RV Solar Panels: Portable or Rooftop?

Last Updated on July 5, 2023

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As RVing continues to be one of the most popular pastimes, the use of RV solar panels has become a mainstream accessory. When it comes to solar power for RVs, you have the option to mount panels permanently to the roof or you can carry a portable style panel with you. Before you decide, there are a few important things to consider.

Your Camping Spot

portable solarYour favorite camping spots will influence which solar panel style will work best for you. Dense forests are great for hiding from the crowds but not ideal for rooftop solar panels. The sun will not be able to reach them as efficiently under all the tree cover. It may not always be possible to get a spot where the sun is peeking through. But, many like parking in the shade to keep their RV cool. In these situations, a portable solar panel works better. You also do not drill holes into the roof of the RV, which can create potential leaking spots. If you stay in more open places in general, then installing rooftop panels will be more efficient.


rooftop solarWith a rooftop solar system, the panels are with you and ready to go at any time. Wherever you go, they are charging, except when parked in the shade. With portable panels, you have to set them up each time and pack them away before you leave. While they are not difficult to set up or take down, this can be an inconvenience to some RVers. Since it is not safe to leave portable systems unattended, you would also need to have precautions and security, like chains, and this adds to the setup and takes down time.

Keeping A Charge

Rooftop panels can get charged as you are driving and anytime you are parked for lunch, or hiking for the day. All you need to do is a park in a sunny area and it will charge all day. With a portable panel set, you will have to set it out each time. You may not want to leave it out while you are away from the RV so this can lead to lost charging time. Unattended portable panels can be easily stolen. Depending on your activities, a rooftop panel will be easier to get charged.


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Stay In Control

Every RV solar panel needs a controller to regulate the voltage to protect you from overcharging your batteries. A rooftop solar system requires that the controller is mounted inside the camper. Most controllers include the battery voltage and level of charge as part of the display and this makes information easy to review when needed. In comparison, portable solar panels have the controller on the back that has the same information. The difference is that without having it on the wall in your RV, it is not as easy to check and keep an eye on.

If you’d like to learn more about the specific solar system you’d need for your RV, contact Dan. He is an RV Solar Consultant and will help to choose the best system for your needs.

1 thought on “RV Solar Panels: Portable or Rooftop?”

  1. Thank you for explaining that if you’re camping in a more open area, rooftop solar panels for your RV is a good way to go. My husband and I have been thinking about using some solar energy on our next trip in our RV to see how much we can live off of the land. We’ll be sure to keep this in mind while we prepare for campsites and our route.

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