It would be hard to truly get “off the grid” without some sort of solar panel setup. Often times, this liberating component of a campervan/RV setup seems like a daunting challenge to some (it’s slightly different than an off-grid home solar solution). Instead of diving into the particulars of each and every component, you can simply choose an all-in-one solar panel kit.
For many, a 100 watt solar panel is more than enough to meet a mid-range power demand. This way, as long as there is available sunlight, there is also access to a free supply of electricity to charge phones, run lights, small accessories (via an inverter), and more. But not every photovoltaic panel/kit is equal– so we decided to review and report our findings of some of the best solar kits on the market today. At a quick glance, here are our top 5 picks:
- Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit
- HQST 100 Watts 12 Volts Polycrystalline Solar Panel
- WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid
- ACOPOWER 100W Portable Solar Panel Kit
- Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Marine Kit
Our 5 100W Solar Kit Picks:
This 100W solar power kit offers a mobile power generation source from one of the most trusted names in the renewable energy industry. Renogy has long been one of the most trustworthy and recognizable names in the solar industry for providing a quality 100 watt solar panel kit to those seeking to get off the grid and explore the country in a van or RV. In addition to the 100 watt solar panel, this package also includes a 30 amp charge negative ground charge controller and MC4 connectors, both of which you’ll need to handle the charging and power maintenance of your 12V battery. Finally, both tray cable and a mounting rack specifically designed to be used on either an RV, van or boat are included in the package.
This kit is very popular, as it should be. It’s one of the best values on the market today. Ideally, this solar system is perfect for those seeking to use roughly 500 watt hours of energy per day. The system is able to charge from 50% to 100% in roughly three hours as long as sufficient sunlight is available without interruption from shade from a building or trees. Renogy also has some of the best available customer service we’ve encountered – which means troubleshooting issues, returning items still under warranty and quickly resolving any other issues you may have will be a breeze. Additionally, if you are slightly on the fence of whether or not 100 watts seems like enough power for your specific set of needs, consider looking into the following larger solar panel kit.
Dimensions: 47″ x 20.9″ x 1.5″
Best bang for your buck
Easy installation and quality panel/controller
VERY responsive customer service
While the cords are of good quality, it can be hard to connect to the small ports on the controller. May need small pliers to help with this step.
Pro-tip: An added benefit to the Renogy kit is the fact that it is MONOcrystalline, as opposed to polycrystaline. You can read more about this here
Generally, the larger the panel, the more power you’ll get out of a crystalline solar panel. This HQST is slightly smaller in surface area than the rest (its more short and squat than the longer Renogy), but doesn’t sacrifice a lot of performance. (It’s worth mentioning that some other, larger solar panels don’t always perform well as seen in this video.)
This kit is the cheapest on this list, which is great for the budget-minded. It is the also the cheapest panel kit that we would recommend, still offering quality energy production. Again, you’ll be able to get similar power generation and energy output to the Renogy above, so as long as your daily consumption doesn’t get much over 500 watt hours per day.
The available mounting brackets allow you to mount this solar panel anywhere that receives an optimal amount of sunlight (and some might find the slightly smaller footprint to be beneficial in this regard, if you’ve got a smaller space to work with).
Dimensions: 40″ x 27″ x 1.5″
Quality panel with good production in partially-shaded instances
Relatively easy bracket installation setup
If anything, the controller seems to be of slightly lesser quality, but that’s a subjective opinion of ours after handling. We’ve neither had, nor heard of any defective controller outages.
The biggest advantage to this WindyNation 100W kit is that you can easily add additional 100 watt solar panels to its setup, if you should ever need to do so, without having to upgrade the rest of the system. Like all of these kits, installation is quick and easy, and includes all of the mounting brackets and hardware you’d need.
The actual panels are very similar to the Renogy modules. To better compare this product with some other similar products, check out this video to get better informed.
Perhaps the biggest downside is the slightly lower energy output. This system only puts out roughly 350 watt hours per day in ideal sunlight conditions. If you currently estimate you would use less than this amount, then this might still be a totally fine option for you. Plus, the ability to add additional panels to this system offers some flexibility for you to improve the system at a later date without having to invest in a completely new setup.
Dimensions: 40″ x 26.4″ x 1.2″
Max power voltage (Vpm): 17.4 Volts
This is polycrystalline, which is different (and arguable inferior) to monocrystaline like Renogy. Read more here.
The Controller is easy to use and seems to be higher quality than the others above
Decent customer support
Energy production is not as high as Renogy or HQST
Portable Folding Option
The ACOPOWER is a little different from the others, in that it is meant to be more portable. So if you’re on the fence whether to fully install a panel on your roof, this might be for you.
This 100W panel kit folds up into a compact package for storage, ready to set up in seconds any time you find a spot to camp out. Charge your 12V house battery when it’s sunny, and fold it up and store when not needed.
This folding solar panel is more expensive than the other options, but you pay for the quality and the portability (and therefore not needing to take the time to mount it on top of your van with screws, sealants, or otherwise). The ease of operation make this choice more than worth the additional cost for some.
Dimensions: 28.5″ x 22.9″ x 4.1″
Folds in half for easy storage
Quick to set up in campsites/etc
Can reposition to point toward the sun more directly
Not a semi-permanent installation. This is a portable solution.
Yep, another quality 100 watt off grid solar panel kit from Renogy. Except this one has some interesting features not offered by the other four on this list. This DIY solar kit includes a solar panel that is somewhat flexible and thus can more easily fit in a variety of locations ranging from boats, RV, to van roofs.
This flexibility in the solar panel makes for an extremely easy installation process– not requiring any screws or brackets. So those who may not consider themselves to be handy, but still want to do their project on their own may want to look into this type of system. Because the panel lays completely flat against the surface, it’s also great for those who may not want to draw a lot of attention to their van being a camper van.
You should be aware, however, there’s a reason that other panels include an airflow space between it and the surface it’s mounted on. This passage of air keeps the components cool and theoretically last longer – something that Renogy has claimed to have accounted for in this flexible model. It should also be noted that this solar panel DOES include bypass diodes. Bypass diodes minimize losses when a solar panel is partially shaded. This would especially come in handy when you may have to set up camp in a heavily forested area where trees blowing in the wind can cause intermittent shading from time to time.
Dimensions: 47.9″ x 21.0″ x 0.08″
Flexible panel for easy and low-profile installation
No hardware needed or holes to drill
Bypass diodes for partially-shaded scenarios
Excellent for marine applications
Possible reduced power output/reliability due to low airflow.
May be harder to remove if needed (as opposed to one screwed on with brackets).
There is no need to have an engineering or construction background in order to fully take advantage of the wonders of a portable solar generation setup. The key to finding the right 100W solar kit for you is to clearly identify your specific set of needs. Then, it will be easier to match a solar kit to this list so that you can get the most out of it. Luckily, it is impossible to go wrong with any of these options. Adventure is always right around the corner for those seeking to live on the road and now, power can travel with you as well!
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