Best Portable Solar Panels for Your RV in 2019? [Our Reviews and Comparison]

Portable solar panels can be an excellent addition to your RV. They allow travelers to convert the sun’s rays into energy that is used to power their vehicle, allowing for activities such as watching TV and using other electronics without draining the battery of the vehicle.

This can be a big relief for RV campers, and can allow for extra freedom in their travels. Having the ability to power your RV functions without having to limit your campgrounds to areas that provide power plug-ins can help you achieve the vacation of your dreams.

If you’ve been considering purchasing one of these solar panels, you’ve likely had questions regarding the output, quality and realized benefit of purchasing one. To help you decide, we’ve taken the time to review five of the most popular models available on the market.

Before we get into the five reviews and our top picks, there are a few points you should consider:

Do You Need a Portable Solar Power System?

If you’re purchasing a solar panel for an RV, choosing a portable model is the best option. While there are fixed models available, once they are mounted, arranging them is somewhat of a hassle.

Permanent installation space is limited to the size of your roof, and requires drilling, running wires and other structural modifications to your vehicle. Worse, as you’re moving around, as you would while traveling, your sun exposure is also likely to change. If your solar panel is fixed, you don’t have the opportunity to adjust it to capture the most of the sun’s rays.

Picking a portable solar panel will allow you to adjust and move your solar panels easily in order to always have the best sun exposure, which allows for more energy to be generated for your use. These solar panels charge your R.V. batteries when you’re not plugged into alternate power sources.

So, if you’re a camper who often visits campsites or other locales that supply power, you might not need a portable solar panel. If, however, you enjoy camping off the grid, a portable solar power panel becomes a necessity to ensure that you have enough reserve power.

Since most RVs and travel trailers charge their battery reserve while driving in the absence of a supplemental power source, without a solar panel, you will have no option to recharge your battery bank while stationary without one.

Basic daily activities such as showering, cooking and using your lights can quickly drain your reserve power.

How Much Solar Power Should Your RV Have?

Keep in mind that most portable solar panels max out at about 200 amps. While portable panels have an advantage over mounted panels simply because they are a space-saving solution, if you need more than this amount, consider purchasing two, or a portable panel to supplement an already-mounted roof panel.

Remember that the amount of power you need depends on your battery and external temperatures as well as your usage. Lead acid batteries, which are the most frequently used batteries in RVs, have a usage rating stamped on the external housing.

This amp-hour capacity rating is tested at temperatures that are around the mid 70’s. If you’re camping in areas that experience lower or extremely higher temperatures, you should be aware that your amp-hour time might be shortened by the weather.

If your battery is unreadable or not stamped, you can find out the amp-hour by entering the manufacturer name and part number into a search engine. This should provide all the manufacture specifications regarding your battery. It’s always a good idea to print this out and keep it accessible.

A good rule of thumb is to never allow your RV battery to drain to below 50 percent of the stored battery. To calculate exactly how much energy you need, you’ll need to know what appliances you use regularly, their wattage and a few simple calculations.

How To Calculate Your Energy Needs.

The simplest way to find out exactly how much energy you use  is to just go camping as you normally would, without plugging into an external power source. Use a voltage tester to check your batteries when you first arrive, and check them again after the day is over.

Divide your battery rated amp-hour by the number of days it takes to reach 50 percent charge. An example would be if it takes three days to use 50 percent of your available power on a 200 amp hour battery, dividing 100 by three would give you a result of 33.

You average 33 amp hour usage a day. Remember-don’t let your batteries dip below 50 percent, as this can be  damaging to your battery.

With the knowledge that a 100-watt solar panel will approximate an output of about 30 amp-hours a day, this is all you’ll need to provide for your power needs if you camp in a sunny spot or generally during favorable weather.

If you camp through all seasons or in areas that are shady, you may want to consider purchasing two solar panels. With the knowledge that the energy output can be dramatically decreased in poor conditions, two panels may be needed to produce the same 30 amp-hours that one can provide in full sun.

Sizing an R.V. Inverter, Charge Controller and Solar Power Array.

To find out what size R.V. inverter you need, you need to understand what it does. It converts the 12 VDC from your battery into 120 VAC, which is standard household electricity. In other words, it takes a battery charge and makes is accessible to your appliances within your R.V.

You’ll need to know an average of how many watts you’ll use, which requires you to have an understanding of the wattage use in the appliances that you have within your R.V. Once you know your total wattage usage, pick an inverter that’s rated slightly above that.

Though it’s a common misconception that if you choose a converter that’s rated much higher than your usage, you’ll just be prepared to cope with excess power, too high can actually overwhelm your electrical system and cause problems. Stay just slightly above.

 A charge controller works as a regulator between your solar panel and your battery. It regulates the voltage and current supplied by your solar power system so that it doesn’t damage your battery. Since most R.V. batteries are 12 volts, and the average solar panel outputs between 16 and 20 volts, you should always size your converter to your battery and not your solar panels.

To deduce exactly how much solar power you’re going to need, check the voltage that is  listed on each appliance in your RV. These voltage rates are typically stamped in the housing of every appliance.

For lightbulbs, water pumps and other built-in appliances, check your owner’s manual. Since you’re operating off a 12 volt source, the listed power draw will have to be multiplied by 10.

Once you have a sum of your voltage use, times that number by the amount of hours a day you expect the appliance to be in use. Remember to add in your essential functions as well. This will give you a fairly accurate number of wattage usage to have in mind when you size your solar array.

How Many Amp-Hours is Your Battery Bank?

To figure this out, you’ll have to reference the number you calculated above. A simple formula for determining the amp hours in your battery bank is E=C*Vavg. E is the energy stored in watt-hours, C is the capacity in amp-hours and Vvag is the average voltage during discharge. Multiply by 3,600 to get your watt-seconds.

With those necessary guidelines, our reviews of five of the most frequently purchased models of portable solar panels:

COMPARISON CHART

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OUR TOP 5 PICKS

1 Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase

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Built for portability, this panel folds up suitcase style with an easy-carry handle. The Renogy Solar Suitcase is 100 watts ( two 50 watt Monocrystalline solar panels) and can be easily slid under seats or into trunks for storage. The provided connection wires are 15 inches in length, and the provided connectors are MC4.

Structurally, the adjustable stand is constructed of aluminum. While it does ship with a protective case, the material is soft-sided and not impact or water resistant.

These solar panels can be purchased in the multiples and connected together to increase your energy production. Additional connectors will be required in order to do this, but it’s a reasonably priced way to install multiple panels to meet your energy needs.

The addition of a case does provide additional protection to your solar panel from dust, scratches and other wear when it’s not in use. These panels are a great choice for true portability, as they come with a carrying case and all necessary connections. They can easily be transported from place to place to connect anywhere you might need an additional power source.

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  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON’T LIKE
  • PROS/CONS OVERVIEW

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  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON’T LIKE
  • PROS/CONS OVERVIEW

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CONCLUSION

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Best Portable Solar Panels for Your RV in 2019? [Our Reviews and Comparison]
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