What to expect from a solar panel.

What to expect from solar energy in a camper van

First of all, You better read this : Is it worth putting a solar panel on a camper van?

Well, it depends on your travel style. If on your trips you are going to move your van a few kilometers each day and you will normally sleep in a campsite where you can connect to the electrical grid, surely a solar panel It may not be so essential in your case . But if you are going to spend several days in the same location or usually spend the night without going to campsites, a solar panel will give you a lot of energy. freedom and autonomy .

a solar panel it will rarely be the main source of energy from your van (normally it will be your car's alternator). A solar panel on a camper van is usually used as loading help .

The amount of energy it generates is adequate so that when we are stopped, the battery discharge is as little as possible . That is, for us to be energy self-sufficient and really charge our batteries while we are using the refrigerator, charging the cell phone, using the computer, etc., the solar panel should be at least 300W

The solution towards energy self-sufficiency? 🙂

Therefore, a solar panel is perfect for extend the use that can be given to a battery when we are stopped , and to prevent batteries from running out of charge. Therefore, installing a solar panel YES, but keeping in mind that they do not work miracles.

Types of photovoltaic panels

The first of all is Know the types of solar panels that exist and can be used in a camper . They can be rigid or flexible, and monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Let's look at each type.

Flexible solar panel

Flexible solar panel for camper van

They are solar panels Extra thin , with a thickness of less than one centimeter. Therefore, they are solar panels that are placed on the roof of a camper. They don't stand out practically at all. In addition, they are also very solar panels. Light , so it does not add extra weight to the van.

However, they are plates very fragile , since they do not have a layer of glass as protection, in addition to the fact that the photovoltaic cells are not flexible by themselves and They can split . To the lack ventilation (they are glued to the sheet), at high temperatures, their performance is seriously affected.

He price of these solar panels is enough superior to rigid solar panels .

Rigid solar panel

Rigid solar panel for camper van

They are the " typical " solar panels that we see everywhere. They have a glass coating that protects them of small knocks, which makes them quite resentful. They are usually mounted on an aluminum profile that allows a ventilation channel to be created at the bottom of the solar panel to have a better ventilation in the solar panel (something essential). When installed on the roof of the van, It protrudes around 7 or 8 centimeters , slightly worsening the aerodynamics of the van. Its weight is higher than the weight of flexible solar panels .

The advantage is that they are cheaper than the flexible ones, and that Their performance is usually superior .

Installation of solar panels

Diagram of installing solar panels on a camper van
Diagram of installing solar panels on a camper van

The installation of a solar panel is a part relatively simple inside the electrical installation of a camper.

Camper solar panel installation diagram

Here are some guidelines and instructions to keep in mind about the photovoltaic installation:

  • The solar panel must be glue with silicone to the roof of the van and the cables must be passed inside with the help of a cable glands .
  • He correct connection order is: first The regulator is connected to the battery, and after the solar panels to the regulator.
  • Use the appropriate fuses . It is necessary a fuse between the regulator and the battery , and another advisable between the panel and regulator to protect it from overloads. The amperage of the fuses must be immediately superior to the maximum amperage that the solar panel is capable of providing.
  • Use the appropriate wiring section. If cables that are too thin or too long are used, it will cause a voltage drop, so less charge will reach the battery, and in the worst cases, they will end up getting hot and even burning In the following table you have a list of the cable section that you must put for each intensity and cable length.
Table with the necessary cable section. On the one hand there are the Amperes, and on the other the distance of the cable
Table with the necessary cable section. On the one hand there are the Amperes, and on the other the distance of the cable
  • Two solar panels (or more) can be perfectly installed in parallel, with the total amperage being the sum of the individual of each solar panel.
Solar installation diagram in a camper with two solar panels in parallel

Complete solar panel kit

Complete solar kit for a camper van

You can buy each element separately (solar panel, charge regulator, wiring, fuses...), but it is much more easy , practical and cheap to buy a Kit with all the elements . You can find it in stores specialized in products for camper vans and motorhomes.

We are going to recommend some Complete KITS that work well in relation to their quality-price.

The  Solar Cell ready-to-assemble kits have everything you need to install the solar panel and connect it to your battery, so it makes installation relatively simple.

You have several kits available with different capacities (from panels from 100W to 400W ), and panels rigid or flexible .

What do I need to buy?

Below we leave you with a list of necessary materials to have your own solar system in the camper.

Product What will I use it for?
✓ Rigid solar panel From 100W to 300W for greater autonomy. It can be one panel or several panels in parallel.
✓ Flexible solar panel (Alternative). Less efficient, but they don't protrude from the roof of the van at all.
✓ PWM solar regulator Cheap charge regulator to correctly charge the batteries from the solar panel.
✓ MPTT solar regulator
More efficient regulator, but more expensive.
✓ Cable glands and wiring
To pass the cables from the panels to the interior of the van and connect it to the solar regulator.
✓ Solar Kit
(Alternative) Kit with all the necessary elements to install the panel and connect it to the battery


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