The VW T5 is a popular vehicle choice to convert into a campervan. The spacious interior is ideal for housing all your camping equipment and even installing a bed in the back. Many people install solar systems into these vehicles to power their camping gear off-grid. What would be the best solar panel for the VW T5?
The main aspects to look for in a solar panel for your VW T5 camper include the following.
- Solar panel with correct voltage and wattage.
- Should you use a rigid or flexible solar panel?
- Ease of installation.
- Monocrystalline Vs. Polycrystalline panels.
The roof of your VW T5 is the ideal location to install a solar panel for your in-vehicle solar system. What would be the best solar panel to install on the roof with minimal vehicle modifications and generate enough power for the solar system?
How To Choose The Best Solar Panel For The VW T5
Choosing the best solar panel for your VW T5 camper conversion will require answering a few questions regarding what you want to get out of your solar panel and the current configuration of your campervan.
The expanse of the roof of the VW T5 makes it the ideal location to install your solar panels, but you need to make a few selections first.
Do You Have A Roof Rack On Your VW T5?
A roof rack on your campervan will influence your choice between flexible and rigid solar panels.
If you have a roof rack installed, a rigid solar panel with a solid frame capable of mounting to the roof rack would be the best solar panel format to select.
If you do not have a roof rack installed and do not intend to install one, a flexible solar panel would be the better option for your VW T5.
Semi-flexible solar panels are also a good choice to mount directly on your VW T5 roof. The panels are lightweight, come in monocrystalline formats, and are less expensive than fully-flexible solar panels.
Do You Have A Pop-Top On Your VW T5?
A pop-top is a popular modification of the VW T5 when converting it into a camper. The pop-top allows the roof to be raised to increase the internal space in the vehicle.
If your camper has a pop-top, a flexible solar panel is recommended due to less weight since no mounting frame is required for the solar panel.
Sizing The Solar Panel For Your VW T5
A solar panel that produces 100-Watts should be considered the minimum size solar panel to fit on your VW campervan.
100-Watt panels will power basic camping gear and a few devices, such as charging cellphones, laptops, or even a small refrigerator.
Additional wattage of solar panels increases the price tag of the panel, so you should get the highest wattage you can with your budget, with 100-Watts being the minimum to aim for.
You can source panels that are 130-Watts, 150-Watts, 170-Watts, and even up to a little over 300-Watts. The output of the solar panel is limited by the size of the panel. The size of the panel, in turn, is limited by the size of the roof of your campervan.
The larger the solar panel output, the larger the panel’s physical size. You will be limited in the panel size you can install by the limited real estate on your campervan rooftop.
Opting for a higher output solar panel will charge your batteries faster and give more options for the number of appliances you can run through the system.
How Easy Is The Solar Panel To Install?
Flexible or semi-flexible solar panels are significantly easier to install on your VW T5 roof than their rigid frame counterparts.
Flexible and semi-flexible solar panels are the recommended choice for ease of installation and minimal modifications to the vehicle itself.
The solid frame or rigid solar panels require a solid framework on the vehicle’s roof to protect the solar panel from damage due to the vehicle’s movement. These mountings are more difficult to install and require drilling more holes in the roof of your van.
It also adds costs to the solar panel, which you could rather put into a flexible solar panel with a higher wattage.
Flexible and semi-flexible solar panels can be fitted to the roof of your VW T5 with silicone rather than drilling and mounting a heavy frame for rigid solar panels.
You should only consider rigid solar panels for your camper van if you already have a roof rack that will serve as a good mounting platform for the panel.
Should You Use Monocrystalline Or Polycrystalline Panels On Your VW T5?
Polycrystalline (poly) and monocrystalline (mono) panels are available in flexible, semi-flexible, and rigid solar panel formats. Monocrystalline panels have a smaller footprint with a higher output and are the preferred choice.
Mono solar panels are more powerful for their size and are more energy-efficient, which means they will perform better in low light conditions than poly panels.
The only negative aspect of mono solar panels is the price. These panels are more expensive than poly panels, which may influence your choice.
Even though mono solar panels are more expensive, you will get more value for your money due to the smaller footprint size and higher efficiency of the output of these panels.
Recommended Solar Panels For Your VW T5
Many brands produce quality camper solar panels that would be suitable for your VW T5. Many of the options and availability will be dependent on your location. Adventure Kings and Renogy are two brands that have a proven reputation in this arena.
Renogy is another brand with a reputation for producing quality flexible solar panels for off-grid and camping vehicles.
Renogy has a 100-Watt flexible 12-Volt mono solar panel, which is perfect for smaller solar system campervan installations, and a 175-Watt mono panel for larger systems.