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Best Briefcase Solar Panels for RV Batteries

The RV life is all about freedom and traveling with your own lodging but this power. With solar panels you don’t have to start a generator which can be nuisance just charge your batteries.  Most applications in a camper are 12v applications that require DC charge to power so with a sufficient solar panel system you will be able to charge your devices, use others during the day and reserve enough power in your battery to use at night.

A Solar panel system will provide a slow and steady charge to your battery (this is how batteries are made to be charged).  This ensures the batteries last longer and won’t die out.  Solar Chargers is also a great additional emergency kit that can ensure your car batteries, phone, powerstation and RV batteries are charged up when boondocking  without having to worry about being stuck.

We looked at dozens of solar panels and we’ve listed five that we think made the cut. We take at a look at why later in the article.

 RenogyRockpalsTP SolarEco worthyZamp
Full Size54.4*19.9 in17.32* 68.11 in22.4*51.9721.5*62.232.4*21.5
Folded Size27.2*19.9 in17.32*14.57 in11*7.821.5*14.616.2*21.5
Weight26.6 lb10.8 lb5.1 lb9 lbs39lbs

Features of a great Solar Charger for RV Batteries

Solar Panel

100 Watt Solar Panel will be efficient for the job as it can provide up to 500Wh on 4 hours of direct sunlight per week.  That’s around 6 amps per during a peak sun hour or around 30 amps hours daily.

This system will also be less bulky as the more you go hire the more panels will be added.  A monocrystalline Solar Panels perform better in low-light conditions.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels are the more preferred options as they have better efficiency and take up less space. Thin Film Panels which are lighter and more flexible don’t have great performance and output declines over time.  

Charge Regulator/Controller

A Solar Charge controller is important for the system as it ensures the battery is protected from overcharging, reverse discharge, overload protection and short circuit protection.

It also allows you to monitor the power output of the Solar panel.  

Most Charge Controller are not waterproof and should be mounted inside the RV where it cannot get wet.

Installation

Large Solar Panel Systems are complicated and require experts to install for an efficient system and avoid a faulty one. Lucky for you even assistance from a technician or even without expertise in this you can easily set up this system.

The process is easy and will take up less than 5 minutes of your time. Since the panels are folded up into a case you just need to unpack them from the case, unfold the panels and adjust the tilt legs and set them on ground facing sunlight.

You can also place the panels on the roof of the RV. But the kickstands can also be mounted on the ground to allow you to free up your roof . Some panels come with Metal eyes to hook on trees or on the side of the RV.

You will then hook it up to your system using the SAE connector or attach the wiring directly to the battery using the alligator clips.

Portable and Foldable

RVs are all about flexibility and independence and you don’t want to carry around a bulky system that occupies a lot of space and not easy to move around with.  A foldable solar panel allows you to save up space – one that folds up to a suitcase with a handle allows you to move around with it just as you would a briefcase.  This allows you to move it around and make sure you mount the panels where there is a lot of sunshine.

Kickstand

A ground mounted panel performs better that a panel placed flat on the roof of the RV or a panel that is hooked to the side. This because the tilt angle is the more optimum position to get more out of sunlight. A Solar panel with adjustable tilt legs will allow you to change the positioning of the panels with at the optimum angle.

Voltage

The RV system is a 12v battery system this however does not mean that you should get a 12v Solar panel. The panels should have a higher rated voltage than the battery this is because the panels voltage may drop in case bad weather and may not charge the batteries. A panel rated between 16 and 19.5 volts will ensure the battery is continually charged.  A voltage system below 21 volts also ensures that you avoid electrical shock.

Waterproof

A waterproof or Water resistant panel is a must as you will be using it in the outdoors. In case of rain or dumpy conditions you won’t need to worry about leaving the panels outside.

Cables and Wiring

Getting power to your batteries is the goal of the system and this is where the wiring comes in.  An SAE connector allows you to plug in the power to your DC system.  You may also need alligator clips just in case you need to hook the panels directly to your batteries. 

The Solar Panels should also come with MC4 connectors that allow you to connect to other panels in parallel or series in case you need to upgrade the system.  Long cables also help you stay in the shade while the panels are mounted where there is sufficient sunlight. 

Ecoworthy 120W Foldable Solar Panel

If you are looking for a budget high performance light weight Solar Panel then the Ecoworthy 120 Watt panel is the one you.  While most 100 watt panels weight 20 lbs or more this solar kit comes it at just under 10 lbs.  This reduces your effort in moving the panels for mounting and make them truly portable.

Made for DC charging it comes with 10 DC Adapters that are compatible with most power stations including Jackery and Goal Zero power stations and most laptops.  It also comes with a 20A charge controller with two 5V USB ports that you can use to charge your phone or tablet.

The Charge controller comes with a LCD Display screen that allows you to monitor the output from the solar panel.  Some controllers don’t have a display and it is hard to tell sometimes if the system is working only to find out once you realized the battery was not charged.

To get more energy out of the panel you use the tilting kickstand that allows you to get 25% more energy than a flat panel. However in case you are unable to use the kickstand for whatever reason you can use the 4 buckles to hang on your RV or Caravan.

Pros

Easy to Store

Can charge Power stations

Portable

Sufficient amount of energy

Charge Deepcyle Flooded, AGM and Lithium Ion batteries.

Cons

No bracket to adjust the tilting angle

The Ecoworthy 120 Watt Solar Panel kit is also a great starter kit for Solar enthusiasts and you just need to add a 30 ah Lithium battery to have a full solar kit.

Renogy 100 Watt Solar Panel Kit

Built for Battery Charging the Waterproof PWM Charge Controller has 5 stage charging process – Soft start, bulk, absorption, equalization and float. This ensures overcharge protection and can leave the system charging your battery without having to worry about it spoiling you batteries. 

You can also use it safely for your boat battery as well and maintain most types of deepcyle batteries.  It is compatible with AGM, Gel and Lithium batteries.  

With an Aluminum frame, a heavy duty handle and a protective casing it’s built for longevity and can endure rough handling of the outdoors. The protective casing also makes sure you can move around with the panels without incurring any damaging the sensitive panels with corner protectors and ionized frame.

Its Foldable Design features two 50 watt panels that combine to make the 100 watt panel. The waterproof charge controller is mounted at the back with the IP65 rated junction box.  

Pros

Sturdy Design

Portable and foldable

Waterproof Charge Controller

Inbuilt Kickstand

Cons

Weighs just under 30 lbs

Rockpals RPO82 100 Watt Foldable Panels

Rockpals RPO82 portable panels is a panel for your portable devices.  With 5 different sizes DC connectors it is compatible with most power stations. It also has a 24 watt USB 3.0 and a 15W USB for Type C devices that can fast charge smartphones and tablets.  This means you won’t have to wait long for it to charge your phone, if you hook up your phone when there is plenty of sunshine you can get an iPhone up to 50%in just under 30 minutes or less.

The Parallel connector allows you to connect two solar panels for twice the power.

Great for the outdoors it is built with oxford material and is waterproof and can withstand all weather conditions. It is also made with a highly efficient monocrystalline panel that performs well in cloudy conditions.  It is mountable with a kickstand or metal eyes that you can hook up on your RV or trees.

Pros

Compatible with most power stations

Foldable into a briefcase

Fast charging for phones

Comes with 4 in 1 cable and Parallel adapter cable

Cons

Does not come with a charge controller

Price

TP 100 Watt Solar Foldable Solar Panel Charger

With dual 5v USB ports (2.0 and 3.0) and a 19-25v output the TP Solar Panel Charger will not only charge your RV Batteries but will also charge your phone and tablet and is great option for charging laptops with adaptors that is compatible for most pcs. An in built smart ic chip in the solar panel detects the device plugged in and ensure maximum charging speed for the device. 

A great emergency companion when going offgrid the 14.5V DC output that can directly charge your car with a cigarette lighter or the alligator clips. If you are using you car when camping you can avoid having to jump a dead battery using this panel to top off the battery and ready to go.

Weighing at just around 5 pounds it is a light weight foldable solar panel that is easy to carry. It is made of EFTE Material making it waterproof and durable.

Pros

Light weight

Compatible with most pcs and laptops

Easy to carry

Waterproof

Cons

Low wattage compared to its rating

Zamp Solar 140 Watt Solar Panel

If you have one of the new versions of campers that come with a Zamp Solar port already pre-installed this may be the solar panel for you.  This is a high capacity 18 volt solar panel that can produce up to 7.8 amps.

Made in bend, Oregon this panels are handcrafted for rugged use in the outdoors . Th 1e Zamp 140 watt solar panel can produce sufficient energy even in cloudy conditions.

It is an easy to install you just have to unzip the case and unfold the panels. Pull out the legs of the kickstand and place at a favorable position.  You can use the SAE connector to connect the Zamp port or use the alligator clips directly on your batteries.

Pros

High Capacity

Easy to install

Weather resistant charge controller

Cons

Pricey compared to the other solar panels

Solar energy advantages in recent technology have allowed portable solar panels to become an easy way to utilize solar power on the go..Solar panels are quiet, clean, and simple to use. They typically have few moving parts, so there is very little that can break or need repair or maintenance. The panels produce DC current by converting sunlight and some even work in shade and on cloudy days. Installing a solar panel system will maximize the life of an RV’s batteries.

Looking for a Solar Battery Maintainer for your RV?

Solar Car Battery Chargers

The Main Components of an RV Solar System

When purchasing a solar system for an RV, one important consideration is that these solar systems are different that those installed in traditional homes. This is mostly because RVs are different than traditional homes so weight, durability, and efficiency need to be factored in.There are three primary types of solar panels. These are the poly-crystalline or multi-crystal, the amorphous or thin film, and the mono-crystalline or single crystal. Even though the technology behind each of these is much the same, the manufacturing processes can be quite different resulting in very different efficiency ratings.

For optimum performance, solar panels must be facing directly south (called azimuth). Ideal tilt angles change with latitude. In Arizona, solar panels should be angled at about 33 degrees (called tilt). A slightly steeper tilt in the winter (50-60 degrees) and lower tilt in the summer (8-15 degrees) further improves energy production. Therefore, the further north you travel, the higher the ideal tilt angle becomes.

RV and Marine solar systems are simple and require three main components. The first is the Solar Panel itself. For this application the panel should produce 16v-21v dc.The second component is a simple charge controller  which prevents battery overcharging. The controller should be sized correctly for the type and number of solar panels. The third component is a suitable mounting system. A mounting system that enables adjustable tilt is highly recommended. Drill some holes in your roof, add a few lengths of 10awg wire and a connection to the accessory batteries and you’re in business. Or, avoid your drilling anxiety  and go portable.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  1. Does Sunlight intensity influence how much power comes from the solar panels?

    Yes, Solar Panels produces energy according to how bright the sunlight is. The brighter the sunlight the more power it can produce.

  2. What is the best time to set up my portable panels?

    Well anytime there is sunlight then you can set up your panels however the solar panels will typically produce 99% of their power three to four hours in the middle of the day i.e between 12-4 pm.

  3. Does tilting Solar Panels produce more power than flat panels?

    Yes, tilting the panels to point directly at the sun greatly improves the performance of the panels. This has been proven to increase efficiency by up to 25%.

  4. Can the wiring influence my solar system?

    The quality of wiring may seem as inconsequential but it very much has consequences. Poor wiring will cause voltage drops so you therefore need the wiring done correctly to keep up the voltage of the system.

  5. Can Solar Panels work in the shade?

    Yes, solar panels can work in the shade but this has an impact of the voltage produced. It is recommend to mount the panels not only away from trees but anything that can cast a shadow including the camper.