If you are considering buying solar panels to keep your devices going when the power fails, or for use in mobile applications like RVs, you’ll be glad to know you can do this without breaking your budget or having to remortgage your home.
Solar panel kits comprise solar panels, mounting components, charge controllers, and connecting cables, and these can power various devices and appliances depending on the solar panel kit you choose. There is a good variety of kits available between 500$ and 1000$.
The key points that will be discussed on solar panel kits:
- The solar kit components
- Do you require storage capacity
- The solar kit size
- Factors to consider when buying solar panel kits
- A comparison of solar panel kits for under 1000$
Now, let’s fire up the system and get a closer look at how you can get off-grid for 1000$ or less!
What Is A Solar Panel Kit
Solar panel kits are DIY photovoltaic systems that can convert the sun’s energy into electricity to power a variety of devices or appliances where the power supply is unstable or non-existent.
From powering RV’s, boats, and even small homes, solar panel kits are available in a wide variety of sizes depending on what they are needed for. Most of them can be expanded to include batteries and storage components.
What Components Do Solar Kits Include
Because these are DIY kits, most solar panel kits come with the panels (in varying wattages), cabling to connect the components, mounting brackets, or fold-over panels, with stands for ground use and the charge controller.
You should know that most solar panel kits would not include batteries or an inverter that would be needed to convert the DC current produced in the panels to AC used by appliances and other devices.
Some appliances, especially portable devices like mobile fridges and other similar appliances, work directly off the DC. These could be connected directly to the panels without needing an inverter.
Without the batteries, you would only be able to operate these devices when the solar panels generate electricity.
It should also be noted that the solar panel kits we are looking at would not be able to power your home as you would need a far bigger system to do that.
Let’s briefly look at what each component in the solar panel kit does.
What Does Each Solar Panel Kit Component Do
The solar panels convert the sun’s light energy into electricity using photovoltaic cells in each panel. Photons from the sun striking the PV cells release electrons, and this creates a flow of DC (Direct Current) electricity which will then flow to a device directly through the inverter or to batteries for storage.
The charge controller manages the electric current going to the battery and stops the charging process when the battery is fully charged to prevent overloading and damage.
The mounting components are used to mount the panels to the roof or, if they are ground-mounted or fold-out panels, they will function as the stand and allow you to position the panels to face the sun at the optimum angle and direction.
Connecting cables connect the panels to the charge controller and then to the batteries and inverter and are specially designed to conduct DC and AC as required safely.
The inverter converts stored or active DC to AC, and this can then be transmitted via cable to the appliances or into the home electrical system.
Batteries can be either lithium-ion or lead-calcium. They are designed to store excess energy produced in battery banks and then release that energy to the inverter to power appliances or other devices when required.
Do You Need Batteries
Whether you need storage will depend much on what you will be using the solar panel kit for. In some cases like RV or Marine systems, where you are powering small DC devices, you may not need storage as your solar panels can provide enough DC during operational daytime periods.
If you are using your solar panel kit for 24-hour energy needs and will need power overnight, you will need to add storage, and you can do this using an inverter with a battery bank attached.
How much power you need will determine the inverter size and battery capacity. Still, because solar kits are mostly designed for small power applications, the extra components may not cost that much.
How To Calculate What Size Solar Panel Kit You Need
There are no ‘best’ kits or one-size-fits-all type of solution for solar kits as these depend on the total wattage of the devices you are looking to power using the kit.
To calculate what size kit you would need, you need to add up the wattages of all the devices you want to power, so let’s look at a simple example.
Let’s assume you want to power a laptop, wireless internet router, a few LED lights, and a small fridge. The fridge is rated at 200W, the laptop at 50W, the LED lights at 50W, and the router at 50W – the total wattage is 400W.
Calculating The Inverter & Battery Size
To supply the appliances above with power, you would need an inverter that could handle 400W + 20% as a safety margin, which would mean a 480W / 500W inverter would have enough capacity to deliver the power required.
For the battery, you need to convert the AC wattage into DC Amp-hours, and to do this, you divide the total wattage by the DC Current, which is 12V, so that would give you 480W/12V = 40 amp-hours.
This is how much current your battery would have to provide for each hour of operation, but there’s one more consideration here: you won’t be using the devices all the time, so you compensate for this by only using half the time.
If you wanted to power this system for four hours, you would then take the amp-hours and multiply that by two to give you 80 amp-hours. This is the battery size you need to power these devices from this solar panel kit system for four hours.
Using the formulae and steps above will accurately determine the kit size and calculate the inverter and battery sizes you need.
What Features To Look For In A Solar Panel Kit
There are a few factors to consider when buying a solar panel kit, as knowing what to look for can mean the difference between good quality and a reliable system vs. one that doesn’t perform as needed.
What Is Solar Panel Efficiency
The first aspect to consider is how efficient the solar panels are since the higher the efficiency, the better. This is a measure of how well the panel can convert sunlight into electricity expressed as a percentage.
This number is important because you need panels to perform with limited space. At the moment, the highest efficiency rating for solar panels is around 22%, so get as close to that number as you can when considering which panels to buy.
Panel Performance & Temperature Co-Efficient
Like most electronic devices, solar panels perform much better at lower temperatures. While this may seem counterintuitive at first, it makes more sense to understand that your solar panel is an electronic device.
When solar panels are subjected to temperatures higher than 77 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 degrees Celsius, their efficiency drops, and the higher the temperature, the less efficiently the panels perform.
The temperature coefficient determines the loss of efficiency when the temperatures rise above ideal. So, for example, if the panel has a temperature coefficient of 1%, every degree above 77℉, the electricity production will drop by 1%.
If that temperature gets to 87℉, the efficiency will drop by 10%. Good quality solar panels have a temperature coefficient of around 0,5%, and the best ones are rated at 0.25%.
Monocrystalline VS Polycrystalline Solar Panels
You will see these terms being banded about in any discussion around solar panels. The difference between them is that monocrystalline panels are made from a single type of silicon crystal, and polycrystalline are made from different types of silicon crystals.
Monocrystalline panels are usually black, while polycrystalline panels are usually blue. In terms of efficiency, the monocrystalline panels are more efficient and thus more expensive than polycrystalline panels.
Where you have a lot of available space and want to spend less, the polycrystalline panels are better. Still, if you have limited space for panels and need greater efficiency, you would opt for the monocrystalline panels.
Also, you would need fewer monocrystalline panels to deliver the same amount of power, which is why many people opt for them, even though their cost is higher.
Get A Good Warranty With Your Solar Panel Kit
Most electronic equipment manufacturers will back their products with a warranty, and your solar panels are no different. These warranties guarantee against manufacturing and material defects and any environmental issues.
When looking at solar kits, check the specs and warranties on the panels and if you don’t see any or they are not up to standard, pick another brand. While everyone wants to save money, you still need to get good value, so your system performs properly.
Now, compare a few systems used in different applications, starting with the smallest and moving to the largest. Remember, there are many solar kits available, but we will look at these four for under 1000$.
The Best Solar Panel Kits Under 1000$
Solar kits do not come standard with an inverter or battery- these have to be bought separately.
ALLPOWERS 100W Solar Panel Recharging Kit
This kit features an incredibly flexible 100W solar panel ideal for charging and powering small devices. It features an 18V output and an efficiency rating of 21%, which is exceptional for this size panel.
- ☀️3-in-1: ALLPOWERS portable solar panel 100W has 2 USB ports(5V/2.4A per port) for charging your 5V devices( like smart...
- ☀️High Efficiency: ALLPOWERS portable solar panel 100W uses solar cells which is made from US, up to 23.5% efficiency,...
- ☀️Slim and Powerful: 100W portable solar charger is only 4.73 lb, 1/3 lighter than the same power of solar silicon. The...
Using a simple mounting design, the panel is suited for irregularly shaped surfaces and can be used for boat fridges, mobile phones, camping vans, and tiny houses or cabins. This kit does not have a charger, inverter, or battery.
Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Premium
Renogy is one of the leading manufacturers of solar panels and it’s a brand that you can trust. This kit can be bought from 100 watts to 800 watts, which gives you flexibility depending on your needs.
Within the kit, you get 4 solar panels that produce 100 watts each. You get a charge controller that you can connect to your battery to convert your power. The essential mounting brackets and fuse connectors are also supplied which just leaves you to set it up.
- 【Efficient Performance】The Premium Kit will produce an average of 1.6-2.5kWh of electricity per day (depending on sun...
- 【Solid Quality】Advanced encapsulation material with multi-layered sheet laminations to protect cells from physical damage...
- 【Ready to Install】Pre-drilled holes on the back frame allow quick installation. The kit has a complete set of accessories...
These solar panels have one of the highest efficiency ratings at 21% and this can be controlled using a Bluetooth module. The fantastic reviews set this one apart from the rest.
Grape Solar 400W PV Panel Solar Kit – 600$ to 700$
This kit has 4 X 100W Polycrystalline panels and includes a 40 Amp charger so you can add other panels. It also includes a 1800W inverter, junction box, and connecting cables and is perfect for running lights, small pumps, TVs, fridges, and charging or running small electronic devices.
Because it is robust and has a weather-protected frame, this kit can be used on boats or RV’s and is easy to install as all the components are included.
GrapeSolar 600W PV Panel Solar Kit – 700$ to 800$
This kit features 3 X 200W monocrystalline panels, a 20 Amp in-line fuse, an MPPT charge controller, and all the connection and mounting components for easy installation.
Capable of generating around 1800W per day, this system can easily power TVs, chargers, and fridges for RV’s, boats and cabins, LED lights, and small off-grid power supplies.
Wildcard Option! – Solar Power on The Move
EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station 110W Solar Panel
If you’re a person that likes to be on the move, you’ll need to take that power with you. Whilst solar panel kits are great for the home, you might be on the move more than most, or you’ll need it for those weekends away.
This is where a portable power station is a right choice for you. An all-in-one solution to charging your devices, like TV, laptop, refrigerator, and even your hairdryer! It can be fully charged in 6 to 12 hours in ideal climates.
- ⚡【POWER WHEREVER YOU GO】 Portable solar power generator + RIVER Extra Battery that gives you reliable power for outdoor...
- ⚡【RECHARGE FROM 0-80% WITHIN 1 HOUR】 EcoFlow X-Stream Charge technology recharges the power station from 0-80% within...
- ⚡【POWER UP TO 10 DEVICES SIMULTANEOUSLY】 EcoFlow’s X-Boost technology allows you to power devices up to 1800W, which...
You’ll be able to connect 10 devices at once, which is great for a family or a tech enthusiast. Not only is it a practical solution, ECOFLOW gives you an efficiency rating of 22% from this flexible and waterproof solar panel.
Although this option is in a higher price range, it already has a battery and is ready for you to set up and connect.
Battery For Kits
If you are going to look at a solar panel kit, you’ll need a battery – and lithium-ion is better than lead-calcium- so that you don’t need to invest in one later. For further information about which battery you need – check out our battery sizing guide here.
If you are going to expand your system, if you need to down the road, check with the manufacturer or supplier whether the solar panel kit you want can be expanded and by how much, but this will come down to your actual energy requirements.