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Do you want to ditch the noise, smell and pollution of a portable generator when you travel off the grid in your RV, boat or camper? Are you camping at a site that does not have an electrical hookup? Or want a clean way to power your tiny house, shed or cabin? Solar power is the way to go.
- Benefits Of Going Solar
- How It Works
- Types of Panels
- Best Panel Kits
- Technical Info
- Other Ways To Go Solar
Many small solar power kits aren’t much more expensive than a generator. Sure, a generator may not require the same level of installation, but there are many benefits of using solar power for your tiny house, RV, boat or camper. These include:
- Clean, renewable energy source
- Freedom to roam and go off-the-grid
- Extend your battery life by 50%
- Quiet and safe alternative to generator use
- Backup power for emergencies
By going solar, you’re helping to reduce the demand for fossil fuels and to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Solar power also helps reduce such air pollutants as nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions that contribute to chronic lung and heart health problems. So, do yourself, others and the Earth a favor by going solar.
Solar cells in a solar panel convert the sun’s energy into DC (direct current) electricity, which then travels as a current to the 12V deep cycle battery via a conducting wire. The battery stores this current as amperage, which combines with the battery’s voltage to produce power.
Solar power kits are an excellent way to keep your RV’s in-house 12V battery charged and to run certain appliances you’ll need (lighting, water pump, etc.). And if you want to run AC-powered devices (ones that plug into a wall outlet) like a TV, small microwave or hair dryer, you can purchase a power inverter. The inverter converts your battery’s DC power into AC household power.
Many small solar panel kits come with (almost) everything you’ll need to power up, but most don’t include the necessary 12-volt deep cycle solar battery. Prices for these batteries range anywhere from $50 to $250+. Some kits come with inverters, which can significantly jack up the kit price. But you could find a kit with an inverter that’s a better deal than purchasing an inverter separately (inverters average about $65).
As you’re looking into solar panel kits, you’ll likely notice that you often have a choice between monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels with some products. What’s the difference? Monocrystalline panels are smaller and more energy efficient. Polycrystalline panels use more resources to produce, are larger and not as energy efficient.
The catch? Monocrystalline panels are typically more expensive, but better manufacturers are closing the gap on the pricing difference. In most cases, we recommend going with monocrystalline panels if your budget allows.
We’ve broken down our reviews into several “best-of” categories to help you make your decision based on your specific needs. Click on a link to jump to a category you’re interested in.
The Renogy 100W Solar Starter Kit is perfect for people wanting to start the solar lifestyle. The Starter Kit is ideal for any off-grid need, such as tiny homes, RVs, trailers, boats, sheds, and small cabins and comes with everything you’ll need to get started.
If you want to add more juice, the included 30A PWM negative ground charge controller allows for expansion up to 400 watts. The panel consists of high-efficiency monocrystalline solar cells, a non-corrosive aluminum frame and pre-drilled holes to make installation easy.
- Price: $196.99 for one 100W solar panel kit
- Price: $349.99 for two 100W solar panel kit
- Kit includes one 100W 12V Mono Solar Panel, one 30A PWM Wanderer Charge Controller, one 20Ft 10AWG MC4 Adaptor Kit, one 8Ft 10AWG Tray Cable, and one set of Z-brackets.
The Komaes 200 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Starter Kit is another great starter kit option at an excellent price point. This kit comes with two 100W solar panels that feature high-efficiency solar cells, advanced cell encapsulation, and anodized aluminum frames.
The panels come with pre-drilled holes, cables and wiring to make installation easier. And the included 20A PWM charge controller supports up to a 400W system expansion if you decide you want more juice on future outings.
- Price: $219.99
- Kit includes 2 100W Solar Panels, a 20A PWM Charge Controller, one pair of 20Ft 5AWG Tray Cables, one pair of 20Ft 5AWG Adaptor Kit MC4 Solar Cables, and 2 sets of Z Brackets
Don’t have a large enough flat surface to mount a solar panel? That’s not a problem with the HQST 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Marine Kit. This semi-flexible and lightweight solar panel fits on curved and other irregular surfaces, making it a perfect choice for a boat, tent, RV or camper.
The 100W solar panel comes with pre-drilled holes for easy mounting, but you also have the option of mounting by adhesive, grommets, zip ties or velcro, making it a perfect option for non-permanent installation. There’s also a 200W kit available in case you need more power. And we love the company’s green practices — no wasteful printing of instruction manuals; you can find what you need online.
- Price: $279.99 for 100W solar panel and a 10A PWM Dual Battery Charge Controller (Negative Grounded)
- Price: $499.99 for 200W solar panels and a 20A PWM Dual Battery Charge Controller
- Each kit includes 8Ft Tray Cables, 20Ft MC4 Adaptor Kit, 1.5ft 12AWG MC4 Solar Extension Cables, and MC4 Branch Connectors
The Go Power! Portable Folding Solar Kit is an excellent option if you don’t want to mount panels to your RV or camper. This 120 Watt monocrystalline kit has two small solar panels with adjustable legs that all fold up together for easy mobility and a built-in controller attached to the back.
Set up only takes a couple of minutes, and you get everything you need to fully charge your batteries, including the cables and connectors. You’ll pay more for Go Power! products, but they have a great reputation for quality panels and kits — and you get a 25-year warranty.
- Price: $543.99 for 120W Portable Kit
- Price: $387.99 for 80W Portable Kit
- Kit includes solar panel, 10A PWM Charge Controller, Battery Clamps, Quick Connectors, Ring Terminal Connectors, SAE Solar Plug Adapter, XLR-Style Solar Plug Adapter, 15′ of UV 12/2 Cable, and a Heavy-Duty Nylon Storage Case
Do you have a large RV, tiny house or small cabin you’d like to turn solar? We recommend the Grape Solar GS-400-KIT 400-Watt Off-Grid Solar Panel Kit. Grape Solar is a well-respected solar panel manufacturer with a good reputation for high-quality products and excellent customer support.
This kit not only includes 4x-100W polycrystalline panels, a charge controller and wiring, but it also comes with a 2,000-watt pure sine Xantrex inverter with two universal AC outlets and a USB port that allows you to plug in small devices or appliances. And if 400 watts isn’t enough, you can expand this system to 500 watts with the included charge controller.
- Price: Check on Amazon
- Kit includes 4 100-Watt polycrystalline solar panels, a 35Amp PWM charge controller, a 2,000-watt inverter with two outlets and 1 USB port, cables and manual.
Once you dig deeper into your research about solar panel kits, all the power lingo can get confusing. But Go Power! has an excellent video that explains watts, volts and amps and what they all mean in relation to solar power. Check it out below.
Try solar for your permanent home too!. Read our reviews of solar panels for your home. You can also install solar attic fans which is an easy way to reduce your AC bill and be green, use solar landscaping lights, try solar pool heaters, or even something as easy as a portable solar mobile charger while you’re on the go.
How do you plan on using your solar power kit?