Understanding Solar Panels 

As solar technology continues to improve and prices continue to drop, more and more homeowners are considering an investment in  solar panels. Making the switch to solar can save you thousands on monthly utility costs, improve your quality of life, and give you the peace of mind from having reliable access to sustainable energy whenever you need it. What should you know about solar panels when you’re comparison shopping? What kind of maintenance do they need, and are they even worth it?

How do solar panels work?

It’s helpful to understand the basics of how solar panels work before diving into the world of solar panels. Solar panels are made up of many solar cells made of silicon. They have both a positive and negative layer. This creates an electric field. When sunlight hits a solar panel, it creates an electric current.

In order to complete your system, you’ll need to connect panels to a charge controller, battery, and inverter. Charge controllers limit and monitor how much current goes through a battery. Batteries then store and produce DC power. In order to use household AC appliances, such as blenders, laptops, and phone chargers, an inverter is installed to change that power from DC into usable AC power.

Are solar panels worth the investment?

There are a variety of benefits to solar panels. They are sustainable, cost-effective, quiet, reliable, and require very little maintenance.

Solar can save you money.

By utilizing power generated from the sun, you can save thousands on monthly utility costs, whether you’re in a home or cabin. If you’re living life on the open road and are installing solar panels on a RV, camper, or motorhome, you’ll be saving money on campground and hookup fees.

Solar is virtually maintenance-free.

Solar panels require minimal cleaning and maintenance. You’ll want to keep them clear of any debris, leaves, or snow. We also recommend washing them at least once a year.

Solar provides more flexibility and freedom to those living in an RV.

By installing solar panels on the roof of your van, motorhome, or RV, you can recharge your house batteries and run AC appliances without needing to hook up to an external power source. You’ll no longer have to rely on a dirty, noisy generator to meet your energy needs.

Solar panel kits make installing solar headache-free.

Thanks to  Renogy solar panel kits, which include your essential components, going solar has never been easier. They also take the headache out of trying to figure out if your components are compatible.

What should I know about the different types of solar panels?

Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Panels

Deciding between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels is one of the first decisions you should make when shopping for solar panels.Polycrystalline panels are light blue in color, and they are less energy and space efficient than monocrystalline panels. On the plus side, they are also cheaper. Monocrystalline panels, which are darker in color, are more space and energy efficient. Keep in mind that with that added efficiency comes a higher price tag.

Portable vs. Roof Mounted Panels

When many people think of solar panels, they typically think of roof mounted,  rigid solar panels. Roof mounted solar panels are ideal if you have consistent energy needs and want to be able to charge your battery bank at the flip of a switch. Rigid panels are the most common and also the most durable. Flexible solar panels are a great option if you’re mounting your solar panels on a non-flat roof.

On the other hand, portable solar panels are perfect for those who may not be ready to mount solar panels on their roof, have limited surface area to mount panels, want to generate solar on multiple applications, such as on your RV and your home, or have smaller energy needs. One of the most popular types of portable solar panel systems are  folding suitcase panel kits. Folding suitcase panel kits are lightweight, easy to handle, and can be set up on the ground and angled for maximum efficiency.

12V vs. 24V Panels

Most solar panels are available as 12 or 24 volts. Most RV’s and boats have 12V battery banks, so people usually stick with the 12V panels in order to be compatible with those. You may consider a 24v solar panel system if you have high energy needs. If your energy needs are about 1 to 3 kW, we’d recommend a 24 volt system. Having a higher voltage panel system can save you money in the long run as you need less charge controllers and can use thinner cables for the same amount of power.

Should I purchase a solar kit?

As mentioned earlier, Renogy offers a variety of solar panel kits that make shopping for solar components much easier. Renogy solar panel kits include solar panels, a charge controller, cables, and mounting hardware. You’ll need to purchase a battery bank and inverter to complete your installation.

Do solar panels require maintenance?

One of the great things about solar panels is how little maintenance they require. You’ll want to hose off the panels at least once a year to remove any dirt or other residue that may have collected on the panels. It’s also a good idea to visually examine the panels at that time to make sure all connections are in place and in working condition. If you’re in an area with snow, you’ll want to make sure snow doesn’t collect on the surface of the panels. Panels typically generate enough heat to melt off snow that lands on the surface, ensuring you’ll be able to stay cozy and warm, even in the middle of winter.

How do I size my system?

It’s incredibly important to properly size your solar installation. If you undersize your system, you won’t be able to meet your energy needs with your solar panels. If you oversize your system, you’ll have wasted thousands of dollars on technology you don’t even need. To determine what size solar system is best for you, we recommend using the Renogy solar panel calculator. The solar sizing calculator allows you to input information about your lifestyle and appliances used to help you decide on your solar panel requirements. The solar panel calculator then gives you the minimum and recommended system size, as well as the recommended battery output.


Whether you’re living an off-grid lifestyle in the woods or the mobile life on the wide open road in your RV or van, there’s a solar panel for you. From folding suitcase portable solar panels to highly efficient monocrystalline solar panels to mount on your roof, Renogy offers a range of  solar panels designed specifically to meet your needs.