystalline panel delivers 215 watts, making it a great space-saving alternative to installing several panels.

The panel has a durable aluminum frame, measures 28 x 59 inches and weighs 30 pounds. It includes cables and mounting brackets, but you’ll still need to purchase a solar controller to prevent overcharging or damaging batteries. The panel has a 25-year guarantee to generate up to 80% of rated power.

Price at time of publish: $411

Best Suitcase

Zamp Solar Legacy Series 140-Watt Portable Solar Panel Kit

Zamp Solar Legacy Series 140-Watt Portable Solar Panel Kit

Amazon

With a quick set-up of five minutes, the portable Zamp solar panel briefcase allows RVers to park in the shade and quickly stay powered up by angling the panel in the sun near the RV.

The briefcase consists of sturdy, folding monocrystalline panels totaling 140 watts. With built-in folding support legs, you won’t have to wedge anything underneath to keep the panels upright. Many new RVs come with a Zamp solar plug already in place, so you can easily connect or use alligator clips to a battery. The panels also include a PWM solar controller, nylon carry case, and 15-foot cable. The kit is constructed in the United States and comes with a 25-year output warranty.

Price at time of publish: $735

Final Verdict

The Renogy’s 200-Watt Starter Kit is our top pick, especially if you’re just getting started with solar because it’s a premium product at a moderate price. If you’re on a budget, the Newpowa monocrystalline panel is impressive, compact, and affordable.

What to Look for in Solar Panels for RVs

Power Generation

This is the most important question when determining the proper panel for your needs. Keep in mind that the maximum output advertised for solar panels is in optimal conditions, so once you’ve calculated usage, buy enough panels to produce about 25% more energy than your estimates. 

Type of Panel

The two common rigid panel types are monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Polycrystalline panels have blue cells made of multiple silicon crystal fragments, while monocrystalline cells have a single silicon crystal. Monocrystalline are the more efficient of the two but are more expensive. There are also amorphous panels that are ideal for low-light environments, and flexible panels that work well on uneven surfaces. 

Installation Equipment

If you’re going the self-installation route, you’ll need mounting equipment, cables, and alligator clips (for the battery) and while some panels include this, others do not. Some kits bundle in charge controllers and batteries as well—two necessary items in a solar power system. 

"Self-installation can be a little intimidating at first, but it’s very rewarding and there are plenty of resources online to help walk you through it," says Jennifer Juniper, full-time RVer and author of the Solo Chick Traveler blog.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the price range of solar panels for RVs?

    Prices for individual panels depend primarily on how much power the panel delivers and the type (rigid monocrystalline, polycrystalline, vs. flexible). A smaller, 50-watt panel runs around $40 to $100 depending on manufacturer, where a 100-watt panel typically costs between $80 and $160. Polycrystalline panels tend to be more affordable than monocrystalline or flexible panels. 

    If you don’t want to mix and match solar equipment, bundle sets often include solar controllers, inverters, or even batteries. When purchasing separately, expect to spend around $250 (minimum) for a budget-friendly system consisting of a 100-watt panel, solar controller, battery, and hardware. 

  • How many solar panels do you need for an RV?

    Determining the number of solar panels will vary with every traveler, but most RVers can get by using between 100 and 500 watts of solar power, depending on how much energy they use daily. In addition, solar panels come in different sizes and wattages, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

    Juniper, who has been traveling in her RV full-time for five years, says that when determining how much solar you’ll need, start backwards. Add up the how much power the electronics you plan on using will draw (anything with a heating element will use up a lot of power), then decide what type of battery storage you’ll need. 

    “People often make the mistake of first asking how many watts of solar they’ll need to buy. Instead, start by asking what you want to do with the solar power, and then calculate your battery needs," says Juniper. "Even if you were to buy an excessive number, like 5,000 watts worth of solar panels, if you only have one measly battery, you’re just pouring buckets of water into an already full fish tank.”

  • What other equipment will I need to use solar in my RV?
    • Solar Controllers: Solar controllers (also called regulators) keep the flow going in one direction to prevent from overnight energy loss, and they also keep the voltage generated from the panels from overcharging or destroying the battery. There are two main types: PWM (the more affordable type) and MPPT (efficient, yet expensive).
      "It’s important to invest in a good quality solar controller to maximize energy," says Juniper. "Especially if you’re planning on boondocking in the RV and using a lot of power.” 
      A PWM controller (Pulse Width Modulation) is the most cost effective, simplistic, and reliable type, however, the actual voltage you can utilize from the panels is much less, so they are only around 70% efficient (and cannot be used on 24-volt panels). An MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) controller is a more advanced, efficient system (even in low light) that can utilize the maximum panel output. The MPPT controllers are compatible with 24 volts, however they are bulkier and more expensive the PWM controllers. 
    • Inverters: Inverters convert the DC power to AC, so depending on what devices you plan on using, you may need to get an inverter. Lights, water pumps, and fans often use DC power while kitchen appliances, larger electronics and power outlets typically run on AC. 
    • Batteries: Batteries are a necessary part of the solar power system that store the energy the solar panels generate. RVers often use deep cycle, valve-regulated lead-acid batteries (VRLA). These batteries fall into two categories: AGM and gel batteries. 
      Additionally, lithium batteries have gained popularity and have a longer life cycle than VRLA batteries—however they are much more expensive. 
    • Other Equipment: You’ll also need tools, hardware and, depending on the size of your system, possibly fuses or surge protectors. In addition, battery monitors are helpful devices to keep an eye on battery usage.

Why Trust Treehugger?

The author, Amber Nolan, lives off grid on her boat and uses a ACOPOWER solar controller and has tested numerous types of solar panels.