The Best Solar Panels for Off Grid Solar Power Systems
Ever notice how many homes are now sporting an array of solar panels on the roof? Fueled by the desire for cleaner energy and the ability to maintain power during grid failures, an estimated 70 million additional people have made the switch to off grid solar power systems since 2019.
Solar energy is an effective way to harness the sun’s clean, free energy to go completely off the power grid and cover all your electricity needs. It’s hard to argue against a safe, reliable source of power that also eliminates utility bills forever.
Solar panels are an essential and important part of a solar power system, so it makes sense to get the best panels possible. But which solar panels are the best for an off grid solar power system? You'll learn all about the best panels for various off grid system needs here, and if you have any more questions about off grid solar power, you can check out our off grid solar power FAQ.
What Do Off Grid Solar Panels Do?
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) panels. These panels absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. Solar panels produce the most energy during periods of intense sunlight. Though the amount of intense sunlight you experience is dependent on your location, the average in the U.S. is about 4.5 hours per day. Solar panels can produce energy even on a cloudy day, but they’re most effective during peak sunlight.
When we pair solar panels with an off grid solar power kit, the panels send power to the storage elements. The power first goes through the charge controller to make sure the batteries don't overcharge, then into the battery for storage. When you need power, it's drawn from the battery on demand and transported through an inverter that converts the panel’s DC power to AC power usable by household appliances. Generators are optional components that contain the battery, charge controller, and inverter all in one portable unit.
During off-peak sunlight hours and at night, the system will supplement your power supply with the energy stored in the battery.
Since solar panels are durable and easy to replace, and sunlight is free, this source of energy is popular for off grid living.
What Makes a Solar Panel the Best?
First and foremost, we recommend solar panels that are compatible with your solar generator. Once you’ve found compatible panels, we recommend considering these features:
- Cost: Find a model that fits into your budget but offers a good value
- Quality: Look for a panel that is made with quality materials
- Energy Efficiency: Compare the efficiency of each panel
- Durability: Choose panels with proven durability based on industry testing and customer reviews
- Temperature Efficiency: Check the temperature coefficient to see how extreme highs and lows may impact the panels
- Electrical Output: Ensure that the panel output is sufficient for your personal energy needs
What are the Best Off Grid Solar Panels?
We carry multiple brands of solar panels, and we have found these to be the best solar panels for off grid power:
Best 100-watt (W) Solar Panels: Rich Solar
When it comes to small, portable panels, we have found that the best panels available are from Rich Solar. These 12-volt (V) panels generate about 5W of guaranteed power output, which is more than enough to power an RV with small appliances.
Rich Solar 100 W panels feature an aluminum frame and tempered glass, making them durable and resistant to changes in the weather. If you live in an area prone to wind, rain, and snow, these panels can withstand strong storms.
Rich Solar 100W panels hold up in cloudy conditions, making them ideal for people in most environments, even out of the sun belt.
- Easy Installation
- Monocrystalline PV panels
- 10-guage extension cables
Best 200W Solar Panels: Rich Solar
Offering the same level of reliability and durability as the 100W panels, the Rich Solar 200W panels give you more power. We chose these panels because they’re lightweight and easy to install. Like the 100W panels, they also offer great performance in cloudy conditions and in lower light.
These panels are used a lot in off grid solar systems. If you decide you need more power later on, you can easily expand our array with more panels. Their smaller size and greater wattage make these a fantastic choice for permanent installation on the roof of an RV.
Rich Solar 200W panels work in temperatures ranging from -40° C to 90° C.
- 200W Maximum power
- 26.5-pound weight
- High transmission, coated tempered glass
Best 100W and 200W Foldable Panels: Rich Solar
We love Rich Solar’s line of lower-wattage solar panels, including the 100W and 200W folding panels. These panels are lightweight and portable, making them perfect for camping, RV living, and boating. They even come with a kickstand that lets you place them at various angles to capture the best sunlight.
Emergency Power Source
These panels are compatible with portable generators. They are small and easy to store, so you can take them out and set them up quickly during a power outage. They are weatherproof and energy efficient.
- Tempered glass and an aluminum frame
- Monocrystalline PV cells
- Expandable with cables
Best 300+W: Multiple
We have seen a wide variety of high-quality solar panels with 300W capability and more. These models are all expertly made, durable, and easy to install. Each of these models works well in lower light, and we recommend any of these reliable brands when choosing a 300+W solar panel:
- Sun power: This US-based company has been creating solar panels and other equipment for over 35 years, and makes some of the highest efficiency panels in the business.
- Q cells: Serving the US and global markets, this company is dedicated to advancing solar technology for cleaner, more efficient energy.
- Panasonic: One of the most well-known brands in the United States, Panasonic has been making solar panels for over 25 years. The company is recognized as a pioneer in the field, creating panels that maximize energy output.
- Mission Solar: Based in San Antonio, Texas, Mission Solar creates high-quality, durable solar panels that offer excellent reliability.
- Trina Solar: For over 25 years, Trina solar has offered research, development, and manufacturing of PV products, including solar panels. This company is known as an innovator in the field, developing technology that make its panels more efficient.
- Canadian Solar: Founded in 2001, Canadian Solar is a leader in solar panel research and development. The company has created high-efficiency modules that offer more power without raising surface area.
- Silfab: This US-based company is one of the country’s leading solar panel manufacturers. Their panels are durable and reliable, offering new technology and design to meet energy needs.
- Solarever: With an automated manufacturing process, Solarever creates high-quality, reliable solar panels. Their panels come with a 25-year guarantee plus 85% output.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for Off Grid?
Your needs depend on how much power you use. If you’re powering a larger home with multiple standard-size appliances, you will need more power than if you’re powering your houseboat with smaller appliances. The only way to know for sure is by calculating your daily energy needs and choosing the number of solar panels that can produce enough to meet them.
Say you need 6 kWh to power all your devices for a day. You would need enough panels to produce 6,000 watts during the hours of peak sunlight you get. Ignoring efficiency, temperature, and other variable factors that slightly alter the formula, you can calculate how many panels you need by dividing your daily energy requirements by the number of peak sunlight hours, then dividing again by the wattage of the panels you’re using. Assuming you get 4 hours of peak sunlight a dat, if you use 200W panels, you would need (6,000/4)/200 = 7.5, rounded up to 8 panels. Or you could use 400W panels and you would only need 4.
Once you understand your power needs, you can then consider your space restrictions. Solar panels with a higher energy output have more PV cells covering a larger surface area so they take up more space.
What Size Solar Panel is the Best?
This also depends on your space needs. Smaller solar panels are lighter and easier to install, but they don’t generate as much energy, so you would need more panels than if you used bigger ones. However, bigger panels give more bang for your buck, so the cost of buying 10 400W panels is less than the cost of 20 200W panels and would produce the same amount of energy.
Consider where you’re mounting your panels and calculate how much space you need before choosing a solar panel.
DIY With an Off Grid Solar Power Kit
Once you’ve decided to go off grid, you can have your system installed by a solar company or buy a kit and do the installation yourself. Kits come with these advantages:
- All of the components you need for your solar power system are included
- They give you control over which components you’re using
- They include detailed instructions and 24/7 customer support for as long as you own your system
With a kit, you can install the power system yourself, saving up to 50% on the total cost of your solar power system.
To Sum It Up
Solar panels are an essential part of your off grid power system. With the tools and resources at ShopSolar.com, it's easy to find panels that are right for your energy, space, and weather needs. Contact ShopSolar.com today to become an expert in off grid solar power.
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