Solar panel on RV roof, reflecting sunlight and generating clean energy for off-grid adventures.

Ultimate RV Solar Kits Guide for Boondockers



The allure of full-time RVing and boondocking has never been stronger, with more and more people embracing the freedom and flexibility of life on the road. But to truly enjoy the off-grid lifestyle, having a reliable power source is crucial. Enter RV solar kits – the game-changing solution that allows you to harness the power of the sun and keep your rig running smoothly, no matter where your adventures take you.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of RV solar kits, exploring everything from the basics of how they work to the top products on the market today. Whether you’re a seasoned boondocker or just starting out, this article will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to make informed decisions about your RV’s solar setup. So, let’s get started!


What are RV Solar Kits?


At their core, RV solar kits are designed to capture the energy of the sun and convert it into usable power for your rig. A typical kit consists of several key components: solar panels, a charge controller, batteries, an inverter, and the necessary wiring to connect everything together.

The solar panels are the heart of the system, using photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. This electricity is then regulated by the charge controller, which prevents overcharging and ensures optimal battery performance. The batteries store the energy for later use, while the inverter converts the DC power into alternating current (AC) electricity that can power your RV’s appliances and electronics.

When all these components work together seamlessly, you have a reliable, renewable power source that can keep your RV running for days or even weeks at a time without the need for external hookups or noisy generators.


Benefits of Using RV Solar Kits for Full-Time RVers and Boondockers


For full-time RVers and boondockers, the benefits of using solar power are numerous. First and foremost, it grants you the freedom to camp virtually anywhere without relying on hookups or campground facilities. This opens up a world of possibilities for exploring remote, off-the-beaten-path locations that might otherwise be inaccessible.


Solar power also offers significant cost savings compared to relying on generators or paying for campground fees. While there is an initial investment in purchasing and installing a solar kit, the long-term savings on fuel and campground costs can be substantial. Plus, with minimal maintenance required, you won’t have to worry about the ongoing expenses associated with generator upkeep.


Another major advantage of solar power is its eco-friendliness and quiet operation. Unlike generators, solar panels produce no noise or emissions, allowing you to enjoy the peace and tranquility of nature without disturbing your surroundings. And by harnessing a renewable energy source, you’ll be doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint and preserve the environment for future generations.


Determining Your RV’s Solar Power Needs


Before investing in an RV solar kit, it’s essential to assess your specific power needs. Several factors come into play here, including your typical power consumption, battery capacity, and the weather conditions you expect to encounter during your travels.

Start by calculating your daily power usage – consider all the appliances and electronics you use regularly, from lights and fans to refrigerators and laptops. Once you have a rough estimate of your daily watt-hours, you can begin to size your solar kit accordingly.


Keep in mind that your battery capacity will also play a role in determining the size of your solar setup. A larger battery bank will allow you to store more energy for use during cloudy days or overnight, while a smaller bank may require more frequent charging or a larger solar array to keep up with demand.

Finally, consider the weather conditions you’ll likely face during your travels. If you plan on spending most of your time in sunny regions like the Southwest, you may be able to get by with a smaller solar kit than someone who frequently camps in cloudier areas like the Pacific Northwest.


Types of RV Solar Panels


When it comes to choosing solar panels for your RV, there are several key factors to consider. The two main types of panels are monocrystalline and polycrystalline, each with its own set of pros and cons.

Monocrystalline panels are made from a single, continuous crystal structure, resulting in higher efficiency and better performance in low-light conditions. They also tend to have a sleeker, more aesthetically pleasing appearance. However, they do come with a higher price tag compared to polycrystalline panels.


Polycrystalline panels, on the other hand, are made from multiple crystal structures melted together. While they may not be quite as efficient as monocrystalline panels, they are more affordable and can still provide ample power for most RV setups.

Another consideration is whether to opt for rigid or flexible panels. Rigid panels are the most common type found on RVs – they offer good durability and efficiency but need to be mounted on fixed brackets that can add substantial weight to your rig. Flexible or semi-flexible panels like those using CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) technology are thinner, lighter, less resistant to impacts but are more aerodynamic than rigid panels [1][2].


Ultimately, the best type of panel for your RV will depend on your specific needs, budget, and preferences. However, high-quality monocrystalline panels from trusted brands are often the preferred choice for full-time RVers and boondockers who demand reliable performance day in and day out.


Top 10 RV Solar Kits by Reviews and Sales


  1. Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar RV Kit: This top-rated kit features high-efficiency monocrystalline panels, a 40A MPPT charge controller, mounting brackets, and all necessary wiring. It’s expandable up to 800 watts for larger rigs.
  2. Go Power! GP-PSK-130 130 Watt Portable Solar Kit: Perfect for smaller RVs or as a supplementary power source, this portable kit includes a folding 130-watt panel, charge controller, and carrying case for easy setup and storage.
  3. Windy Nation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Boat Kit: An affordable option for small to medium RVs, this kit includes a 100W polycrystalline panel, 30A PWM charge controller, and mounting hardware. It can be expanded up to 300 watts if needed.
  4. HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt Polycrystalline Solar Panel Kit: This reliable kit features a high-efficiency polycrystalline panel, 20A PWM charge controller, mounting brackets, and wiring – ideal for small to medium RVs or boats.
  5. Zamp Solar Legacy Series 230-Watt RV Solar Kit: Designed for easy installation, this kit includes high-efficiency monocrystalline panels, a 30A PWM charge controller, mounting hardware, and pre-drilled holes and plug-and-play connectors.
  6. WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Kit: Perfect for larger rigs or off-grid cabins, this comprehensive kit includes four 100W polycrystalline panels, a 30A PWM charge controller, mounting hardware, and wiring. It can be expanded up to 1600 watts as needed.
  7. Renogy 200 Watt 12 Volt Eclipse Solar Panel RV Kit: With its sleek, all-black design and high-efficiency monocrystalline panels, this kit is a stylish and reliable choice for medium to large RVs. It includes a 30A PWM charge controller, mounting brackets, and wiring.
  8. Go Power! GP-PSK-120 120 Watt Portable Solar Kit: Another great portable option, this lightweight kit features folding 120-watt panels, a 10A PWM charge controller, and a carrying case – perfect for small RVs or as an emergency backup.
  9. Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel Kit: For RVs with limited roof space or curved surfaces, this flexible panel kit is a great solution. It includes a 100W monocrystalline panel, 10A PWM charge controller, and wiring.
  10. ALLPOWERS 100 Watt Solar Panel Kit with 20A LCD Charge Controller: This user-friendly kit features a high-efficiency monocrystalline panel and a 20A LCD charge controller with dual USB ports, making it ideal for small to medium RVs or as a portable power station.

Charge Controllers: PWM vs. MPPT


The charge controller is a crucial component of any RV solar kit, regulating the flow of electricity from the panels to the batteries and preventing overcharging. There are two main types of charge controllers: PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) and MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking).

PWM controllers are simpler and more affordable, essentially acting as an electronic switch to control the charging current. They work by matching the voltage of the solar array to that of the batteries and gradually reducing the charge as the batteries approach full capacity.


MPPT controllers are more advanced and efficient, using complex algorithms to optimize the power output of your solar array. They can adjust the voltage and current to extract the maximum power from the panels, which can result in 20-30% more energy harvested compared to PWM controllers [3]. This makes MPPT controllers the preferred choice for larger RV solar setups or those in less-than-ideal sun conditions.

When choosing a charge controller, consider the size of your solar array and battery bank, as well as your budget and efficiency needs. A good rule of thumb is to select a controller with a current rating that is at least 25% higher than your solar array’s maximum output to allow for future expansion.


Battery Options for RV Solar Kits


The batteries in your RV solar kit serve as the storage tank for all the energy generated by your panels. There are two main types of batteries used in RV applications: lead-acid and lithium-ion.

Lead-acid batteries, including flooded, gel, and AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) varieties, have been the traditional choice for RVs due to their affordability and reliability. They do require regular maintenance, however, and can be heavy and bulky compared to lithium-ion batteries.


Lithium-ion batteries, particularly LiFePO4 (lithium iron phosphate), are becoming increasingly popular among RVers thanks to their lightweight design, longer lifespan, and faster charging capabilities. They also have a higher depth of discharge, which means you can use more of their total capacity without damaging the battery. The main drawback of lithium-ion batteries is their higher upfront cost, although prices have been steadily decreasing in recent years.


When sizing your battery bank, consider your daily power usage and the number of days you want to be able to go without recharging. As a general rule, aim for a battery capacity that is at least double your daily power needs to ensure you have ample reserves for cloudy days or unexpected usage.

Proper maintenance is crucial for maximizing the lifespan and performance of your RV batteries. This includes regularly checking fluid levels (for flooded lead-acid batteries), cleaning terminals, and avoiding deep discharges or overcharging. Many modern charge controllers and battery monitors include built-in protection features to help prevent damage and extend battery life.


Inverters: Pure Sine Wave vs. Modified Sine Wave


The inverter in your RV solar kit is responsible for converting the DC power stored in your batteries into the AC power needed to run your appliances and electronics. There are two main types of inverters: pure sine wave and modified sine wave.

Pure sine wave inverters produce a smooth, continuous waveform that closely mimics the AC power you’d get from a household outlet. This makes them compatible with all types of electronics, including sensitive devices like computers, TVs, and medical equipment. They’re also more efficient and produce less heat than modified sine wave inverters.


Modified sine wave inverters, on the other hand, produce a choppy, stepped waveform that can cause issues with certain electronics. They may cause buzzing or humming in audio equipment, reduced efficiency in motors, and even damage to sensitive devices over time. However, they are generally more affordable than pure sine wave inverters and can still work well for basic appliances like lights and fans.

For most RV solar setups, a pure sine wave inverter is the recommended choice for its compatibility, efficiency, and overall performance. When sizing your inverter, consider the maximum wattage of all the AC appliances you plan to run simultaneously, and choose an inverter with a continuous output rating that exceeds that total by at least 20% to provide a safety buffer.


Installing Your RV Solar Kit


Installing an RV solar kit can be a daunting task for those new to electrical work, but with careful planning and attention to detail, it’s a project that many handy RVers can tackle themselves. That said, if you’re not confident in your abilities or just want the peace of mind of a professional installation, there’s no shame in hiring a qualified technician to do the job.

If you do decide to go the DIY route, start by thoroughly reading all the instructions provided with your solar kit and familiarizing yourself with the components. Make a detailed wiring diagram and double-check all your connections before beginning the installation.


When mounting your solar panels, choose a location that receives maximum sun exposure throughout the day, and avoid shading from trees, rooftop accessories, or other obstructions. Secure the panels using sturdy mounting brackets, and use weatherproof connectors and wiring to ensure a long-lasting, trouble-free installation.

For the electrical connections, always use properly sized wires and fuses to prevent overheating or damage to your components. Connect the solar panels to the charge controller, then the charge controller to the batteries, and finally the inverter to the batteries. Make sure all connections are tight and secure, and use cable clamps or zip ties to keep wiring neat and organized.


Before flipping the switch on your new solar setup, double-check all your wiring and connections, and consult your kit’s manual for any specific startup procedures. If something doesn’t seem to be working properly, troubleshoot each component individually before contacting the manufacturer or a professional for assistance.


Maximizing the Efficiency of Your RV Solar Setup


Getting the most out of your RV solar kit requires more than just a quality installation – it also means optimizing your setup for maximum efficiency. One of the most important factors is the positioning of your solar panels. Ideally, they should be tilted toward the sun at an angle equal to your latitude, and adjusted seasonally to account for changes in the sun’s path [4]. Using a motorized tilt kit or adjustable mounting brackets can make this process easier and more precise.

Keeping your panels clean and free from dust, dirt, and debris is also crucial for maintaining optimal performance. Use a soft brush or cloth to gently clean the panels as needed, and avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could scratch or damage the surface.


In addition to optimizing your solar setup, you can also maximize efficiency by using energy-efficient appliances and lighting throughout your RV. LED bulbs, for example, use a fraction of the power of traditional incandescent bulbs and can significantly reduce your overall energy consumption. Opting for propane-powered appliances like refrigerators and stoves can also help lighten the load on your solar setup.

Finally, regularly monitoring your power consumption and battery levels can help you identify any inefficiencies or potential issues before they become major problems. A good battery monitor will display your current power usage, battery voltage, and remaining capacity, allowing you to make adjustments as needed to keep your system running smoothly.


Real-Life Examples and Success Stories


To illustrate the real-world benefits of RV solar kits, let’s take a look at some examples and success stories from full-time RVers and boondockers.

John and Sarah, a retired couple from Arizona, have been living the RV lifestyle for over five years. They recently upgraded to an 800-watt solar kit with a 600Ah lithium battery bank, which has allowed them to comfortably boondock in remote locations for weeks at a time. “We used to rely on noisy generators and expensive campground fees,” says John. “But now, with our solar setup, we have the freedom to explore off-grid without worrying about running out of power.”


Another full-time RVer, Mike, shares his experience with a 400-watt solar kit on his 25-foot travel trailer. “I was hesitant to invest in solar at first, but it’s been a game-changer for my boondocking adventures,” he says. “I can run my lights, fans, and even my laptop and TV for hours on end without draining my batteries. And the best part is, I’m saving money on campground fees and generator fuel in the long run.”

For those considering an RV solar kit, these experienced boondockers have some advice to share. “Do your research and invest in quality components from reputable brands,” suggests Sarah. “It may cost more upfront, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind and reliability in the long run.”


Mike adds, “Start with a smaller kit and upgrade as needed. You may be surprised at how much power you can generate with just a few hundred watts of solar. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from other RVers – the boondocking community is full of knowledgeable and supportive people who are happy to share their experiences.”


FAQs about RV Solar Kits


  1. Can I run an air conditioner on solar power? While it’s possible to run a small, efficient air conditioner on a large solar setup, it’s generally not practical for most RVers. Air conditioners have a high startup current and require a lot of continuous power, which can quickly drain your batteries. A generator or shore power is usually a better option for running air conditioning.
  2. How long do RV solar panels last? High-quality solar panels can last 25-30 years or more with proper care and maintenance. Most manufacturers offer warranties of 10-25 years on their panels, ensuring that you’ll get plenty of use out of your investment.
  3. Can I install an RV solar kit myself? While it is possible to install an RV solar kit yourself, it does require some basic electrical knowledge and handiness. If you’re not comfortable working with wiring and electrical components, it’s best to hire a professional installer to ensure a safe and reliable setup.
  4. How much does an RV solar kit cost? The cost of an RV solar kit can vary widely depending on the size, components, and brand. A basic 100-watt kit may cost around $200-$400, while a larger 400-800 watt kit with high-end components can range from $1,000-$3,000 or more. Keep in mind that the long-term savings on campground fees and generator fuel can help offset the initial investment.
  5. Do I need to tilt my solar panels? While tilting your panels can help optimize their efficiency, it’s not always necessary or practical. Many RVers find that the convenience of flat-mounted panels outweighs the slight increase in power output from tilting. If you do choose to tilt your panels, adjustable mounting brackets or a motorized tilt kit can make the process easier.



Investing in an RV solar kit is a smart choice for any full-time RVer or boondocker who wants to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of off-grid living. With the right setup, you can harness the power of the sun to keep your rig running smoothly and efficiently, no matter where your adventures take you.


Throughout this guide, we’ve covered everything from the basics of how RV solar kits work to the top products on the market today. We’ve also shared expert tips and real-life success stories to help you make informed decisions about your own solar setup.


Whether you’re a seasoned boondocker or just starting out, remember that going solar is a journey, not a destination. Start with a setup that meets your current needs and budget, and don’t be afraid to upgrade or expand as your power requirements grow. With a little research and planning, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the many benefits of RV solar power for years to come.


So what are you waiting for? Start exploring your RV solar kit options today, and get ready to embark on the off-grid adventure of a lifetime!


References: [1] Fidalgo, J.P., et al. (2019). Thin film photovoltaic applications in RVs: Performance and challenges. Solar Energy, 194, 544-552. [2] Kim, J., et al. (2018). CIGS thin-film solar cells for recreational vehicles (RVs). Applied Sciences, 8(11), 2123. [3] Zhu, Z., et al. (2017). A review of MPPT techniques for photovoltaic systems. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 68, 1-18. [4] Jacobson, M.Z., & Jadhav, V. (2018). World estimates of PV optimal tilt angles and ratios of sunlight incident upon tilted and tracked PV panels relative to horizontal panels. Solar Energy, 169, 55-66.


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