While this question is one that appears far too often, it is nonetheless one of the most important you will ask when shopping for a solar panel for an RV, boat, or cabin. An off-grid solar panel system is one that does not connect or tie to a power grid, and thus will only charge a battery bank. The battery bank will in turn provide power for your favorite electronic device(s). The first step in solving your off-grid needs involves figuring out which electronic device(s) you would like to power with your off-grid system, and how many watts it uses per hour. Other important pieces of information to collect include the amount of sunlight hours in your state, how long you plan on running the electronic device(s), and lastly, which charge controller you wish to purchase. Once you collect all of this information you can enter it into the Renogy solar calculator located in this link: http://www.renogy-store.com/solar-calculator_a/253.htm. Please note that Renogy-Store does NOT carry batteries but can order them from another supplier upon request.
The next step in solving your off-grid needs involves determining which kit is right for your budget and watt usage. Renogy has four types of off-grid kits: RV, Starter, Bundle, and Premium. Renogy also carries two solar panel briefcases that come without other accessories. To begin, we can discuss the components of the Bundle. The Solar Panel Bundle is by far the most basic kit that Renogy sells. The Bundle comes with a basic PWM Charge Controller and MC4 Connectors. The Bundle has no mounting components or tray cable and is not recommended for a beginner. The PWM Charge Controller is very basic, sometimes not the easiest to use, and will probably not be a top choice if you intent to expand your solar panel system in the future. The bottom line is that the Renogy Solar Panel Bundle is probably not appropriate if you are a first time solar user, but may be perfect for someone who is looking to expand on a system.
Beyond the most basic of kits come the ones that contain more components and thus are more expensive. The Starter Kit and the Premium Kit are both great choices for new solar users. They both feature our best selling 100W Mono or Poly Solar Panels, MC4 Connectors, mounting hardware, and charge controllers. The only real difference between these two kits involves the efficiency of the charge controller. The Starter Kits come with a standard PWM Charge Controller that has an 82% charging efficiency and may not be the best choice for expanding the system in the future. The Premium Kits, however, come with an MPPT Charge Controller that is easier to use, utilizes Maximum Power Point Tracking, and has a 92% charging efficiency. The bottom line here is that the Starter Kit may be perfect for a new solar user on a strict budget, but we would always recommend the Premium Kit for its excellent MPPT Charge Controller.
Last but not least is the Renogy RV Kit. The RV Kit is designed specifically for off-grid applications in which the solar panel and the battery will be a long distance apart. The RV Kit comes with 100w Mono or Poly Panels, a PWM LCD Display Charge Controller, mounting hardware, MC4 Connectors, and a 40ft long tray cable. Despite its name implying that this kit can only be used for RVs, it is actually quite useful for many different applications such as longer length boats, garages, and sheds. If you have any other questions about the Renogy Off-Grid Line, just give us a call at 800-330-8678.