Caravans in sun by cliff

Updated: May 18

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Best Caravan Solar Panels – How Do They Work?

Interested in producing power for your caravan and saving money at the same time? If there’s one thing we don’t lack in Australia, it’s sunshine. That makes solar panels an obvious choice to power our caravans and campervans.

However, purchasing solar panels can be intimidating for a first-time buyer. You need to consider how many you will need, what type is best for your van plus what brands to look at and which to steer clear of.

In our guide below, we will run you through all of this, to help you figure out what will fulfill your needs.

 

Enerdrive 180W Mono Fixed Solar Panel

MaxRay 200W 12V Mono Solar Panel

MaxRay 160W 12V Flexible Solar Panel

Baintuff 180W Folding Solar Blanket

Camec Portable 160W Solar Panel Kit

Dometic Portable Solar Panel PS180A (180 W)


Best Fixed
Enerdrive Fixed Panel 180W
MaxRay Fixed Panel 200W
MaxRay Flexible 160W
Best Flexible
Baintuff Solar Blanket
Best Folding
Camec Folding Portable 160W Panel
Dometic Portable Panels 180W

Check price at Outbax

Check price at Outbax

Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline

Fixed

Fixed

Flexible

Flexible/Blanket

Portable

Portable

180W

200W

160W

180W

160W

180W

$1.50/W

$1.10/W

$1.25/W

$4.50/W

$3.75/W

$3.20/W

179 W/m²

222 W/m²

195 W/m²

127 W/m²

158 W/m²

147 W/m²

1482 x 680 x 35 mm

??

1206 x 680 x 2.5 mm

1830 x 775 x ?? mm

1332 x 758 x 35 mm

1580 x 758 x 35 mm

11.7 kg

??

3 kg

5.1 kg

14 kg

17 kg

5 years

??

1 year

1 year

5 years

1 year

Best Caravan Solar Panels Australia

Let’s start by taking a look at the best solar panels out there. There are two each of the rigid, flexible and portable types.

Enerdrive 180W Mono Crystalline Fixed Solar Panel

Enerdrive Fixed Panel 180W

Best Rigid Solar Panel

Pros
  • Rigid monocrystalline type
  • 180W power output
  • Only 11.7kg
  • Comes with full set of spare cables
  • Reliable brand
  • Good after-purchase support
  • 5 year warranty
Cons
  • Space efficiency not the best - 179 W/m2
  • Not so cost effective (~$1.50/W)

Since 2003, Enerdrive have been supplying high quality solar panels to Aussies. They were recently acquired by Dometic, who are already a leading supplier of premium camping gear, so you can expect them to be around for many years to come.

Their 180W monocrystalline fixed panel is one of the best out there on the market, not necessarily because of the panel itself, but because of the after-purchase customer support that Enerdrive provide.

There are plenty of other 150-200W fixed panels out there, but the vast majority only give a 12 month warranty. Enerdrive, on the other hand, offer a 5 year warranty, which is quite rare.

They also deal with all warranty claims and issues locally, so you can expect fast turnaround if you run into any problems.

Whilst the support is excellent, it isn’t particularly cheap (~$1.50/W) and it takes up more space per W than other models (179 W/m2).

MaxRay 200W 12V Mono Solar Panel

MaxRay Fixed Panel 200W

Runner Up

Pros
  • Rigid monocrystalline type
  • 200W power output
  • Fairly light at 11.7kg
  • Comes with cables, anderson plug and alligator clips
  • Good space efficiency - 222 W/m2
  • Cost effective (~$1.10/W)
  • High conversion efficiency and light sensitivity
  • No decay in conversion efficiency - lifetime power output guarantee
Cons
  • Only 1 year warranty

MaxRay has put together a decent monocrystalline, fixed panel offering here. They pride themselves on their efficiency, with a high power output per area (222 W/m2) and good cost effectiveness (~$1.10/W).

Their units are also designed to go the distance - they all come with lifetime power output guarantees. According to MaxRay, there will be no decay in conversion efficiency over the life of these panels, unlike other brands.

Despite this lifetime power output guarantee, they only offer 1 year warranty, which does leave you wondering if they really have faith in these products lasting a ‘lifetime’.

Nonetheless, they are highly efficient and affordable units, so they are certainly worth checking out.

MaxRay 160W 12V Flexible Solar Panel

MaxRay Flexible 160W

Best Flexible Solar Panel

Pros
  • Flexible monocrystalline type
  • Can be bent up to 30°
  • Very thin - just 2.5mm
  • 160W power output
  • Heat resistant
  • IP67 waterproofing
  • Super light at just 3kg
  • Decent space efficiency - 195 W/m2
  • Cost effective (~$1.25/W)
Cons
  • Only 1 year warranty

Another popular option from MaxRay is this 160W flexible panel. Compared to the rigid panels, this one is much thinner, lighter and flexible, allowing it to be placed on any surface with an angle up to 30°.

It has a similar space efficiency and cost effectiveness to the rigid panels, yet it can be placed just about anywhere on your caravan.

It’s highly waterproof and heat resistant, yet you still need to place it carefully so that it won’t get scratched and scraped by trees.

Unfortunately, there is just a 1 year warranty on these units.

Baintuff 180W Folding Solar Blanket

Baintuff Solar Blanket

Best Solar Blanket

Pros
  • Flexible monocrystalline type
  • 180W power output
  • Solar blanket so can be put anywhere - on the ground, on the roof
  • Comes with a solar regulator
  • Comes with settings for different battery types (sealed, gel and flooded)
  • Light and portable at just 5kg
  • Comes with plugs and 6m power lead
  • Thin - just 5mm
  • Packs up to just 9.3L in volume
Cons
  • Very expensive (~$4.50/W) - although regulator included in this price
  • Poor space efficiency - only 127 W/m2
  • Only 1 year warranty

Solar blankets are kind of like a hybrid between the flexible panels and the portable folding panels. They are very rugged and can be placed on your roof (while you aren’t driving), on the ground or anywhere else where there is sunlight.

This is a high quality unit from Baintuff that puts out a solid 180W. The tradeoff with these blankets is that they tend to be more expensive and larger than other panels with the same power output.

You can see that here, with this unit costing $4.50/W and with a space efficiency of just 127 W/m2, which is pretty standard for these blankets.

The benefits of the Baintuff is that it is very light (5kg), packs down to less than 10L when not in use, and comes with the necessary regulator and plugs that you’ll need to get started.

Camec Portable Folding 160 Watt Solar Panel Kit

Camec Folding Portable 160W Panel

Best Folding Solar Panel

Pros
  • Portable folding monocrystalline type
  • Can be positioned anywhere
  • Adjust the angle and position as the Sun moves
  • 160W power output
  • Comes with 15A regulator, Anderson plug and alligator clips
  • Folding stand well built
  • 25 year panel warranty and 5 year accessory warranty!
Cons
  • A little hefty to lug around at 14kg
  • Packs down to 38L in volume - need to find somewhere in van to store it
  • Expensive (~$3.75/W) - although regulator included in this price
  • Mediocre space efficiency (158 W/m2) - although less important on folding panels

Camec is a trusted brand when it comes to caravan appliances and accessories in Australia, and their solar panels are no exception.

These are well built folding panels, designed for Australian conditions. The stand supporting the panels is sturdy and you can set them up wherever there is sunlight. Due to their portable nature, they can only be used while you are set up at camp, not while you are on the road.

Compared to rigid and flexible panels they are more expensive, although the tradeoff is that you should get more out of them thanks to the ability to move them around and maximise the power generation efficiency.

While they are fairly heavy (14kg) and take up 38L even when packed up, one of the benefits of going with Camec is their local support backed by their 25 year warranty on the panel and 5 year warranty on the accessories!

This alone makes them a contender for the best solar panel supplier in Australia!

Dometic Portable Solar Panel PS180A (180 W)

Dometic Portable Panels 180W

Runner Up