What Type of Solar Panel is Best for my RV?

If you’re looking for a sustainable and cost-effective way to power your RV during your travels, solar panels are definitely worth considering. But with so many options out there, it can be overwhelming to figure out which one is the best fit for your needs.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the most common types of solar panels used for RVs and help you decide which one is right for you. Efficiency, durability, and flexibility are all important factors to consider. When choosing the best solar panel for your RV, think about your power needs, budget, and available space for installation. With the right solar panel, you can enjoy all the benefits of solar energy during your adventures.

The Main Types Of Solar Panels For RVs

If you’re considering using solar panels to power your RV, it’s important to understand the different types available and their features. As of today in 2023, there are two main types of solar panels RVers consider using for their RV solar system: monocrystalline solar panels and polycrystalline solar panels.

A single monocrystalline solar cell

Monocrystalline Panels: These panels have a higher efficiency rate, which allows for a greater amount of power generation in a smaller space. Monocrystalline panels use a single silicon crystal structure, which allows for a more efficient flow of electrons. This efficiency comes at a higher cost but can offer better performance within a limited installation space.

Polycrystalline solar panel showing the flakes of solar wafer in a cell.

Polycrystalline Panels: Polycrystalline solar panels consist of multiple fragmented silicon crystals fused together. While they may have a slightly lower efficiency compared to monocrystalline panels, they offer a more affordable option for RV owners who need a lower-cost alternative for generating solar electricity.

In addition to the rigid mono and poly panels, there are also flexible solar panels, which claim they can be installed on curved surfaces or in areas with limited space. Flexible panels are typically less efficient but offer more installation versatility, but their longevity is poor and your overall investment doesn’t go as far as with a ridged panel.

Rigid monocrystalline panels are by far the most recommended for RVs, as the claim is that they are “more efficient,” but a 100-watt panel is a 100-watt panel regardless if it’s a mono or poly panel. The only difference is that the poly panel will be about a third larger for the same wattage. Don’t let the claim of “better efficiency” for marketing speak deter you from other options.

Other Types of Solar Panels

CIGS Solar Panels

CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide) solar panels are a type of thin-film solar panel that has gained popularity for their lightweight and flexible properties. They aren’t made with the same crystalline structure as a monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panel which gives them an advantage. They are better in low light and high temp areas but comparable in direct sunlight as a crystalline panel. Their ability to produce more power at low light and higher temps means they are more efficient by between 10 & 15%. However, the number of CIGS producers is limited, so the price per watt is rather high.

We would recommend that you consider CIGS type solar panels if you were hard-set on a flexible panel mounted to your RV. We suggest that you completely avoid mono flexible style solar panels, as you’ll be replacing those panels in as little as 3 years.

Amorphous Solar Panels

Amorphous solar panels, also known as thin-film solar panels, are made by depositing a thin layer of silicon onto a substrate. The manufacturing process is less resource-intensive, resulting in lower production costs. However, their efficiency rates are significantly lower than traditional solar panels (7-10%). Due to their low efficiency, they may not be the best option for RV owners looking for quick and substantial energy gains. Since they have a lower efficiency, you’ll need a VERY large amorphous solar panel as compared to a crystalline style panel.

Monocrystalline Flexible Solar Panels

Flexible solar panels offer an advantage as they are very lightweight and easy to move.  But we don’t recommend using a flexible solar panel on the roof of your RV unless you’re using a CIGS technology solar panel. The common monocrystalline flexible solar panel is better served as a portable-style solar panel that is easy to move around. Just pick a manufacturer that limits how much the panel can bend. A good, stiff backing plate goes a long way. We see claims they can bend up to 30%, but we’d suggest never bending the panel at all.

Also, these panels, when attached to an RV, have little airflow under them, reducing their already low efficiency even further. And what’s worse is that they can heat up so much when attached to the RV that flexible solar panels can leave burn marks. For these several reasons, we suggest that you skip mounting crystalline style solar panels to your RV.

Check out this video I found while researching when the solar panel caught fire: Our RV Solar Panels Caught on Fire

Factors to Consider When Choosing Solar Panels For Your RV

When shopping for solar panels for your RV, there are several factors to consider to ensure you make the right choice. One important consideration is the supplier you choose to purchase from. It’s a good idea to buy from a supplier who has been in business for a while and has a good reputation, as this can give you peace of mind that you’re getting a quality product. Additionally, make sure the supplier offers a warranty on their solar panels and is willing to back it up.

Another factor to consider is the type of solar panel you choose. As we mentioned earlier, there are several types of solar panels available, including monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and CIGS panels. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to do your research and choose the type that best meets your needs.

When considering the type of solar panel, also look at the connectors used. Connectors are important because they link the solar panels together and connect them to the charge controller. Make sure the connectors are high-quality and compatible with how you’re setting up your solar system. You could even get panels without a connector and make your own connections.

Finally, consider the voltage of the solar panels. Most RV solar panels are rated at 12 volts, but some are rated at 24 volts. Choosing the right voltage depends on your charge controller, your RV’s electrical system, and your power requirements.

SIDE NOTE: Solar panels sold at 12 or 24 volts produce more voltage than 12 or 24, but are intended for a 12 or 24 volt system. 12-volt panels will produce between 20 and 24-volts, while a 24-volt panel will produce around 36-volts.

Get Solar Panel Kits Instead of DIYing Your Own

When it comes to choosing solar panel kits for your RV, there are several top brands and options to consider. One popular choice among RV owners is the Renogy 200-Watt 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Starter Kit. This kit provides reliable power for off-grid trips and includes all the necessary components to set up your solar system. The high-quality monocrystalline panels ensure excellent efficiency and performance.

Another excellent option in solar panel kits for RVs is the WindyNation 100-Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid RV. This kit is designed to generate clean, renewable energy that can power your RV’s electrical system. It comes with all the required components and offers an easy installation process.

For those seeking flexible solar panels, Renogy’s Flexible Solar Panel is a worthy option to consider. Its flexibility allows for easier mounting on a curved roof and makes it ideal for use on your RV. The lightweight and thin design also contribute to its popularity among RV owners.

In addition to Renogy and WindyNation, the Goal Zero Boulder 100 solar panel kit is another top pick. This kit features a robust design, making it perfect for handling the rigors of the RV lifestyle. The built-in kickstand allows for easy positioning, ensuring optimal exposure to the sun.

Lastly, the HQST 100 watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Kit is an excellent choice for its affordability and high quality. This kit provides all the necessary components to set up an off-grid solar system, as well as user-friendly instructions to help you through the installation process.

Solar Panels Are Just One Component To Your Solar System

Selecting the best solar panel for an RV depends on several factors, including the power requirements, available space, and individual preferences. When evaluating solar panels, consider your space, who makes it, and the type you want to use.

One effective type of solar panel for RVs is the monocrystalline solar panel. These panels are known for their high efficiency, durability, and excellent performance in varied light conditions. Polycrystalline solar panels serve as an affordable alternative, although they might have slightly lower efficiency levels compared to monocrystalline panels, but remember a 100-watts is 100-watts.

In some instances, flexible solar panels could be a suitable choice for curved RV rooftops, as they enable adjusting panel angles to facilitate efficient solar energy absorption. However, it is essential to note that flexible panels might not be as durable as rigid panel types and CIGS style of panels should be considered over crystalline style flexible panels.

A well-planned solar system for an RV should incorporate an off-grid solar kit. Such kits typically consist of essential components like solar panels, a charge controller, and an inverter. For a streamlined setup, an RV solar kit with a 30-amp charge controller can provide adequate power regulation for most RV applications, ensuring the system functions efficiently and safely.

Happy planning your solar system and if you need help just reach out. We’re happy to see more solar systems then generators when we’re out and about.

Scroll to Top