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RV Solar Panels: What You Should Know
If you are thinking about adding RV solar panels to your rig, please read on. In this article, I will explain the function of an RV solar panel. Additionally, I will explain the differences between the 2 most popular solar panel technologies on the market today. That is to say, they are monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Lastly, you will find details on specific solar panel systems to chose from.
RV solar panels have been gaining in popularity as a source of energy for some time now. Whether you’re on the road or setting up camp somewhere, you probably have a need for electricity. With RV’s, there are many options with respect to powering up your motorhome, or travel trailer while on the road. Therefore, you have the option of an onboard or portable generator, a personal wind turbine, and of course solar panels.
Does solar have a place in your rig?
The answer is maybe. That is to say, there are some definite benefits to using solar power. That is to say, when it’s sunny out, you can charge your batteries for free. Your only expense is the initial cost of the equipment. Plus, solar power is environmentally friendly and doesn’t release bad smelling fumes as with a running generator.
That said, solar energy isn’t a terribly efficient power source for your RV– an average-sized solar panel can only charge up to 25 amps an hour. But, solar energy is a great option as a back-up power source. It can also be useful if you’re going to be camping in one area for a while, as you can set the panels up and let them charge all day.
What Does A Solar Panel Do?
A solar panel essentially acts as the charging station for your rig. That is to say, The panel takes light from the sun and converts it to usable energy that can be stored in a battery. The battery is then used to power your appliances and electronics.
What Equipment Do I Need?
As we all know, a solar panel absorbs light and converts it into energy. Next, that energy needs to go to an inverter, which is a machine that converts the energy produced by the solar panel into usable energy. Once that energy has been converted, it can be stored in a battery or a series of batteries. Thus, you may want to have multiple batteries available so you can swap them out when one becomes fully charged.
How Much Solar Power Does My RV Need?
This is important to know prior to purchasing any solar equipment. For example, too weak of a panel and you won’t be able to provide enough power to your appliances– you may find yourself without A/C on a hot day. Too powerful of a panel and you won’t be able to store all the excess electricity that your panels produce. It’s best to accurately gauge your electricity needs before committing to a certain sized solar panel.
The Youtube video attached here is an excellent source for determining your RV’s appliance and electronic requirements. It also includes a spreadsheet that you can fill in and it’s embedded formulas will calculate your solar power needs. How to Calculate Camper Solar System Size.
2 Most Popular RV Solar Panel Material Choices
There are several RV solar panels on the market today. Below are the 2 most popular types of panels. You you should become familiar with these technologies, so you can make an informed decision on which one is right for you.
Monocrystalline solar panels are generally thought of as a premium solar product. That is to say, monocrystalline panels provide higher efficiencies and sleeker aesthetics.
To make solar cells for monocrystalline solar panels, silicon is formed into bars and cut into wafers. These types of panels are called “monocrystalline” to indicate that the silicon used is single-crystal silicon. Because the cell is composed of a single crystal, the electrons that generate a flow of electricity have more room to move (social distancing? :). As a result, monocrystalline panels are more efficient than their polycrystalline counterparts. Most importantly, one of the most significant advantages of choosing monocrystalline solar panels is that it performs well in partially shaded or low sunlit conditions.
Polycrystalline panels are the more common, blue colored solar panels that have been widely popular for over a decade in the solar market. The Polycrystalline solar panels are manufactured through a process where silicon is melted and poured into a mold. As a result, this leads to a solar cell that is made up of several silicon fragments.
The name of these panels comes from the fact that they include many (‘poly’) silicon crystals. As opposed to , monocrystalline panels which only include one (‘mono’) silicon crystal in each cell. That said, the reason why this form of the solar panel is much more popular than monocrystalline panels is that they are cheaper to manufacture. As a result, allowing for a lower cost per panel to the consumer.
That said, one drawback of the polycrystalline solar panel is that it is less efficient. This is a result of the solar cell being packed with numerous silicon crystals, which limits the space available for photons to travel through.
The blue color of a polycrystalline solar panel is a side-effect of both the way the silicon crystals reflect light, as well as from the anti-reflective coating that the panels are treated with during the manufacturing process.
RV Solar Panel 100W Monocrystalline Choices
Renogy 100-Watt 12V Solar RV Kit
Take a trip to the great outdoors with all the comforts of home at your fingertips. The Renogy 100-Watt 12V Solar RV Kit is perfect for any camper looking to run their favorite small electronics while on the road. Unlike traditional gas generators, the Renogy 100-Watt 12-Volt Flexible Solar RV Kit silently recharges the battery bank, thus the great outdoors can be enjoyed without the extra noise. In short, solar panels also allow you to run limited low watt electrical equipment without a power hookup.
Monocrystalline 100W Flexible Solar Panel
Adventurer 30A PWM Charge Controller
Tray Cables 16′ 10AWG
MC4 Adaptor Kit 30′ 10AWG
Cable Entry Housing
Mounting Z Brackets
BT-1 Bluetooth Module
Renogy 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel Specs
Maximum Power: 100W
Maximum System Voltage: 600V DC
Optimum Operating Voltage (Vmp): 17.9V
Optimum Operating Current (Imp): 5.72A
Weight: 16.5 lbs.
Dimensions: 42.2″ x 19.6″ x 1.38″
Most importantly, the Adventurer 30A PWM Charge Controller is specifically designed for RV applications. It allows for aesthetically clean flush mounting on walls and is negative-grounded for battery compatibility. In addition, it also features an LCD screen for displaying system operation information. This allows for full control of parameter settings. The controller comes equipped with a fully comprehensive self-diagnostic system and electronic protection functions. These enhancements will prevent damage from installation mistakes or system faults.
Furthermore, the newly added BT-1 Bluetooth Module enables users to pair the charge controller with our smartphone app Renogy BT. This app allows you to view system performance in real-time and make parameter changes right from your smartphone. This app is available only on the App Store for iPhone.
With the Renogy Adventurer 30A PWM Flush-Mount Charge Controller, you have the option of expanding your system up to a maximum of 400W by adding additional panels.
Renogy Eclipse 100-Watt 12V Monocrystalline Solar Panels
The Renogy Eclipse 100-Watt 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel combines power and appeal into one sleek package. Notably, the Eclipse is made of the highest efficiency cells Renogy has to offer and weighing a mere 15 pounds and standing a half-foot shorter in height than standard Renogy panels. Another feature that makes this panel stand out is its black corrosion-resistant aluminum frame. The Eclipse 100-Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel will make a great addition to any outdoor adventure.
Maximum Power: 100W
Maximum System Voltage: 600V DC
Optimum Operating Voltage (Vmp): 17.7V
Optimum Operating Current (Imp): 5.70A
Weight: 15 lbs.
Dimensions: 40.9″ x 21.0″ x 1.4″
RV Solar Panel 50W Choices
Renogy 50D Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit
Renogy 50W Monocrystalline Starter Kit is designed specifically for customers new to solar. That is to say, the Starter Kit is great for off-grid applications, such as RVs, trailers, boats, sheds, and cabins. The many benefits of this panel include, but are not limited to, quiet power production and grid independence. This solar kit comes with the tools necessary for a new system, so let your solar adventure begin with a Renogy Starter Kit.
Included in the kit are:
- Monocrystalline solar cell efficiency: 21%.
- One Renogy 50Watt monocrystalline solar panel (UL 1703 Certified — Grade A high-efficiency solar panel)
- One 10Amp PWM charge controller; uniquely designed Z brackets for mounting
- One pair of 20Ft MC4 connector adaptor kit with MC4 male and female connectors
- Added tray cable for connection between the charge controller and battery
- 25-year transferable power output; 5-year material and workmanship
Renogy 50W 12V Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Renogy 50 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel is the key component of a system when going off the grid. These panels are equipped with MC4 leads coming from the panel. As a result they are compatible with Renogy’s MC4 Branch Adaptor Kit. That is to say, the Limited Branch Connector is a perfect solution for connecting three panels in parallel. Above all, these connectors have high aging resistance and UV endurance, making them weather-proof and able to withstand harsh environments. A rivet and lock connect the cable. Thus, extra tools are not required for assembly or disassembly of plugs.
This is the panel of choice for expanding your solar panel footprint when you have the Renogy KIT-STARTER50D 50 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit installed (See above for a link to Amazon for the Starter Kit). Therefore, whether you are going camping in the mountains or taking a trip to the beach, this panel can be a great start to your Renogy off-grid system.
This panel has several uses including marine, dry camping, and other off-grid applications. Certainly, the Renogy monocrystalline panels will give you the most efficiency per space and have the ability to withstand heavy snow and strong wind loads.
- Advanced encapsulation material with multi-layered sheet lamination to enhance cell performance and provide a long service life.
- EL tested solar modules; no hot-spot heating guaranteed.
- Bypass diodes minimize power drop caused by shade and ensure excellent performance in low-light environments.
- The TPT back sheet ensures smooth performance over a long period of time.
Output Cables: 1.12 ft
Connectors: MC4 Connectors
Maximum Power: 50W
Maximum System Voltage: 600V DC (UL)
Optimum Operating Voltage (Vmp): 18.50V
Open-Circuit Voltage (Voc): 22.70V
Optimum Operating Current (Imp): 2.70A
Short-Circuit Current (Isc): 2.84A
Dimensions: 24.8 x 21.3 x 1.2
Renogy 50-Watt 12V Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel
The Renogy 50W Flexible RV Solar Panels are not your traditional solar panel. That is to say, they are perfect for marine use or placement on top of a van or vehicle. The Renogy 50W Lightweight Solar Panel is thin and capable of flexing up to 248°. Most importantly, at just 2.87 pounds, this flexible solar panel weighs only a quarter of its traditional 50W counterpart.
Highly flexible, this lightweight panel can easily be installed on curved surfaces by using silicon structural adhesive on the backside of the panel. Renogy recommends one of their controllers, like the Renogy Wanderer 10 Amp or the Renogy Wanderer Li 30A to complete the installation. In addition, this panel can also be used for other various applications, including providing power on a boat or teardrop trailer.
The Panel is Extremely Flexible; This panel is capable of meeting a wide range of applications where standard panels can be inconvenient to mount, such as on the curved roof of an Airstream.
As Well As Ultra-Lightweight; Thanks to advanced polymer materials, this product weighs 70% less than conventional solar panels, making transportation and installation a breeze.
Super Thin Lamination; Even though hardly noticeable, the Renogy 50W Lightweight Panel is only a tenth of an inch tall when laid flat. Therefore, making it ideal for a stealthy solar setup.
Maximum Power at STC: 50W
Optimum Operating Voltage (Vmp): 18.5V
Optimum Operating Current (Imp): 2.71A
Weight: 2.87 lbs.
Dimensions: 26.5″ x 20.0″ x 0.08″
Polycrystalline Solar Panel Choices
Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Polycrystalline Solar Starter Kit
The Renogy 100W Polycrystalline Solar Power Starter Kit is perfect for new customers wanting to get a start in solar. The Starter Kit is great for off-grid applications, such as RVs, trailers, boats, sheds, and cabins. Therefore, providing many benefits, including, but not limited to, quiet power production and grid independence.
With advanced encapsulation material, that includes multi-layered sheet lamination, there is enhanced cell performance, thus providing a long service life. Additionally, its bypass diodes minimize power drops caused by shade. Subsequently, excellent performance in low-light environments is ensured. The TPT back sheet ensures smooth performance over a long period of time.
It has positive output tolerance (0-3%) and can withstand high winds (2400Pa) and snow loads (5400Pa). The corrosion-resistant aluminum frame allows for extended outdoor use. As a result, the panels should last for decades. Adding to its durability is anti-reflective, high transparency, low iron tempered glass with enhanced stiffness, and impact resistance. Its IP65 rated junction box provides complete protection against environmental particles and low-pressure water jets.
The panel is designed with pre-drilled holes on the back of the panel to allow for fast mounting and securing. There are also pre-drilled holes for grounding. It is compatible with different Renogy mounting systems such as Z-Brackets, Pole Mounts, and Tilt Mounts.
In short, adding a polycrystalline solar panel kit can extend your travels further than ever before.
The kit includes:
- 8ft 10AWG Tray Cable to connect your charge controller and battery
- High solar cell efficiency: Polycrystalline 18.6%；
- Ideal output: 500Wh per day; can fully charge a 50Ah battery from 50% in 3 hours (depending on the availability of sunlight)
- The charge controller has been upgraded to Renogy’ s new 30A PWM Negative-Ground Charge Controller – the Renogy Wanderer
- With the Renogy Wanderer 30A PWM Charge Controller, you can expand your system up to a maximum of 400W
- Negative grounding controller with battery reversed, overloading, short-circuit, and over charging /discharging protection ensures the broader off-grid applications and safety.
- Can be used on a vehicle which has battery negative on the chassis
Renogy 100W 12V Polycrystalline Solar Panel
Renogy 100W 12V Polycrystalline Solar Panel is a great starting place for your off-grid system. These sleek and durable panels are perfect for keeping your electronics functioning while traveling. For solar enthusiasts new and old the Renogy 100W 12V Polycrystalline Panel is the right choice for you! The Renogy 100W Polycrystalline Solar Panel has several uses including marine, dry camp, and other off-grid applications. These reliable panels are capable of withstanding heavy snow and strong wind loads.
Renogy 50 Watts 12 Volts Polycrystalline Solar Starter Kit
Renogy 50W Polycrystalline Starter Kit is designed specifically for customers new to solar. In other words, the Starter Kit is great for off-grid applications, such as RVs, trailers, boats, sheds, and cabins. It provides many benefits, including, but not limited to, quiet power production and grid independence.
This solar kit comes with the tools necessary for a new system. So start your solar adventure with a Renogy Starter Kit.
The kit includes:
- One Renogy 50 Watt polycrystalline solar panel.
- One 10Amp PWM charge controller; uniquely designed Z brackets for mounting.
- One pair of 20Ft MC4 connector adaptor kit with MC4 male and female connectors.
- Added tray cable for connection between the charge controller and battery.
- Set of Z-brackets
- 25-year transferable power output warranty; 5-year material and workmanship warranty.
Renogy 50W 12V Polycrystalline Solar Panel
The Renogy 50 Watt Polycrystalline Panel can be used in various off-grid applications. For example, 12 and 24 volts arrays, water pumping systems, signaling systems, and other off-grid applications. With a sleek design and a durable frame, the Renogy 50 Watt 12 Volt Polycrystalline Panel provides you with the highest efficiency per panel area.
Cell performance is enhanced and provides a long service life due to the advanced encapsulation material with multi-layered sheet lamination. Power drops caused by shade are minimized by the panel utilizing its bypass diodes. As a result, it provides excellent performance in low-light environments.
Maximum Power: 50W
Maximum System Voltage: 600V DC (UL)
Optimum Operating Voltage (Vmp): 17.8V
Open-Circuit Voltage (Voc): 22.4V
Optimum Operating Current (Imp): 2.8A
Short-Circuit Current (Isc): 2.95A
Dimensions: 21.6 x 26.7 x 1.2 in
In conclusion, solar energy can be an efficient option for powering your appliances, and it works well as a back-up or alternate power source. Therefore, if solar energy is right for you, be sure to first consider what your energy needs are before making a purchase. If you want to protect your RV from an electrical surge at the various campgrounds, please check out these options. Surge Protector; 30Amp, 50Amp, or Hard-wired