House & Beyond is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
One of the greatest perks of owning a boat or an RV is that you have lots of the comforts of home while you are on the go at your fingertips. Of course, all of the different items you have there do need electricity to run, which can be a bit of a problem. Thankfully, if you get the best 100-watt solar panel, you will have an unlimited power supply available to use when you are not running the engine on your vehicle, which will save you a ton of money in the long run.
There are lots of different factors that need to be considered before you can make your final purchase. Luckily, we have done all of that hard work for you. When we were putting together our listing, the first thing that we looked
at was the weight and dimensions of each panel, since these characteristics can be used to determine where and how a panel can be used. Next, we checked into each model’s voltage and current at Pmax, which will determine the maximum amount of wattage that a solar panel is able to produce. Obviously, the wattage of any solar panel is important, since this will determine the types and number of electronic items you can power.
We have spent tens of hours reading through hundreds of reader reviews to find the best quality 100-watt panels available. We also took the time to complete in-depth reviews of each of these models, so that you can find the perfect one to use for your boat, RV, or van. Of course, if you are not quite ready to make your final decision, then be sure to read our buying guide and FAQ, which should answer any questions you may still have.
If you are in the market for an easy to set up, yet powerful 100-watt solar panel, then this just might be your best option. It is able to operate at a high maximum voltage and amps while at Pmax, which helps to make it one of the most efficient solar panels on the market. It is also relatively lightweight, making it a great possibility for anyone looking for a portable solar panel that they can take down whenever it isn’t in use.
What really sets this particular panel apart, however, from all of the other models on the market is its high compatibility with different types of batteries. No matter what type of battery or vehicle you intend to use these panels for, whether it be sealed, lithium, gel, or flooded, you should have no issue whatsoever. This high level of compatibility makes these some of the most versatile panels you can buy.
The controller that comes with this purchase is also of the highest quality. It is effortless to read, so you are getting the correct level of electricity to keep your batteries charged or keep your equipment running efficiently.
The only thing that is a bit of an issue with these panels is that the connector cables they come with are a bit on the short side. This is, obviously, not the biggest deal, since you can either make sure you keep all of your components close at hand or purchase some longer cables. While this will cost a bit more, it might help to make hooking up your electronics to these otherwise stellar panels a bit easier.
Renogy has long built an excellent reputation in the world of solar panels based on their panel’s high quality and power output. These panels are no exception. In fact, they are capable of producing the higher number of amps and volts at Pmax of any of the solar panels that we looked into. If you are looking for a solar panel that can produce a ton of electric power for all of your devices, then these are a great option.
Something else that helps to make these panels a sound investment is their durable design. The outer frame is made of corrosion-resistant aluminum. Even though this frame provides plenty of stability and protection against the elements and drops, it is still quite lightweight. This protective frame helps to make these extremely tough, which, in turn, makes them an excellent option for permanent installation, even though they are light enough to put up and take down each time you need them.
The package also includes a set of connectors, which are just long enough to make it easy to connect your setup. The only issue with these otherwise wonderfully durable connectors is that they are, unfortunately, somewhat hard to use. The clips on them are very tight, which makes opening and closing them quite difficult. The flipside of this issue, of course, is that once they are hooked up, they are not very likely to come undone, which is definitely a positive.
If you are relatively new to the world of solar panels, then you are going to want to make sure that you get a great kit. By purchasing a solar panel kit, you will be able to get your system up and running much faster than if you had tried to find all of the different elements you need on your own. You also won’t need to worry about any compatibility issues, since all or most of the components will be from the same company.
If this sounds like you, then this model might be a good place to start. It comes with pretty much everything that you need, included the panel itself, connectors, a battery, and a protective carrying case. The only thing missing that you might want to find on your own would be a high-quality controller, but that shouldn’t be too big of an issue.
The panel boasts of having extremely durable and well-designed components. It comes with pre-installed stands, which makes setup a lot easier. The corners are also reinforced so that they won’t get damaged easily.
Aside from the lack of a controller, the other issue that you might have with this set is that the instructions are not very clear. They can be quite challenging to understand, so be sure to find some online tutorials or ask an expert when you are setting these up so that you can get it done correctly the first time.
This is another awesome option when it comes to a solar panel kit. It, like the set from ACOPOWER above it, comes with pretty much everything that you need. It has a charge controller, connectors, and mounting brackets. Unlike the ACOPOWER, it does include a controller but lacks a battery, so if you don’t have it, you might want to get one separately. Of course, that will add a bit to the purchase price, so make sure you keep that in mind before you make your final decision.
Something else that helps to set this particular kit apart from its competitors is how easy it is to install. It comes with a set of easy-to-use mounting brackets, which make hooking it up to your vehicle a breeze. Not only that, but the installation instructions in the included manual are very clear. These instructions are extremely precise and should allow pretty much anyone, even those who are not particularly handy, to install these panels easily.
The panels are also nice and large, which allows them to soak up plenty of power throughout the day. They are also pretty lightweight. You could probably use these as a more portable option, though they work best as a permanently installed system.
As is the case with several other 100 watt solar panels, this kit’s connectors are relatively short. If you do decide to get this kit, it might not be a bad idea to get a set of longer connectors, though you might be able to make these work if you have a smaller vehicle.
If portability is important to you, then this panel just might be the right fit. To start with, it is foldable, so it is effortless to transport. In fact, when it is completely collapsed, these panels are only seventeen inches across, making them a great option for anyone with a limited amount of storage. They even have a convenient, easy-to-carry handle to make transporting them a breeze.
Even though they are very small when collapsed, these panels are some of the largest on the market when expanded. This large surface area helps to capture a ton of the sun’s rays, which means these panels are both easy to transport and powerful at the same time.
Something else that makes this option so portable is the panels’ lightweight design. They are quite thin and very light, despite their overall dimensions. They weigh a minuscule 5.9 pounds, which is light enough for pretty much anyone to move from place to place.
The final factor that helps to make these panels so portable is the extra-long connector cables. Unlike the cables that you get with a lot of other solar panels, these cables are quite long, which helps to make hooking them up in various places and orientations quite simple.
Of course, as you would expect from such a thin and lightweight set of panels, these are not very durable. You will have to be sure to move them quite carefully, as any big bumps or drops could easily damage them if you are not careful enough.
One of the biggest complaints that the solar industry as a whole faces is that panels are still too expensive. This high cost is the reason that so many people are unwilling or unable to switch over from their gas-powered generators. Thankfully, as solar technology continues to improve, this is starting to become less and less of an issue. These panels, for instance, are quite budget-friendly. Even if you don’t have a ton of extra spending money available to you, these make getting a solar system up and running much more affordable.
Though these panels are much cheaper than other models, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a quality product. Of all the different panels that we looked into, these can offer the highest amp level at Pmax, which is quite impressive for such a cheap set of panels.
As you would expect with such a light set of panels, these are designed to be highly portable. They have a built-in suitcase design that makes transporting them nice and easy. They only weigh about five pounds, which is another reason they are so portable.
One thing that you will need to keep in mind with this set, however, is that they are not very durable. Their case and the panels themselves are actually quite fragile, and won’t hold up under rough treatment or wet conditions. If you do decide to purchase these panels, just be sure to take them down when they are not in use. It would also be a good idea to keep them stowed in a safe and secure spot so that they don’t suffer any accidental damage.
If you are in the market for a smaller sized panel for your boat, RV, or especially for your van, then this panel just might be your best bet. To start with, this panel is quite lightweight, weighing in at only five pounds. Even though it is so light, this is a surprisingly thick and durably designed model, making it great for traveling in confined spaces with limited storage. Even if you accidentally drop this panel, it shouldn’t suffer any damage thanks to its thick and tough design.
Something else that makes this such a good choice is its bendable nature. Since you can bend this panel a bit, it makes it easier to find the right angle of the sun, no matter what time of day it is. Since you can bend it, you can be sure to get the sun’s energy concentrated precisely where you want it to be, which will result in a much more efficient level of energy production.
Even though this panel would probably work best in a portable setup, it is also quite simple to get it installed permanently. It has pre-drilled mounting holes, which takes all of the guesswork out of getting it set up properly.
The only real issue with this model is that its controller is quite hard to read. The display is not very clear, which could result in you sending more energy to your batteries than you would want to, which could be a big problem. You might want to consider replacing the controller that comes with this panel so that you can make certain you have it set correctly.
Why are we impressed?
Easy to mount
High voltage and amps at Pmax
Pre-drilled mounting holes.
What negatives must you be aware of?
Hard-to-read control panel
Things to Consider
In this section, we will go through everything you need to know to find the best 100W solar panel for your needs. We have also taken the time to answer some frequently asked questions, so be sure to read through those as well if you are still unsure of anything.
Why opt for solar panels and where you can use them
While there is a bit of an upfront cost to purchasing and installing solar panels, they are a sound investment. In fact, they will most likely end up saving you a ton of money in the long run. Whether you have a boat, an RV, or are simply going camping, you are going to need some form of an energy source, which has traditionally been the vehicle’s engine or a gas powered generator. These mobile forms of electricity can provide enough power to run some modern conveniences, such as stoves, grills, musical systems, or refrigerators. The issue with a generator or a vehicle’s engine is that they will cost a ton of money since they run on gasoline. Not only that, but if you use the engine of your boat, RV, or van, you will be putting extra wear and tear on it, which could shorten its running life.
Solar panels, on the other hand, can help to alleviate this issue. While they might cost a bit more to purchase at first, they can more than pay for themselves and save you a ton of money over their life. The reason that these panels are so cost-effective is that they do not rely on gasoline, propane, or natural gas as their fuel source. Instead, they get all of their energy from the sun, which is completely free of cost to you. This operating price point makes them a fantastic option for use with a boat, RV, or converted van, especially if you are only going to be using a small amount of electricity.
Features to consider while choosing a 100 Watt solar panel
As you can imagine, there are several key factors that you need to take into consideration when you are looking for the best rated 100-watt solar panel kit. In this section, we will go through everything you need to know to find the best model for your electrical needs.
Voltage (Vmp) and current (Imp) at Pmax
The best way to understand the difference between voltage and current is to think of a water system. The voltage is the amount of water pressure, while the current is how quickly the water flows. In an electrical system, the voltage is how much electrical power is being used, while the current is how quickly it flows. Pmax is the sweet spot for solar panel power output. It is the combination of the maximum number of volts and amps that can be applied at one time, which will result in the highest number of possible watts of power being produced.
The reason that Pmax is something that you want to take into careful consideration is that it will have a direct effect on how much power is being produced at one time. This will, in turn, determine the types of appliances and electronics you can run off of your solar panels.
Open-circuit voltage (Voc) and short-circuit current (Isc)
Open-circuit, or Voc, is how many volts of electricity a solar panel is able to put out with nothing connected to it. Voc can be found by measuring across the plus and minus leads. Since the panel isn’t connected to anything and has no load on it, it will not produce any current. Voc is, obviously, a significant number, as it will help you to determine the maximum voltage that the solar panel can produce under normal conditions. You’ll be able to figure out how many panels you can wire in a series going into your inverter or charge controller.
Isc, or Short Circuit Current, on the other hand, is how many amps the solar panels can produce when they are not connected to a load, but when the plus and minus wires are connected to each other. This is the highest current that solar panels will produce under normal conditions. This will let you know how much current you have at your disposal, and whether or not your electronics and appliances can handle it.
When it comes to the dimensions of a solar panel, there are two different things that you need to take into consideration. First of all, you need to decide how many panels you can fit on your vehicle. If you are, for instance, looking for the best 100-watt solar panel kit for van life, then you are obviously going to need something smaller, since you don’t have as much room to set them up. Of course, if you have a bigger vehicle, like an RV, then you will be able to get a bigger model, like the TISHI HERY Portable Solar Panel.
The other big consideration when it comes to the dimensions of your new solar panels is how much power you want to produce. Simply put, the larger the surface of a solar panel, the more electricity it will be able to deliver.
The dimensions of a solar panel might play a role in how many panels you need, which could have a direct influence on the overall cost. The last thing you want to do is have to buy a bunch of smaller, expensive panels when you could get one larger model and save some money in the process, so be sure to think through your power needs and dimensional limits carefully before you make your final purchase.
Solar panels can be put into two basic categories. You can either get portable panels, like the DOKIO Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel, or more permanent ones, such as the Renogy Monocrystalline Photovoltaic Solar Panel Module. Permanent models are a bit heavier, though they don’t weigh more than thirty pounds or so. Permanent panels are also usually on the larger side, which allows them to produce more electricity. On the other hand, larger and heavier panels might not work for your vehicle, especially if you have a smaller boat or van.
Portable solar panels are not meant to be permanently set up. Since they don’t need to be out in the elements all the time, these panels are usually on the smaller side, making them perfect for use in a smaller vehicle or boat. They are incredibly lightweight, so moving them shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. Of course, these panels won’t be able to produce as much energy as larger models, so make sure you take that into account before you make your final decision.
What the package includes
Part of the reason that solar panels cost so much upfront when you first get them is that you cannot simply purchase panels and hook them into the existing electrical system. Instead, you need lots of different components to create a new electrical system that you can keep separate from your vehicles, or integrate into it.
To finish up this system, you will need to buy panels, connectors, a controller/inverter, and a battery for any excess energy. While most kits come with some of these components, not too many come with all of them.
Be sure that when you are buying the new panels that you are able to find the correct components to make a complete system, or you might end up with panels that you cannot even use correctly.
One of the most important features for any solar panel is that they can be used with a variety of different batteries. That way, you will be able to find a battery pretty easily should you need a new one in the future. The Renogy Monocrystalline Off Grid Portable Foldable Solar Panel, for instance, can be used with gel, sealed, lithium, and flooded batteries making it much easier to get your system up and running right away.
Since these panels are going to be out in the elements, especially if you put them up permanently, it is best to look for a set that is corrosion resistant, like the Renogy Monocrystalline Photovoltaic Solar Panel Module. This resistance to corrosion will help to keep the panels up and running for a longer amount of time even if they are out in all types of weather.
If you are planning on going the portable panel route, then you will want to make sure that you get a model with some sort of a handle, like the DOKIO Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel. This convenient handle will make it much easier to move your panels from place to place, which will allow to get them into the right position super simple each time you set them up.
How to maintain your solar panels?
To clean your panels, your first line of defense is going to be your garden hose. By spraying off your panels, you will remove most of the dust and dirt that they will pick up on your travels. Of course, if they need a bit more cleaning, you can use a soft sponge and some soapy water. Be sure to steer clear of anything too rough, since this could scratch your panels.
Aside from regular cleanings, you will also want to make sure that your panels do not suffer any corrosion or water damage. If water gets into the actual panels, then they will not function properly. If this does occur, you will either need to replace your panels or have them fixed by an experienced technician.
A 100-watt solar panel should be more than enough to run these basic items. In fact, as long as your solar panel is completely clean, you should be able to run these items and several others at the exact same time. Of course, the more you run off of your panel, the more electricity you are going to need. If you intend to run a bunch of appliances or small electronic devices at once, you might want to make sure to get more than one panel, so you don’t run out of wattage.
Solar panels are relatively straightforward to install. Basically, all you need to do is follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions and hook up each component in the right sequence to make sure that your system is effective. Of course, if you are not quite sure how to do it, there are plenty of experienced installers available through dealerships or electrical companies.
As long as there is no damage done to your new panels, they should last for a good long time. The standard for any solar panel’s lifespan is 25 years, though this is completely dependent on proper maintenance and regular upkeep. You will also want to make sure that you check them regularly for any type of damage, which could limit their overall effectiveness and lifespan.
Of all the different models we looked at, the best one had to be the Renogy Monocrystalline Off Grid Portable Foldable Solar Panel. The control that comes with this set is amazingly easy to use, and the panels can produce a ton of energy at Pmax. We highly recommend you give this set a try and guarantee that you won’t regret it!
Of course, the best 100-watt solar panel is only as fantastic as all of its components, which is why the ACOPOWER Portable Solar Panel Kit Suitcase is such a good choice if you are looking for a kit. This model comes with almost everything you need to get up and running right away without a bunch of hassle.