Best Solar Panel Kits
Best Solar Panel Kits for 2018
We reviewed several of the best solar panel kit companies in order to find our top picks for the best solar panel kits for 2018. If you are looking for an easy way to get started with solar power then a great place to start is with a 12/24V 400W solar panel kit that you can setup yourself.
Top 3 Best Solar Panel Kits for 2018
Solar Panel Kit Reviews
In this post I review my top picks for the best 400 watt solar panel kits, and go over what else you need to consider when choosing the best solar panel kit for you. These little kits are a nice, practical way to get into solar power without making a huge investment, and they’re still powerful enough to be useful. Many people use 400 watt solar kits to power the appliances in RV’s, motor homes, boats, yachts, and even in their sheds and homes. You could run a typical fridge/freezer with one of these kits with no problem.
Before we jump into the specific solar panel kit reviews themselves, lets cover some basics about solar panel kits and the components that you should look for when you buy your kit…
What Components Are Typically Included In A Solar Panel Kit?
There are many different components that may be included in solar panel kits including different types of solar panels, charge controllers, and inverters, but what specific equipment that is included will vary from kit to kit. When shopping for the best solar panel kit for your needs it is important to be sure that the kit that you choose includes all of the components that you will need to get your solar power up and running. You will most likely need to purchase batteries separately, as most kits do not include them, but aside from batteries make sure that you are getting everything else that you may need to get started. Below are some of the primary components that may be, or may not be, included when you buy a solar panel kit to help you determine which solar panel kit is best suited for your needs.
A good solar power kit should, at the very least, include some solar panels! Most solar panel kits come with either polycrystalline or monocrystalline solar panels. You will get a little more power out of a mono-crystalline panel in a smaller area, but at this scale the practical differences aren’t huge. Of much greater concern will be the location of the solar panel, mounting and wiring. You can change the voltage output from the panels depending on how you wire them together – in series or in parallel. Which arrangement you want is going to depend on the rest of your setup – most of the kits come with instructions and guidance to help you decide this.
The placement of your solar panels will greatly affect how much power you get out of them. For people using them on RVs or boats, however, it usually isn’t practical to put them anywhere but flat on the roof. You are rarely in a position to take the path of the sun into account when parking your vehicle. The most important thing to account for is obstructions like large trees or buildings – make sure nothing will be shading the panel during the hours you want it to be working.
All of the solar panel kits that are included in this review do come with charge controllers but some other kits may not. This is a very important component that you will need as these charge controllers are used to keep the power coming out of the panels regulated and make sure that your batteries aren’t damaged.
Most kits don’t come with batteries, and these are a vital part of the system. The size of the battery will dictate how much power you can store, and how long you can run whatever your application is. It’s important to note you should only use deep cycle batteries – these are intended to be run down and charged up continuously, whereas other types of battery are meant to give a big burst of power over a short time span. You should also note that batteries are expensive – expect a fair amount of your budget to go into power storage.
This is another item that many solar kits don’t provide. The purpose of an inverter is to change the DC current provided by your solar panels to AC current. Without doing this you wouldn’t be able to power many household appliances. Whether or not you need one is going to depend on what you’re doing – many appliances built for use in RV’s and motor homes are meant for use with DC current, and powering things like lights can often be done with DC.
How big an inverter you need again depends on what you intend to do with it. Those kits that do come with inverters usually have at least 1500 watts, and many of the models intended for use with motor homes include USB ports for charging small devices. Another thing to take into account is whether the inverter produces a modified-sine wave or a pure-sine wave. Modified-sine wave inverters are cheaper, but more delicate electronics like computers or battery chargers don’t like them, and they cause an audible hum in audio equipment.
The vast majority of solar panel kits will come with mounting kits included that will allow you to mount the solar panels on a roof or other flat surface. Typical solar mounting kits will include specialized brackets and bolts that are made to securely fasten solar panels to a roof or pole mount. If the kit you choose does not include mounting brackets then you can usually find suitable brackets at your local hardware store, however almost any good solar kit will include the mounting hardware that you will need for most typical installations.
5 of the Best Solar Panel Kits in 2018 to Consider
Top Picks for Best Solar Panel Kits
Below you will find my top 5 favorite solar panel kits that I have included in this review, and more details about the pros and cons of each system.
WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Panel Kit
This fabulous solar kit by WindyNation is my top pick for the best solar panel kit due to the impressive value it provides. It is not the cheapest kit, but it provides the best bang for your buck with all of the top of the line equipment that it includes. The WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Panel Kit comes with:
- four 100 Watt polycrystalline silicon solar panels;
- a 1500 watt inverter;
- a 30 amp PWM solar charge controller;
- all the necessary cables, and
- three 12 Volt deep cycle batteries.
- The kit includes mounting hardware, so you won’t need to go hunting for suitable brackets.
- WindyNation customer service is helpful and responsive.
- Plenty of power for light usage, and will happily support appliances such as microwaves or small computers.
- Industry standard MC4 connectors used for the panels, so future expansion is simple.
- You may need to install an inline fuse, which is not supplied with the kit, although sourcing the parts is easy and the fuse and fuse holder are not expensive.
- The inverter is a modified-sine model, which may not play well with some electronic devices.
Grape Solar 400-Watt Off-Grid Solar Panel Kit
The Grape Solar GS-400 kit is a nice package that is made for consumers that are searching for a simple and basic solar set up. This kit is perfect for running lights, small pumps, charging electronic devices, and more! The kit is very easy to setup even for the novice solar installer and includes…
- four 100 Watt polycrystalline silicon solar panels;
- a 35 amp Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) charge controller;
- a 2000 watt pure-sine inverter;
- and all the assorted cables.
- The kit is very simple to set up, with some very well put together guides for everything you need to do.
- Grape Solar give a fantastic standard of customer service – you can call them with any question or problem and they will go out of their way to help.
- All the connectors in the kit are industry standard, so expansion is easy.
- The GS-400 will comfortably power a fridge or RV utilities.
- The GS-400 kit doesn’t include any batteries, and you will need to purchase at least one 12V deep cycle battery in order for the kit to work.
- The kit also doesn’t come with any mounting hardware, so you’ll need to source the racks and the assorted nuts and bolts from somewhere else.
Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit with Wanderer
The 400 Watt Renology Solar Starter Kit is a less expensive, more bare-bones kit. While you will save on the initial purchase you will need to purchase extra fuses, cables, and an inverter which will add to the overall cost of your complete system. That said, this is a great solar panel kit in terms of customer reviews and quality, especially if you already have some parts or if don’t mind purchasing the extra components. This Renology Solar Panel Kit comes with:
- four 100 Watt monocrystalline silicon solar panels and
- a 30 amp Wanderer PWM solar charge controller,
- with cables and mounting hardware.
- Renogy’s website has a lot of information to assist you in assembling the kit.
- Putting everything together is simple enough for a beginner.
- The quality of the panels is good, and the output is very consistent.
- To make use of this kit you’ll still need to purchase deep cycle batteries; an inverter; and fuses.
- You will need extra cables – four 5 foot MC4 jumpers if you want to wire the kit up for 12V operation, two if you decide to go with 24V.
- The directions that come with the kit are very sparse.
Eco-Worthy 400 Watt Off Grid Solar Power System
The Eco-Worthy 400W Off Grid Solar Power System is a reasonably complete kit that will provide on average 135 Amp hours of charge or 1600 Watt Hours per day (depending on sunlight availability). This kit contains:
- four 100W polycrystalline silicon solar panels;
- a 30 amp solar charge controller;
- 1000 watt pure sine-wave inverter;
- MC4 connectors and cables; and
- Z brackets for mounting.
- This kit is very affordable.
- The Eco-Worthy 400W contains almost everything you need to get started – the only thing missing is the deep cycle battery.
- The panels used in this kit are fairly cheap, and you won’t see fantastic performance from them when compared with other kits.
- The supplied cables are fairly short, and in some cases they’ve been found to be labelled backwards. Some care is needed in assembling this kit!
- You’ll need to provide a deep cycle battery yourself before the kit is usable.
- Documentation is poor, and the instructions are not very clear – you may need to do some careful experimentation to get this kit working correctly.
HQST 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Kit
Last, but not least, is another affordable bare-bones kit that was built specifically for people that are new to solar. It is a very simple solar panel kit to install quickly and securely in various off-grid applications. This 400W HQST solar kit includes:
- four 400W monocrystalline silicon solar panels;
- a 40 amp MPPT solar charge controller;
- a pair of 20ft long MC4 cables and
- Z brackets with the associated hardware.
- The charge controller in this kit is a Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) model, which is more efficient than the PWM controllers offered in the other kits.
- The monocrystalline panels are very good quality.
- Like the other bare-bones kits, you will need to supply a lot of other components yourself before you have a working system. Neither an inverter or a deep cycle battery come with the HQST kit.
Conclusion and Top Pick for the Best Solar Panel Kit
Rounding things up, out of all of the solar panel kits that I reviewed here, I would personally buy the WindyNation solar panel kit. Despite the expense, the WindyNation solar panel kit is the closest thing to a turnkey solution out of all of the top rated solar panel kits that I looked at.
The WindyNation solar kit is cheaper than my runner up, the Grape Solar kit, and provides almost all of the equipment needed to get a solar system up and running. The only caveat is the modified sine inverter won’t play well with delicate electronics, but for my purposes that’s fine. I’m not planning to hook it up to any sensitive audio equipment, and my laptop’s power brick makes it a non-issue. By the time you’ve purchased batteries and an inverter, you are likely to have spent at least that much. That said, if you have a specific application in mind, you may get better performance from purchasing the additional components yourself.
At the end of the day, the best solar kit is really dependent on what you plan on using it for, and how much solar power you will need to generate, but the options above are some of the best solar panel kits that we could find that are suitable for many mid-sized solar power needs.