RV Solar Panels: Which Type of Solar Panel is Best?

Choosing the right RV solar panels is an important part of building an off-grid RV solar set up. Ideally, you want to buy the most efficient, durable panels available but with the varied sizes, different panel types, and dozens of manufactures to choose from, determining which solar panel is the best can be intimidating.  Rather than going at it alone, we explain the different types of solar panels to choose from and discusses the pros and cons of each to help you determine which RV solar panel type is best for you.

Different types of rv solar panels

 When it comes to choosing your RV solar panels, you have three options to consider:

  • Cell typemonocrystalline or polycrystalline
  • Panel construction: rigid or flexible
  • Location of panel: portable or fixed

monocrystalline vs polycrystalline panels

The cell type of the RV solar panels is one of the biggest decisions you will make. The cell type determines the charging efficiency, cost, and longevity or life span of the panels.

Monocrystalline

  • Usually darker (dark blue or black) and all one color
  • Panel is made up of individual cells that are rounded on the edges

PROS:

  • More efficient than polycrystalline panels (will produce more watts aka more power)
  • Last the longest

CONS:

  • Most expensive option

Polycrystalline

  • Usually lighter in color
  • Panel is made up of several cells that are in a rectangular or square shape

PROS:

  • Cheapest option

CONS:

  • Less efficient than monocrystalline panels (produces less wattage per surface area)Typically larger in size than monocrystalline
  • Don’t last quiet as long
If your budget allows, monocrystalline is typically the best option for cell type, simply because you get the most efficiency with the least amount of space and will last the longest.

Rigid vs flexible solar panels

The next decision you need to make is the panel construction. The construction of the panel determines the weight, durablitiy, and surface area used by your solar panels.

Flexible panels

PROS:

  • Light weight and flexible
  • Low profile – not easily seen
  • No drilling required for installation

CONS:

  • Less durable because cells are sealed under a protective plastic layer
  • More prone to scratches but less likely to crack from a large impact
  • More expensive than rigid glass panels
  • Cannot tilt panels

Rigid glass Panels

  • PROS:
  • More durable because cells are mounted under tempered glass
  • More resistant to scratches and severe weather like snow and hail (but can crack from a large impact)
  • Typically cheaper than flexible panels
  • Can tilt to get maximum sun exposure

CONS:

  • Typically mounted to a metal frame
  • Thickest and heaviest option
  • Installation requires drilling

Both panel consturction types come in a wide range of wattage and are offered in both monocrystalline and polycrystalline cell types. Most RV’ers choose rigid glass solar panels because of cost and durability in the long run. Flexible panels are good for those with limited weight capacity (like us), have a curved RV roof, or want to avoid drilling holes into the RV roof.

Portable vs fixed solar panels

The last decision you need to make when choosing RV solar panels is the location of the panels. You can have your panels fixed, which means they are permanently installed on your roof or portable, which means they can be moved as needed for maximum sun exposure.

fixed solar panels

  • Best for those who boondock frequently and have an inverter, larger battery bank, or higher energy needs.
  • Your RV needs to be parked in a location for ideal sun exposure (which can get hot)
  • Cannot move panels for maximum sun exposure. If you are in a shady location, your panels aren’t getting to work as intended
  • Have one charge controller for all rooftop panels

portable Panels

  • Good for weekend warriors, or those who boondock for short periods of time and want to “top off” their batteries
  • Nice option to supplement a fixed solar panel set up
  • Can be moved to benefit from maximum sun exposure (meaning you can keep your RV in the shade and move the panel to the sun)
  • Has its own charge controller

which rv solar panel type is best for you?

Determining which RV solar panel type is best for you really comes down to your rig and your needs. Consider how much space you have available, if you have weight limitations, and your battery bank and energy needs (how many panels you need). Don’t forget that you need the right charge controller to safely charge your batteries.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a charge controller does, or how to choose the right charge controller for your solar set up click here to see our post on solar charge controllers.

We ended up with three 130 watt flexible monocrystalline solar panels from AIMS Power, giving us a total of 360 watts. We got our inverter and charge controller from AIMS, so it only made sense to also get our solar panels from them. We knew they would be compatibile and the company has a strong reputation in the solar industry. If you want to get our exact solar panels, click the image below.

Hopefully this post helped you determine which RV solar panels are best for your rig based on your needs, space, and RV. If you’d like to learn more about RV solar system explore some of our related posts on the topic.

Liz & Dennis

Liz & Dennis

ESRV Team

We’re two travel-loving, real estate investing, foodies exploring North America as full-time RV’ers. This blog is where we share our lessons learned, tips and tricks, and favorite places to eat, see, and RV across North America! We hope it helps you find your wanderlust, plan and prepare for RV life, and get out on the road!

 

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