Not all solar panels (and their kits) are created the same. Depending on the manufacturer, how much power you need, your budget, the kit you get, and installation fees (unless you’d like to DIY it), the prices can vary drastically. The typical spend can be on the low end for a packaged solar panel kit for $150 to a fully custom solar array with lithium batteries for $15,000 dollars.
Factors that greatly influence the price of just the panels will be the materials used, the solar efficiency, and the type of silicon formation used to construct the solar panel. Any other add-on, like the charger, batteries, inverter – and the installation service, also will add up the cost.
What Parts Are Needed For Solar Power?
To add solar power to your RV, there are several parts that are needed. First, there are the solar panels, which connect to the charge controllers, which then connect to the batteries, and finally to connect it all together with wires and mounted with hardware. This is really a high overview of what is needed.
The specifics will be determined by the size of your solar panels and that determines the type and size of your charge controllers, and finally how many batteries are needed to store the necessary power, which your RV requires. Before designing and building a solar system, we need to determine how much power is required to operate the appliances that you would normally operate in your rig.
How Do You Calculate How Much Solar Power Is Needed In Your RV?
There are several ways to calculate this, but the easiest way is to add a power monitor to the power coming into your RV when you are connected to shore power and then to go about your day and track to see how much power you consume in a typical day. If you are interested in the calculations for more accuracy on the number of solar panels required you can read this article on how many solar panels are needed to run an Rv.
How Much Money Can You Spend On Your Solar Panels?
If you have a large budget, then this is a moot point, but for most people starting with a budget is ideal as they have an idea of how much money they want to be spending on their solar panels and power storage. If you spend long periods of time boondocking or off-grid, then a large budget is worthwhile. Low-end kits start at around $150 to $1,000 for a higher-end kit. For most people that might occasionally go off-grid a portable solar panel kit is the best option.
Some people choose a smaller fixed solar system that costs in the low $1,000 to $5,000, which is more than sufficient. There really is not much cap on how much you want to spend on your solar panels, the limits are more determined by the size of your RV and the storage.
The option is to wait it out without solar panels and lithium batteries as technology drives down the price and increases the efficiency and capacity of the batteries.
Solar kits are really the best bang for the dollar especially for the DIYer who can install this themselves.
Packaged Solar Panel Systems For You RV
If you’re setting up a solar panel system as a backup on your RV or are just using it for boondocking on the weekend, most people suggest that a 400-watt solar panel system would be enough to run some things. Here are a few options for the weekender type of camper who might go off-grid once in a while:
- Renogy 100 Watt 12v Solar RV Kit which costs around USD$309.99 includes a 100W Mono Solar Panel (21% efficiency), charge controller, cables, adaptors, mounting brackets and even a Bluetooth module so you could control this from your phone.
- WindyNation 200 watt (2pcs 100W) Solar Panel Kit comes to around USD$500, which claims to provide an average of up to 800 watt hours or 67 amp hours charge per day (depends on the available sunlight).
- Other systems can cost around USD$3500-4500 total, including installation.
If you’re boondocking long term, others recommend that an 800-watt system (generating up to 4000 watts) would be an ample amount for your needs.
- Renogy’s Solar RV/Van Kits to your needs with prices ranging from USD$200 up to USD$774.99 designed for boondocking & long-term RV living with portable versions if you don’t want to permanently mount your solar panels on your RV roof.
- CampervanHQ 680W Zamp 4-Panel RV Solar Kit priced at USD$2913, has four (4) 170W panels and all the other items to set it up (charge controller, display, cables, hardware, etc.).
- Other systems can cost around USD$4000-6000, also with installation included.
If money isn’t an issue and you want to go off-grid full time plus are willing to invest in the latest solar setup kits:
- Tiny Watts Solar offers (which can includes 2-4 Lithium Batteries, Inverter/charger, charge controller, smart charger, circuits, power center), you can spend USD$10,950 to USD27,250 (which will decrease after the 26% Tax Credit, if that’s applicable). Mind you, some of these kits have enough power to run multiple 1800W appliances (e.g. AC for 6-8h)! And of course, the cost can still go up since these prices don’t include any customized specifications, like a solar walkable roof deck, etc.
The cost of solar panels has been getting cheaper nowadays since it costs USD$0.13 per silicon PV cell per watt, as compared to the USD$77/silicon PV cell per watt in 1977. With advancements in solar technology, the future seems bright for it will get cheaper (and more efficient) in the next few years.
There are so MANY different companies offering different solar roof panels/kits, like Tesla since they’re claiming to offer the cheapest solar panel roofs, but unfortunately, they’re not compatible with RVs – but who knows, this may change in the future.