Harnessing the Sun: Top Solar Panels for Van Life 2023

best solar panels

Are you looking to power up your campervan or RV with solar energy? If so, solar panels are the way to go. Installing solar panels on your vehicle is a great way to stay off the grid longer and enjoy the home’s comforts while camping.

Solar panels will save you money in the long run and provide clean and renewable energy that is good for the environment.

Do you have an off-grid home, cabin, or tiny house? If so, you are probably familiar with the challenge of finding reliable power sources. An off-grid solar system is a very powerful and effective way to provide your home or cabin with reliable and clean energy. With the right components, you can purchase a system that will provide all of your energy needs.

You can even use it to power larger appliances such as refrigerators, washers and dryers, and air conditioners. When buying solar panels for off-grid living, it is important to remember that some batteries need to be bought separately. Having a solar system and solar panels installed is crucial for generating electricity efficiently.

With so many solar panel options on the market, deciding which solar panel is best for your camper van or RV can be overwhelming. To simplify things, we’ve rounded up some of the best solar panels for mounting on your campervan or RV.

What are the Best Solar Panels?

best solar panels

Below, we’ve rounded up the seven best rigid solar panels for your campervan or RV. All these solar panels come with high reviews and ratings, so you can be sure that whichever one you choose will provide reliable power for all your camping needs.

There are several types of solar panels. However, we only focus on 100w rigid solar panels (monocrystalline solar panels), no flexible panels or solar kits.



What are Rigid Solar Panels?

best solar panels

A rigid solar panel is a type of solar panel that is made from rigid rather than flexible materials. These panels are often used in applications requiring high-performance levels, such as in solar power plants. Or, in our case, a camper van.

Because rigid solar panels are more efficient at capturing sunlight, they can generate more electricity than their flexible counterparts. In addition, rigid solar panels are less susceptible to damage from wind and hail, making them ideal for use in locations where severe weather is common.

While rigid solar panels typically cost more than their flexible counterparts, they offer a number of advantages that make them worth the investment.

Most often, the frame will be constructed of anodized aluminum framing, encasing the monocrystalline cells, and a junction box attached to the back with mc4 connectors ready to be plugged in.

Why Do You Need Solar Panels On Your Campervan?

Installing solar panels on your campervan will convert the solar energy around you during the day. Allowing you to use it in your everyday activities. Solar panels on vans can allow for living and traveling without grid electricity.

Even without direct sunlight, photovoltaic cells on campervans absorb energy. That energy is stored in batteries for you to use on demand. The electricity generated varies from dozens of factors, but even using just one panel, it’s possible to utilize renewable energy.

Solar panels are easy to operate and are definitely worth investing in!

This site contains affiliate links to products. At no cost to you, we may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you do make a purchase, we cannot thank you enough. It keeps our fridge stocked with caviar and champagne. Just kidding, of course, but seriously we genuinely appreciate it when you use our links to make your purchases.



Eco-Worthy 100W Mono

MSRP $112.49

best overall

best solar panels

Overview

An excellent investment for your off-grid needs. It can power anything from RVs and boats down through tents or trailers! You’ll get 500Wh per day when there’s plenty of sunlight available – no need to worry about being left in darkness during those cloudy days on shoreline adventures, either! Tempered glass surface to protect the solar panel from extreme temperatures, dust, and moisture.

Features

  • Efficiency: 19.36%
  • Size: 39.8 x 20.1 x 1.4 in
  • Weight: 19.9 lbs
  • Max Pwr V: 18V
  • Max Pwr Curr.: 5.55A

Pros

  • Highest efficiency rating
  • Smallest footprint
  • Competitively priced

Cons

  • Limited 2-year warranty on materials
  • Heavier panel

Bottom Line

If you are looking for the best and budget-friendly panel, Eco-Worthy is the solar panel. The weight of the panel is negligible when you take into consideration the efficiency and size of the panel.


Rich Solar 100W Mono

MSRP $169.99

best overall runner up

best solar panels for van life or rv

Overview

This 12V off-grid solar panel is an excellent choice for reliable and durable solar panels. This solar panel is certified to withstand challenging environmental conditions and is rated IP 65 or IP 67, making it perfect for use in harsh conditions.

Additionally, the tempered glass and aluminum frame make this solar panel incredibly sturdy and able to withstand high winds and heavy rains. Despite its tough construction, this solar panel can still produce excellent low-light performance on cloudy days, mornings, and evenings.

Features

  • Efficiency: 18.65%
  • Size: 39 x 21.3 x 1.2 in
  • Weight: 15 lbs
  • Max Pwr V: 18.6V
  • Max Pwr Curr.: 5.38A

Pros

  • Great customer service
  • Small footprint
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Cost $$$$

Bottom Line

These solar panels offer excellent efficiency even in low-light conditions. With its extremely lightweight design, this solar panel is perfect for caravans, RVs, boats, or other off-grid applications. Rick Solar is quickly becoming a leading player in the panel industry.


WindyNation 100w

MSRP $99.46

best budget

best solar panels for van life or rv

Overview

It provides up to 100 watts of clean, free, renewable power and is perfect for 12-volt battery charging. An excellent choice for RVs, cabins, homes, boats, backup power, and remote power use. Each 100 Watt solar panel will provide 300-600 Watt Hours of power per day (depending on sunlight availability).

Finally, the 100 Watt solar panel comes with a 5-year warranty on parts and labor and a 25-year power warranty.

Features

  • Efficiency: 18.56%
  • Size: 39.2 x 21.3 x 1 in
  • Weight: 18 lbs
  • Max Pwr V: 18.15V
  • Max Pwr Curr.: 5.51A

Pros

  • Mid-range price for a top-range product
  • Better than most when it comes to its warranty
  • Smaller than others with better efficiency

Cons

  • Heavier than most of the other brands
  • 33.5” 12 AWG cable

Bottom Line

These solar panels will provide plenty of power while not hurting your pocketbook too much. Although these panels are fairly big, if you are limited in space, these may not be your option.


Renogy 100w Monocrystalline

MSRP $124.99

best solar panels for van life or rv

Overview

This monocrystalline solar panel is one of the highest-rated solar panels available today and made from top-tier quality materials, and has an efficiency rating of 22%. It’s waterproof and designed to withstand extreme weather, so it can handle whatever Mother Nature throws.

It comes with pre-drilled holes on the back of the solar panel for easy mounting, making installation a breeze.

Features

  • Efficiency: 17.73%
  • Size: 41.8 x 20.9 x 1.38 in
  • Weight: 14.1 lbs
  • Max Pwr V: 20.4V
  • Max Pwr Curr.: 4.91A

Pros

  • Great customer service
  • Several Renogy mounts are available
  • Pre-drilled holes for easy installation

Cons

  • Cost $$$

Bottom Line

An excellent choice for those looking for an efficient and reliable solar panel. The panels are also equipped to minimize power loss from the partial shade, making them an excellent choice for those living in less-than-ideal sunlight conditions.


Newpowa 100W

MSRP $104.50

best solar panels for van life or rv

Overview

An excellent choice for those looking for a high-quality, durable solar panel, featuring high-performance cells encased in EVA (ethylene-vinyl-acetate), designed to withstand high winds, hail, and snow loads. The high-transparent, low-iron tempered glass is also extremely durable and will help to keep your solar panel looking great for years to come.

Features

  • Efficiency: 17.35%
  • Size: 44.49 x 20.08 x 1.18 in
  • Weight: 14.55 lbs
  • Max Pwr V: 16.77V
  • Max Pwr Curr.: 6.26A

Pros

  • Good price point
  • Middle-of-the-road solar panel

Cons

  • Manufacturer changes dimensions often
  • Large footprint
  • 2yr limited warranty on materials

Bottom Line

Personally, I am not a fan of these panels. Yes, they have a good price, but their quality is inconsistent. Some panels perform decently, while others do not—kind of the luck of the draw when purchasing these panels.


ACOPOWER 100W Mono

MSRP $105.88

best solar panels for van life or rv

Overview

A great choice for those looking for an efficient way to power their off-grid applications. With a daily output of 500WH, this solar panel is perfect for powering RVs, boats, sailboats, yachts, trucks, cabins, campers, tents, trailers, and golf carts.

The 35-inch cables included with each panel make installation a breeze. The pre-installed by-pass diodes minimize power drop caused by shade and ensure excellent performance in low-light environments, with a durable construction that can withstand high wind and snow loads.

Features

  • Efficiency: 17.32%
  • Size: 44.5 x 20.1 x 1.4 in
  • Weight: 12.8 lbs
  • Max Pwr V: 17.48v
  • Max Pwr Curr.: 5.71A

Pros

  • They look awesome
  • Works on cloudy days and when the panel is partially blocked.
  • The frame is pre-drilled for easy installation.

Cons

  • Poor customer service
  • They appear to have shipping issues, with panels arriving damaged
  • Larger than other 100w panels

Bottom Line

From a US-based company, these panels appear to be of solid quality. The black is sleek, although they will be mounted on top of the van or RV, so sleekness is not a plus. Produces suitable wattage from cloudy to sunny days.


Grape Solar 100W

MSRP $104.38

best overall Runner Up

best solar panels for van life or rv

Overview

A reliable and affordable power solution for off-grid applications. With a theoretical capability of collecting 400 WH, or 33.3 AH (12V) of energy in 4 hours under direct sunlight and is capable of powering a wide range of devices. In addition, it comes with an industry-leading 5-year product warranty, making it a safe and reliable investment. Features high transmittance and low iron tempered glass with enhanced stiffness and impact resistance.

This allows it to withstand harsh environmental conditions while providing outstanding electrical performance. Lastly, a unique frame design with strong mechanical strength for up to 50 lbs./square foot wind load and snow load.

Features

  • Efficiency: 17.27%
  • Size: 31.9 x 28.1 x 1.4 in
  • Weight: 15.4 lbs
  • Max Pwr V: 19.12V
  • Max Pwr Curr.: 5.23A
Check Price on Tractor Supply

Pros

  • Great for long-term battery storage
  • Capable of withstanding high snow loads

Cons

  • A lot of complaints of damage upon arrival. However, many folks state the panels still worked well
  • Lower efficiency for a mid-range price point
  • Largest footprint

Bottom Line

They are a clean and efficient power source that can be used in various settings. The panels feature a tempered glass surface designed to withstand the elements, including dust, snow, and even hail.

As van lifers and RVers know, we come across various elements. These are low-maintenance options for generating clean energy.


What is the Best Solar Panel for Van Life or RV?

It’s easy to see the clear winner here. With a calculated efficiency of 19.36% and the smallest footprint, Eco-worthy takes the win. Yes, it is the heaviest panel, but it easily overcomes this downfall against the many solar panels. 

If you are looking for a great panel at a decent price, then look no further than the Eco-worthy 100W solar panel to power your van conversion, RV, cabin, boat, all the way down to your chicken coop.

How Much Solar Do I Need?

A watt is a unit of measurement for power equal to one joule of energy per second. You can use watts to estimate your power because most appliances and devices will have this information listed on them.

To find the total watt-hours consumed each day, you must multiply the watts by the hours used. For example, if you have a 100-watt appliance for 10 hours daily, you would multiply 100 by 10 to get 1,000-watt hours or 1 kilowatt-hour.

You would then do this calculation for all of the appliances and devices you use in a day to arrive at your total estimate. Remember that this is just an estimate, but it can still be helpful in understanding your power consumption.

Your devices and appliances should have a label that tells you how much power they consume. This is either in watts or amps. If it says amps on the label, multiply it by the voltage to get watts.

For example, if a hair dryer says it uses 13 amps, then it uses about 1,600 watts.

(120 volts x 13 watts = 1,560 watts).

How Many Panels Do I Need?

Now that you have an estimated amount of watts consumed in a day. You can calculate how many panels you will need. But, we need to understand how much energy solar panels generate.

One might think that having a 100-watt solar panel in the sun for eight hours would produce 800 watt hours of energy. Unfortunately, it does not always work out that way because weather, season, and location all affect how well solar panels produce energy.

A good rule of thumb is that a 100w solar panel will generate about 350 watt-hours per day. So if you want to know how many panels you need, divide your total daily energy consumption by 350.

Assume you have a daily consumption of 1500w. Your calculation would be:

(1500w / 350w = 4.28)

We know we cannot get a partial panel, so we round up, never round down. So, you’d need 5 x 100w panels for your campervan or RV.

FAQs

best solar panels for van life or rv

What equipment do you need for your off-grid solar system?

Off-grid solar systems are not connected to the power grid and require different equipment than grid-tied systems. The most important component of an off-grid system is the battery, which stores energy for use when the sun isn’t shining. 

A charge controller is also necessary to prevent the battery from being overcharged or damaged. In addition, an inverter is required to convert DC power from the solar panels into AC power that your 120v items can use.

Why are my solar panels not producing much energy?

While solar panels are designed to produce electricity for many years with little maintenance, they occasionally underperform. There are a number of reasons why this may happen, including shading from trees or other buildings, dirt or debris on the panels, snow cover, or malfunctioning components.

If you suspect your solar panels are not performing as well as they should be, the first step is to check for obvious obstructions. If the panels are clean and debris-free, check your electrical connections. If all else fails, call in an expert.

How do I connect my solar panels in series or parallel to my electrical circuit?

If you consider installing solar panels to your camper van or RV, you may wonder how to connect them to your electrical circuit. There are two main options for connecting solar panels: series or parallel.

 In a series connection, the panels are connected in a line, with the positive terminal of one panel connected to the negative terminal of the next panel. This increases the overall voltage of the circuit but does not increase the amperage.

In a parallel connection, each panel is connected directly to the battery, increasing the amperage but not the voltage. Both types of connections have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to carefully consider your needs before making a decision. 

Ultimately, the best way to connect solar panels to your electrical circuit depends on your specific goals and requirements.

Will my panel produce power in overcast or shaded conditions?

The short answer is yes. This photovoltaic panel will produce power in overcast and shaded conditions. The power produced will be less than on a sunny day, but the panel will still generate electricity.

best solar panels for van life or rv

This is because the photovoltaic cells in the panel are designed to convert sunlight into electricity, and they are not reliant on direct sunlight to function. Most photovoltaic cells will still generate some electricity even when it is raining. As a result, this panel can be used to generate power even when the weather is not perfect.

Do my solar panels require maintenance?

Solar panels are a popular choice for those looking to help power their camper van or RV.. Solar panels require little to no maintenance in most cases, making them a low-cost and low-maintenance option for powering your home.

However, you should keep a few things in mind to ensure your solar panels work correctly. First, it’s essential to regularly clean your panels to remove any dirt or debris that could block sunlight from reaching the cells.

best solar panels for van life or rv

Second, you should check the panels periodically for signs of damage, such as cracks or loose connections. If you notice any problems, it’s best to have the panels repaired or by a professional. By following these simple tips, you can help ensure that your solar panels will provide years of trouble-free service.

Can I wash my solar panels?

best solar panels for van life or rv

Solar panels are a great way to generate clean, renewable energy. However, they can become covered with dust and debris, reducing efficiency. While it is possible to wash solar panels, there are a few things to remember.

First, it is important to use a gentle cleanser that will not damage the panel’s coating. 

Secondly, the panel should be rinsed thoroughly with clean water to remove the residual cleanser.

Finally, it is best to avoid washing solar panels in direct sunlight, which could cause the panel to overheat. With these considerations in mind, washing solar panels can be a simple and effective way to keep them operating at peak efficiency.

Conclusion

You want high efficiency and a footprint that works for your project. When it comes to cost, oftentimes, you will get what you pay for. Our best solar panel is top-notch, reputable, and produces a fantastic product that will meet most people’s needs.

So, when you need rigid panels for your camper van or RV, look for Eco-worthy to power your ride.

Author

  • Patrick

    A co-founder of life in utopia, a online platform that celebrates outdoor activities and travel. Patrick is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys skiing, hiking and backpacking. When he's not exploring the natural world, Patrick loves spending time with his wife and two dogs.

Similar Posts