RV Solar Panels | Rooftop VS. Portable
With more and more people exploring the RV’ing outside of the regular campground, RV solar panels have become a mainstream accessory. If solar power is important to you, should you get a solar panel permanently mounted on the roof of your trailer? Would a portable suitcase style panel be better? Before deciding, you should consider the pros and cons of each type of panel.
First, where are you camping?
If your favorite place to hang out is the Redwood Forest, then a rooftop panel may not be much help to you. Camping in areas with dense forests or tree cover is a great way to lose the crowds, but it will make a rooftop solar panel less effective. You can hope for a parking spot right where the sun peeks through, but that may not always be possible. On the other hand, if you love the desert, a rooftop panel would be great (except if you want to take advantage of the rare shade opportunities to keep your trailer cooler). Bottom line, the roof top solar will have its limitation since wherever you park, there’s your solar panel. Consider your camping style, and if a rooftop panel works for you most of the time, go for it.
Charge ‘er Up!
Another benefit of the rooftop RV solar panel is that it is charging your battery when you are at a restaurant eating lunch, visiting the museum, or on an all day hike to the waterfall. If there’s a sunny parking area, your 12volt refrigerator and fantastic fan can keep doing their thing without any concerns. If you store your trailer in an uncovered space, that solar panel can keep the battery charged or just pump up the battery right before your next trip!
What Are the Options?
If you put a solar panel on your roof, you have two basic choices: A standard rigid panel mounted to the roof with small brackets on each corner, or a flexible panel that lays directly on the roof and works especially well with smaller trailer built with a curved roof (like a teardrop trailer). We see failures on rare occasions with both panels. The rigid panel can be cracked or broken from a tree limb or other objects hitting it as you go down the road, or as it’s parked. They are fairly durable, but the hazard still exists. A flexible solar panel has the same opportunity for damage, but we see a few more issues due to the panel peeling away from the roof or sometimes just flying off the roof completely while the trailer is going down the road. Sure, it could happen with either one, but the only disappearing solar panel we have seen at Princess Craft RV have been the flexible ones. We realize this can (and does) happen to other gear stuck on the roof of your trailer, but if your considering adding a solar panel, it seems worth noting.
Stay in Control
Since every RV solar panel needs a controller to regulate the voltage and be sure you don’t overcharge your batteries, the rooftop system requires that controller to be mounted inside the camper. Most controllers include the battery voltage and level of charge as part of the display, making that information easy to review from time to time. The portable panels have the controller on the back of them with all the same info, however, it is not on the wall inside your trailer where you can keep an eye on it when you walk by!