When deciding to purchase solar panels for your RV, there’s a lot of questions to answer. How much do they cost? Are they worth the investment? How much do they even weigh? When just getting started in the RV scene, it’s easy to get overwhelmed – but we’re here to help with that!
RV solar panels come in many different styles and sizes. This means that their weight may vary drastically between different models. Their weight will range from 15-50 pounds, depending on what type you choose for your RV. Some even weigh below 5 pounds!
That’s a pretty wide range in weight, right? Let’s break that down and clarify things a bit, shall we?
What Type of RV Solar Panels Are There?
There are three major types of solar panels that you’ll encounter when searching for your Goldilocks panel. Each has its own benefits and costs associated with them, so it’s important to be educated before purchasing. This layering process makes them much more flexible than rigid panels, and much lighter, too!
Amorphous Solar Panels
These are the newest craze in the solar power scene for RVs. They use thin layers of photovoltaic material (like glass, metal, or plastic) to generate power. This makes them very light, often weighing in between 5-15 pounds.
They do, unfortunately, require a bit more space and commitment. They’re larger than other panels, on average. You also have to install them directly on your roof, with glue, making them a lasting attachment.
Their benefits come with one big con – their price tag. They are, on average, the most expensive solar panels available for RVs. Individual panels can run $300+, and kits can run into the thousands.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
These solar panels are a very common type that you’ve likely seen around in recent years. Their signature cobalt blue color immediately gives them away to the trained eye. This comes from the countless crystals formed from the molten silicone used to create them as it cools.
The process used to make these are cheaper than others. That means they’re cheaper to buy, but they’re also less efficient and rather heavy. They can range from roughly 35 pounds, all the way up to nearly 60 pounds – so make sure your RV can handle the added weight before buying. These are generally the cheapest, costing ~$500 for a kit.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
These solar panels are the “middle child,” so to speak. They’re not as expensive or light as amorphous panels, and have an, on average, more efficient lifespan than polycrystalline panels. They generally weigh between 30 and 50 pounds, making them aggressively middle-of-the-road in terms of weight.
They can also be made in various styles, with varying benefits to each. Some panels can be made in a somewhat flexible style, similar to amorphous panels. These reduce weight by completely removing glass from the frame, making them potentially 80% more flexible than solid panels. These vary wildly in cost, though they’re generally less expensive than amorphous and more expensive than polycrystalline panels ($350-850 for a kit).
Flexible Vs. Non-Flexible
The flexibility of solar panels can vary, regardless of the general form of creation (mono/polycrystalline, amorphous). Those that are marketed as “flexible” panels are generally made with plastic rather than glass. This allows them to bend more easily and also reduces their weight in comparison to similar, solid panels.
Beyond weight, the flexibility of your solar panels can have other important factors to consider. Flexible panels generally don’t require screws to mount, and (as with amorphous panels) need an adhesive to attach. One could also potentially (temporarily) attach them with a tie-on – though that’s not recommended.
Unfortunately, flexible panels are also more expensive than rigid panels. That’s a large part of what makes the previously mentioned styles vary so much in cost. The materials used to make flexible panels cost more! Additionally, rigid panels offer airflow to cool off, while the glued flexible panels generally don’t. This can cause them to overheat and have a hard time in extreme temperatures.
But Why Does This Matter?
At first, you simply wanted to know how much a solar panel weighs – now you’re being inundated with the knowledge you didn’t even know existed! So why should you even care what type of panel you’re getting? If it provides a charge for a decent price, it doesn’t really matter… right?
Wrong. Weight is an extremely important factor for your RV. Each rig is unique in what it is designed for, how much it should carry, and what its max load is. Believe it or not, every RV is not created equal.
Unloaded Vehicle Weight
When planning a long-term trip in an RV, one should be aware of their RV’s maximum weight limit. This makes Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) very important. UVW is the maximum weight that the RV manufacturer recommends you tow with the vehicle. If you go over by a little, it’ll still run, sure. But your mileage will be worse, and more importantly, you run the risk of tipping on sharp corners.
So, in short, the weight of your RV’s solar panels affects how much you can bring with you. Sure, those polycrystalline panels were cheap – but they’re also heavy. This could mean that you lose out on towing a car or boat if you want to remain under the recommended weight.