Ultimate Guide to Best RV Solar Panels, Kits & Systems

RV’ing and boondocking are fantastic applications for solar energy. It’s not a perfect power source, but the tradeoffs are more than likable. Components are easily available, simple to assemble and make clean, quiet and green power. You’ll enjoy having topped off batteries without the noise, odor and pollution.

Before we get started we just want to get it out there that any solar system is only as good as the sun. We highly recommend if you expect to be away from shore power for longer periods that you invest in a backup generator. Users reviewed the Yamaha EF2000iS highly. It’s compact, durable and built to last.

Okay okay, on to solar! This page is pretty hefty. In addition to the table below, here’s the rundown of what we’ll cover.

First we compare the best and highest rated RV solar panels and kits available. Then we’ll review basic terminology in the glossary, discuss energy audits in our sizing tutorial and finally cover installation tips, monitoring and maintenance tasks such as equalizing batteries, cleaning panels etc. Finally we’ve compiled some of the most practical real world cases for RV solar in the resource section in case you’d like some extra reading material. We’re always looking for more resources, if you have a favorite or wants your included, contact us!

Compare RV Solar Panels and Kits

Name Watts Amp Hours # Panels Rating Price
GoPower! Solar Extreme 480w 135Ah 3x160w 4.5 Stars
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GoPower! 480w Solar Extreme Review

Who It’s For: Digital nomads and RV vacationers will definitely appreciate the almost-limitless energy the Solar Extreme provides. Trailer and mobile homes who have AC appliances can make use of the solar power kit without needing to look for utility power sources.

The idea of living off the grid, away from main electrical power lines and being sustained solely by the sun still sounds like a dream for some people. For others, it’s just not a viable option and the investment may not be justifiable. For the dedicated renewable energy enthusiast, there’s the GoPower! Solar Extreme- the largest solar/inverter combo from GoPower! Capable of powering a whole cabin for weeks on end with renewable, clean energy, this gargantuan machine will let you plug in all your appliances and favorite electronic devices without the worry of running out of juice.

Off Grid Power: How much solar power are we talking here? The GoPower! Solar Extreme System can run any and all appliances and electronic devices up to 3000 watts. What’s more, depending on how well-positioned it is to the sun and the relative time of day, it recharges the power bank at a rate of 27 amps an hour. Sensitive “home-only” appliances can still be brought and powered if need be, as the Solar Extreme’s inverter system replicates an almost-exact AC power of a wall socket.

That means you can bring your computer, audio speakers, smoothie or coffee machine, TV, microwave; anything at all! Some users have reported using it to power cabin, cottage, boat and RV batteries as a clean, noiseless AC power, which is a step up to diesel-powered generators. It is the perfect companion in week-long trips.

Built to Last: The GoPower! brand is renowned for being very reliable. The company ensures each and every item is thoroughly tested and are made of high-end components, then supported by a robust warranty system. They have been in the power solutions for around 20 years, after all.

The panels are hail-proof to a degree, made from tempered glass and are framed by heavy duty aluminum. The 160w solar panel is subject to 25 years of limited warranty promised by the manufacturer and paired with a powerful inverter. The Solar Extreme’s 30-amp digital solar charge controller has the Maximum Power Boost feature for getting the most energy out from the sun’s rays while protecting your battery from overcharging.

Everything You Need: The inverter/solar panel kit includes a 3000w sine wave inverter and a 480w, 3x160w solar panel configuration. It comes with all the cables and accessories you may need to hook up the inverter/solar panel system to the batteries and lay your solar panels on a flat surface for optimum energy collection.

I can now power up the Solar Extreme, plug in all the electrical conveniences I got and simply forget about running out of charge. If you’ve just started a grid-free living or looking to upgrade to a larger model, then this machine will not disappoint. Forget about one device charging and enjoy the convenience of running all the appliances you want without worrying about running out for a long while!

The Solar Extreme is the number one investment I have made. It works awesome; the size may be intimidating but you can set the whole thing yourselves. We camped out in the sun and the energy meter barely went down! There was plenty of sun energy left, even during the evenings!

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Grape Solar 400 400w 100Ah 4x100w 4.5 Stars
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Grape Solar 400w Solar Panel Kit Review

Who It’s For:The versatile and powerful solar kit comfortably powers a mid-sized group of RV campers and cabin enthusiasts for the weekend. It can also be employed to power a small home office or an apartment. The Grape Solar 400 can lead the way for operating LED lights, small electronic devices, small pumps and 12V batteries.

The Grape Solar 400 meets all checklist requirements for people who are seeking a means to independently live off the grid, whether tethered at home or trekking across the countryside. The effective technology, versatile array of port outlets and simple configuration puts it on the top of every RV’s and camper’s wish list.

Durability: An investment for a renewable source of clean energy must have a guaranteed extended shelf life. The Grape Solar 400’s solar cells are made from tempered, highly efficient monocrystalline panels and are encased in a tough, anodized aluminum wrapping and finally, coupled with a junction box that provides some waterproof protection for external and outdoor use. You won’t need to manually position the solar panels every few hours to get maximum juice, as the product includes a two diode bypass junction box meant to collect power even in less than optimal conditions.

Off Grid Power: The Grape Solar 400 churns out a respectable 100 amp hours, or 1,200 watt hours of charge a day. How will you get all those stored energy? The 2000w Xantrex inverter and a host of common port outlets can be located on the Solar 400’s exterior, allowing multiple device charging from laptops, smart phones, tablets, CPAP machines, and more.

Installation and Maintenance: The panels are easy to install and are quite as easy to maintain when fully laid out. Users can select a good, flat position to where they can install the Grape Solar 400 and go from there. The RV’s roof or the fifth wheel are good places to set up the solar panels in. A charge controller adds convenience at a limitation of 500w, or 5 panels at 100w each.

Includions: The Grape Solar 400 is an all-in-one kit that includes four 100w crystalline panels, a 2,000w Xantrax inverter, cables, USB and two outlet ports and a 35-amp Xantrax controller. You’ll need a 12V deep cycle battery to complete the setup but it’s not included. The panels are hail-proof to a degree, made from tempered glass and are framed by heavy duty aluminum. The 160w solar panel is subject to 25 years of limited warranty promised by the manufacturer and paired with a powerful inverter. The Solar Extreme’s 30-amp digital solar charge controller has the Maximum Power Boost feature for getting the most energy out from the sun’s rays while protecting your battery from overcharging.

I am from a non-electrical profession and yet the product is intuitive enough to be understood and installed on the first go. The company’s customer service is above and beyond! A rock-solid power solution that you can depend on, with panels that will last a long time. I’d buy another one if I had the budget and feel the need to expand my renewable energy options!

Extremely pleased with the Grape Solar 400. I have zero experiences with setting up a solar kit, but I assembled the main unit within an hour of opening the package. It’s awesome! I have it installed in the cabin, powering up my 55-inch LED TV and Playstation 4, with enough juice for utility lights and charging my smart phone every now and then. If you want an off-the-grid power source for your low-wattage devices and LED lights, I suggest you buy this now.

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WindyNation 400 400w 135Ah 4x100w 5 Stars
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WindyNation Complete 400 Watt Solar Panel Kit Review

Who It’s For:Remote cabins, boats, large-sized RVs and even homes who want to partially live off-grid. Marine retrofitters and commercial RVs especially prefer the WindyNation 400 for its ease of use and powerful output.

The WindyNation 400 Watt charging kit and VertaMax 1500W Power Inverter combo is a complete renewable energy solution for anyone who wants to produce their own green power from the sun’s rays. Buyers can be assured that once they purchase the solar charging kit and battery package, they won’t need to shell out additional money for other essential tools and accessories.

Complete Kit: Bring this versatile kit along when you’re RV-ing around the backcountry, setting cabins up in the woods or for idyllic boating sessions over the weekend. When we say that the WindyNation 400 included everything, we mean everything! You get a 4-pc set of 100w polycrystalline cells, the 1500w VertaMax Sine Wave Inverter with inverter cables, a 30-amp P30L solar controller, all MC4 wirings, 40 feet of 12 AWG solar cables, and the needed mounting hardware.

Off Grid Power: The WindyNation 400 cranks out a mean average of 1600 Watt hours (Wh), or 135 Amp hours per day, depending on how the sunlight strikes through the solar panels. It’s a 12V battery system that will power any AC appliance when coupled with the VertaMax inverter. The appeal doesn’t end there. Enthusiasts have computed that the WindyNation is capable of powering a 30-ft camper, or even a full farm! The potential may escape some consumers, but the possibility is certainly there. The solar system is very effective, so much that you’ll be hard pressed not to buy more storage batteries!

Reliability: What’s amazing about the WindyNation 400 is that it’s not just a weekend power source; people are actually using it on a daily basis with more than favorable results. Reliability in terms of parts and after-sales support is excellent. As far as previous buyers are concerned, they’d recommend this solar energy kit solution to anyone who wants to be free from the grid. Solar panels have a 5-year warranty; Power output warranty at 25 years, and everything else has a 1-yr warranty. Call for troubleshooting, and a capable tech support rep will walk you through the process.

I love the WindyNation 400 so much that I plan to purchase another unit in the near future! Suffice to say I am extremely happy. My 30-ft camper has all the energy it needs, and more. The price is really fantastic for the amount of use it puts out. Each and everyday I get my needed electricity from the sun. I am even writing this review as of the moment plugged in!

I was completely surprised to find that the WindyNation 400 could and did power my construction camp and 5th wheel camper. Every night, we can use the vacuum for cleaning, hair dryer, water pump and fans for home comforts, and our flat screen TV with surround sound speaker for entertainment. It feels as if we’re plugged into shore power!

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Renogy 400 400w 135Ah 4x100w 4.6 Stars
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Renogy 400 Watt Solar Kit Review

Who It’s For: The Renogy 400 is such a versatile product that almost all people who love the idea of living off the grid, enjoying free electricity can just pick one up and set it up for power benefits. People who live in areas where the sun isn’t always up and about will appreciate the highly efficient MPPT technology.

The Renogy 400 is Renogy’s premium offering when it comes to complete solar charging solutions. Being efficient is the company’s calling card, providing excellent performance under sub-optimal solar scenarios such as low-light or cloudy conditions, or when you’re in an area where constant sunlight isn’t a given.

High Efficiency: There are four highly efficient, Grade A 100w monocrystalline solar panels in every Renogy 400. There’s an option to add an MT-5 Tracer Meter which is completely compatible with the MPPT charge controller, and it allows you to see whether your solar setup is running at top potential. The MPPT controller itself acts as a rod that’s 30% more efficient in relaying power. Something so vital in a solar energy kit must be tough; the MPPT itself is well-built and it includes fail-safe heat sinks for protection. In a system that utilizes Maximum Power Point Tracking technology, you won’t have to second-guess whether your solar kit is getting the most power potential from the sun; rest assured that you are!

Optimization: Use a Renogy 40A MPPT controller and you have the benefit of upgrading your solar energy system to a beefy 800W, all depending on the wiring method and the physical space available for such a setup. There’s a tray included that you can use to connect the charge controller and battery. The given wires and connectors are sufficient for looping in the 4 solar panels in a series; if you’re serious about chaining together a system that can power simultaneous AC appliances and electronic devices, then you’ll need about 5 feet of cables, an adequate amount of branch connectors to parallel wire 12 or 24V arrays at a whopping 400 watts!

I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised that I found everything I needed to charge a battery bank at either 12 or 24 volts. You’ll need to get some fuse holders and fuses from a third party as the Renogy 400 doesn’t have it included, but those are just minor grips and are optional. The shipped package had enough cushion that it was well-preserved. I used it for camping and never had to rely on a utility line. The batteries considerably went up even in mostly cloudy days!

It’s just perfect! I am so happy I bought this product. I’m a solar energy user since about five years ago and have had my fair share of mistakes, accumulating incompatible controllers, panels and batteries that wasted my money. The Renogy should have been the solar charging solution I bought since the beginning. I love watching TV shows on full surround sound with the fridge on and not paying a dime for electricity!

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Grape Solar 300 300w 75Ah 3x100w 5 Stars
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Grape Solar 300 Watt Solar Panel Kit Review

Who It’s For: RV owners, boat owners, people who need an on-the-go 12V battery charging, outdoor enthusiasts who want to charge small electronic devices using the sun, and campers who want sustainable energy powering their LED lights.

The Grape Solar 300-Watt Solar Kit is the ideal solution for almost all types of energy applications. Grape Solar by themselves have turned the clean, renewable energy into a more economical choice by making it viable to crank up power-hungry power tools, microwaves, the newest and the most demanding electrical appliances, and more.

Efficiency: State of the art crystalline solar cells are laid out in an optimum panel pattern for years and years of continuous service. The Grape Solar 300 promises a 900-watt per hour usage, or approximately 75 amp hours of energy each day. The system allows for more additional panels depending on the user’s demand. The kit comes right out of the box ready to be assembled, with a benefit of being relatively light on maintenance.

Superior Performance: Talking about the solar panels themselves, the polycrystalline panels are reinforced with a potent combination of tempered glass and anodized aluminum frames for standing against day-to-day use and weather conditions. The sealed junction box and the aforementioned anodized reinforcements practically make the solar panels weatherproof! Cloudy conditions are offset by the two diode junction box. Rounding out the details are MC4 connectors on both positive and negative leads for keeping off water and the other elements.

Inclusions: The solar kit from Grape Solar 300 includes: 3 pieces of GS Star 100W polycrystalline solar panels. The 35-amp Xantrex controller does some great things by itself: it allows an additional panel, with some wiring necessities. The unit can be configured according to need and outdoor preferences. You can put it in either 24 or 12V operation. The C35 PWM controller has a nifty LED face plate that displays a multi-color status when on or off a charge. The versatile 35A input allows consumers to easily add in up to two more GS 100W panels to the Grape Solar system. The 2,000W Xantrex converter has two built-in outlets as well as a USB port for immediate charging on small electronic devices.

I’ve ordered the Grape Solar 300 kit so that I could finally take my garage off the power grid as a starter project. I wanted to save as much as I could on utility bills, and this solar charging kit seems like the answer I needed. The included solar panels are excellent, even during overcast and cloud days. The cables were easy to hook up- in less than an hour, I had everything set up. The MC4’s themselves made connecting the solar panels just as easy. I had to run the PV wires around 50 feet and the included wires were a little short, but that’s fine. My confidence for the product increased a bit knowing Grape Solar’s stellar customer service had my back. Overall, the Grape Solar 300 is everything you will need to run an off-the-grid power solution in any setting.

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RENOGY MPPT Tracer 300 300w ? 3x100w 4.5 Stars
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Renogy MMPT Tracer 300w Solar Panel Kit Review

Who It’s For: Truck drivers and campers who can’t live without 12V will love the Renogy MMPT Tracer 300. Mobile power stations, small commercial establishments and mobile residential homes can use this product and expand as necessary. The solar kit is also recommended for boats, caravans and trailers.

Some very memorable moments can be had when traveling around an RV. With the right kind of power source keeping track of great photos and videos coming in your camera and laptop, running out of juice should never be a common occurrence. Thankfully, the Renogy 300W Solar RV kit is here and ready to replace traditional gas powered hookups, all without the noise and the fumes.

The Renogy MMPT Tracer 300 has 2 key features users will want to know about: efficiency and expandability. The solar panels reliably powers low-wattage electrical equipment without needing traditional power sources.

Efficiency: The premium Renogy 300W solar charging kit lets you squeeze out all available power out of its system. The advanced charge controller has a nifty technology called Maximum Power Point Tracking, which does away with all the estimates and math about having optimal panel angles and trying to guess where the maximum rays are coming from. Having this kind of technology lets users just lay out the panels wherever it is convenient, and let MPPT do the rest.

The Renogy 300W kit comprises of 3 100W monocrystalline solar panels, rated as Grade A in efficiency for solar panels, an MPPT charge controller that carries 40 amps with peak conversion range at 97% and a high-tracking efficiency of 99 percent, plus 30% more efficiency when it comes to transferring of power. Bright rays and slightly cloudy conditions are almost the same for the MPPT tech- it’s that efficient! Of course, with an MPPT controller, users may add in an MT-5 tracker for a readout gauge on charting potential.

Reliability and Mounting: The Renogy MMPT Tracer 300’s modules are EL tested and guaranteed hotspot-proof. Snow loads of up to 5400 Pa and High Winds of up to 2400 Pa are of no harm to this solar charging kit. The product also includes unique Z brackets for flat surface mounting, with MC4 adapter cables to finish up the job.

Expandability: Users can sometimes need more power depending on their situation. The Renogy Tracer 300 has an additional tray cable that supports connection between the battery and charge controller. The more space and know-how of wiring, the more power you can add to the table. Z brackets will be needed for each panel beyond the three that comes in the package.

It’s a great product! The Renogy Tracer 300 is my first off-the-grid experience and I couldn’t be happier. They have a great system and their customer support is simply terrific. They have REAL people manning the lines; these people are knowledgeable about their product. We are living in our RV for the last year with this baby and there have been no problems whatsoever. I just can’t say enough about this solar kit!

I have to admit that I had my doubts early on, but the Renogy Tracer changed all that. I put it up on my 5th wheel trailer to run the fridge; it ran all night without hiccups, with the voltage staying around 13.2 at night and at 13.6 during the day. I was impressed! The charger didn’t heat up when I did a random check. The instructions were pretty clear, and the manual used easy terms which even a beginner can understand. I highly recommend it to anyone who is in the market for renewable, clean, solar energy!

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RENOGY PWM Wanderer 300 300w ? 3x100w 4.5 Stars
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Renogy MMPT Tracer 300w Solar Panel Kit Review

Who It’s For: The Wanderer’s polycrystalline setup is beginner-friendly at cost as well as ease of use. Small RVs and trailers will appreciate the relative portability this kit offers while being capable of powering small appliances, CPAP machines, smart phones and laptops.

Some people are okay with a solar charging kit doing small miracles such as charging a multitude of batteries for camping or outdoors equipment, powering up a smart phone and maybe a small appliance or two while on the back country. Exactly like what the Renogy PWM Wanderer 300 can do- an excellent starting option to get off the grid, backed up by the quality Renogy is known for.

Off Grid Power: This solar kit can collect energy from the sun and acts as a self-powered system in an off-the-grid solution. The product comes with three of Renogy’s own high efficiency, 100W panels which may be employed for a variety of purposes. A sum potential 300W of solar power can light up most RV trailers and mobile camps; the polycrystalline material provides enough yield per square footage while being durable enough to be let out during rainy weather and windy conditions. Low-light environments are of little consequences to the panel’s smart technology.

The Wanderer: Much can be said about Renogy’s charge controller. The new 30A PWM controller has been compared to the renowned MPPT tech that most high-end solar charging kits have, which is more than enough to handle small to mid-size installations that need around 500W setups or less. The negative-ground aspect protects the unit from short-circuits, reverse polarity situations, overloading and overcharging instances. The PWM itself has a 4-stage charging process (Equalization, Float, Boost and Bulk) that protects the battery solely from overdischarges and overcharges. Its LED indicator tells you the controller’s status all the time.

Bundle Kit: The Renogy PWM Wanderer 300 has the following components: 3 efficient 100W solar panels, the 30A PWM controller, a 9In MC4 adapter kit, and two pairs of branch connectors. You’ll need to keep the charge controller close to the solar panels, or pony up for longer wiring or an extension cable. Expansion is definitely possible with it, and the kit already includes the necessary components should you need it.

Beginners can dive right in and take the Wanderer out of the box and begin installation. This kit is on my 5th wheel trailer, and on a record of 3 trips it has done very well. I got the package and everything inside is in good condition. The panels are sturdy and obviously are made of high-quality materials. I find this kit to be of great value since I can upgrade to a larger power consumption setting anytime I wish. All the basic materials are included so there’s no half-finished project waiting for the arrival of a vital component. My renewable, off-the-grid system works as well as my friends’, who invested thousands for their own self-contained energy!

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WindyNation 300 300w 101Ah 3x100w 4.5 Stars
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WindyNation 300 Watt Solar Panel Kit Review

Who It’s For: This versatile offering works well with RV owners, weekend warriors, those who wish to power their boats with clean, auxiliary energy, marine outfitters and in commercial RV settings.

The WindyNation 300 is often the go-to charging solution for those who want to start producing their very own free, renewable solar energy as soon as possible. Mainly used for backups, small cabins and RVs and for boating trips, this solar charging kit has everything included to get you started as soon as you open the box. WindyNation seeks to provide outdoor enthusiasts an easy way to connect their solar panel system to battery banks and they succeeded in this offering.

Power Up Off Grid: The WindyNation 300 provides 300 watts of clean power from the sun. Specs-wise, the product churns out an average 101 amp hours, or 1200 watt hours of charge each day, depending on how the sun chose to appear during that day. Don’t let the seemingly compact size fool you- the amount of power it can store and generate surprise most people! It can double as a reliable backup power source, or be the main factor in living completely off the grid.

Premium-Grade PWM Controller: The WindyNation 300 kit comes with a premium-grade PWM charge controller that comes with a helpful digital display. The display lights up and tells valuable information such as DC load draw amperage (if one is connected), battery temperature, charging amperage, solar-generated amp hours, solar charging amperage, etc. Furthermore, it displays important settings such as voltage of load disconnect and voltage of solar disconnect. It has a user-adjustable setting that can be changed using the mode and the up/down buttons found on the charge controller.

All-In-One Kit: The complete set includes three 100W polycrystalline solar panels from WindyNation, User-adjustable 30-amp solar charge controller (with built-in LCD display and battery temperature sensor), 40 feet of 12 AWG solar cable, installation manual, mounting hardware and the MC4 connectors to get the solar kit up and running. Optional accessories include a DC to AC inverter and perhaps a 12V battery, and you can look forward to getting all the energy you might need at no extra charge.

I’d say that the WindyNation 300 looks quite exquisite right out of the box. The panels were the first one to pass close scrutiny, and the company makes sure you got everything you may need to get it up and running ASAP. Nothing was missing, and all the parts fit together quite well. My deep cell batteries were quickly charged. I enjoy the sun more now because I get more electric power! Will definitely buy a second unit once I have the budget.”

From the initial test run to now, the WindyNation 300 worked admirably well. The investment on this solar kit is well worth the money! It’s the perfect kit for a 12V battery system. The warranty and service turnaround time cycle was also something to commend the company about. What can I say? Great parts, top-notch quality and reliability in one complete package.

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Grape Solar 200 200w 50Ah 2x100w 4.5 Stars
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Grape Solar 200 Watt Solar Kit Review

Who It’s For: Small to mid-sized electronic devices and appliances can use the Grape Solar 200 with minimum fuss. So, this product is very suitable for weekend RV campers, weekend warriors who want to live and enjoy the back country for a few days, and campers with little need for electricity for powering their lights, pumps, RVs and boats, smart phones and laptops.

The Grape Solar 200 is a sturdy, well-built solar generation kit that is very easy to install and maintain. At its heart is a capable 50 amp hours, or approximately 600 watt hours of potential charge per day. The inverter, a 450W Xantrex modified sine wave machine, has two direct USB ports for plugging in small electronics such as tablets or smart phones for immediate charging. By itself, the Grape Solar 200 is more than enough to power your lights, charge your small appliances and/or devices, and provide electricity to your CPAP machines and small pumps. You can extend its usefulness by adding in a 12V lighter socket, allowing you to plug in laptops or even generate enough energy to power a small home office while you work in relative comfort and convenience.

Built to Last: Upon closer inspection, the three crystalline solar panels are sturdy and well-made. The sealed junction box keeps the harmful elements away from the equipment, while the anodized aluminum frame lends some strength and durability while the panels are laying out in the field. The weatherproofing is further reinforced by the addition of a tempered glass- it can repel hail and strong winds to a degree.

Performance and Expandability: Even if you’re living or decided to camp on a cloudy, sub-optimum area, the Grape Solar 200 has a two-diode bypass connection to bring in efficient power. MC4 connections on the negative and positive leads prevent leakage and puts you in on top when it comes to sealing your energy kit against the weather.

The Grape Solar brand ensure expandable options whenever possible. The inverter does the trick here, as the 35-amp Xantrex charge controller lets you chain up to three more crystalline solar panels, along with additional cables and wiring. The charge controller, a Xantrex C35 is known for being customizable as well as a durable unit that goes well with the Grape Solar kit. Choose between 24 or 12V operation, with the current charge status shown on the LED face plate. Set the input to 35A, then add in up to three GS Star 100W panels for immediate expandability options.

I have been doing some research ever since I came across viable off-the-grid solutions for my renewable energy project. Reading through some of the reviews for Grape Solar convinced me that my best bet would be to invest in the company for its high-quality products and the price per watts ratio for the panels themselves, and Xantrex has proven themselves to be among the top brands on inverters and charge controllers. I definitely didn’t go wrong by choosing the Grape Solar 200; it did everything I wanted it to do! The panels are as expected- of high quality and they are nicely done.

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Renogy 200 200w ? 2x100w 4.5 Stars
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Renogy 200 Watt Solar Kit Review

Who It’s For: Vacationists can make use of the Renogy 200 for a quiet, idyllic weekend at the lake or camping in the woods. They will be sure to appreciate the noiseless feature and the smoke-free environment versus traditional, diesel-powered generators that are twice as heavy. Small cabins, overnight sheds and trips using the RV, boat and trailers are good scenarios for bringing this solar charging kit along.

The Renogy 200 is simple as simple gets; at first look, you’ll get a glimpse of just how easy it is to get your very own clean, renewable energy up and running in less than an hour. You’ll see two solar panels right out of the bat, with the charge controller following next. The functions and technical specifications are laid out in a simple array. The whole setup seems very intuitive and you may get a bit excited about what you can really do with this versatile solar charging kit. Users can immediately start enjoying the free power in a relatively quiet environment.

Power and Efficiency: The solar kit holds a pleasant surprise- two premium, grade A 100W monocrystalline power cells from Renogy. The ideal output power is 1000W per day. For those who want this translated to plain English, the solar kit device can charge a 50Ah battery from half to full in about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the positioning and strength of the sun’s rays.

Wanderer Charge Controller: Users will see an upgrade from the old charge controller to the newer, better 30A PWM charge controller that has a negative-ground aspect, coined as the Renogy Wanderer. The newer model allows expansion of up to 400W of power for plugging in larger or more advanced appliances or electronic devices.

Solar Starter Kit: Much like the other solar charging kits, the Renogy 200 has everything you need to get started. You get 2 12V monocrystalline solar cell panels at 100W each, the Wanderer 30A PWM charge controller, two sets of mounting Z brackets, a pair of branch connectors and 20ft of MC4 10AWG adaptor kit. There’s a bonus cable that allows for seamless connection of batteries to the Wanderer charge controller.

The Renogy 200 holds up well against the competition by being expandable and great as a starter kit into the solar energy foray. It offers enough wattage power to bring in a luxurious amount of modern comforts and electrical conveniences, a few hours of office work or in lighting a campsite on an overnight stay. Users can make use of the included mount hardware to put the solar kit on trailers, RVs and other mobile structures. Similarly, they can bump the juice up to 24V or add 2 more 100W panels of the same make to replace traditional generator products.

I belong to the non-electronically inclined type of people, the ones who let their sons and daughters fix the computer when it’s acting up. I had doubts I could set the Renogy 200 up with little assistance, but I tried it anyway. The package came along, and I started the assembly process using the included guide. Lo and behold, after a few hours I was set up and ready to produce clean power!

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WindyNation 200 200w 67 2x100w 4 Stars
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WindyNation 200 Watt Solar Panel Kit Review

Who It’s For: The WindyNation 200 is the solar charging kit of choice for small to mid-sized RVs and mobile homes going on quick vacations on the great outdoors. It’s also a reliable option for small camps, small home office setups and for clean backup power solutions with its 12 or 24V charging variation.

RV owners will adore the WindyNation 200 for its efficient 100W solar panels, combined with parts that promise long shelf life and unparalleled reliability. It’s simply one of the best companions to take with you on RV trips!

Power: 200 watts of clean, renewable power can be employed with the WindyNation 200. During testing, the solar charging kit provided an impressive average of 67 amp hours, or 800 watt hours per day, depending on the availability of sunlight. Previous auxiliary devices that depend on power lines can now be transferred to the WindyNation 200. Basking the solar kit under the sun will have no adverse effects, and the panels work great under low irradiance conditions as well. You can set up the two included solar panels, or add more as you go to provide backup power or to power your fridge through an unexpected outage.

Solar Charge Controller: PWM refers to Pulse Width Modulated in WindyNation’s trademark charge controller. It contains some very useful features such as reverse polarity, short circuit and overloading protection.

The included charge controller can handle a typical 3-panel system, each of them at a maximum 100W set on a 12V system, or a 24V system with 6, 100W solar panels. The PWM charge controller allows for user-adjustable settings by fiddling with the cycle and MODE buttons. The LCD readout panel shows some important statistics such as DC load draw, state of battery charge, solar panel status and various voltage information.

Starter Kit: The WindyNation 200 includes the following: 2 100-watt solar panels, a WindyNation P20L, 20A solar charge controller with an LCD readout and user adjustable settings, 40 ft of 12 AWG solar cables and the essential MC40 connectors. The MC40s make quick work of having to connect the cables to the back of the solar panels, and they are waterproof too! Also included are eight mounting brackets and sets of fasteners, and a host of other mounting hardware you might need.

The WindyNation 200 has been with me since several months ago. It was very easy to install. Everything I needed was there; the cables were long enough so that I could place the solar panels up on the roof and connect it to the charge controller. There were leftover cables to tie up the batteries to the charge controller. The solar panels collect optimum energy even on cloudy days and not-so-sunny afternoons. We live off the grid and this device has helped us achieve that nicely. I am seriously considering buying another one for my camper!

I immediately set up the solar panels when the package came in the front door. I was excited to have my storage batteries topped up by free energy from the sun! They lay flat on my roof, which isn’t really that great position-wise, but the WindyNation collected enough energy to power my laptop and smart phone reliably for days!

Fast shipping, hassle-free returns, all major credit cards accepted!

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The Best RV Solar Panel Kit

This best RV solar panel award, hands down, goes to the GoPower! Solar Extreme 480w kit. This kit is complete, durable and more than adequate for the vast majority of RV’s even with extended stays without shore power and minimal reliance on a generator. Combined with a proven battery bank and proper conservation you’ll have enough power to run the essentials.

When the sun is in full force you’ll be even better. The included 3000w inverter will easily run most major appliances RV’s will have including the microwave, fridge, laptops, lights, fans, tv’s, vacuums etc. Some smaller 5000btu ac units will also work.

Note: A larger inverter and battery bank would be needed to run rooftop ac units, or connect the generator. 3 panels mean less space and less to install. The included 30 AMP charge controller will easily get the max current from your panels to your batteries for optimal charging.

RV Solar Panel Overview & Glossary: Things to Know

Types of Solar Panels

A solar panel (or a group of them, called an array) captures energy from sunlight and passes it through to the charge controller which is then feed at just the right current to your batteries for storage (think like a rain collector, but for sun!).

As photovoltaic (PV) technology continues to improve, the efficiency of this process is increasing. Many panels operate with a range of 10-15% efficiency. The latest technologies used in high end applications can reach 21% efficiency. This relatively low efficiency combined with unreliable sun exposure is the reason it takes many panels to create relatively small amounts of usable energy.

All solar cells are made from silicon. The purity and construction are what determine the efficiency and cost of the cell and therefore the panel.

monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panel cells
Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline (source: yorksolar.ca)

Mono – Mono-crystalline solar panels have a characteristic “wafer” look. The silicon, which is the purest form available, is trimmed on four sides prior to being sliced into wafers to reduce cost of and increase efficiency of a panel. These panels often perform better than a poly-crystalline solar panel in partially shaded or low light conditions. They often cost more as the added purification process of the silicon is costly.

Poly – Poly-crystalline solar panels have a characteristic “blue” look. Also the cells are rectangular, not wafer, in appearance. This is because they aren’t trimmed like mono cells are. The crystalline structure isn’t as pure as a mono panel and therefore they offer slightly less efficiency for size compare to a mono panel. If you one panel a mono and another poly of the same size the poly would produce less output. Cost can be notably less though which makes poly panels favorable for large installations or those with a limited budget.

thin-film
Thin film solar cells (source: wikimedia.org)

Thin Film (can be flexible) – Think film is a newer technology where silicon is applied to a substrate surface and reduces the cost even further, requiring less than 1% of the silicon of a same sized poly or mono panel. There is a trade off though in efficiency which dips down to 7-13% compared to the higher 15-20% of crystalline panels. Thin film is allowing solar to be integrated into many objects and the lower cost is making it attractive for larger installation where size isn’t an issue.

CIGS – (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide ) – This is a particular type of Thin Film solar array which produces considerable output compared to other Thin Film formats with efficiency nearing 10-12%. It also contains less cadmium, a toxic substance used in making panels. Applications using flexible formats make it ideal for applications not well suited to rigidity such as portable solar arrays and foldable or portable arrays.

Types and Purpose of a Charge Controller

Because the energy produced by panels has peaks and lows it it necessary to control the power entering the batteries to ensure optimal charging and to protect them from damage as well as maximize throughput. The controller performs this function and can handle many panels being attached to a single unit.

A controller does many additional function by understanding the charge state of your batteries and how to get the best charge with the available current from from your power source whether solar, generator or shore power. Using complex algorithms a solar specific charge controller works tirelessly to get every bit of power from your panels to your batteries for optimal charging.

Single phase: Single phase chargers have a single output and charge continuously at the same rate regardless of the charge condition of the battery. Often they charge at a high voltage the entire time they are connected. These are good when you need a short burst of current (amps) to get a dead battery up to charge quickly. They don’t do well fully topping off a battery. Once you remove the charge the battery doesn’t have time to absorb fully the current and once it drops back down to its static internal voltage it may be closer to 90% charged at best.

Single phase trickle: Trickle chargers also have a single output rate but usually it’s a much lower voltage such as the mid 13 volt range and slowly bring a battery up to full voltage. These chargers are common on rigs that often hook to shore power and simply need to keep batteries topped off, rarely charging them from a deep discharge. A trickle charger will do a superior job of getting a battery topped off as the lower voltage will help the battery full absorb the charge. The drawback is a trickle charger can take hours to charge a dead battery fully, which isn’t ideal when you have solar energy which comes in peaks or you need to use the generator to gives the batteries a boost. It takes forever and because they don’t charge at the higher voltage the battery doesn’t get “exercised” which can lead to “lot rot”.

Multi phase: Multi phase chargers are the best of both single phase and trickle chargers all in one with many added benefits such as complex logic to cycle batteries and adjust output based on the current being fed into them (solar currents vary wildly through a day depending on sun exposure, clouds, shade etc). A good multiphase controller that with solar logic will be able to open the current flow wide to get the batteries up to peak voltage quickly and then switch modes to absorb to help the battery get that last tiny bit of voltage store and finally hold the battery at full capacity. A solar multi phase charger is unique because it has more complex logic to handle the constant varying of current coming from the solar array and helps maximize the charging potential for the batteries.

Types of Batteries

Batteries are where you’ll actually store the power generated by the solar panels. Solar power is so sporadic that you simply couldn’t use it effectively straight from the panel itself. RV installations are a natural fit as they are designed to work on 12 volt systems. Often, the lighting and many appliances can operate at this voltage without any additional components.

Source: attbat.com

In many cases, the batteries used for solar applications are actually 6 volt batteries instead of 12 volt. This means in order to create the necessary 12 volt circuit, a bit of wiring will be needed. It’s not complicated and once it’s assembled there is no need to make changes except when replacing the battery. Wiring two 6 volt batteries in series will create the needed 12 volts for your RV system to function properly. Wiring two batteries in parallel will double the amps.

Batteries are rated in Amp Hours. This means that the battery can put out a given amount of amps (current) for a given amount of time (hours).

Example: a 125 amp hour battery could put out 1 amp of current for 125 hours, or 125 amps for one hour. This isn’t entirely true as even deep cycle batteries can only be discharged to a maximum of 60%. So in truth a 125Ah battery could only put of max current, 125 amps for about 24 minutes before it is considered borderline damaged. Therefor, it is important to properly size your battery bank for the amount and duration of energy you’ll need. We talk about that more in our energy audit.

Flood cell / lead acid battery.
Flood cell / lead acid battery.

Flood/Wet: Flood cell batteries contain lead plates which are flooded with battery acid which stores the energy. These batteries can better withstand deeper discharging cycles, but are more prone to corrosion. When flood cell batteries aren’t cycled often they will build up corrosion on the lead plates reducing their effective available energy and can even short the battery out, rendering it useless. They also require more maintenance that the other types of batteries including equalization (process of charging the battery to a very high voltage above 15 volts to boil the fluid and cause the corrosion to flake off and fall to the bottom of the battery casing). Flood cells offer greater peak amp draw than the other types also.

Gel: Silica gel batteries contain a gel substance where the electrolyte is stored and allowed to pass between plates. What makes these batteries more difficult to work with is they have a very unique charing profile and require specific charger controllers and if an alternator is used it must have a special regulator. While less prone to spills or leaks give it more mounting options and make it excellent for areas with low ventilation. There is a trade off though. Gel cells aren’t as favorable for rapid discharge and often cost significantly more than a comparable AGM cell.

AGM: Absorbed gas mat contains a unique glass plate which allows the electrolyte to be wicked between plates. Like the Gel cell, it can be mounted in many different positions and if broken or tipped there is no available electrolyte to spill. AGM is preferred for rapid discharge and with the use of a quality charger can be brought back up to voltage quickly. AGM is a good candidate for deep cycling with discharge possible down to 60% without causing severe damage.

Types of Inverters

Source: wikipedia.org
Source: wikipedia.org

Energy stored in your batteries is accessible in two ways. Direct access is available for appliances designed to operate on 12v DC current. However, many appliances require 110v AC power (like in your house).

To convert the current in your batteries from DC to AC you’ll need an inverter. This device makes it possible to run your AC devices. These are rated in watt output.

A 1500 watt inverter can operate most small appliances requiring about 10amps AC current such a TV, coffee maker, laptop, computer, radio, lights, etc. To get more current you’ll need a higher wattage inverter.

The best solar panel kit we’ve reviewed comes paired with a 3000w inverter which creates a max available power of 30ams AC current which opens the door for many types of appliances such a vacuums, air conditioners.

Note that the type of inverter must be paired with a properly sized battery bank so as not to discharge the batteries too quickly. Also, the size of solar array is not affected by your inverter size. The solar array size should be chosen based on the amount of energy you’ll consume in a given day. An inverter needs to be sized on the max draw on your batteries at a given time such as how many things you’ll be powering at once.

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How to Size Your RV Solar Panel System

Learning to speak power takes a little handy math. It’s not hard, but can be a bit confusing at first. We’ll cover the basics here to help you compute the amount of energy you’ll consume on an average day. This will help you determine the inverter size, battery bank size, solar charge controller size and finally solar panels to complete your system.

Conducting an Energy Audit

How to Calculate Energy

For discussion purposes we’ll use these formulas:

  • watts=amps x volts
  • volts=watts/amps
  • amps=watts/volts

In electricity watts are watts, not matter if AC or DC, but Amps and Volts must be converted when changing currents from DC to AC and vice versa.

1000w AC is the same as 1000W DC

Convert AC amps to DC amps multiply by ten. 10 Amps AC is 100 Amps DC.
Convert DC amps to AC amps divide by ten. 100 Amps DC is 10 Amps AC

A couple examples:

  • Hair dryers can use 1000w 110v AC. Convert the watts to AC amps. (watts/volts=amps) We get 9 AC amps. We can then convert those to DC amps by multiplying by 10. We get 90 DC amps. That’s a lot! :)
  • A 27″ LCD tv uses 85w 110v AC. Convert watts to AC amps. (watts/volts=amps) We get .78 AC amps. Multiply by 10 to get DC amps and we have 7.8 DC amps.
  • iPhone 6 uses 12w 110v AC to charge. Convert watts to AC amps. (watts/volts=amps) We get .109 AC amps. Multiple by 10 equals 1.09 DC amps.

How can I find the power usage of my appliances?

Using labels on appliances is the easiest way to determine how much energy they use when in operation. Google is pretty amazing too! Just enter the make and model of your appliance with the words “watt usage” at the end and see what you find!

This can be a tedious process, but is critical to properly sizing your system to carry your needs without always discharging batteries fully or spending more money and time than needed with a system that is over kill.

Calculating Your Energy Needs

Use this table concept to get a rough idea of your total amp hours needed in a given day. We’ll use this later to build your system out.

Item DC Amps Hours of Use Total Amp Hours
TV 6.0 2 12Ah
Laptop 4.8 6 28.8Ah
Lights 8 2 16Ah
Water Pump 2 2 4Ah
TOTAL 103.3Ah

Using this table we can see that we would need 103.5Ah of current to power all of these things as outlined. If you system has no charge current coming in (think cloudy day for solar etc) and we cannot let our batteries dip below 60% without doing extreme damage we would need a system that is 40% / 103Ah which is 258Ah. This is a minimum calculation though. Ideally you’d have plenty of reserve power so it’s wise to get as many Ah of current possible with the available space.

The battery bank we recommend has 4 225Ah 6V batteries, which when wired in series and then in parallel will result in a 450Ah 12v system. This means with the same current usage you’d only draw the batteries down to about 80%. Well within the safe zone for discharging. That’s on a day when you have no charging taking place also! So if you have charge current coming the surely this system will be more than adequate to handle the load I used as an example above.

Sizing an RV Inverter

Your inverter will need be able to meet maximum draw at a given time. This mean adding up all of the current being drawn at once from all the of the appliances which are powered on simultaneously. If you’ll be vacuuming with the lights on and your laptop charging you’ll need to know the entire current draw of these appliances to size your inverter. If your inverter is too small it you’ll will have to run less appliances at one time.

Sizing Your Charge Controller

Ideally your charge controller amp output rating is about 25% of the total Ah of your battery bank. For example, if you’re battery bank is capable of 450Ah of current you’d like to find a charge controller which can output 112.5Ah of current. This is a bit high for most RV applications as you won’t have an array that can produce that much current. Why does this matter? If your charge controller is too small then it’s a bottle neck of the energy coming in from your charge source (solar). If your panels can produce 35 amps, but your controller can only handle 20, then you’re wasting potential charging power. For example we recommend this Outback Power FLEXmax 60 charge controller for 400-800 watt rv solar systems. It can easily handle all of the output of your panels and will feed all that juice to your batteries.

Many of the solar kits we recommend come packaged with smaller 30-35 amp charge controllers which are adequate to handle moderate current needs, but for someone with heavy current demands they aren’t up to the task. You’ll need a larger array (perhaps as high as 800 watt) and with it a larger charge controller (60-80 amp). Planning ahead is wise so if you think you’ll be expanding your system in the future it’s wise to buy accordingly.

So for our application let’s suppose we chose the Outback Power FLEXmax 60. This will help us size our array.

Sizing Your RV Solar Panel Array

Sizing your array is based on both your energy needs which we determined during our energy audit which helped us size our battery bank which we used to size our charge controller and now we’ll use that to size our array. Our Outback FLEXmax 60 can handle 750 watts at 12v DC. Our rv solar kits above are in the 480 watt range. If we used an array such as this with 3 160 watt panels we’d still have room to add another panel or two later to get even more wattage without having to upgrade the other components in our system. 480 + 320 = 800 watts max output of the array. More than enough to keep our controller pushing max current for storage.

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Helpful RV Solar Videos


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Pros and Cons of RV Solar Kits

Using solar energy while traveling has benefits and drawbacks so let’s consider some of the pros and cons of green energy kits that are a good fit for RV’ing.

Pros

  • Freedom
  • Quiet, works 24/7
  • No risk of burns or chemicals
  • No stinky odors
  • Low maintenance
  • Long lifespan

Cons

  • Sporadic outputs can be unpredictable
  • Limited space for arrays and battery banks
  • Initial cost is higher
  • Requires installation

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