6 Best Solar Panels for Your Van In 2024: Reviews & Top Picks
We’re seeing more and more people turn their camper vans into homes, and it seems like off-grid living is becoming increasingly becoming popular. It gives people an opportunity to get away from the stresses of everyday life.
But for the van to cater to your every need, it has to have power. Connecting it to the national grid is not a feasible option, and that’s why campers are turning to solar panels. In today’s post, we’ll discuss the best solar panels on the market. We hope that after reading our reviews you’ll be able to find the right panel for your needs.
A Glance at Our Winners in 2024
|ALLPOWERS 200W Portable Solar Panel
|ACOPOWER 120W Portable Solar Panel
|Renogy 200W 12V Monocrystalline Panel
|HQST Polycrystalline Solar Panel
|Renogy 100-Watt 12 Volt Portable Waterproof Solar Panel
The 6 Best Solar Panels for Your Van
1. ALLPOWERS 200W Portable Solar Panel – Best Overall
|Country of Origin:
|25.6 x 20.3 x 2.4 inches
Allpowers is a trusted US brand that specializes in the production of solar panels. They are known to produce durable products, and this panel is no different. It’s protected with IP66 waterproof nylon, implying that it’s not only dust-tight but also protected against water.
It’s a foldable panel that won’t take up much room in your storage and is compatible with several power stations currently available on the market. You’ll be using a panel that’s CE, RoHS, and FCC certified. CE is a certification given by regulatory authorities to indicate that a product meets the European Union’s safety standards, on health and environmental protection requirements.
RoHS, on the other hand, stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances. And lastly, we have FCC, which is a certification mark only given to goods that emit electromagnetic radiation that’s below a certain prescribed level.
It’s lightweight and the kit includes connectors of different sizes. The brand’s customer service is friendly and will be ready to help you with the installation process—even though the instructions are easy to understand.
Everything seemed perfect with this iteration, save for the MC4 connectors that were difficult to detach.
2. ACOPOWER 120W Portable Solar Panel – Best Value
|Country of Origin:
|1 x 1 x 1 inch
If you’re in the market for a panel that’s compatible with almost all solar generators, you’ve found it. What’s more, the monocrystalline photovoltaic crystals in this product guarantee a conversion efficiency that’s significantly higher than that of the conventional solar panel.
The ACOPOWER 120W Portable Solar Panel housing is made of ETFE material and advanced laminated technology. That’s why it has a high resistance to scratches, offers a remarkable light transmittance, and is easy to clean using a damp cloth.
This is a highly portable solar panel that’s ultra-lightweight. It’s also ultra-compact and comes packed in a case that measures 22.05 x 17.32 x 0.79 inches.
How is it able to fit in such a small case, you ask? Well, it’s a foldable panel that’s made up of three 40W small panels. Together, they deliver 120W. With regards to waterproofing, it has a rating of IP65, meaning the build will protect it from splashes of water. But don’t intentionally soak it in water or expose it to rain.
3. Renogy 200W 12V Monocrystalline Panel
|Country of Origin:
|41.8 x 20.9 x 1.38 inches
The Renogy Monocrystalline Panel only needs 4 hours of sunlight to deliver 800Wh of output daily. Its frame is made of aluminum, a material that has a high corrosion resistance. The panel is strong enough to comfortably hold a snow load of 5400 Pa, and withstand high winds of 2400 Pa, without showing any signs of wear and tear.
This model’s peak conversion efficiency is at 98%, and it comes with innovative MPPT technology that offers a tracking efficiency of 99%. The charge controller is a 40A MPPT solar iteration that will protect your device’s batteries from reversed polarity.
Installation is super easy, as it comes with plug & play cables already attached at the back, and pre-drilled holes. Should you need any sort of help, the customer service team is available 24/7. And if you spot any defect down the road, you can take advantage of their 5-year warranty.
It’s an incredible solar panel, but not exactly the most affordable option on the market.
4. HQST Polycrystalline Solar Panel
|Country of Origin:
|47 x 21 x 3 inches
The outstanding feature of the HQST solar panel is the bypass diode. It’s tasked with ensuring peak performance in low-light environments and minimizing power drops typically caused by shade. You don’t have to be experienced to install this panel, as the instructions are simple to understand.
At the back, you’ll see pre-drilled holes. Besides the fact that they allow for faster mounting, they are also meant to help you secure the panel. The HQST polycrystalline design makes it compatible with various mounting systems, including tilt mounts, pole mounts, and z-brackets.
Its iron-tempered glass surface is strong enough to withstand 5400 Pa snow loads, as well as 2400 Pa high-speed winds. They gave it anti-reflective properties and applied an advanced encapsulation material to not only prolong its life but also facilitate cell performance.
We know this is an ideal outdoor panel because its frame is made of aluminum. And the IP65 water-resistant rating is an indication that it’s well protected against water and dust particles.
For an ultimate user experience, you’ll have to buy a connector adapter. It doesn’t come with one.
5. Renogy 100-Watt 12 Volt Portable Waterproof Solar Panel
|Country of Origin:
|24.8 x 20 x 2.8 inches
This Renogy solar panel was certainly designed with portability in mind. Once you’ve made the purchase, you’ll find the panel will be in a foldable solar suitcase that’s very small, and easy to carry around.
In addition to the suitcase, you’ll be given alligator clips and a 20A charge controller that features advanced smart PWM technology. The whole purpose of adding that technology was to guarantee consumer safety, while the panel delivers an efficient charging service. You’ll also be glad to learn that the controller is waterproof.
This panel is compatible with different types of batteries and can be added to an existing solar system. To ensure durability, they made sure the handles are heavy-duty and the casing is a premium-rugged canvas.
We had an issue with the paint, though. It peels off fairly easily.
6. DDY Bendable Flexible Lightweight Solar Panel
|Country of Origin:
|11.1 × 5.85 × 1 inches
- Brand: DDY
- Material: Monocrystalline silicon
- Item Weight: 1.45 lbs
- Country of Origin:
- Product Dimensions: 11.1 × 5.85 × 1 inches
This bendable solar panel from DDY is popular for its fast-charging PowerIQ technology. It’s one of the best solar panels for long road trips, as it can simultaneously charge two different devices. Compared to other models, this one has the highest resistance to various weather elements. But it’s expected, seeing as they used industrial-strength PET polymer in its production and a rugged polyester canvas.
The panel only weighs 1.3 pounds and has a compact design that measures 11.1 × 5.85 × 1 inches when you bend it, and 33.1 × 5.85 × 0.3 inches in an open state. It features a dual port power cable that’s applicable to any android device.
This iteration has a waterproof level of IPX4, but you’re advised to protect it from any splashes while charging your electronic devices. We loved the customer service and the fact that they provided a 2-year warranty.
The only downside is that it doesn’t directly charge lithium-ion batteries. For that to happen, you’ll need to invest in a battery management module.
Buyer’s Guide: Buying the Best Solar Panels for Your Van
It’s not easy to figure out which solar panel will best cater to your needs. You have to have some level of experience in the field, and a little bit of knowledge of solar energy. To be able to pick the best panel for your needs, you must take into consideration the following factors:
Solar Panel Efficiency
First off, it’s imperative to not forget that the chief function of any solar panel is to produce electric current after absorbing adequate sunlight. We often evaluate and compare their efficiency levels because some variants have a relatively higher absorption efficiency.
A premium-grade solar panel will offer an efficiency rating of 20% to 23%. If the model you’re interested in has a 15% efficiency rating or less, you won’t be getting the maximum energy output.
While examining the panels, focus on those that have a higher wattage. They’ll be able to generate more power, thus giving you the option of charging multiple devices. The size of the panels is also an important factor. It mostly touches on portability and storage space. Always go for small panels that generate high voltage instead of settling for a cheaper panel that’s bulky and delivers the same amount of voltage.
Usability & Ease of Installation
Photovoltaic solar panels are either fixed or portable. Portable iterations don’t usually demand much in the installation department, but the fixed models are something else. Before making any purchase, go through the instruction manual. If you’re struggling to understand some of the instructions, there’s a very high possibility you’ll struggle to install the system on your own.
Solar panels that have advanced features are going to be more expensive than those considered basic models. And that’s understandable, seeing as the producers have invested a lot of their time and resources to make sure their product provides the ultimate user experience.
The Average Lifespan of a Solar Panel
Most panels have a lifespan of roughly 30 years. Then again that depends on the product quality, your maintenance practice, weather conditions, and several other factors. Premium-quality panels can be procured from reputable brands like HQST, and Renogy.
Solar panels are a wise investment and any experienced camper who wishes to reduce their environmental footprint will agree. Our top pick is the ALLPOWERS 200W Portable Solar Panel. It had everything we needed in a panel, and then some. Coming in a close second is the ACOPOWER 120W Portable Solar Panel. You should consider it if your goal is to get more bang for your buck. The Renogy 200W 12V Monocrystalline Panel was another great option, though pricey.
We hope our reviews have helped you choose the best solar panel for your van!
Featured Image Credit: Virrage Images, Shutterstock