Best High-Quality 100 Watt Solar Panels For Home & RV Use
Solar panels are becoming more and more popular among homeowners, vandwellers, RVers, and campers that want to be able to power their homes or motorhomes with the sun.
I travel fulltime and have 400 watts of solar panels to power everything I need in my travel trailer, which lets us dry camp/boondock for weeks without having to hook up at a campground.
We pair our solar panels with a portable power station, which is an easy way to power 110/120V electronics without installing an inverter in your camper.
In this post, I am going to share the knowledge I have acquired about solar panels in the past couple of years. Since most people use solar panels that are rated at 100W, I’ll list the best high-quality options on the market right now. We’ll compare amps, size/dimensions, weight, power output, efficiency, and charge times.
There are high-quality and low-quality solar panels out there, but every panel I list below are high-quality panels made by brands that stand behind their panels.
If you have any questions about a specific panel or anything about solar in general, please leave a comment and I will do my best to help you out.
The Best 100 Watt Solar Panels Compared
Note: Scroll left/right on small screens to view all products in the table.
Each panel above is a high-quality 100W solar panel from a reputable company, and you can’t go wrong with either of them.
The Newpowa 100W is the most compact out of the four rigid panels.
Both flexible panels are much lighter than each rigid panel and have holes so you can either hang, stake, or screw them down easily.
I view the Renogy 100W 12V monocrystalline black frame (click to view on Amazon) as the best panel overall for its high operating current, and compact design.
Every panel has MC4 connectors, which means that it has a positive male MC4 connector and a negative female MC4 connector. To use the panels with portable power stations/solar generators, you need to use an adapter.
To connect either of the panels to a quick-connect on an RV, fifth wheel, or travel trailer, you’re going to need a solar charge controller in-between. I have written more about that in posts about the Furrion, and Zamp solar ports.
Flexible Vs Rigid Solar Panels
The Newpowa 100W, Renogy 100W, Renogy 100W (New Edition), and Renogy 100W Eclipse are rigid panels with a built-in frame. They weigh more than flexible panels but are usually more efficient since air can get in underneath and keep the panels cooler.
The Renogy 100W flexible and SunPower 100W flexible are more lightweight panels that are easier to deal with since they’re not so bulky. They’re also safer to glue to an RV, van, or car roof than rigid panels. A rigid panel would cause more damage if it went flying off a roof on the highway.
Flexible panels are a popular way to go among travelers that want a lightweight panel to mount on their RV, boat, van, or car. Rigid panels are bulkier and weigh more, and adding a lot of solid panels on top of a vehicle will increase your fuel costs.
One downside with flexible solar panels is that since they’re often mounted directly onto a surface, they will get warmer since no air can get beneath them, which will not only decrease the efficiency at very high temperatures but can also damage the solar panel if it gets too hot.
If you want to use flexible panels, I recommend choosing a panel from a reputable company like Renogy or SunPower.
Monocrystalline Vs Polycrystalline
You might have noticed that there are several types of solar panels. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline are two of the most popular kinds on the market, but which one is to prefer?
Monocrystalline is the newer, more efficient kind, that also takes up less space to generate the same output power as a polycrystalline panel. They also perform better in low-light conditions.
The efficiency of a monocrystalline panel is usually around 20%, while polycrystalline is around 15%.
I recommend monocrystalline panels.
How To Connect The Solar Panel To A 12V Battery
When connecting a solar panel to a 12V battery, you should use a solar charge controller. The solar charge controller prevents overcharging and will recharge the battery without damaging it.
There are different kinds of solar charge controllers, but the main ones are PWM and MPPT. MPPT is the more efficient type, but they’re more costly.
For example, a solar charge controller like the Renogy Adventurer 30A can charge 12 and 24V batteries. It has a 30A and 50V maximum, which means that you could connect up to about four 100W solar panels in parallel, or two 100W in series.
To connect the panel to your battery through the charge controller, you’ll first need wire to connect the panel to the charge controller. Renogy sells wiring in different lengths (click to view on Amazon). The wire is easily connected to the controller, all you need is a screwdriver. The controller has icons that show where to input the panel wiring and battery wiring.
If you buy a starter kit from Renogy (click to view on Amazon), you will get a 100W solar panel with a charge controller, mounting brackets, and the two wires you’ll need to connect the panel and battery to the charge controller.
If combining two panels or more in parallel, you need to make sure the amperage won’t go above the max amperage of the charge controller. And if you combine two or more panels in series, you need to stay within the max voltage the charge controller can handle.
Combine Several Panels
There are two ways to connect/combine panels, with a parallel or a series connection.
With a parallel connection, the amperage is combined while keeping the voltage the same. For example, connecting three 100W panels in parallel would result in 6A*3=18A at 17-19V (operating voltage of a 100W panel).
A series connection combines the voltage while keeping the amperage the same. For example, connecting three 100W panels in series would result in 6A at 18V*3=54V.
As mentioned above, if we use the Renogy Adventurer 30A as an example which has a 30A and 50V limit, you could connect up to four panels in parallel, but only two with a series connection.
To do a series connection you don’t need an MC4 Y branch since you’ll connect the positive MC4 connector from one panel to the negative MC4 connector on your second panel, and so on.
Mounting The Panel
There are several ways to mount a solar panel on an RV or van. Some don’t want to drill into their roof, so they tape or glue panels down.
With Mounting Brackets
I use Renogy adjustable solar panel tilt brackets that mounts the panel to the roof and lets you tilt the panel which is necessary if you go camping in the winter.
If you don’t want to be able to tilt the panels, use Renogy mounting brackets or brackets from a different company. A lot of solar panel manufacturers also sell mounting brackets for their panels.
Clean the surface, mark where you want to put your holes and predrill, then put Dicor seal tape (click to view on Amazon) under the brackets and screw them into the roof. I used the same Dicor tape when I installed my Maxxfan.
Then put self-leveling Dicor on and around every hole to create a waterproof seal.
A popular way to mount flexible or rigid solar panels to a roof without drilling is by using 3M VHB heavy duty mounting tape.
To create a somewhat waterproof seal around a flexible panel, use EternaBond sealant tape.
How Many Amps/Watts A 100W Solar Panel Produces
In the table above where we compare 100W solar panels, the operating current is how many amps it generates. So a panel with an operating current of 6.1A produces about 6.1 amp-hours an hour.
A 100W panel isn’t 100% efficient, so you can’t expect it to produce 8.3 amps (100/12). They usually produce 60-80W in good sunshine.
Over a day, a 100W panel usually produces around 30 amp-hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Can You Power With A 100 Watt Solar Panel?
While the question implies that you power things directly with a solar panel, I think it makes more sense to talk about how much electricity a 100W solar panel produces in a full day of sun, which I answered above (about 30 amp-hours).
The common way to “power electronics with a solar panel” is to charge a battery through a charge controller with a solar panel, then connect a 12V load to the battery or use an inverter to change the 12V DC power into 120V AC power.
You could power things directly with the solar panel, but then it would obviously just power it while the sun is shining.
How Do You Connect A 100W Solar Panel To A Portable Power Station Like The Goal Zero Or Jackery?
I have written posts about how that’s done and what to think about, but to answer the question: it’s done with an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon). Each of the solar panels in the comparison table is compatible with the Goal Zero and Jackery power stations and the adapter.
Is A 100W Solar Panel Enough To Charge RV Batteries?
A single 100W solar panel will generate about 30 amp-hours on a sunny day, so if you have two 50Ah batteries wired in parallel down to 50%, it won’t be able to charge it all the day, but two panels would do it.
Do Solar Panels Work When It’s Cloudy?
It depends on a couple of things. Time of the year, where the sun is standing, if the panels are angled, the solar panel type, the charge controller, and how thick the clouds are.
Based on my own experience, they work when it’s cloudy, but some days when the clouds are really thick my 100W panel only generates 10-20W. That’s in early spring, with an MPPT charge controller, and a tilted panel.
How Long Does It Take For a 100W Solar Panel To Charge A Deep Cycle 100Ah 12V Battery From 50%?
It would take almost two days of sunshine since a 100W panel generates about 30 amp-hours in a day. I recommend at least 200W if you have two 100Ah batteries wired in parallel.
The Renogy 200W solar kit is a great starting kit that comes with everything you need to start charging your RV batteries with solar, except batteries.
How Do You Increase The Charging Efficiency Of A 100W Panel?
The easiest way to increase the charging efficiency is to tilt the panel so it’s facing the sun directly. This is especially helpful in bad conditions when the sun is low on the horizon, and when it’s cloudy.
How Long Does It Take A 100 Watt Solar Panel To Charge A Battery?
It depends on the size of the battery. A 100W panel will generate about 30 amp-hours in total on a sunny day, so if you have a 30 amp-hour battery, it will be fully charged by the evening.
How Big Is A 100 Watt Solar Panel?
My solar panels are 42.2 x 19.6 x 1.38 in. That’s slightly wider than a twin mattress, and about 26% the length of a twin mattress.
Monocrystalline solar panels are more space-efficient than polycrystalline panels, so if you have space limitations, stick to monocrystalline panels.
What Size Battery Should I Get For A 100 Watt Solar Panel?
Since one single 100W panel generates about 30 amp-hours in a day, I recommend at least a 30Ah battery.
Unless you have an AGM or lithium battery, you should try to keep the state of charge of the battery above 50%, so a 60Ah battery would allow you to use the 30Ah generated by the sun every day while staying above 50% state of charge.
What Does The 500 To 600 Watts A 100W Solar Panel Produce Equivalate?
With 500 watt-hours, you can power a 50W TV for 10 hours, or a 1000W microwave for 30 minutes. That’s not including the inverter required to run the TV or microwave which would lower the run time due to efficiency.
What Is The Best Solar Panel Starter Kit For RV, Vans, Cars?
The Renogy 200W solar kit is a great place to start with 200 watts of solar, and a 30A charge controller so you could add two more panels in the future. There are also a 100W kit, 300W kit, and a 400W kit.
If you don’t want to mount panels on your roof, I recommend the Renogy 100W folding suitcase. It’s very straightforward to set up and is a good way to get started with solar power without permanently installing panels on your vehicle or camper.
Since it makes it easy to tilt and angle the panel towards the sun, it’s easy to get an efficient charge throughout the day.
How Long Will It Take A 100 Watt Solar Panel To Generate A Kilowatt?
A kilowatt is 1000 watt-hours, so with a 100W panel generating 70 watt-hours every hour, it would take about 14-15 hours.
Please leave a comment down below if you have any questions.