What are the best solar panels for a campervan in the UK? In this guide we review some of the UK’s leading brands and what factors you should be aware of.
If you’re thinking about embarking on an extended camping trip, boondocking or living freely in the wild for as long as your heart desires, solar panels can provide you with the power you need to live off-grid.
Solar panels for your campervan or motor home can make you self-sufficient regarding your electricity needs and are a sustainable mobile electricity option.
You can potentially generate clean energy from almost anywhere and recharge your devices, appliances and batteries.
But what are the best solar panels for campervans in the UK? And what should you consider in terms of size, installation, time of year, costs, warranties and solar DIY kits?
Best Solar for Campers Quick Summary:
- The solar panels you need will depend on the amount of energy you require and the size of your campervans or caravans roof.
- The most common solar panel kit for campervans in the UK is around 80 Watt, which will be suitable for most applications.
- Flexible solar panels often mean you can avoid the need for drilling holes into the roof, but rigid models work just as well.
Best Solar Panels For Campervans in the UK
Below we review the most important factors and things to be aware of when selecting solar panels for the following applications:
- Solar panels for campervans
- Solar panels for motorhomes
- Solar panels for caravans
Campervan Solar Panel Type
There are different types of solar panels in the market today, and understanding them can help you choose a good fit for your van and lifestyle.
Flexible Solar Panels
Flexible solar panels are aerodynamic, lightweight, easy to install and made from moulded solar cells.
They’re discreet and perfect for stealth camping and can also be bent to fit the gentle curves of campervan or caravan roofs.
However, they’re more prone to scratches, less durable and expensive.
Rigid Solar Panels
Rigid solar panels are permanently mounted on your campervans roof and are the standard for fixed solar panels.
They’re efficient, durable and affordable with an aluminium frame that’s easy to install directly on your van with mounting brackets or roof racks.
However, they can be relatively heavy and require drilled mounting holes for permanent installation.
Portable or Freestanding Solar Panels
Portable solar panels resemble briefcases you can unfold to reveal the solar panel.
Since it can fold out to catch the sun at any angle, it allows you to take advantage of sun positions in ways that fixed panels can’t.
You can store it in your van and pull it out when required making it a great option if you don’t want to install solar panels permanently.
However, they’re easily damaged or scratched, are expensive and have a short operating life.
Solar Panel Technology: Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline
Solar panels are made from silicone cells and can either be monocrystalline or polycrystalline.
Monocrystalline panels are 15-20% more efficient, take up less space and cost more.
Polycrystalline panels are less expensive but must be larger to match the power output of monocrystalline panels.
Both have the same lifespan and durability expectations, and a 100W panel will produce the same level of electricity regardless of the panel’s technology.
It will therefore come down to panel size and affordability when choosing between the two.
The Size of Panels You Need
You must determine your electricity use to choose a suitable panel size that best fits your campervan or caravan cost-effectively.
A reliable way to determine this is to consider the power use of all electrical devices you’ll need while camping.
Think of it in terms of watts and how much power you and your van needs.
Most solar panels in the UK have power ratings that detail how much power the panel provides in standard conditions.
You can choose an appropriate size depending on how much power you require and the size of your van roof.
The Time of Year You’ll Travel
Different times of year have different solar radiation stats, so you must consider when you’re likely to travel to know how much sun the panel will be exposed to.
Typically solar panels will produce more power in the summer months when days are longer, and there are more sunshine hours.
Consider the peak sun hours for your relevant area and the lowest monthly solar radiation averages.
Solar panels will degrade over the years, and most warranties are based on the power output.
The product and power warranties feature guarantees that the panel will still offer a certain percentage of their initial output, ranging from 10 to 25 years.
You can expect the solar panel output to fall by around 0.8% annually, producing about 92% of the energy it did when it was new after ten years or longer.
The more extended the warranty, the better because it shows the manufacturer’s confidence in their product.
Solar Panel DIY Kits
Campervan solar panels are usually sold in kits and can give you good value for money.
Solar panels are just one component of the solar power system for your campervan, and you must consider the leisure battery, charge controller and wiring.
Each part must be of similar quality to get the most out of your solar panels.
The best solar panel kits for campervans feature a Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) regulator instead of Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) models.
The solar power regulator protects the battery and ensures optimal operation by controlling how much power gets through.
Be on the lookout for kits that provide knock-off MPPT charge controllers or PWM controllers packaged as MPPT controllers.
You’ll only get good value if you need all the components in the kit, so you must decide what you need or want and choose a kit that matches your needs.
If it’s unavailable, the best option is to buy the parts separately.
Components to look out for in kits include:
- The solar panel type (polycrystalline or monocrystalline).
- Power output rating in watts.
- Whether it includes batteries or not.
- The power regulator type (MPPT or PWM).
- Whether it consists of an AC inverter or not.
Best Solar Panels for Campervan UK
Here are some of the best solar panels for campervans to consider in the UK:
- Renogy 175W Flexible Solar Panel – Best quality
- Hightec 200w Rigid Solar Panel – Great value
- Newpowa 100w Rigid Solar Panel – Cheapest Monocrystalline
Motorhome Solar Panels FAQ:
Here are some of the most common questions we receive with regards to solar panels and campervans/caravans and motorhomes:
What Size Motorhome Solar Panels Do You Need?
This all depends on your energy demands and can be limited by the size of your roof.
Therefore, you need to consider the size of the roof, the size of the panel, it’s energy generation potential and the potential energy it will be able to generate.
What’s Best – Flexible or Rigid Solar Panels?
In terms of energy production, there is little difference between flexible and rigid panels if you select the same kilowatt and efficiency.
The major difference between them is the fact that flexible panels are typically easier to install and lightweight i.e. they typically don’t require the need for drilling of the roof.
Where can you install solar panels on your campervan?
Solar panels can be installed in multiple locations on your campervan, typically the roof of the vehicle or freestanding.
A fixed panel will typically be roof mounted and fixed into place so you don’t need to drill holes or cut your roof.
They can also generate energy while on the move too, which is a major advantage.
Freestanding solar panels can be used almost anywhere once you park and connect to your system to charge batteries.
Solar Panels For Campervan Final Thoughts
There’s no shortage of choices when selecting solar panels for campervans.
Decide on the panel that will fit your van and whether you can afford flexible, rigid or portable panels based on your budget.
Ensure you work out your campervan’s power needs and decide whether you want a mobile or permanently fixed solar panel.