There is much to love about RVing, the relaxation and the adventure. It’s like a second home that lets you break away from your day-to-day activities. But being away from an electrical outlet for long periods of time presents challenges. That’s why so many people are taking advantage of new solar power equipment.
From campers to tiny homes and everything in between, many mobile lifestyle owners have the biggest question of whether to get a roof-mounted solar panel system or a portable one.
If you are considering solar panels for your RV, it can also be difficult to decipher which is best for your personal situation. With some basic education, you can choose the right solar panels for your motorhome. So let us walk through a comparison of these two types of systems and see how they differ — and how they are similar.
Roof-Mounted and Portable Solar Panels for RVs: Quick Overview
Roof-mounted solar panels are a great way to power your RV. These panels are designed to be mounted on top of RVs and boats so that they can capture sunlight from above. The panels are attached directly to your RV's roof with clamps or mounting brackets. Roof-mounted solar panels generally come with a battery pack so that you can store the energy you collect during the day for use at night or during cloudy days.
Unlike roof-mounted solar panels, designed for permanent installation on a roof or wall and typically generate AC, portable solar panels produce DC — the type needed by many common RV appliances. They are also lightweight and easy to install; they can be hung from the roof of an RV or attached to any flat surface using suction cups or other mounting hardware. Portable solar panels are popular among campers who want to charge their phones while camping without having access to electricity from a nearby campsite or park with electrical hookups.
RV Solar Panels – Should You Go Portable or Roof Mounted?
Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to get portable or roof-mounted solar panels for RVing.
Portable solar panels are portable and easy to store when not in use. They can be rolled up and secured with a strap, which allows you to carry them easily and store them in a closet or truck bed when not in use. And, if you are camping in an area with no electricity, you can unfold your portable solar panel and charge your device directly from the sun's rays! Moreover, portable solar panels take up less room than large rooftop installations, so they do not clutter up your vehicle with excess equipment.
Roof-mounted solar panels, on the other hand, are not very portable at all because they must be installed permanently on top of your rig's roof. If you ever need to move your RV, you must remove the panels and reinstall them in another location. This can be time-consuming and expensive if you have multiple roof-mounted solar panels. They are only a great option for RVs that stay in one place most of the year, like those that live at campgrounds or parks full time.
In addition to durability, roof-mounted solar panels tend to be less efficient than portable solar panels. This is because they have less exposure to direct sunlight, which reduces their ability to absorb energy and generate power for your battery bank. This is especially true if you are parked in an area that does not get much sun for most of the day, like a campground with tall trees or a site where shade covers your RV most of the day.
Portable solar panels for RVs do not have this limitation because they are not fixed to your vehicle and can be moved more easily. As a result, they track the sun more efficiently, which means that they will produce more power throughout the day than roof-mounted ones, which only produce maximum power when the sun is directly overhead or faced towards the roof-mounted panels.
Most roof mount solar panels are only rated to withstand wind speeds up to 60 mph. This can be a problem when traveling in areas prone to high winds or heavy rain. In these situations, your fragile roof-mounted solar panels can easily damage and destroy.
Portable solar panels for RVs do not have this problem because they are not permanently fixed to your RV. You can remove them from your vehicle and store them away in a safe place until you need them again. This makes them a better option if you plan on driving your RV around frequently or camping in rough terrain.
Portable solar panels for RVs also have a longer lifespan than roof-mounted panels because they do not have to withstand harsh weather conditions every time you go camping or on a road trip. Roof mount solar panels are usually attached to your RV with a system that involves screws, glue, and other adhesives. They tend to wear out faster due to exposure to the elements, which means that you will need to replace them more often than portable panels would need replacing, even though both types of the panel will last for decades before they need replacing.
Roof-mounted solar panels require much more effort when it comes to installation, as they require professional help or at least some electrical engineering knowledge. The installation process can be quite tricky and may require additional wiring work for the system to function properly.
In contrast, portable solar panels for RVs are much easier to install than roof-mounted ones because they do not require any holes in the roof or wiring work inside the RV. Portable solar panels can also be easily removed when you do not need them anymore - disconnect them from the battery bank, store them safely somewhere outside your vehicle where they would not get damaged, and put them back on when you need them later down the road.
Roof-mounted solar panels for RVs can weigh hundreds of pounds or more. They must be installed permanently on the roof of an RV, which means that they are usually not removable except by professional mechanics with special tools. Moving your RV is difficult if you need to get it up on a trailer or tow dolly because you cannot remove the panels first. Moreover, the weight of roof-mounted solar panels can put a lot of stress on your roof's structure. If you have an older RV or one with a weak roof, then this could cause serious damage over time.
Portable solar panels for RVs do not have this problem because they are lighter than their roof-mounted counterparts and can easily be removed when you need them to store away temporarily. Portable solar panels for RVs weigh much less — typically around 20 pounds each — so they are much easier to deal with if you need to move your RV frequently.
The cost of roof-mounted solar panels for RVs is significantly higher than portable solar panels for RVs. For example, the cost of two 100-watt portable solar panels is about $200 less than that of two 100-watt roof-mounted solar panels. Roof-mounted solar panels are so expensive because they require mounting hardware and professional installation, which adds costs to their purchase price.
Another great thing about portable solar panels is that they allow you more flexibility when installing them on your RV. For example, most portable panels feature flexible frames that allow you to bend them into any shape or angle so that they fit perfectly onto your vehicle's roof or side panel without having to drill any holes. This is not possible with roof-mounted panel designs since they require mounting brackets, which may not be available for every type of RV.
With such high flexibility, you can position portable solar panels anywhere on your vehicle where there is direct sunlight, including both the roof and the sides of the vehicle. This allows you to maximize the power generated by each panel, ultimately increasing your overall efficiency.
Roof-mounted solar panels can be very difficult to maintain because they are permanently fixed on your RV. This means that if you want to clean or fix any problems with them, you need to climb onto your roof and expose yourself to dangerous conditions. This is why it is recommended that you hire a professional to clean and maintain your roof-mounted solar panels from time to time.
Portable solar panels for RVs do not have this problem because they are not permanently fixed to your RV. You do not have to worry about climbing onto a slippery surface to clean or perform maintenance tasks on them. Moreover, they can be inspected regularly by anyone with basic technical skills. You do not need an electrician or mechanic to check them out and ensure they function properly.
Portable solar panels for RVs are also more versatile than permanent roof mount solar panels because they can be used on multiple vehicles. A portable solar panel system is a great option if you have multiple RVs or if you own multiple vehicles that need to be charged.
These systems come with multiple options that allow you to charge your devices wherever you go. You can plug them into your car's cigarette lighter port or use the included battery bank to store power so it can be used later. This makes these systems perfect for campers, boaters, and RV owners who want to save money on their electrical bills while still enjoying their recreational activities.
Roof-mounted solar panels for RVs are not only more expensive but also more dangerous than portable solar panels for RVs. Most roof mount solar panels require you to drill holes through your RV's roof to install them. If not done carefully, this can cause leaks, mold, and mildew to grow inside your RV, which can harm your health. Portable solar panels for RVs, on the other hand, are easy to install and remove from your RV without causing any damage or leaks. They are placed on top of your RV trailer or motorhome and connected to a battery bank using simple wiring, making them preferable over the roof-mounted solar panels.
When it seems that there is always a new or improved solar technology, it can be difficult to determine which solar panel for your RV is the best option for you. With all these choices available, it is not surprising that many RV owners have settled on portable mounted panels over roof-mounted ones. This is because there are some good reasons why portable solar panels prove to be more effective than roof-mounted panels in certain situations. They are easy to install, safe to use, and offer numerous benefits you would not get when using roof-mounted solar panels.
All in all, when you choose portable solar panels, you will get many advantages over those fitted on your RV's roof. They will almost always outperform roof-mounted panels for RV use. That said, whether or not you go with a portable panel ultimately comes down to your own needs and desired level of convenience. Hopefully, this guide has helped you decide what is best for you.
Check Out Bluetti
Once you plan for a portable solar panel, check out Bluetti. If you spend a lot of time outdoors in an RV and need to minimize your power consumption for any reason, Bluetti's portable solar panels may be the answer you are looking for. They are easy to use, work well in various conditions and with different types of batteries, and can be stashed away in an RV compartment until needed.