Adding solar power to your RV, boat or other home away from home is a great way to protect your house batteries from death by over-draining.
In addition, once these systems have been in use for a time, they will have paid for themselves and just keep producing.
Below are several solar energy options for your traveling rig, including solar panel kits. Depending on your travel goals and the conditions under which your solar needs to produce, any of these solar-power systems could keep your home powered up.
Renogy 200-Watt Solar Panel Kit
The Renogy 200-Watt Solar Panel Kit is a great start to a solar-power unit that you intend to take up to 400 watts.
This kit includes two 100 watt 12 volt portable solar panels for rvs, a 30 amp controller, a 20 ft adaptor kit, cable, connectors and two sets of Z-brackets.
Depending on your rig, these panels will easily fit on your roof and will be protected from extreme vibration thanks to the z-brackets. In addition, the junction box with this kit offers protection against low pressure water jets. The panels are framed in corrosion resistant aluminum, making them a great choice for water applications.
Go Power 120-Watt Portable Solar Kit
The Go Power! GP-PSK-120 offers those with small rigs or limited boat space a great option for keeping house batteries powered up. The panels fold for easy storage and come with folding legs to maximize solar efficiency.
These framed solar panels come with a 10 amp solar charge controller, easy to install battery clamps, multiple solar plug adapters, 12 feet of cable for easy relocation, and a nylon storage case. If you need to fold up and go to the next campsite, this is a great solar kit for your rig.
This kit weighs in at just over 33 pounds. While Go Power! does offer kits for marine applications, this kit is a better fit for those traveling over land.
Grape Solar 200-Watt Polycrystalline Solar Kit
This kit is designed to provide plenty of power and can easily be expanded up to 3 more 100 watt panels. These panels are built to be mounted rather than moved to collect the most sun possible.
Once mounted, the Grape Solar kit offers a limited amount of cable from panels to controller and from controller to batteries. While this kit may be a terrific tool for anyone looking to start out with a basic solar system, it won’t serve for the small RV traveler who doesn’t have the ability or the space to mount the panels for off grid power.
It should be noted that the installation instructions linked at the Grape Solar website offer even the most inexperienced novice a basic understanding of how to wire up their first solar energy system. If you’re sure you plan to DIY this installation, Grape Solar can help you understand the basics.
Go Power 200-Watt Flexible Solar Panel Kit
The Go Power Solar Flex GP-Flex-200 is designed for both RVs and boats but is listed under their Marine Application. These very lightweight and flexible monocrystalline pv panels can be glued to a variety of surfaces.
It should be noted flexible solar panels are not infinitely flexible and can be damaged by being bent at more than a curve of 30 degrees. It’s also important to note that if you plan to use these as part of a portable system, it’s a good idea to mount them to a stabilizing surface. First of all, a stable base will protect them from wind damage or loss. Secondly, if you have them affixed to something a bit heavier, you’ll be less inclined to lift them with one hand and bend them beyond a safe arc or curve.
If you choose to put these flexible solar panels to work as a portable system for your rv, you can easily create your own foldable solar panel set-up with lighter-weight products than the traditional aluminum framing. Of course, you may have to stake your off grid power source in this instance; a flat surface is easily picked up by the wind, and if your panels turn into kites, cables and connectors may be damaged before you can catch everything.
Eco-Worthy 100-Watt Bendable Solar Panel Kit
Eco-Worthy has become wary of referring to any products that are bendable and instead offer semi-flexible monocrystalline pv panels for those dealing with curved surfaces or users in need of lightweight panels.
This solar-power supplier offers a variety of both flexible and foldable solar panel components, but it’s important to note that anyone using these products needs to have a solid knowledge base. The act of combining panels in series is better explained by Grape Solar demonstration videos than is available from the Eco-Worthy site.
The being said, once you have a solid knowledge base of solar power (or a little help) you can put together a basic solar system very quickly with the wide variety of products available from Eco-Worthy. You’ll find power storage options from lead acid batteries you can maintain to sealed deep cycle batteries.
A Word About Safety
Using portable solar panels for rvs to act as a battery charger for batteries of any sort is not a process that should be undertaken lightly. Even the most skilled electrician can be shocked and may injure themselves or ruin their new solar equipment.
No matter your concerns about expense or your desire to do this on your own, there are components in these systems that can be terribly dangerous. For example, batteries contain acid and will outgas over time. If battery cells are allowed to run dry, you may burn up your lead acid batteries and be forced into an expense you weren’t prepared to handle.
Keep An Eye On Your Power Goals And Panel Weight
Light, flexible solar panels can become kites in a strong wind.
Should your panels take flight, your nifty new battery charger system may be reduced to a scratched, damaged piece of plastic.
Also, if you’re planning to start small and expand your system, be aware that you may need to purchase a new solar charge controller at some point. The power coming from your panels is DC or direct current. Anything that plugs in with a two or three pronged standard household plug requires alternating current to function properly. An undersized charge controller may provide more resistance than you want as your system expands.
A small solar power system for your RV or boat is relatively inexpensive and quite simple to put together. With the right manufacturer, it’s also easy to expand so you can cover more of your power needs or have enough left for rainy days. Rather than struggling with the noise and disruption of a generator, you could hang out under the sun and watch your batteries charge up!