5 Best Solar Panels For Your Camper Van (2022)

22 February, 2020 by Rose

Today we are going to discover the five best solar panels for your camper van to make living off the grid so much easier. Living the van life has seen a massive boom in popularity recently, and we can see why. The sense of freedom it brings and ability to travel endlessly is a dream… until the money runs out. That’s where being a digital nomad comes in, being able to earn your money while simultaneously travelling in a van and completing some of the top road trips is a great way to achieve long term van life travel. There are many ways you could do this; working remotely can be done for many jobs such as coding, graphic design and even private tutoring. However, all of these jobs will need a reliable and consistent power source.

Solar panels are a great way to generate electricity when living in a van and can turn your tiny house into an off grid camper. While the initial investment of installing solar panels may feel like a lot of money, having solar panels means that you don’t need to rely on campsites or noisy and fuel-guzzling generators to have an energy supply. By creating a self-sufficient off grid home, you are reducing your van life costs, saving more money for the fun stuff.

Itching to try out Full Time Van Life? Want to reveal to the world that you’re a weekend warrior? Head over to our brand new Facebook Group! It’s a place to pick up vanlife tips, share ideas, and meet other van life enthusiasts from around the globe!

But How Do They Work?

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Before we dive in and discover the best solar panels for your campervan, let’s find out how these van life essentials work. Each solar panel is made up of many photovoltaic cells. These cells have two layers of a semi-conductive material, usually silicon. The silicon needs to be mixed with other elements to create an electrical field between the top, and bottom layer, the top layer of silicon is combined with phosphorous, adding extra electrons and giving the layer a negative charge. The bottom layer receives boron, reducing the number of electrons and creating a positive charge.

When a photon of sunlight hits these electrons, the electric field pushes the electron out of the silicon. Metal plates on the side of the photovoltaic cells collect the electrons and transfer them to wires when they can be used as regular electricity. What all of this basically means is that you can have free power in your rolling home thanks to good old mother nature (and science). So, let’s have a look at the best solar panels out there for vandwellers.

1. Photonic Universe 300W Solar Panel

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At number one on our list of the best solar panels for your camper van, we have this 300W beauty from Photonic Universe. As this solar panel is 300W, one panel mounted on the roof of your van will probably be enough to charge your whole camper. This is good news, as it keeps the initial cost of setting up your solar electrical system to a minimum as you do not need to buy multiple numbers of panels. The Photonic Universe solar panel is one of the largest on the market, in terms of power produced.

The Photonic Universe solar panel measures 164 x 99 x 3.5 cm and weighs just 15kg, making it small and light enough to fit on the roof of most vans. The panel is completely waterproof and is safe to be used in all weather conditions, good news for full-time vanlifers. This solar panel provides mounting holes for installation but will need to be paired with a mounting kit to fix securely on your van’s roof. Be sure to seal up any holes made when the panel is being fitted to the roof to ensure your camper is watertight.

On the back of the solar panel is a junction box with 1m of special solar cable which can operate at high roof temperatures with minimum power losses, which is excellent news if you plan on travelling through warm climates. A pair of connectors are crimped on the end of the cable for secure connection to other solar panels, extension leads or your existing system, making hooking your solar panel up super easy. This solar panel is an excellent option for full-time vanlifers who want a permanent and constant supply of electricity to their van’s leisure batteries. It costs £249.99.

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2. Renogy 160W Flexible Solar Panel

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Up next on our list of the best solar panels for your camper van, we have an option for people who might not need quite as much power when on their road trip. However, if you have multiple panels, these Renogy Flexible Panels could work for full time, heavy usage. The main benefit of this solar panel, over the Photonic Universe one above is that they are flexible and can bend in up to a 248-degree arc. This is useful if the roof of your van is slightly curved, as your solar panel can bend with it.

As well as being extremely flexible, these Renogy 160W solar panels are very lightweight, up to 70% lighter than conventional solar panels. This is great if you want to keep the weight of your vehicle to a minimum, for fuel-efficient and quicker driving. The solar panel measures 147.6 x 66 x 0.2 cm and is just 1.27 Kg, a fraction of the weight of the Photonic Universe Solar Panel. Due to how light it is, this Renogy solar panel would be suitable if you have a pop-top camper. Usually, a pop-top cannot afford to take the extra weight of a solar panel, but this solar panel is so light that it would be fine.

The Renogy Flexible solar panel is also straightforward to install as it simply needs to be glued to the surface it will be sitting on. This makes upgrading to a solar electrical system easy, even for those without much D.I.Y. knowledge. While this solar panel is light, flexible and easy to install, it doesn’t generate as much power as a standard solar panel and may not last quite as long. The Renogy 160W flexible solar panel comes in at £237.77 and can be found on Amazon.

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3. PPT Powerpack and Solar Charging Kit

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Up next on our list of the best solar panels for your camper van we have an option for people who do not need a permanent solar electricity set up, the PPT Powerpack and Solar Charging kit. This compact but robust solar panel is perfect for propping up outside your camper van or even inside your windscreen while you are out for the day. The solar panel is easy to connect to the large powerpack that provides both A.C. and D.C. power.

Alternatively, if your camper already runs off of a permanent solar set up, then you may find it struggles during long periods of grey and cloudy days. The PPT Powerpack and Solar Panel combination is a great back up for cloudy days, allowing you to save your van’s leisure batteries for essentials such as lights and the fridge. Set up your solar panel and charge your powerpack while it is sunny to have a charging solution for days when you need an extra boost, giving you extra power to charge phones, laptops and cameras.

The solar panel itself is a 60W semi-flexible solar panel that is both lightweight and robust. In fact, this solar panel can be stood on without damaging it, meaning if it gets blown over by the wind or knocked about while on the move it shouldn’t get damaged. The kit also comes with a USB lamp that can run for a solid 133hours off of the battery pack! The PPT Solar Charging Kit with USB lamp comes in at £574.99.

(Video) Top 5 Best RV Solar Kit Review in 2022

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4. SOUL Solar Scroll

Up next on our list of the best solar panels for your camper van we have the SOUL Solar Scroll. The SOUL Solar Scroll isn’t a solar panel that will power your whole motorhome, but it is a handy gadget to have as an extra back up for phone charging and for using when out on the trail. The SOUL Scroll has been launched as a Kickstarter project with tremendous success, having raised over $80,000, way more than their $30,000 goal.

So why is this miniature solar panel so popular? Well, with just four to six hours of charging via the ultra-thin retractable solar panel this compact 300g battery pack can charge a phone 1-2 times, an e-reader 3-5times, a GoPro 4-5 times and even give your MacBook Pro a boost with 1/3 of a full charge. This is useful for the adventurous vanlifer who likes to document their journey while on the go.

The Solar Panel itself is made using copper indium gallium selenide (C.I.G.S.) solar cells, a new technology initially utilised by the military. C.I.G.S. cells have a high performance and efficiency rate and are thought to be the future of solar panel technology. It is, however, an expensive way of building a solar panel and is therefore not yet used on a large commercial scale. As the SOUL Solar Scroll is small, the price is still reasonably low, at $129, find out more on their Kickstarter page.

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5. Sun Store Solar Kit

Last but not least, on our list of the best solar panels for your camper van we have the Sun Store Solar Kit. This is a great kit if you need a bit of extra help when installing a permanent camper solar electrical system as it comes with other essential bits, as well as the solar panel itself. Included in the kit is a 160W solar panel, charge controller, corner mounts, bonding agent, cable entry gland, 5m of 4mm rubber cable, in-line blade fuse holder and fuse, all connectors and instructions.

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The only additional items needed to get a 12v solar system up and running in your camper van is a battery and solar regulator. If you want to run 240v electrics in your campervan, then you will also need an inverter. This kit is an excellent way to buy your solar system if it is your first time installing one as you have all the bits you need, and step by step instructions on how to install it, cutting down the amount of time it will take you to get your system up and running.

The solar panel itself is a 160W solid solar panel, mounted within an aluminium frame. This solar panel would be ideal for full-time usage with items such as a 12v fridge, T.V. and device charging. The solar panel measure 1476mm x 670mm so is small enough to be mounted onto the roof of the van, more than one could fit if this is necessary for your set up. The Sun Store Solar kit costs £362.53, and more information can be found on their website.

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Final Thoughts…

Solar panels are such a great way to travel without worrying about finding the next campsite to recharge your batteries, giving you even more freedom. For us, they are a must when living the van life full time. Hopefully, these solar panels have given you some ideas on how to best equip your camper with an off the grid electrical system that works for you.

If you are looking to install a solar electrical system in your camper conversion, then check out our how to build a camper van e-book for a step by step guide on how to do so. To see more from the Van Clan team and to immerse yourself in all things vanlife, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

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Rose

Full Time Vanlifer 🚐 | Writer, Blogger, Reviewer 💻 | Favourite Place: Sardinia 🇮🇹 🌍 | Sushi Lover 🍣 | Next Location: USA

(Video) Top 10 Best RV Solar Panels Review In 2022

FAQs

Which solar panel is best for campervan? ›

Best Campervan Solar Panels
  • Renogy 200W Solar Panel Kit w/ MPPT Charge Controller.
  • WindyNation 400W Polycrystalline Solar Panel Kit.
  • ALLPOWERS 12V 100W Flexible Solar Panel.
  • Newpowa 12V 200W Monocrystalline Solar Panel.
  • Renogy 12V 100W Foldable Solar Panel Suitcase.
  • HQST 12V 100W Polycrystalline Solar Panel.
14 Jan 2022

Are solar panels on campervans any good? ›

To sum up, solar panels are very effective for a motorhome, as they're relatively cheap, easy to use and eco-friendly.

How big solar system do I need campervan? ›

80Ah is often the highest the smaller vans can go with limited space in the leisure battery area but some of the home builds can cope with a bigger 110Ah or even 2 batteries linked together. Go big or go home is the basic idea.

Are solar panels on van worth it? ›

Yes! I would recommend solar panel for all campervans as it's a freely available power source which will keep your van batteries topped up ready to provide power when you need it.

How many solar panels would it take to power a camper? ›

Most solar panels for RVs are between 100 and 400 watts of power, and an RV needs about 120 watts of energy on average. This means that an RV will need three 400, ten 200 solar panels, or any other combination of power outputs to meet it's typical energy demand of 120 watts.

How long do van solar panels last? ›

Typically, a thin film solar panel will last around ten years, which is less than the average crystalline panel.

How much does a 100w solar panel produce? ›

A 100-watt solar panel will produce between 280-450W per day on average, depending on where you live. They are smaller than standard rooftop solar panels, which are typically between 300 and 450 W each.

How many solar panels do I need to run a caravan? ›

How many caravan solar panels do you need? Solar panels are available in various sizes, each providing a different level of battery charging power. If you need more power, you can install multiple panels. For most caravans, however, the addition of one or two solar panels is usually enough.

Do solar panels work behind glass? ›

The optimum efficiency of solar panels is achieved when they are placed directly under sunlight without any obstructions. Nonetheless, they can be placed behind glass, and they will still perform. The efficiency of solar panels behind glass varies and may be reduced to up to 50% depending on different factors.

How much does a 500 watt solar panel cost? ›

The actual cost of a 500-watt solar panel is about $0.25 per watt. However, soft costs such as hauling, transporting, storing, convenience costs, and other state-specific price adjustment factors, increase this price to $0.7 to $1.50 per watt. That gives us a total of $350 – $750 per solar panel.

What will a 100 watt solar panel run in a RV? ›

A single 100W solar panel in an RV won't run much. It will likely generate enough electricity to charge your small electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, and a lamp. However, you're not going to be powering items like heaters, TVs, or air conditioning units.

How many watts does a campervan fridge use? ›

A compressor fridge uses around 40w of power so to work out how many amps this would be we use the formula (watts divided by volts). Using a 12v van an example 40 divided by 12 = 3.33 amp hours of use. If your battery is 100amp hours then that's 30 hours until the battery is completely dead.

How many solar panels do I need for 20 amps? ›

By multiplying 20 amps by 12 volts, 240 watts is how big of a panel you would need, so we'd recommend using a 300w solar panel or 3 100 watt solar panels.

Is 200w solar enough? ›

The answer is yes. The 200-Watt Solar Panel will still be powerful enough to be used for off-grid applications. So, it can be sufficient for your camping purposes.

How many solar panels do I need for 30 amps? ›

By the rule of thumb, a 100 watt solar panel inputs 30 amp-hours per day into your batteries. So you would need 1.33 100 watt panels, or one 133 watt panel to match your solar power needs.

Will a 100 watt solar panel keep my RV battery charged? ›

Many people have asked us: Can I use a solar battery charger to keep my RV battery charged? The short answer is yes, a solar panel can be used to charge a RV battery.

How many batteries do you need for a solar system? ›

If you want to save the most money possible, you'll need enough battery storage to cover your energy usage when your solar panels aren't producing – somewhere around 2-3 batteries. If you want to keep the power on when the grid is down, you'll usually just need one solar battery.

How many amp hours do I need for my van? ›

As a rule of thumb, you probably want no less than a 400 Amp-hour lead-acid battery system, or a 300 Amp-hour lithium system (lithium can handle the large power draw better than lead acid).

What do you need for solar in a van? ›

To have a complete solar setup you need solar panels for your van, batteries, a charge controller, and an optional (but recommended) automatic charging relay (ACR). Solar is the most popular van electrical system option, and what we would recommend for those planning a van build.

What wattage solar panel do I need? ›

Divide your average hourly wattage requirement by the number of daily peak sunlight hours for your area. This gives you the amount of energy your panels need to produce every hour. So the average U.S. home (900 kWh/month) in an area that gets five peak sunlight hours per day would need 6,000 watts.

How long does it take to charge a 12 volt battery with a 100 watt solar panel? ›

As a general rule, a typical size 12v 50Ah auto battery at 20% discharge will need 2 hours to fully recharge with a 100 watt solar panel. A lead-acid deep-cycle 12v 50Ah battery at 50% discharge will take about 4 hours to fully recharge using a 100 watt solar panel.

Will a 100W solar panel run a fridge? ›

Provided that there is a battery, an average amount of direct sunlight, and no partial shading, a 100 watt solar panel can definitely run a small (1.6-2.5 cubic feet) 12V car refrigerator, and can possibly run a 4.5 cubic feet mini-fridge.

How many 12V batteries can a 100W solar panel charge? ›

If you use a 100 Ah 12V battery, you should be good to go with only one battery. You may assess your power needs for your solar setup and find that you need a larger battery or two batteries. Keep in mind that one 100Ah 12V battery will do the job with one 100 watt 12V solar panel.

How much solar do I need to run a 12V fridge? ›

Most likely, you need to power a 12V fridge, which is smaller. The best size solar panel to run a 12V fridge is 150 Watts into 200 Watts of batteries. That's why a 300-Watt panel system is a great choice since you can be sure to collect and store more than enough energy for a continuous power supply.

Does solar panel charge caravan battery? ›

Most people use solar panels to fully power their caravan during the day, and charge the leisure battery for use at night. A leisure battery, typically 12 volts, is enough to power basic appliances such as kettles, televisions, or even a fridge for hours at a time.

Can I connect a solar panel directly to a battery? ›

But if you are serious and want a good and efficient way, a Solar Charge controller is a must for charging batteries with your trusty solar panel. To wrap it up: Yes, Solar panels can be directly connected to a battery.

Do solar panels work on cloudy days? ›

Photovoltaic panels can use direct or indirect sunlight to generate power, though they are most effective in direct sunlight. Solar panels will still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds.

Do solar panels work in winter? ›

Solar panels work through all four seasons of the year, come rain or shine, or even hail or in light snow. But solar panels do generally produce less energy in winter. That's because the days are shorter, so there are fewer hours of daylight and the sun is lower in the sky, on average.

How do you fit solar panels to a campervan? ›

MMM TV - How to Fit a Solar Panel to a Motorhome - YouTube

Can you use house solar panels on a campervan? ›

Fitting a solar panel to your campervan will give you power wherever you go and best of all, that power is FREE! A solar panel can also be used to keep your leisure battery charged during the winter months if the campervan is not being used.

Is 100w solar panel enough for RV? ›

If it is constantly sunny with no cloud cover, 100-watt solar panels will produce quite a lot of electricity and may be sufficient to supply your RV. However, a 100-watt solar panel output on a cloudy day is very minimal and will not be nearly enough to supply your RV.

What is the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels? ›

The main difference between the two technologies is the type of silicon solar cell used. Monocrystalline solar panels have solar cells made from a single silicon crystal. On the other hand, Polycrystalline solar panels have solar cells made of many pieces of silicon melted together.

How many watts of solar do I need? ›

Divide your average hourly wattage requirement by the number of daily peak sunlight hours for your area. This gives you the amount of energy your panels need to produce every hour. So the average U.S. home (900 kWh/month) in an area that gets five peak sunlight hours per day would need 6,000 watts.

What happens if you connect solar panel directly to battery? ›

Don't connect a solar panel directly to a battery.

Doing so can damage the battery. Instead, connect both battery and solar panel to a solar charge controller.

Do you need an inverter for van solar panels? ›

Inverter: You might need to add an inverter into the campervan solar set up. The power drawn from your solar panels, used by your batteries, will most likely be a 12V DC current. An inverter like this one will change this to a 120V AC current, so that things like a fridge, TV, heater, or microwave can use it.

How much does a 100W solar panel produce? ›

A 100-watt solar panel will produce between 280-450W per day on average, depending on where you live. They are smaller than standard rooftop solar panels, which are typically between 300 and 450 W each.

How long does it take to charge a 12 volt battery with a 100 watt solar panel? ›

As a general rule, a typical size 12v 50Ah auto battery at 20% discharge will need 2 hours to fully recharge with a 100 watt solar panel. A lead-acid deep-cycle 12v 50Ah battery at 50% discharge will take about 4 hours to fully recharge using a 100 watt solar panel.

How long will a 100W solar panel take to charge a 100Ah battery? ›

Since your 100Ah, 12V battery requires 1200 watt-hours to be fully charged, this means a single solar panel rated at 100W will be able to charge your battery in three five-hour days.

How much solar do I need to run a 12V fridge? ›

Most likely, you need to power a 12V fridge, which is smaller. The best size solar panel to run a 12V fridge is 150 Watts into 200 Watts of batteries. That's why a 300-Watt panel system is a great choice since you can be sure to collect and store more than enough energy for a continuous power supply.

What solar panels are the most efficient? ›

Panels built using high-cost IBC cells are currently the most efficient (20-22%) due to the high purity N-type silicon substrate and no losses from busbar shading.

Which solar panel is the best? ›

The most efficient solar panel currently available in the U.S. is the SunPower A-series, which has 22.80% efficiency. Panasonic and Silfab Solar earn the best consumer reviews; they both have review scores of 4.84 out of 5.00. The best American-made solar panels are from LG Solar, Silfab Solar, and Q Cells.

Which type of solar panel is most efficient? ›

Monocrystalline panels have the highest efficiency rating of any type of solar panel, reaching over 20%. This means that these can convert 20% of sunlight into usable energy. Polycrystalline panels are within the average range, hitting around 15% – 17%.

How much does a 500 watt solar panel cost? ›

The actual cost of a 500-watt solar panel is about $0.25 per watt. However, soft costs such as hauling, transporting, storing, convenience costs, and other state-specific price adjustment factors, increase this price to $0.7 to $1.50 per watt. That gives us a total of $350 – $750 per solar panel.

What can a 500 watt solar panel run? ›

A 500 watt solar panel system will typically have an inverter that is at least 400 watts or bigger so that you can charge basic appliances and electronics such as laptops, lights and a small fridge.

How much does a 300w solar panel cost? ›

300-watt solar panel prices
BrandModelPrice
RenogyRNG-300D$307
Grape SolarGS-M60-300-US$350 (2 for $700)
10 Feb 2022

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