Having efficient solar panels is a key component of any solar system and it’s important to make sure that you choose the right ones for your system. Renogy offers a variety of different solar panels that vary in material, watts, and size to cover almost every application out there. in this post, we will show you how to CHOOSE solar panels that are right for you and why you should consider purchasing them from renogy!
Since 2010, Renogy has been on a mission to change the way the world uses energy. What started as a small project by students at Louisiana State University has grown into an incredibly innovative company with excellent products and resources. Renogy solar panels are quickly becoming more and more efficient as technology progresses. Below we will break down everything you need to consider before you purchase panels for your solar system.
How Many Watts Do I Need?
On average, most systems use between 200-500 watts of solar power. With that being said, there is not a generic “one size fits all” answer to this question and there are many factors to consider before choosing how many solar panels you require.
How long will your battery storage last until you need to recharge? If you have a high daily consumption of power (editing photos, operating a diesel heater, cooling a fridge) and a small amount of battery storage then you’re going to need more solar panels to recharge your batteries more frequently. If you have a large amount of battery storage and low consumption of power, you may be able to last a week or more without having to recharge. This can be perfect if you live or spend the majority of your time in a cloudy environment.
Driving Time vs Down Time
How do you travel? Do you drive long distances and stay for a few weeks in each place or do you drive for a few hours every day? While driving, your alternator will charge your solar batteries which will allow you to rely less on your solar panels. This means that if you are driving more frequently, you can probably get away with fewer watts.
Each component consumes power and it’s important to calculate how much power you will be consuming on an average day. Some of the most common ones are charging electronics such as cellphones, laptops, and cameras. As well as operating lights, heater, roof fans, water pumps, and fridges. Nate, over at Explorists Life has an awesome post and excel spreadsheet to help you calculate How Many Batteries Are Needed for Your Solar System.
Living in Canada, we use our campervan during the winter months for snowboarding and cross-country skiing. The shortest day of the year only gives us about 6 hours of daylight and the sun remains very low in the sky. This is a big factor in why we have 525 watts of solar power.
If you live in a coastal city that is very cloudy during the winter, you will have a similar problem by not receiving enough solar power due to cloud cover. To compensate for this issue, you will need to install more solar panels.
Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline
It’s an easy answer; Monocrystalline panels are far more efficient and although more expensive, worth the added cost. There’s also a reason why Renogy doesn’t sell Polycrystalline panels; they are becoming much less popular due to how inefficient they are!
Soft or Rigid
You can choose from soft or rigid panels. Soft panels are much more expensive but there are a few reasons that soft panels do outperform rigid panels. First, they allow you to stealth camp more easily. With that being said, as soon as you put a window or ladder on the side of your van, it pretty much blows your cover anyway!
Second, they are more aerodynamic and lightweight which will allow for an increase in fuel mileage and less road noise while traveling down the highway. Third, they are much easier to mount and only require a strong silicone structural adhesive. Lastly, they can be mounted to a curved surface.
The reason that we chose rigid panels for our system is mostly due to price, but they are also easier to remove and replace if they ever break or stop working. Removing a few bolts is much easier than removing structural adhesive! Mounting these rigid panels usually requires drilling holes in your roof. I chose to mount two pieces of unistrut on the roof of our van which allowed me to be able to slide the panels up and down. If we decide to mount anything else in the future or add more panels, it will be easier for me to rearrange.
Every product I have purchased from Renogy has been built SOLID and their solar panels are no exception. We often go snowboarding during the winter months which means leaving our van parked at ski resorts where it is not uncommon to wake up to 12″ of fresh, heavy, powder! WEOOOOO! We have also been hammered with hail and strong winds during the summer months. These panels have yet to show the faintest sign of wear which is incredible!
The Renogy DC to DC Charger with MPPT can handle a maximum of 25 volts which requires wiring the solar panels in parallel. This means that we can only have a maximum of 30 amps running through the 10 AWG wire between the charger and the panels. Luckily, we are okay with that, since 3 of our panels won’t exceed 30 amps anyways. Another huge benefit to Renogy being a one-stop-shop, their products work together flawlessly!
Always consider how much room you have to mount your panels before ordering. On our van, we made sure to have enough room for 3- 180 watt panels. When you’re designing your roof layout (fan, skylights, kayak or SUP rack, etc.), it’s important to take into account the size of panels you’d like for your system.
Renogy solar panels are lightweight, strong, durable, and very easy to install. Rigid panels require brackets that can be either mounted directly to the roof or the roof rails. The soft panels simply require a structural adhesive and a clean, mostly flat surface.
Lastly, always use MC4 connectors on the exterior of your van. These connectors are completely waterproof and easy to use. To penetrate through the roof or side of your van, use an entry gland. An entry gland will help ensure a weather-tight seal for your wiring.
Warranty & Customer Support
Renogy backs its solar panels with a 5 year material and workmanship warranty. From what I hear, the customer service in the United States is excellent. Being in Canada, I have had trouble contacting Renogy customer support in the past. Recently, however, they have informed me that they are working hard to develop a stronger international support system which is great!
Simple Solar System Guide
We have developed a Simple Solar System Guide that is perfect for beginners that want to learn how to install a complete solar system in a campervan, RV, or boat. The guide is broken down into 3 sections: Component Overview, Electrical Schematic, and Price & Quantity Chart. This guide will teach you how every component functions, where to buy each component (with discount codes), and how to wire them (inc. wire and fuse sizes).