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7 Best Solar Panel Kits For RV Campers: Harness the Power of the Sun In 2023. Small solar setup

7 Best Solar Panel Kits For RV Campers: Harness the Power of the Sun In 2023. Small solar setup

    Off Grid Solar Power Systems for Small Homes – The Best Budget-Friendly Options

    Every year an increasing number of people are turning to environmentally-friendly solar energy to offset some of the cost of their monthly electricity bills. While some believe that you need to spend a significant amount of money and own a large property to set up a practical solar power system, the truth is there are plenty of affordable solar power products that are appropriate for smaller spaces.

    Modern solar power systems have become more affordable and efficient than ever before, which means you can generate a significant amount of clean solar energy, without having to spend a fortune on equipment. This explains why boat owners, RV enthusiasts, and even tent campers are all beginning to invest in small-scale solar power systems.

    The declining costs of solar equipment and improving efficiency of that equipment is great news for those that are on a budget and have a limited amount of space to work with. Whether you own a tiny home, a remote cabin, or just a small residential home, there is no reason why you should miss out on the many benefits that come from setting up your own solar power system.

    How Can We Help?

    To help you understand your options, we are going to explain everything you will need to know about choosing a budget-friendly solar power system for your small home. We will go over some of the components you will need, as well as highlight some of the many benefits of installing an off-grid solar power system.

    From there, we will recommend some high-quality products and complete solar kits that will help you harness solar power, without breaking the bank. If you are looking to reduce your monthly electricity bills, end your reliance on the utility companies, or just make your home a more environmentally-friendly space, we can help!

    Why Should You Go Solar?

    Before we get started, we are going to take a look at some of the reasons why off-grid solar power systems are so beneficial.

    • Drastically reduce or fully eliminate your electricity bills – Going completely off-grid will save you a significant amount of money over the lifespan of your solar power system. With a relatively inexpensive investment, you can begin using solar energy to offset some or all of your electricity costs.
    • Increase the value of your property – Homes that are equipped with solar power systems tend to have a higher value than those that do not. Not only that, they tend to sell much faster.
    • Protect the environment – Embracing solar power is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Rather than contribute to carbon emissions by relying on local utility companies for your electricity needs, you can start turning an endless supply of sunlight into usable electricity.
    • Protect yourself from rising energy costs – In the United States, electricity have increased by an average of three percent per year. By investing in a solar power system now, you can immediately cut your monthly energy costs and protect yourself against unpredictable increases in energy in the future.

    What are the Main Components of an Off-Grid Solar Power System?

    To build a basic off-grid solar power system, you will essentially need to purchase four main components – solar panels, a charge controller, an inverter, and a solar battery bank.

    Solar Panels:

    Solar panels are the most obvious and important component you will need when building an off-grid solar power system. Solar panels are made up of a series of solar cells, which work by absorbing sunlight and converting it into useable DC electricity. The number of solar panels you require will depend on your particular power needs. To get the most out of your solar panels, it is important to position them in a way that that they will receive the optimal amount of sunlight. It is also worth noting that different types and sizes of solar panels will differ in terms of their power and efficiency. The number of panels, their quality, energy rating, and the way they are positioned will determine the amount of electricity they can generate.

    If space is limited and you have a smaller property, we recommend taking a looking at folding solar panels. They are a practical solution for those with limited space, as they can easily be folded for storage and tend to weigh less than the more rigid options. In some cases, property owners with limited space will choose foldable solar panels because they can be moved throughout the year to make sure they are positioned in the best possible location for sunlight absorption.

    If you value portability, take a look at our collection of Foldable Solar Panels and Solar Suitcases!

    Charge Controller:

    The charge controller is the device that will manage the flow of energy from your solar panels to your battery bank. They protect your battery by preventing overcharging and also reduce battery drain issues after the sun has set. There are two main types of charge controller to choose from– PWM charge controllers and MPPT charge controllers. PWM controllers are less advanced and act almost like a switch, which is activated at pre-set parameters to prevent overcharging issues.

    MPPT charge controller act like ‘Smart’ device that contains an integrated computer system. They are programable and adaptable to changing voltages and currents. This means they measure the voltage of the panels and make sure it matches the battery bank’s voltage limits. This means you can use a higher voltage solar array than the voltage of the battery, which allows you to create a more efficient solar power system. If you are running an off-grid solar power system, you might be better off choosing an MPPT controller, as protecting the health of your battery is of critical importance.

    We carry a wide variety of both PWM and MPPT charge controllers, so you will be able to find exactly what you need by browsing our Solar Charge Controller Collection.

    Power Inverter:

    Solar panels generate DC power, which means current that flows in one direction. This means that you will likely need a power inverter, especially if you are planning to build an off-grid system and rely on solar power for all of your electricity needs.

    The wall outlets you find in a typical home provide alternating current, or AC power, which is why most electronic devices and appliances run on AC power. In simple terms, a solar inverter will convert the DC power your solar panels generate into more practical AC power.

    Power inverters are also extremely valuable for those that plan to run a grid-tied system in the future, as they allow you to feed AC power into your local grid for utility credits and rebates. This is really useful once your solar panels have fully charged your battery bank, as it prevents excess electricity from going to waste.

    Whether you are building an off-grid or a hybrid solar power system, you will find exactly what you need by taking a look at our Solar Power Inverter Collection.

    Solar Batteries:

    The final piece you will need for your solar power system in the battery bank. The battery will allow you to store the electricity generated by your solar panels, so you can use it at your convenience and in the event of emergencies, like grid failures.

    Again, the particular type and size of battery you will need will depend on your specific power needs. Ideally, you would find a battery that could hold enough electricity to get you through the day. You can always stack multiple batteries, which will allow you to expand the storage capacity of your solar power system.

    For owners of smaller homes that are limited on space, we recommend choosing a lithium battery bank, as they tend to take up much less space than the less sophisticated lead acid batteries. They also tend to be around 75% lighter than lead acid batteries, which is helpful for those that plan on moving their battery bank, rather than permanently installing it in one location.

    Shop our Solar Battery Collection and choose from some of the best deep cycle batteries on the market today.

    Complete Solar Kits

    While you can certainly build your own solar power system by purchasing the necessary parts separately, one of the most convenient and cost-effective ways to build your own off-grid solar power system is to purchase a ready-made kit.

    We offer a wide variety of solar kits that come with everything you need to get started. Whether you are looking for a compact and portable solar power system for your RV or boat, or you are in the market for a more permanent setup for your home, you will be able to find what you need by browsing through our collection of complete RV, Van, Boat DIY Solar Panel Kits

    For those with small homes, we recommend the Lion Energy. 400W Beginner Solar Panel Kit. This complete kit comes with a foldable solar panel, a Savanna charge controller, a 400W power inverter, and a lithium battery bank, which is available in your choice of size. You also get solar panel cables and all of the necessary mounting brackets you need to build your first off-grid solar power system. As your power needs grow, you can always upgrade and expand this kit.

    Recommended Products

    For those that are just starting out, we almost always recommend taking a look at Renogy products. Renogy offers high-quality solar components at affordable prices. They are one of the most well-known brands in the solar industry and their products have won numerous awards for efficiency, accessibility, and affordability.

    We carry a wide collection of Renogy solar panels, batteries, charge controllers, and power inverters. Whether you are looking to purchase a complete kit, or prefer to assemble your own solar power system one component at a time, we carry all of the Renogy products you need.

    Final Words

    Remember, everybody has to start out somewhere, so you should not feel overwhelmed if you are just getting into solar power. You can always start with a basic kit and upgrade the components as your experience level and electricity needs grow.

    As always, if you have more questions about off-grid solar systems for small homes, feel free to reach out to us!

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    Best Solar Panel Kits For RV Campers: Harness the Power of the Sun In 2023

    Are you looking for the best solar panel kit for your RV camper? Check out this post to learn about the best brands and models and tips on what to look for while shopping. Get all the necessary information to equip your RV with a top-quality solar power setup.

    Using solar panels to provide at least some of your camper’s electricity can make for a peaceful, off-grid experience.

    Without the need to hook up, daily driving, or noisy portable generators, you can keep your leisure batteries charged without paying for campgrounds and enjoy some of nature’s best boondocking locations.

    A few components are needed to install a solar setup, so you must shop around for the correct size parts and configure a suitable setup for your electrical demand.

    Or you can make it easy and buy a solar panel kit that includes all the necessary parts.

    With a pre-configured solar panel, adding solar panels to RVs, campervans, and motorhomes has never been easier.

    But there are a few kits available, and this post will help you figure out which is best for you.

    When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases. For more info, please check our disclosure page.

    What Is A RV Solar Panel Kit?

    RV solar panel kits are like all-in-one packages that help you power your RV, motorhome, camper, or caravan using the sun’s energy.

    These kits come with everything you need – solar panels, charge controllers, wires, and even mounting gear.

    Some kits also include batteries and inverters.

    So, instead of depending on campsite hookups or noisy generators, you can use solar power to run your lights, fans, fridge, and gadgets.

    It’s a fantastic way to make your travels more eco-friendly and enjoy the freedom of going off-grid, all while doing something great for our planet!

    Renogy 200 Watt Solar Premium Kit – The Best Solar Panel Kit For RV Campers


    A 200-watt solar kit is ideal for a camper with modest energy demands.

    Depending on the amount of sunlight, it’s enough to run a small fridge, keep your lights and roof vent running and charge small devices. You’ll probably have enough power to run an inverter occasionally.

    The Renogy 200w premium kit is our top pick of all the solar panel kits on our list.

    The kit includes 2 of Renogy’s monocrystalline panels for maximum efficiency. They’re lightweight, too, an essential factor for vehicle handling.

    The panels’ corrosion-resistant aluminum frames mean these things will last for years.

    Of course, as you’d expect for a premium kit, it also includes a 20A MPPT charge controller so your battery bank can make the most of those top-of-the-line solar panels.

    You get everything you need to install the kit, including mounting brackets to fit the panels to the camper’s roof, fuses, cables, and connectors for the panels.

    One of the significant benefits of choosing Renogy solar panels is their 25 years warranty.

    The kit doesn’t include a battery or an inverter. For a 200w solar setup, we recommend at least a 100ah battery bank.

    The kit includes installation instructions. See our 200w solar panel wiring diagram if you need assistance.

    What We Like

    • Enough energy to run a small fridge, keep your lights and vents running, and charge small electronic devices
    • They’re lightweight, which is crucial for vehicle handling.


    • High quality
    • packed securely
    • panels’ corrosion-resistant
    • 25 years warranty

    Renogy 800W Monocrystalline Solar Premium Kit


    People with larger motorhomes and RVs often have greater energy demands. Rather than allow that to confine you to campgrounds, a good size solar panel kit will allow you to enjoy boondocking and still keep the lights on.

    Depending on the amount of sunlight, an 800w solar system could generate 240 – 256 amps per day with only 4 hours of peak sun.

    That’s enough to power a TB, charge laptops and a coffee maker, and run a large, energy-efficient fridge.

    An 800w system gives you a good few days in reserve, depending on your usage, and without other sources of recharging.

    If you intend to live in a camper in the winter months, 800w is a complete luxury!

    Like all Renogy’s premium kits, the 800w version includes their top-of-the-range monocrystalline solar panels, an MPPT solar charge controller, and all the fittings needed.

    We don’t forget their standard warranty either.

    The kit doesn’t include a battery or an inverter. For an 800w solar setup, we recommend at least a 300ah battery bank.

    The kit includes installation instructions, but look at our 800w solar panel wiring diagram if you need assistance with that.

    What We Like

    • Can generate 240 – 256 amps per day with only 4 hours of peak sun.
    • This kit comes with top-of-the-line monocrystalline solar panels, an MPPT solar charge controller, and all the necessary fittings.
    • Easy to install


    • Reliable Power Output
    • Efficient Performance
    • Industry-Leading Technology
    • Built to Last
    • Fast and Easy Installation

    Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Solar Panel Kit (Jackery 1000 2 x SolarSaga 100W)


    • Wattage:1000 watts
    • Input Voltage: 110 Volts
    • Power Source: ‎Battery-powered, Solar powered
    • Item Weight: 22.04lbs

    Portable solar generators, combined with solar panels, are a terrific way of getting the benefits of solar power without having a permanent installation on your roof.

    We’ve written an entire post on portable solar generators, so we won’t go into all the details here. Specifically, the Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Solar Panel Kit is a complete setup.

    It has 2 x 100w folding solar panels and all other components, including the battery, integrated into the solar generators.

    The main benefit of this setup is its portability. And you can recharge the generator from a mains supply if your camping trip turns into a wet weekend!

    What We Like

    • It’s a great option for people who want to prioritize portability and storability
    • Features a pure sine wave inverter with an AC outlet, and can be charged using solar panels, a wall outlet, or a 12V carport.

    Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Premium Kit


    If you’re on a tight budget or have a small camper, the Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Premium Kit is perfect for your camper’s electrical system.

    As you’d expect from Renogy’s premium kits, it also includes an MPPT charge controller and monocrystalline solar panels. The 20A controller means you can easily add another panel or two later.

    A 100w solar system probably isn’t enough to keep you living in a van year-round without extra charging from either shore power or while you drive, but it’s a good start.

    With a few hours of peak sun, you can probably generate and store enough power to recharge a couple of small devices, run your roof vent during the night to stop condensation, keep a composting toilet’s fan running 24/7 and switch on a few LED lights inside the campervan.

    You get everything you need to install the kit, including mounting brackets to fit the panels to the camper’s roof, fuses, cables, and connectors for the panels.

    The kit doesn’t include a battery or an inverter. For a 100w solar setup, we recommend at least a 50ah battery bank.

    If you intended to extend the system later or want to top up from other sources, you’re probably better off buying a larger battery bank.

    What We Like

    • When the sun is at its peak, you can probably generate and store enough power to recharge a couple of small devices.
    • The kit includes everything you need to install the panels, including mounting brackets for the roof, fuses, cables, and connectors for the panels.

    Jackery Solar Generator 300 ( Jackery 300 SolarSaga 100W)


    • Wattage: 300
    • Input Voltage: 110 Volts
    • Power Source:‎‎ Battery-powered, Solar powered
    • Item Weight: 7.1 lb

    The Jackery Solar Generator 300 Kit is the only other complete setup on the list. There is no need to buy a separate battery and no need for complex electrical installations.

    Simply plug the portable solar panel into the solar generator, and you’re good to go.

    This small generator (or, more accurately, power station) is ideal for car campers and won’t take up much storage space.

    What We Like

    • When the sun is at its peak, you can probably generate and store enough power to recharge a couple of small devices.
    • The setup is complete. No need to purchase a separate battery or install complex electrical wiring.
    • Portable

    Renogy 100 Watt Solar Flexible Kit


    Full disclosure here: we’re not big fans of flexible solar panels. Their low profile makes them great for stealth camping on campervans, but in our experience, they’re just not that efficient.

    They perform best if they have a slight gap below them to allow air to circulate. We had flexible panels (although they were a much cheaper brand than Renogy), and they lasted a year. We were far from impressed.

    However, flexible panels are better than nothing if you have limited flat space on your roof. And by investing in a good brand like Renogy, you can probably avoid the problems we experienced.

    The Renogy 100 Watt Solar Flexible Kit includes a PWM charge controller, decreasing its overall costs. But, we don’t recommend buying these kits if you intend to expand on them later.

    You’ll be better off with one of the premium kits that include an MPPT charge controller.

    What We Like

    • A flexible panel is the best option if your roof has limited flat space
    • Waterproof charge controller

    Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Starter Kit


    • Wattage: 100 w
    • Input Voltage: 18.9 Volts
    • Power Source:‎‎ Solar Powered
    • Item Weight: 19.84 pounds

    While Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Starter Kit includes a PWM charge controller instead of an MPPT controller, it’s still a worthy contender. It’s the most budget-friendly kit on the list.

    If you’re just beginning to explore the advantages a solar system can provide in your camper, this kit might be just what you’re looking for.

    For less than 200, you get everything you need, install it and charge your battery. It includes the compact 100w monocrystalline panel, so you’re not losing quality there.

    Plus, if you want to expand later, you can always invest in a new MPPT charge controller at the same time. That way, you haven’t forked out loads of cash on a system you may not use.

    The Best Brands

    We recommend using well-known brands like Renogy or Jackery. There are less well-known brands available too, but they don’t all have the same track record.

    There tends to be little price difference, so we think it’s worth opting for the more established brand.

    A couple of other brands to look out for are:

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    • Goal Zero – their Nomad range consists of micro solar panel kits, ideal for hikers and campers with small energy demands.
    • WindyNation – this US-based company manufacturers components for wind and solar power generation. Their solar panel kits are of good quality at affordable prices.

    How Much Does a Solar Panel Kit Cost?

    Kit vary based on wattage and included components.

    Budget-friendly starter kits cost less than 200, like the Renogy 100w starter kit. You may need to add in the cost of a battery and possibly an inverter, too.

    If these small kits provide you with everything you need in the long term, then they’re a great option.

    But, if you expect to expand the system later, we recommend choosing the kits with the best solar panels (monocrystalline, rigid panels) and an MPPT controller.

    An equivalent small kit that you can easily expand later, like the Renogy 100w premium kit, costs less than 300. It may seem like a significantly higher price, but it makes better financial sense in the long term.

    If your energy demands are more significant, and you want to spend more time off-grid, the larger kits like the Renogy 800W premium kit cost a little over 1500.

    For this, though, you’re getting plenty of solar energy and a top-of-the-range charge controller for the most efficient battery charging.

    Why Choose A Solar Panel Kit?

    The most significant advantage of buying a kit rather than individual components is convenience.

    You can be confident everything included is sized as a complete configuration, so your only decision is what size to buy.

    Kits usually include wiring instructions, too, making installation a little easier for novices.

    How Much Electricity Do You Need?

    Off-grid living means you can only use the electricity you can generate and store. If you use more than you can generate, your batteries will eventually flatten.

    Solar panel kits and their components can be expensive, so it’s more frugal to buy a size only to accommodate your needs.

    And if you buy a kit too small, it could be as wasteful as buying one too big.

    Knowing how much electricity you need is the first step in sizing your complete setup. We have an RV solar calculator to help you size your system.

    Even if you only plan to add a small solar capability, we encourage you to use the calculator to figure out your base usage.

    best, solar, panel, kits, campers, harness

    It will also provide details of how much solar panel power, battery storage, and size charge controller you need.

    It’s essential to buy a kit where all the components are at least as big as those calculated.

    RV Solar Panel Kit Buying Guide

    It’s important to consider what components are included in a kit before you buy it. Here, we’ll take a look at the features to look out for.

    We have a lot of articles about DIY campervan solar systems and detailed posts about every component. We’ve linked to them throughout this post so if you want to delve into more detail, just click through.

    What’s Included In A Solar Panel Kit?

    Most solar panel kits include everything you need to generate renewable energy from the sun.

    • A solar panel(s)
    • Solar charge controller
    • Mounts
    • Fuse
    • Cabling MC4 connectors

    Because many camper conversions already have a battery bank installed, more often than not, solar panel kits don’t include the battery.

    If you want to use your solar set up to run any household AC appliances, for example, charging a laptop, you’ll also need an inverter. These are rarely included in solar panel kits.

    We’ve included a recommended size of battery and inverter for each solar panel kit we’ve reviewed. But it’s important to size your inverter to meet your needs. You can read more about inverters here and use this inverter calculator to buy the correct size.

    The portable solar panel kits on our list include a solar generator, like the Jackery Solar Generator 300 kit. Despite its name, the solar generator is, in effect, a battery bank incorporating the charge controller and inverter.

    You can learn more about portable solar generators here.

    Solar Panels

    Not all solar panels are made equal.

    Firstly, choose between flexible and rigid panels.

    Flexible panels can be molded more easily to non-flat surfaces, making them a good option for boats and more rounded camper roofs. They’re much easier to install too. That said, in our experience, flexible panels aren’t nearly as robust or efficient as rigid panels.

    Rigid panels provide a better permanent and long-term solution than flexible panels. Once fitted, they should be good for years.

    Then there are three types of solar cells to choose from:

    Solar panels are rated based on standard test conditions and therefore benchmarked against each other. This means that a 100-watt solar panel is the same as another 100-watt solar panel in identical conditions.

    So how does the technology make any difference?

    Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient. They are more durable and not as sensitive to high temperatures as polycrystalline or thin-film panels. Though they’re the most efficient, they’re also the most expensive.

    Polycrystalline solar panels aren’t as efficient as monocrystalline solar cells, but they’re still quite common. Polycrystalline panels are more budget-friendly, but they tend to have a shorter lifespan.

    Thin-film is a type of solar cell where the photovoltaic material is printed onto the panel. The panel doesn’t need to be a rigid surface. Instead, they can be applied to fabric or plastic, so quite flexible. They have a shorter lifespan than the other types of solar cells, though, and a lower efficiency rating. This means they need to be physically larger to produce the same energy as polycrystalline or monocrystalline panels.

    Because roof and storage space is limited in campers, we only recommend monocrystalline solar panels.

    They allow you to capture as much energy as possible for their footprint, which we think is more beneficial than saving a bit of money.

    If you’re on a budget, start with a small but expandable kit so you can add more panels later.

    Solar Charge Controller

    There are two types of solar charge controllers: PWM charge controllers and MPPT charge controllers. If you want to deep dive into their detail, check out our article explaining everything you need to know about solar charge controllers.

    To summarise, though, a PWM controller is less efficient than an MPPT controller. A 100w panel paired with an MPPT solar charge controller could provide 30% more power than paired with a PWM controller.

    A PWM controller costs less than an MPPT solar charge controller, though, and by a fair margin. For example, a PWM controller capable of handing a 200w panel costs around 70 compared to an equivalent MPPT controller costing around 160.

    If you depend on efficiently charging your battery bank, we recommend a kit with an MPPT controller, like any of Renogy’s premium kits.

    RV Solar Panel Tips

    If you don’t want the hassle of fitting panels on your roof or don’t have the roof space available, portable solar panels provide an ideal solution.

    Need Guidance On Your RV Solar Setup?

    Have you already joined the world of solar-powered RV-ing? Share your experiences and advice in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев today for a chance to help others make their RV journey even better.

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    Hey there! We’re Angela Graham. We live travel full-time in our DIY Sprinter van conversion, Baloo. We’re using our little corner of the internet to help you convert your own camper and inspire a few adventures too. We’d love for you to join us!


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    Best Off Grid Solar Kits That Won’t Break The Bank

    Modern solar power systems are both more advanced and more affordable than ever before.

    For tiny home enthusiasts, full-time RVers, or van dwellers, they represent one of the best ways to provide power while off-grid.

    Where many people stumble is pairing panels, a charge controller, and all those pesky cables and connectors.

    Thankfully, there’s a solution.

    Solar panel kits take all the guesswork out of your small-scale solar system by pairing the most efficient panels together with just the right accessories to maximize their potential.

    We picked out eight of the best solar panel kits available and gave them a thorough review to make choosing your favorite even easier.

    For those who want a quick overview, below is our comparison table:

    • Our #1 Rated Best Solar Panel Kit:400 Watt 12 Volt Premium Solar Kit wih 40A MPPT Charge Controller (Best Overall Solar Panel Kit)
    • Our #2 Rated Best Solar Panel Kit:100 Watt Foldable Solar Suitcase with Built-In 20A Voyager Charge Controller (Easiest Set Up Best For Van Dwellers)
    • Our #3 Rated Best Solar Panel Kit:800 Watt 24 Volt Premium Solar Panel Kit (Best Medium-Sized Off-Grid Solar Panel Kit – Great For RV Tiny House Owners)
    • Our #4 Rated Best Off-Grid Solar Panel Kit:Bluetti EB70S Solar Generator PV120 Solar Kit (Best Solar Generator Solar Kit)
    • Our #5 Rated Best Solar Panel Kit:Eco-Worthy 400 Watt Solar Panel Kit (Best Budget Solar Panel Kit)
    • Our #6 Rated Best Solar Panel Kit:ACOPOWER 500 Watts 12/24 Volts RV Solar PanelKit
    • Our #7 Rated Best Solar Panel Kit:Bluetti AC200P Portable Power Station and 600W Solar Kit
    • Our #8 Rated Best Solar Panel Kit:Eco-Worthy 1200 Watt Complete Solar Power Kit

    Our #1 Rated Best Solar Panel Kit: 400 Watt 12 Volt Premium Solar Kit with 40A MPPT Charge Controller (Best Overall Solar Panel Kit)

    If you’re looking for an efficient, affordable, and moderately sized solar panel kit to power your off-grid setup, I love this one from Renogy.

    At 400 watts, it’s a great option to power an energy-efficient setup in your off-grid cabin, tiny house, RV, or van.

    And while it doesn’t provide nearly enough power to be able to power multiple appliances, it can easily power phones, laptops, cameras, basic LED lighting, and even a small appliance like a DC refrigerator.

    It includes everything you need to mount and wire your system to a battery bank, including highly efficient panels, their latest 40A MPPT charge controller, and all the mounting brackets and wires you need for a basic installation.

    I also love how versatile and scalable the system is.

    The included solar panels only use about half the capacity of the 40A charge controller. In simple terms, if you discover you need more power down the line, you can purchase additional individual panels to increase the total output of your system.

    For those that are new to installing solar kits, this is one that will save you hours of a headache trying to figure out how to install it.

    It comes with intuitive wiring instructions so you can rest assured knowing your panels are properly hooked up and providing ample power to your batteries.

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    They even include their popular Renogy Bluetooth Module so you can monitor the status of your power system remotely from your smartphone.

    And not just that, it’s highly rated and has a near-perfect 4.8 average customer rating–something I always look for when purchasing a solar kit.

    The only downside here is that, at 400 watts, you are limited with what you can power here.

    If you are looking for a solar kit that can power an entire tiny home or off-grid cabin that has multiple appliances and requires an ample amount of power, this one won’t be enough.

    But at 400 watts, that’s to be expected. If you need something with more power, our 800 watt or 1200 watt options are better options.

    For what it’s designed to do–the Renogy 400W Solar Panel Kit is an excellent choice and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s affordable, easy to install, provides ample power for basic systems, and offers the flexibility to scale as your power needs to grow.

    If you need more power than 400w, our #3 and #4 choices will be better options.


    • Solar cell type: Monocrystalline
    • Watts/Voltage: 400 Watts at 12V
    • Charge Controller Type and Amp Rating: MPPT at 40A
    • Mounting hardware included: Yes
    • What it can power: Phones, tablets, laptops, drones, TVs, and a single small to medium appliance


    • Kit includes everything you need to install your panels and connect them to your battery bank
    • Renogy monocrystalline panels are highly efficient and offer excellent power production for their size
    • 40A MPPT charge controller capable of handling power from additional solar panels if you need to expand
    • Excellent size for tiny homes, small cabins, RVs, and those with moderate power needs
    • Bluetooth connectivity allows you to monitor your panels and battery bank remotely
    • Enter promo “TLL10” at checkout to get 10% off

    Our #2 Rated Best Solar Panel Kit: 100 Watt Foldable Solar Suitcase with Built-In 20A Voyager Charge Controller (Easiest Set Up Best For Van Dwellers)

    There are a lot of foldable/portable solar panels available these days, but most are targeted at the hiking and camping market rather than RVs, vans, or tiny dwellers.

    To help change this problem, in comes the 100 Watt Foldable Solar Suitcase.

    It’s a compact and easy-to-set-up system that includes both the 100 Watt suitcase solar panel and a built-in 20A Voyager charge controller.

    It’s not as powerful as some of the other panel kits on our list, but the incredible amount of convenience it provides earned it a place here. You can literally set it up in under a minute and start receiving power to your batteries as soon as it’s plugged in.

    It unfolds and can be directed towards the sun using the aluminum kickstands. They make it really easy to track the maximum sun exposure throughout the day and increase overall efficiency.

    On the connector front, it uses the common MC4 solar connector and comes with a pair of alligator clips. Even if your batteries aren’t wired up fully you can charge them directly through the clips. It also has a built-in 20A MPPT charge controller mounted on the back.

    If you have modest power demands and space is at a real premium, the 100W Foldable Solar Suitcase is a great way to go. And it has unbelievable reviews as well–at the time of writing, it has over 100 reviews and a 4.9 average rating.

    While you can also find it on Amazon here, with the 10% off discount it is over 25 cheaper when purchasing from Renogy directly, here.


    • Solar cell type: Monocrystalline
    • Watts/Voltage: 100 Watts at 12V
    • Charge Controller Type and Amp Rating: MPPT at 20A
    • Mounting hardware included: N/A
    • What it will power: Phones, tablets, laptops, drones, and LED lights


    • You can set it up and put it away in less than a minute
    • The suitcase design protects the panel and charge controller while not in use
    • Infinitely scalable, with protection against shading on individual panels not offered by single charge controller systems
    • Great for van dwellers, RV dwellers, and people looking for just enough power to charge up their phones and other small electronics


    • The price per watt is higher than many other solar panel kits
    • Once you get above four panels, it becomes a lot more of a hassle to set out multiple suitcase-style solar panels

    Our #3 Rated Best Solar Panel Kit: 800 Watt 24 Volt Premium Solar Panel Kit (Best Value Off-Grid Solar Panel Kit – Great For RV Tiny House Owners)

    If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, it’s hard to beat this 800 Watt solar panel kit. It’s a little more expensive than their basic kits but includes more premium components and electronics.

    It uses eight high efficiency 100W monocrystalline panels combined with a 60A MPPT Rover charge controller. That’s enough power to keep a tiny home going if it’s outfitted with high-efficiency appliances and properly manages use.

    Alongside the panels and charge controller, the kit includes all the mounting and connecting hardware you need to install it. One thing we really liked was the inclusion of a BT-1 Bluetooth monitoring module.

    It allows you to connect your smartphone through the Renogy BT app to monitor all aspects of power generation and charging. You can even change the pre-programmed parameters of your charge controller right from your smartphone.

    If you’re willing to really buckle down on your energy efficiency, this 800 Watt Premium Solar Panel Kit is one of the best values out there. It gives you ample solar generation for a tiny house or RV and includes everything you need to easily install and manage your power system.

    Despite its lack of customer reviews on the Renogy site I went ahead and included this kit. As with many things at the higher end of a niche market there just aren’t as many people available to review it, and few choose to. It’s a high-quality solar power kit that’s intuitive to install and use.

    This short video shows how the final setup will look:

    The LiFePO4 battery Bluetti went with offers the best mix of performance and longevity available. You can expect 2500 charge/discharge cycles from it, giving it a solid 10 year lifespan.

    As with anything, there are some downsides to the Bluetti Solar Kit. You pay a premium for the convenience and ease of use, with the EB70S coming in noticeably more expensive on a per-watt and per-amp-hour basis than other solar kits on our list.

    If you’re willing to take that tradeoff, though, you wind up with a solar system that’s effortless to install, easy to use and requires far less upkeep than a more traditional solar kit.


    • Solar Cell Type: Polycrystalline
    • Watts/Voltage: 120V / 716Wh
    • Charge Controller Type and Amp Rating: MPPT
    • Mounting Hardware Included:
    • What It Will Power: Small appliances, phones, laptops, drones, tablets


    • Effortless setup and use
    • LiFePO4 battery offers 2500 charge/discharge cycles, significantly more than AGM or traditional lithium batteries
    • Included 120V solar panel can charge it from 0-80% in just six hours
    • Highly portable design makes it perfect for van or RV dwellers looking for flexibility


    Reviews and information on the best Solar panels, inverters and batteries from SMA, Fronius, SunPower, SolaX, Q Cells, Trina, Jinko, Selectronic, Tesla Powerwall, ABB. Plus hybrid inverters, battery sizing, Lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries, off-grid and on-grid power systems.

    September 10, 2022 Jason Svarc

    Choosing the best off-grid solar system is not easy as off-grid systems are many times more complicated than common grid-connected solar systems. In this article, we highlight some of the many considerations which must be taken into account and discuss the various off-grid system types available. We also explain why a good quality inverter-charger is vital to building a reliable off-grid system. Finally, we will dive into the different brands available and determine which systems are best suited to different applications.

    Many people believe off-grid solar systems can be easily put together. This may be true in the case of a small caravan or cabin, but in reality, larger off-grid systems used for homes and businesses need to be carefully designed by an experienced solar installer or system designer.

    The 5 main parts of an off-grid system

    Off-grid system types. AC or DC-coupled

    Off-grid systems are built using either AC or DC-coupled power sources. AC-coupled generation sources include common solar inverters, wind turbines or backup generators (gen-sets), while DC-coupled sources include MPPT solar charge controllers or micro-hydro systems.

    Whether a system is AC or DC-coupled is generally based on the size of the system. Most small-scale systems are DC-coupled and use efficient MPPT solar charge controllers. Larger off-grid systems can be either AC or DC-coupled depending on the type of off-grid inverter-charger used, and compatibility with different solar inverters (AC) or solar charge controllers (DC). Most modern inverter-chargers can be both AC and DC-coupled, which creates a very secure, flexible power system with multiple charging options and can enable black-start operation if the main inverter shuts down, the backup generator fails or the batteries are depleted.

    Small DIY off-grid solar systems

    Small-scale off-grid solar systems and DIY systems used on caravans, boats, small homes and cabins use MPPT solar charge controllers, also known as solar regulators, which are connected between the solar panel/s and battery. The job of the charge controller is to ensure the battery is charged correctly and more importantly, not overcharged. Most small 12V/24V solar charge controllers also have load output terminals which are often used for simple DC lighting circuits. In small DIY systems, simple ‘plug-in’ style inverters are used to provide 240V or 120V AC power. These are available in many different sizes, from tiny 150W inverters up to 3000W or higher.

    Note: Small-scale, low-voltage systems can still cause damage or serious injury if not installed correctly. we recommend all systems are installed by a trained, licensed solar or electrical professional.

    DC-coupled solar charge controllers have been around for decades and are available in two main types, PWM and MPPT. Learn more about solar charge controllers here, plus how to size small-scale off-grid solar systems correctly. powerful MPPT Solar charge controllers up to 100A are used on larger scale off-grid solar power systems. These are a very efficient and reliable way of charging and managing high-capacity lithium or lead-acid battery systems.

    Key considerations when sizing off-grid solar systems

    • Daily average energy consumption (kWh). Summer and winter
    • Peak load (kW). The maximum power drawn from loads
    • Average continuous load (kW)
    • Solar exposure. Location, climate, orientation shading
    • Backup power options. During poor weather or shutdown

    With the above considerations in mind, the key component of an off-grid power system is the main battery inverter-charger often referred to as a multi-mode inverter as they can usually operate in both off-grid or on-grid modes.

    Technical Guide

    Recommended for solar professionals. See our Technical guide to selecting and sizing off-grid and energy storage systems.

    A solar professional should be able to put together what is known as a load table to help determine which type and size inverter is best suited to your individual needs. A detailed load table is also required to size the solar array, battery and backup generator.

    High-performance off-grid solar system using a Victron Quattro inverter/charger, Lithium battery system, DC-coupled with two MPPT solar charge controllers

    Lead-acid batteries

    Until around 3 or 4 years ago, lead-acid deep cycle battery systems were the most common and reliable option for off-grid systems. Lead-acid batteries are a proven technology and can last 15 or more years if they are not held at elevated temperatures (above 40 degC), and are not regularly discharged too low. Lead-acid batteries require precise battery charging following a specific charge cycle plus temperature sensors to adjust voltage settings. Most well-known off-grid inverter-chargers offer programmable charge voltage settings along with sensors to precisely charge under all conditions. Lead-acid deep cycle batteries are still used and offer several advantages over lithium as outlined below.

    One of the most significant benefits of lead-acid batteries is unlike modern lithium batteries; the battery will not shut-down at a low voltage or low state of charge (SOC). This is important, especially in emergencies or when a backup generator fails. Lead-acid batteries can be discharged down to 0% state of charge if needed for backup, but it is not recommended as it can severely reduce the life of the battery.


    • Compatibility with most inverters.
    • Proven and trusted technology.
    • Safe, very low risk (sealed Gel/AGM).
    • The battery will not cutout at low SOC or low voltage
    • Long life (if not over discharged)
    • Easily recycled


    • Low round-trip efficiency. 75% to 80%
    • Low energy density. Very heavy
    • Usable capacity limited. Max 40% DoD on a regular basis
    • Not modular. Fixed size once installed
    • Cannot sustain a partial state of charge for long periods
    • High temperatures can drastically reduce battery life

    Cutout voltage SOC based on inverter settings and rate of discharge.


    Over the last few years lithium-ion battery systems have become extremely popular due to their high round trip efficiency (92% to 98%), compact size, lightweight and scalability. In contrast, lead-acid battery banks have a fixed size or capacity whereas lithium systems do not suffer this limitation. This flexible sizing allows for additional capacity to be added at a later stage, which is a real bonus for both installers and customers alike.

    Lithium batteries have a much higher energy density compared to lead-acid and are therefore lighter and more compact. A huge advantage of lithium is the ability to sustain a low state of charge (partial state of charge) for a prolonged amount of time without any negative effects such as sulfation which is a common problem with lead-acid batteries. Also, extremely high charge rates can be achieved using lithium with charging times up to 70% faster than lead-acid.

    Also, see our complete solar battery review. A detailed comparison of the latest lithium batteries from the leading manufacturers.


    • Very high round trip efficiency. 92% to 98%
    • Very high energy density. Compact and Lightweight
    • High charge and discharge rates allowed
    • No degradation issues with partial state of charge
    • Modular and scalable systems (upgradable)
    • Safe and low risk (if charged correctly), in particular LFP cells.
    • Most lithium batteries come with a 10 year warranty


    • Can shutdown at high temperatures (45 degC)
    • Can shutdown at low temperatures (below 5 degC)
    • Can ‘trip off’ under continuous high surge loads.
    • difficult to recycle at end of life.
    • May not function without a compatible inverter (CANbus)

    Off-grid Lithium Batteries

    Managed lithium

    The Pylontech US series and BYD LVL Premium series are popular managed lithium batteries used for grid-connected or off-grid systems as they are compatible with a wide range of hybrid and off-grid inverters including SMA and Selectronic, and Victron. See the full list of managed lithium battery options here.

    Self-managed lithium

    There are several self-managed lithium battery options available that also contain a BMS but do not require a communication connection (such as CANbus) with the inverter in order to operate. Most self-managed batteries are modular and able to be scaled to create very large capacity battery banks (up to 500kWh). Popular brands include Simpliphi, GenZ, Discover AES and Powerplus Energy. Much like managed batteries, the internal BMS is used to monitor the state of charge, temperature and cell voltages. Another advantage of this type of battery system is it can be easily retrofitted and used to replace existing lead-acid battery banks since they do not require any special communications or connections. In the event of a system shut down or system black due to a low state of charge or low voltage, most self-managed batteries will restart automatically and do not require manual activation or reset to restart operation.

    best Lithium off-grid batteries

    In my direct experience and based on feedback from many professional off-grid installers, self-managed lithium batteries are generally the most reliable choice for off-grid systems. Managed lithium batteries are also a very good reliable option but can be problematic as they rely on communications which can become unstable, especially at a low state of charge and low temperatures. Most self-managed lithium battery systems are compatible with almost all off-grid inverters; they are also very modular, do not require communication cables and can be expanded to create larger capacity energy storage systems that are better suited to off-grid systems. Additional capacity can also be added at a later stage if required. Self-managed lithium batteries can also be used as a ‘drop-in’ replacement for older lead-acid batteries and are compatible with most inverter-chargers and MPPT solar charge controllers.

    The recommended self-managed lithium (Lithium Ferro Phosphate) batteries from the leading battery manufacturers include Simpliphi, GenZ, Discover AES, PowerPlus Energy and Zenaji Aeon.

    Lead-acid Batteries

    In specific applications, high-performance lead-acid batteries are still an excellent choice for off-grid systems. Lead-acid is a well-proven and reliable technology that is compatible with virtually all off-grid inverters and solar charge controllers. Lead-acid battery banks can also be more reliable in some situations as the battery will not automatically shut down in extreme temperatures or when a low state of charge is reached. In addition, they can be easily recycled using existing infrastructure.

    battery Inverter-chargers

    Modern off-grid solar systems use battery inverters-chargers to manage batteries, solar, and backup power sources such as a generator. The inverter-charger is the heart and brain of an off-grid system. Its primary job is to supply pure sine wave AC power, and it must be able to meet the power requirements of the appliances under all conditions. Inverter-chargers sometimes referred to as multi-mode inverters, are the central energy management system and can be either AC-coupled with solar inverter/s or DC-coupled with solar charge controller/s.

    When designing an off-grid power system, the battery inverter-charger must be adequately sized and selected according to the appliances it will be running. Some equipment such as water pumps, fridge compressors and air-conditioning units require very high surge (peak) power during startup, and this is where many cheaper inverters can fail. If multiple appliances are running at the same time, the inverter must also be able to supply continuous power under all conditions including higher temperatures. If high temperatures and high loads are common, the inverter must be sized correctly to account for temperature de-rating. Again this is where cheaper (transformerless) inverters can often trip, especially during high summer temperatures. Learn more in our technical guide to selecting an off-grid inverter.

    Best off-grid inverter-chargers

    Here is our list of the leading off-grid inverters on the market based on reliability, service, continuous and peak (surge) power rating, energy management software, AC source control, flexibility and remote monitoring.

    These inverter-chargers are all available in a range of different power output ratings (kW) to suit different applications depending on the continuous and peak power requirements. In addition, the top 5 inverters can be AC or DC-coupled using compatible solar inverters or solar charge controllers.

    Off-grid Inverter power comparison

    Inverter-chargers are available in a wide range of sizes from 2.4kW up to 20kW and can be connected in parallel or three-phase configurations for even greater power requirements. Naturally, these powerful inverters are much more expensive than common grid-connected solar inverters or compact all-in-one hybrid inverters and can cost anywhere from 1400 to 7000 depending on the rated power output (48V inverters up to 10kW).

    Most of these inverters can supply double or more of the continuous rating for a short amount of time to handle surge power spikes from motors, compressors, pumps etc. The surge rating is critical for off-grid systems to operate under all the various load conditions expected without tripping out or shutting down unexpectedly. This output power rating can also be reduced under higher ambient temperatures.

    For more detailed information about selecting off-grid and hybrid inverters see our ‘Technical guide to sizing a hybrid inverters and off-grid power systems’.

    Selectronic SP PRO

    Best off-grid inverter. 5kW power ratings

    The SP PRO inverter-chargers from Selectronic, based in Australia, feature the highest 30-minute power rating and highest peak/surge power rating along with a wide range of control methods including relays and digital inputs and outputs which can be configured for load management or generator control. However, it’s not just hardware that’s impressive, the SP PRO also features possibly the most advanced energy management software in the industry.

    Premium quality comes at a premium price, and the SP PRO inverters are one of the most expensive options available; however, considering the high cost of off-grid systems, paying a little more is well worth it for the power and features needed for a reliable off-grid system. The impressive features and high performance, together with a leading 10-year warranty place the SP PRO at the top of our list.

    See the full Selectronic SP PRO review here

    SP PRO basic specifications

    • Type: Multi-mode Inverter-charger (AC or DC coupled)
    • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid
    • Sizes available (power output): 3.0kW, 4.5kW, 5.0kW, 7.5kW, 15kW, 20kW
    • Pass through power: 15kW built-in (28kW external contactor)
    • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid, lithium-ion, flow, sodium-ion
    • Battery System Voltages: 24V, 48V, 120V
    • 63A pass-through power rating (15kW AC) or 125A (30kW)
    • Very high surge power output (2.5 x rated continuous power)
    • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life (lead-acid)
    • Battery sense monitoring and a mid-string sensor for precise battery charging (lead-acid Gel and AGM)
    • Managed AC-coupling with FIMER, Fronius, and Select-Sun solar inverters
    • Very powerful software package with remote access and monitoring.
    • Unique pre-charge feature for safer startup
    • Compatible with many popular lithium battery systems
    • Generator auto start, control and monitoring
    • AC / DC coupling capability
    • Parallel and 3-phase capability
    • A separate solar inverter or solar charge controller is required
    • Full off-grid capability when used with Selectronic certified (Scert) Fronius or FIMER solar inverters
    • Additional generator contactor required if used with dual AC sources.
    • Additional unit required for remote monitoring and setup.

    Price bracket – From AU4500 (4.5kW)

    See detailed specification datasheet. Selectronic SP PRO series

    Victron MultiPlus

    Best off-grid Inverter. 2kW to 5kW power rating

    Victron Energy based in the Netherlands is a well known, international, high quality manufacture with a wide product range including battery chargers, sinewave inverters, inverters-chargers, DC/DC converters, transfer switches, battery monitors, charge controllers and more. Victron offer the most cost effective range of multi-mode inverters with a huge range of sizes including the new MultiPlus II inverters/chargers. For many applications the Victron is a great quality, lower cost option, especially for DC coupled systems. The Victron remote system options are extremely advanced and offer full remote access and control, as well as some powerful monitoring features. Victron products are also simple to setup and offer a huge range of different add-ons and configuration options.

    See the full Victron Energy Review here

    Basic specifications: (8 sizes available) plus other variations

    • Type: Inverter-charger (DC or AC-coupled)
    • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid
    • Solar Array Size (Solar input): N/A
    • Sizes available (power output): 0.7kW, 1.3kW, 1.6kW, 2.4kW, 4.0kW, Update June 2021. New larger 8kVA and 10kVA now available.
    • Pass through power: 3.6kW. 11.5kW. Also a 23kW (100A) model is available.
    • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid, lithium-ion, Redox Flow battery
    • Battery System Voltage: 12V, 24V, 48V
    • Economical Inverter-charger option
    • Med-High surge power output
    • High pass-through power capability
    • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life
    • Generator auto-start and monitoring available
    • AC coupling with Fronius, SMA, SolarEdge, and some Delta solar inverters
    • Dual AC outputs for non-essential loads (high-power units only)
    • Programmable software with remote access and Wi-Fi App
    • 3-phase capability parallel for higher power output
    • A separate solar inverter or solar charge controller is required
    • Victron size the inverters in kVA, not kW (ref datasheet)
    • Full capability only when used with Victron regulators and colour control panel (CCGX) and Venus GX
    • Larger capacity Quattro inverters are also available (up to 15kVA)

    Price bracket – from AUD1600 (2.4kW)

    See detailed specification datasheet. Victron Multiplus inverter specs

    SMA Sunny Island

    Best off-grid inverter for extreme environments

    SMA Solar Technology is a leading German solar energy equipment supplier founded in 1981 and is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar inverters. The well regarded Suny island inverters are a proven performer in harsh outdoor environments in particular sub-zero temperatures.

    See the full SMA inverter Review.

    Basic specifications: (3 sizes available)

    • Type: Inverter-charger (AC-coupled)
    • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid
    • Solar Array Size (Solar input): n/a
    • Sizes available (power output): 3.3kW, 4.6kW, 6.0kW
    • Pass through power: 11.5kW
    • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid, lithium-ion (refer to manufacturer)
    • Battery System Voltage: 48V
    • High pass through power capability
    • High surge power output
    • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life
    • Powerful software package with remote monitoring
    • Generator auto start and monitoring (optional)
    • Dual AC inputs (grid and generator)
    • Very good IP54 weather rating
    • AC / DC coupling capability
    • 3-phase capability parallel for higher output
    • Separate solar inverter or solar DC regulator required
    • Full capability when used with SMA or compatible solar inverters
    • External automatic transfer switch required to enable battery backup
    • When configured as a hybrid inverter, grid isolation (backup mode) is not instantaneous. 2-3 sec delay.

    Price bracket – From 3800

    See detailed specification datasheet. SMA Sunny Island specs

    Outback Power FXR VFXR

    Best small capacity off-grid inverter. Split phase, North America

    Founded back in 2001 by three power systems design engineers, Outback Power has grown to become one of the leading manufacturers of off-grid power systems in North America. The company produces an advanced range of inverter/chargers designed for off-grid residential and commercial installations, along with the highly regarded Flexmax range of MPPT solar charge controllers. In addition to the popular FXR vented VFXR series designed for off-grid use, the Radian series of bi-directional inverter/chargers were developed for advanced hybrid (grid-connected) energy storage systems.

    Basic specifications: (5 sizes available) plus other variations

    • Type: Inverter-charger (DC-coupled)
    • Use: Solar storage, back-up (UPS), off-grid
    • Solar Array Size (Solar input): N/A
    • FXR sizes available (power output): 2.0kVA, 2.5kVA, 3.0kVA
    • VFXR sizes available (power output): 2.8kVA, 3.5kVA, 3.6kVA (Modular configuration. parallel for greater power requirements).
    • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid or lithium-ion
    • Battery System Voltage: 12V, 24V, 48V
    • Available in six models for 120VAC or 230VAC
    • Med-High surge power output
    • Pass through power capability
    • Battery temperature monitoring for longer battery life
    • Generator auto-start and monitoring available
    • Programmable software with remote access.
    • 3-phase capability parallel for higher power output
    • Separate solar DC regulator required
    • Inverters sized in kVA, not kW (ref datasheet)
    • Full capability only when used with Mate3 control
    • Larger capacity is available with parallel configuration, up to 10 inverters.
    • AC coupling is only available with Radian series inverters.

    Price bracket – from US1800 (2.0kW)

    See detailed specification datasheet. Outback FXR VFXR inverter specs

    Sol-Ark 12K 15K

    Best All-in-one Off-grid Inverter. Split phase, North America

    Sol-Ark is a relatively new US-based company that distributes an all-in-one hybrid/off-grid inverter manufactured by Deye inverter Technology Co. The inverter is available in two varieties, a 12K and 15K model and has been customised to suit the US market with many features, including dual MPPT’s, ground-fault, arc-fault and lightning protection built-in, integrated load centre with DC and AC isolators, and remote access, including monitoring. While feature-packed, it does have some compromises; the Sol-Ark inverter is transformerless, meaning it has a limited surge power rating and will struggle to power large inductive loads such as pumps and compressors. Note the real-world loads (a combination of inductive and basic resistive or heating loads) are about 20% lower than the specifications listed. Additionally, each 120V leg is limited to 4.8kW (12K model), so the loads must be managed accordingly.

    Basic specifications:

    • Type: Hybrid Inverter-charger. All-in-one unit
    • Use: Solar storage, backup (UPS), Off-grid
    • Max Solar Array Size (Solar input): 13kW (12K), 19kW (15K)
    • Power rating 12K (continuous output): 7.5kW real-world loads
    • Power rating 15K (continuous output): 9.5kW real-world loads (Modular configuration. parallel for greater power requirements).
    • Compatible Battery types: Lead-acid or lithium-ion
    • Battery System Voltage: 48V
    • Split phase. 120VAC or 240VAC
    • 200A pass-through power rating (15k)
    • Parallel capability for higher power requirements.
    • Inbuilt Ground-fault and Arc fault detection (GFD)
    • Inbuilt lightning protection (PV)
    • Integrated battery DC isolator and AC source/load isolator
    • Generator auto-start and monitoring built-in
    • Programmable software with remote access.
    • Colour touch-screen display
    • Transformerless Inverter with limited surge power rating
    • The real-world loads are approx 20% lower than the specifications listed.
    • Higher power output available with parallel configuration

    Price bracket – 12K from US6800, 15K from 8200

    See detailed datasheets. Sol-Ark 12K specs, Sol-Ark 15K specs

    Disclaimer: Solar and battery storage systems must be installed by an experienced licensed electrical professional. Modern large scale off-grid solar systems are typically high voltage and can generate and store huge amounts of energy which can result in damage, fire or serious injury if the installation does not meet all relevant regulations, standards and guidelines.

    About the Author. Jason Svarc is a CEC accredited off-grid stand-alone power system specialist who has been designing and installing off-grid solar power systems for 10 years. During this time he also taught the CEC accreditation off-grid design and installation course at Swinburne University (Tafe). Having designed, installed, commissioned and monitored hundreds of off-grid systems for households and businesses over the years, he has gained vast experience and knowledge of what is required to build a quality, reliable, high-performance off-grid solar power system.

    Solar questions?

    Visit our community discussion about off-grid systems in our solar info forum.

    DIY solar panels: pros, cons and installation guide

    To save money, it’s no surprise that many homeowners are considering “do it yourself”, or DIY, solar. You can install solar panels yourself, but there are some advantages and disadvantages to doing it alone. In this article, we’ll break down the top pros and cons that you need to know about do-it-yourself solar panel systems before making a decision.

    Can you install solar panels yourself?

    A solar panel system is complicated, which is why so many companies across the U.S. specialize in providing professional solar installation services. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t build your own solar panel system – you can install your own panels, a DIY solar panel setup can be a viable option for some solar shoppers wanting to tap into renewable energy.

    According to data from the EnergySage Marketplace, the average cost of going solar for homeowners (after accounting for the federal tax credit) is about 20,650 in 2023. Of that amount, design and installation labor costs contribute about 10% of the total bill; this 10% is what a DIY solar installation will save you since you’ll still have to buy the equipment and components yourself. Regardless, it’s still tempting to look into building your own solar panel installation to save money and be in full control of your home renewable energy project.

    Your solar energy system should continue to generate electricity for 25 to 35 years, so you must consider both the upfront costs and the relative financial benefits for all of your solar options. If you buy a home solar kit like the ones for sale at Costco or Home Depot, it may be less expensive per watt, but you aren’t getting the same quality equipment that solar installers can offer you. For the most part, solar installers buy from equipment distributors that don’t sell to the general public – and they’re often getting lower because they’re able to buy in bulk and have access to the best solar panel brands. Going for the more expensive option now may end up saving you money in the long run because you’ll likely have a system built to last a few decades, offsetting your monthly electric bills.

    Pros and cons of DIY solar panels and solar panel kits

    DIY panels can be a great option for going off the grid and some small home applications. For powering your entire home, however, it may be in your best interest to go with a professional installer.

    DIY solar pros and cons

    Pros of DIY solar panelsCons of DIY solar panels
    Provides more energy independence for homeowners by not being tied to the electricity grid. Require much more maintenance that would otherwise be covered by an installer warranty.
    Effective in powering smaller items like RVs, boats and other appliances For an entire home, installation may be difficult for an individual without the knowledge and experience of a professional installer.
    Allows homeowners to save roughly 10% on the overall cost of installation that would otherwise go towards labor. DIY installation may be illegal where you live according to local zoning laws.

    Most home DIY all-in-one solar panel solar kits (including items like solar batteries, and inverters) are designed for off-grid use, which means you can’t use them and remain connected to your utility. If you’re an average homeowner, going off-grid is probably not in your best interest – being able to access utility-generated electricity is important if your solar array doesn’t produce enough electricity to meet your needs at all times of the day throughout the year.

    However, home solar kits can be a good solution if you’re not trying to power your entire home. RVs, boats, and the increasingly popular tiny houses are all opportunities to explore do-it-yourself solar because they are already off-grid and mobile. Storage kits are also a good option for backup to help in the case of a blackout and can contain battery banks and battery systems.

    If you want to install a DIY solar project, compare several options beforehand. Grape Solar is a major manufacturer (among others) and offers a few different DIY products and components for both grid-tied and off-grid systems, which you can find more information on below.

    DIY solar options

    ProductSystem size (watts)System costDollars per wattRetailer link
    Grape Solar 400 watt PV solar panel kit 400 588 1.47 Home Depot
    Grape Solar 600 watt PV solar panel kit 600 857 1.42 Home Depot
    Renogy solar 12-volt/24-volt premium kit 800 1,350 1.69 Renogy
    ECO-WORTHY off-grid solar panel kit 800 1,090 1.36 Amazon

    When you decide on DIY solar panels, remember that you get what you pay for. A home solar kit may be less expensive, but solar installers offer tremendous value for a relatively little additional cost (remember that 10% figure?). When it comes to installing an expensive electrical system on your property, finding someone who knows what they’re doing can save you both time and money in the long run.

    Some of the best solar installers have been in the business for decades – an experience that no amount of online research or DIY guides can replicate. Every state requires that installers are licensed and qualified to install solar, and independent certifications like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Solar PV Installation Professional Certification ensure that the company you choose to work with has an intimate understanding of the process. Because of this, they can provide experienced insight and help you assess what equipment is the best fit for your property and whether a battery system is right for you.

    Your solar installer will also help you complete and file the permits and applications that you need to submit to get your solar power system up and running. This is particularly important because your utility won’t let you connect your system to the grid without a sign-off from a certified electrician.

    Because of your solar installer’s experience, they’ll also have a strong understanding of the financial incentives for solar available in your area, and might even be able to help you save more money by finding any rebates and tax incentives that you may have missed. Lastly, it is important to note that many equipment manufacturers will only honor their warranties if a qualified installer installed their equipment. Many installers will also offer an additional warranty to back up their work, too.

    The 6-step guide to DIY solar panels: how to install solar panels

    The DIY solar panel installation process can be simplified into six major steps:

    Purchase your solar equipment and components (solar panels, batteries, inverters, racking, etc.)

    Equipment and components including panels can be purchased with help from the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide. You can compare panel, battery, and inverter models based on specs like efficiency, warranties, and more.

    Install the racking or mounts for the panels on a roof or the ground

    Once you have the necessary equipment, designs, and permits in order, it is time to install your equipment. For roof mount systems, this begins with installing your racking and mounting equipment. To start, mark where your system will be installed, drill where lag bolts will be put in place, caulk the holes, put in lag bolts, and lock rails onto them. For ground mount systems, the steps are similar, only the panels will be installed at the ground level on some type of racking system.

    Install your equipment

    The first items to install are the solar inverters, which convert the electricity generated by your solar panels into usable electricity. After these are installed using provided bolts, you will need to connect a grounding wire. This is a piece of copper wire across the rails that serves as a safety precaution against lightning strikes and other faults. After this, you can attach your solar panels to your racking equipment.

    Connect to your main electrical board

    After you have fully installed your panel and system, be sure to schedule an inspection with the local construction authority closest to you. This will ensure that your system complies with local ordinances. Once you pass this inspection, you can apply to connect to the grid. The local utility company will give you a meter to record your power exports.

    Get in touch with your utility company and request permission to turn on (PTO) if necessary in your area

    From there, turn on your system after you have the proper approval and check how the system is functioning with a solar monitoring app.

    Maintenance of DIY solar panel systems

    One of the benefits of working with a certified solar installer is the warranty that comes with their service. Solar panel manufacturers provide a range of warranties that guarantee you will have support and coverage in the unlikely event of an issue caused by unusual circumstances, such as large hail or falling tree branches. Power output warranties guarantee that panel performance won’t fall below a specified level over the term of the warranty (usually 25 years). For instance, a manufacturer might provide a warranty to guarantee that peak power output won’t fall below 85% for 25 years.

    Frequently asked questions about DIY solar panels

    If you’re considering a DIY solar panel kit, but still have concerns about the best options, process, and general cost, check out a few of the most common questions we encounter when talking to solar shoppers:

    DIY solar panels may be tempting to install, but their long-term worth may be up for debate due to quality alone. Typically, a solar panel system should continue to generate electricity for 25 to 35 years, so it’s important to invest in quality equipment and a reputable installer. If you purchase a home solar panel kit from a retailer, you may be paying less per watt, but you’re not going to get the same efficiency or quality that professional installers usually offer with their products.

    You’ll also likely forgo any warranties that come with your solar panel system, as warranties often only apply when the system is installed by a certified installer. It’s also important to mention that if you still need to rely on some utility power and remain connected to the grid, DIY solar panels are typically not worth it. They are best used for small off-grid applications, like RVs, where a solar generator or solar battery bank can provide you power when you otherwise may not have access.

    As a DIYer, you don’t need to be an electrician to install solar panels. It’s certainly not illegal to go the DIY route if you choose to. However, when it comes to installing a costly electrical system on your property, we recommend relying on professionals with technical know-how —their experience is invaluable and it can make a huge difference in the overall quality and performance of your system. Plus, solar installers will help you fill out permits and file important paperwork that you might not otherwise know is required.

    You can find reliable DIY solar panels at retailers like Home Depot or from manufacturers like Grape Solar, for between 6,000 to 11,000, depending on your system size needs. For lower cost options, some manufacturers sell DIY solar panels on Amazon for anywhere between 1,600 to 2,500. You may be looking at additional costs if you want to install a solar battery and charge controller system as part of your DIY project.

    Should you install solar yourself or hire an installer?

    If you’re wavering between a DIY solar system and hiring a solar installer, getting a ballpark estimate for an installation may help you in your decision process. With our Solar Calculator, you can see upfront cost and long-term savings estimates based on your location and roof type to determine if a solar installation is the best choice for you. If you’re looking to get quotes from local contractors today, be sure to check out the quote comparison platform in the EnergySage Marketplace.

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