Once you have purchased your new or used RV, the next thing you will likely think about is where you want to go. Although, many will opt to only travel to RV resorts with full hookups, many also prefer to go boondocking. You can take your animals and not have to worry about dog fights, and you can be as far from “neighbors” as you like.
Boondockers have to think about how to get their power on the road. It used to be that most people bought generators to give their batteries a boost. That is a good option, and the newer generators are quieter and sip gasoline better than their predecessors.
But, solar has become a cheaper and much more viable option in the past few years. There are also more options for buying solar panels. The good news is that you won’t have to store gasoline in your RV with a solar panel set-up. Solar panels are quiet and unobtrusive, and they perform really well on cloudy days. The technology has gotten quite good.
The flip side is that they don’t do very well in the shade. Not well at all. If you are traveling in the summer, you will not want your RV out in the sun because it will be hotter. For this reason, many people are beginning to choose either the “suitcase” type of solar panels or the flexible solar panels. With both of these options, you can move them around where the sun is, while you keep your RV in the shade.
The suitcase solar panels fold in half when you are storing them. They have the glass covering over the panel, so they are tough and durable. They are heavier than the flexible solar panels but not so heavy that a woman could not take the suitcase panel out of storage and set it up on her own. They have legs that allow you to tilt the panel to the sun. These are constructed exactly in the same manner as the glass solar panels that you can mount on the top of your RV. One big caveat is to ensure that you get enough wire to allow you to place your panel at least 30 feet from your RV.
Another option that is even newer is the flexible solar panels. They are solar panels mounted on a plastic sheet. These panels are only about five pounds in weight. It is really easy to place these wherever the sun is shining, just like the suitcase solar panel. You will just need something like orange cones to help prop the panel up.
Some of these flexible panels have grommets to allow you to tie them where you want them to go. You can also attach heavy-duty Velcro to the back of them and mount them anywhere you would like. Some RVers choose to use zip ties to tie the flexible solar panels to a homemade PVC frame. Any of these methods allow you to move the panel around to catch the sun in the best manner.
Other RVers have mounted their flexible solar panels to the top of their RV. This has been problematic for some and has produced mixed results. For some, the panels began to delaminate from the plastic sheet after about a year. For others, the flexible solar panels have gotten too hot on the top of the roof, when mounted directly on the top, and have developed burn spots. Some notable RVers, such as Gone With the Wynns, do not recommend mounting flexible solar panels to the top of an RV roof, due to delamination and failure issues. If you still wish to attempt mounting a flexible solar panel to the top of your RV roof, since you do not have to drill any holes to do so, a suggestion is to check your manufacturer’s warranty on the panels and ensure that the manufacturer will honor the warranty.
One other consideration with flexible solar panels is to ensure that the output is the same as one would have with a rigid, glass-covered solar panel or the suitcase style of panel. Some flexible solar panels by some brands have the same output as the more robust glass-covered solar panels, but some produce a bit less electrical output.
Once you have visited Pedata RV Center for our RV sales and purchased a new or used RV, you might want to consider the suitcase or flexible solar panels as an efficient and quiet means of topping off your batteries in your RV when you are boondocking, since you can track the sun with these types of portable panels throughout the day.