RV Solar Panels

Overview of a Solar Power Difference Between a Typical RV or Boat Renewable Energy System and a Home SystemOverview of a Solar Power Difference Between a Typical RV Renewable Energy System and a Home System

RV Solar Power offers the freedom to run lights, refrigerator and appliances, fans and electronics anywhere the sun shines.

What Can Solar Power Do For an RV?


To enjoy all the comforts of your RV, you need power. A generator can provide you power, but they’re noisy and expensive to fuel and maintain.

Solar power is a quiet, reliable and cost-effective alternative.

As long as there is daylight – your solar panels will charge your battery, providing you power during the day and night. 

Solar Keeps Your Batteries Healthy

This diagram shows the components of the a Solar Panel System convert the sun’s energy to electricity, which charges the battery bank. A solar controller regulates the amount of electricity sent from the panels to the batteries. Protects batteries from overcharging damage. Inverter Converts DC (12V) battery power to AC (120V) power to use common household electronics, devices and appliances.

Healthy batteries are the heart of your RV’s electrical system. Keeping batteries consistently charged is key to maximizing their lifespan.

Solar keeps working even when you are parked by topping up your batteries during daylight to ensure they are always full.

What should you look for in a solar panel? 

Look for high-quality panels that are:

  • How much solar do I need?
  • Sizing solar for your RV is a balance between your estimated power consumption and the right number of solar panels and batteries.
  • Manufactured with durable tempered glass
  • Can withstand rough roads and high winds
  •  Warranty from reputable manufacturer.
  • (one that will be around in 25 years)

How much solar do I need?

Sizing solar for your RV is a balance between your estimated power consumption and the right number of solar panels and batteries.

Solar Kits (DC Power Only)

Solar Kits keep your batteries charged and run the essentials such as lights, fans and water pumps on DC 12 volt power. 

Are you trying to figure out how much power you'll need from an off-grid solar power system? This video shows you how to calculate your energy needs to figure out exactly how many watts you need from your panels, what size of inverter and battery you should buy. Solar Sizing Calculator Link: http://www.renogy.com/calculators You can also check out how we installed our 300 Watt system in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEdSl... and this blog post: http://www.exploringalternatives.ca/w...

Solar Cells and Solar Panels  What is the Difference?

1.  The technology most people think of when they say “solar panels”. These devices convert sunlight into electricity. .

2. Solar cells are building blocks of solar panels. Multiple solar cells that are oriented in the same way makes up what we call solar panels.

The electrical power out depends on how many of them are put together.

Equipment for Off-Grid Solar Systems

Off-grid solar systems require battery storage and a backup generator (if you live off-the-grid).

On top of this, a battery bank typically needs to be replaced after 10 years.

Batteries are complicated, expensive and decrease overall system efficiency


Monocrystalline solar panels are the most expensive and  efficient solar cell on the market today with extended warranty's, (very important)  but panels alone are not the total cost, add:

  • Fastening Hardware
  • Brackets hardware
  • Extensive wire and cables
  • Handyman skills or a professional installer
  • Holes in your roof.

Poly-Crystalline solar panels are less expensive than Monocrystalline solar cells but only a little less efficient.

A example of purchasing the less efficient and cheapist solar panel such as Thin-Film Solar Cells (TRSC), requires minimial hardward (-$) to install and are DIY Installation friendly (-$$), saving cost (-$$$).

Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Cells

Monocrystalline solar panels Advantages

  • Monocrystalline solar panels have the highest efficiency rates are typically 15-20%. 
  • Space-efficient. Yield the highest power outputs.
  • Monocrystalline solar panels live the longest
  • Tend to perform better at low-light conditions.
  • Most solar panel manufacturers put a 25-year warranty on their monocrystalline solar panels.

Monocrystalline solar panels Disadvantages

  • Monocrystalline solar panels are the most expensive
  • If the solar panel is partially covered with shade, dirt or snow, the entire circuit can break down.
  • Monocrystalline solar panels tend to be more efficient in warm weather. 

Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Cells

Polycrystalline Solar Cells Advantages

  • The process used to make polycrystalline silicon is simpler and cost less.
  • Polycrystalline solar panels tend to have slightly lower heat tolerance than monocrystalline solar panels. However, this effect is minor

Polycrystalline Solar Cells Disadvantages

  • The efficiency of polycrystalline-based solar panels is typically 13-16%
  • Lower space-efficiency. You generally need to cover a larger surface.
  • Monocrystalline and thin-film solar panels tend to be more aesthetically pleasing 

I have had the chance to use and test a few different flexible solar panels over the years. Here's a few tips to help you when buying solar panels online for your RV or boat.

String Ribbon Solar Cells

String Ribbon Solar Cells

The manufacturing of String Ribbon solar panels only uses half the amount silicon as monocrystalline manufacturing. This contributes to lower costs.

String Ribbon Solar Cells

  • The manufacturing of String Ribbon solar panels is significantly more energy extensive and more costly.
  • Efficiency is at best on par with the low-end polycrystalline solar panels at around 13-14%.
  • String Ribbon solar panels have the lowest space-efficiency 

Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)

Depositing one or several thin layers of photovoltaic material onto a substrate is the basic gist of how thin-film solar cells are manufactured.

They are also known as thin-film photovoltaic cells (TFPV).

The different types of thin-film solar cells can be categorized by which photovoltaic material is deposited onto the substrate:

  • Amorphous silicon (a-Si)
  • Cadmium telluride (CdTe)
  • Copper indium gallium selenide (CIS/CIGS)
  • Organic photovoltaic cells (OPC)

Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC) 

  • Mass-production is simple. This makes them and potentially cheaper to manufacture than crystalline-based solar cells.
  • Their homogenous appearance makes them look more appealing.
  • Can be made flexible, which opens up many new potential applications.
  • High temperatures and shading have less impact on solar panel performance.
  • In situations where space is not an issue, thin-film solar panels can make sense.

Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)

  • Thin-film solar panels are in general not very useful for in most residential situations. 
  • Low space-efficiency also means that the costs of PV-equipment (e.g. support structures and cables) will increase.
  • Thin-film solar panels tend to degrade faster than mono- and polycrystalline solar panels, which is why they typically come with a shorter warranty.

We’ve had the flexible solar panels installed on our RV for a little over a year and we have some mixed emotions about them. Are flat solar panels necessary? Is flexible solar really worth the extra money? Will flexible solar panels last as long as tempered glass panels? Instead of just talking about the newest RV solar panel technology I figured: why not show you our flexible solar panel issues and let you decide for yourself.

 Thin-film photovoltaic cells (TFPV)

Amorphous Silicon (a-Si) Solar Cells

Because the output of electrical power is low, solar cells based on amorphous silicon have traditionally only been used for small-scale applications such as in pocket calculators.

Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) Solar Cells

Cadmium telluride is the only thin-film solar panel technology that has surpassed the cost-efficiency of crystalline silicon solar panels in a significant portion of the market (multi-kilowatt systems).

The efficiency of solar panels based on cadmium telluride usually operates in the range 9-11%.

Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIS/CIGS) Solar Cells

  • Compared to the other thin-film technologies above, CIGS solar cells have showed the most potential in terms of efficiency.
  • The efficiency rates for CIGS solar panels typically operate in the range 10-12 %.
  • Many thin-film solar cell types are still early in the research and testing stages. Some of them have enormous potential, and we will likely see more of them in the future.