Using a solar panel system is an inexpensive and efficient way to use the sun’s rays. There are many systems available, and some of them are big enough to provide power for a building. The batteries used on these systems are just like those used to power your car. Portable solar panels are an excellent way to get your car’s engine started if you wake up one morning only to find out that you left the lights on before going to bed and your battery died many hours ago. Today we will be reviewing some of the best portable solar panels for RV and other cars.
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The Best Portable Solar Panels for RV
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1. Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit
Renogy started as a student project at Louisiana State University and has grown into a flourishing business. It is a renewable energy company that supplies some of the best highly efficient solar panels for buildings, homes and recreational vehicles.
As the name implies, their starter kit is designed specifically for customers that have no previous experience with solar panels. It is ideal for use on RVs, boats, sheds, cabins, and trailers.
The kit includes a 100 W, 12V, 47.2” long x 22” wide x 1.4” thick solar panel, a wanderer 30A PWM charge controller, an adaptor kit, 8’ cable to connect the charge controller to the battery, and Z-brackets for mounting the panel.
One advantage of this solar charge controller is that is can be used to expand the system to a maximum of 400 watts. It offers protection from reverse polarity, overcharging, over-voltage and short circuits. It also has some handy LEDs which indicate the charging status of the battery.
In an ideal sun condition, the panel can fully charge a 50AH battery from 50% in less than 3 hours. It uses 100% of the available solar power and is compatible with sealed, gel and flooded batteries.
- Good wattage, and can be expanded further easily by adding more panels
- The aluminum body is light and rust-resistant
- Easy to install; comes with step-by-step instructions
- The controller is a bit delicate; you need to handle it with care
- A voltmeter would be a welcomed feature
2. Go Power! GP-PSK-120 120W Portable Folding Solar Kit with 10 Amp Solar Controller
Go Power! Is one the most trusted names in solar technology and their products are designed to perform reliably in some of the world’s harshest environments. They have over 15 years of experience providing solar power for the RV and fleet truck markets.
This folding kit consists of a 120-watt solar panel with a PWM controller attached to the back. The panel measures 32.5” x 2.8” x 19.9” and outputs 6.7 ampere DC per hour.
One great feature is that it includes a cable with battery clamps to easily connect any battery. It also includes a nice padded case to carry it around.
- 25-year warranty
- Includes carrying case
- Plug and play
- Keeps batteries charged even under heavy use
- Water-resistant, but not waterproof
- Hardcoded limit of 14.4 volts for bulk and absorption charging and 14.9 for equalized charging can be not enough to charge certain batteries.
3. WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid
WindyNation is a company that manufactures components for the growing community of do-it-yourselfers. Their goal is to produce high-quality and low-cost alternative home power solutions.
This kit includes a polycrystalline 100-watt solar panel, a 30-amp solar charge controller, 40’ of cable, and mounting hardware. It is easy to install in cabins, boats, RVs, or to use as a backup power source.
Up to 350-watt hours, or 33 amp hours, of charge, can be generated per day, and you can expand the system and add up to four 100W panels for a 12-volt system and eight panels for a 24-volt system.
The solar charge controller has a friendly interface. It uses an LCD screen to show the system’s amperage, amp-hours, battery temperature, voltage, solar generated amp-hours to the battery, and DC load draw, among other data.
- Easy to expand, just connect more panels to the kit
- If you are a handy person you can mount and install it on an RV roof in a few hours
- Great controller, provides all the info you need at a quick glance
- The included wire is on the short side; you might need to buy some extra cable to reach distant areas.
- Heavy, weighs about 19 pounds
4. Suaoki 100W 18V 12V Solar Panel Charger SunPower Cell Ultra Thin Flexible
Suaoki is a company focused on developing versatile, portable, well-made, and eco-friendly products. Their solar panels offer great quality at affordable prices.
This system uses a 100-watt solar panel that is bendable to a curve of up to 30°. This allows it to be mounted to surfaces that are not 100% flat. It is ultra-light, weighing 4.8 pounds, and has excellent water resistance.
The panel has a higher-than-average efficiency of 25%. Inside it there is a blocking diode that prevents reverse current drain. Not only is it lightweight, but also 0.1” thick; this makes it easy to move and set up. The frame has 8 pre-drilled mounting holes for quick and easy installation.
It is rated at 5.62A optimum operating current, but you do need to keep in mind that these are just solar panels; no cable or solar charge controller is included. They are perfect for expanding your current solar panel system.
- Very well constructed unit
- The product has CE and ROHS certificates
- You can just glue them to the roof of your RV with some good polyurethane sealant if you don’t want to use any screws
Would be better if the wires had been mounted from behind
5. ECO-WORTHY 20W 12V Solar Panel Kit
Eco-worthy Solar is a company that has lots of experience in the solar energy business. They have manufactured solar panels and renewable energy products since 2002, and have a great reputation and thousands of satisfied customers.
The kit includes a 20-watt solar panel, a 3A 12V/24V PWM solar charge controller, and 2m of cable with battery clips.
The panel is small, measuring 20.5” x 14.4” x 0.7” and weighs 5 pounds. It has a Vopo of 18V and includes a 25-year transferable power output warranty.
The solar charge controller has a nominal output with automatic identification of 12V/24V, and an operating current of 3A. It has over-discharge and overcharge protection, and accepts PWM charging.
The solar panel’s body is made from corrosion-resistant aluminum, which makes it sturdy but easy to move.
- Affordable price
- The panel has four pre-drilled holes for quick mounting
- Easy to carry for camping or similar outdoor activities
- Does not include mounting brackets
- The charge controller is not water-resistant and is rather flimsy
6. Zamp Solar 40P Portable Charge Kit
Zamp Solar is a company that specializes in 12-volt solar systems. Their 40P kit includes a 40-watt solar panel; an 8-amp solar charge controller, which is waterproof; a carrying case; and a 16-foot cable with positive and negative alligator clips.
The monocrystalline solar cells will generate 40 watts at 2.3 amps. An anti-reflective coating is added to the glass of the panel to provide maximum light absorption. It has an aluminum frame with an ergonomic handle, which makes it easy to transport.
The panel has a leg system on both sides that when fully deployed will let you angle the solar panel to the sun.
- Ballistic nylon style carrying case with dual YKK zippers to protect the panels while transporting them
- Panels can be folded for increased portability
- Cables and pigtails can be stored inside the panel’s case when it is folded
- Low wattage
- Not so affordable
7. ALLPOWERS 100W 18V 12V Bendable SunPower Solar Panel
While most solar cells have an average 19% efficiency rating, All power panels provide up to 25%. You get greater power even though the panels are no larger than traditional models.
Being flexible allows more installation options, ideal for tight spaces or crowded areas. It can bend up to 30° and provides 100 watts of power. It is also very lightweight at only 3 pounds.
Four pre-drilled holes mean easier mounting. It can be operated in temperature ranges of -40°C to +85°C.
The working voltage is rated at 18V, and each panel is dust, water, and shock-resistant.
- The lightweight and reduced fragility of this panel is a huge plus for moving it around
- Panels are designed for heat dissipation
- Sturdy; can withstand rain and hail
Not so affordable
8. ECO-WORTHY 12 Volts 120 Watt Portable Folding Polycrystalline PV Solar Panel
This solar panel can be folded and turns into a portable case with a comfortable handle which can store any extra cables inside.
It is made to resist salt corrosion and humidity and has a 15-amp PWM solar charge controller attached to the back. This controller has overcharge, over-discharge, overload, and reverse-connection protection.
The system is rated at 120W, with a Vop of 17.9V, and weighs 28 lbs. A convenient set of legs allows easy setting on the ground and is perfect for chasing the sun. Each Polycrystalline solar panel is manufactured using low-iron, high-transparency tempered glass.
- High efficiency, even on cloudy days
- Very well made, with quality hardware
- Good wattage
- It would be better if the solar cells pointed inside when folded.
- Legs could be stronger
- Cable to connect to the battery is pretty short
Best Portable Solar Panels for RV Additional Info
In simple terms, these portable solar panels for RV consist of one or more panels that transform the energy received from the sun into electricity. Each solar panel consists of two layers of silicon slices with a pathway in between. Light from the sun hits the electrons on the top layer and makes them move to the bottom one. As they do this, they create a current. The pathways formed in the solar panels guide these electrons from one layer to the other.
Types of solar panel systems
There are several ways to set up a solar power system. The first one is called a grid-tied or inverter system. Any energy received from the solar panels is immediately converted into usable energy. This is done by using an inverter, which converts the DC power from the panels into usable AC power since electric appliances in the US need 120v to work.
The problem with these systems is that they require an inverter, which isn’t exactly an inexpensive device. It is also more dangerous. Playing around with 120v electricity can be very risky if you don’t know what you are doing. Since the power from the panel is sent directly to the inverter, there is not much protection in case there is an overload, so it is always wise to add a circuit breaker to the layout.
Another type of solar system set up is called off-grid, which is the most popular. It is meant to be as portable as possible so it can be carried around, or installed on cars, boats or RVs. Instead of directly using the panel’s power output, any generated electricity is sent to one or more batteries, where it is stored and used as needed.
This is done by sending the electricity from the solar panels to a charge controller, which sends a regulated, stable 12v output to the batteries to charge them. It also stops the battery from being overcharged and from running completely flat. Some charge controllers have temperature sensors that shut off the system if things get too hot. A charge controller can also send a direct DC output, so you can connect any 12v device to it and use the solar panel’s output on demand without relying on batteries.