3 Best Solar Awnings for Off Grid RVing
Over the past few decades, we’ve experienced some real innovations in the RV technology. Of course, RV producers seem to have a hard time catching on compared to other industries, but there is still some progress.
Few of these innovations can compare to RV solar technology. The RV solar awning, in particular, which is still in its infancy, is set to become a game changer. For a long time, RVers have wondered whether a solar panel system could be incorporated into their awning. And it seemed like a logical choice to make as most awnings were big enough to hold an array of panels to power your RV.
Fortunately, several producers have taken the initiative to bring the RV solar awning idea to fruition. It’s a groundbreaking feat, and while I’ve not personally used these products, I can’t be happier to highlight these new, clean, and innovative products.
Benefits of RV Solar Awnings
Beyond the allure of the traditional RV canopies, there’re many benefits RVers would gain from installing an RV solar awning.
The biggest benefit of an RV solar awning is having more space for setting up RV solar. Rather than covering your RV’s roof, which is usually limited in space, an RV solar awning can extend much further from the outside of your RV, creating more space.
And the best part is that the solar RV awnings can compress to a more compact design when it’s time to pack, so they don’t gobble up real estate on your RV.
Maintains Roof’s Integrity
Another crucial benefit of the RV solar awning is they help to preserve your RV’s roof integrity. See, traditional, roof-mounted solar require RVers to drill holes and make roof penetrations for installation.
On the other hand, RV solar canopies eliminate the need for roof penetrations. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about roof repairs, maintenance, or water seeping through.
On top of that, unlike permanent and hard-wired RV solar panels, RV solar awnings hardly obstruct your roof. You can slide them out when you need to access the roof for repairs and maintenance.
Air Flow & Heat Management
The other unexpected benefit of the RV solar awnings not being closely ratcheted to the roof is that they hardly interfere with the RV airflow and heat management systems.
For example, when the RV awning is pulled out, it exposes the RV fans for maximum efficiency. Plus, when the solar array is exposed to open air, it promotes more air cooling, which is necessary for optimized power generation.
The final benefit of RV solar awnings is they remove the hassle and worry of RV solar installation. RV solar awnings are still a relatively new concept, and at the moment, the available producers are performing the installation in-house.
Of course, this may change with time once people understand the mechanics of the RV solar awnings, but before that happens, new customers will have everything handled on their behalf. While the installation will reflect on the total cost, it saves users from some catastrophic installation mistakes.
Downsides of RV Solar Awnings
I’ve not had an RV solar awning on my roof, but already, I can tell there will be some issues with this setup. Of course, I’m not discouraging anyone; I’m just pointing out some downsides you should expect.
Again, these cons aren’t blanket condemnation; after all, different brands have unique strengths. However, there’re legit concerns with the RV solar awnings.
RV solar awnings aren’t weatherproof/rainproof, and I feel like overhead protection is an important characteristic of solar awnings. See, the RV solar awnings are unlike the traditional ones when deployed. Instead, they function more like a pergola, providing only a partial shade and can’t keep the rain off.
But this is understandable because the RV solar awnings have gaps between the panel sections to minimize wind effects.
My other concern is that you shouldn’t rely on an RV solar awning as your primary power source. Of course, this is also true for fixed RV solar panels, but the benefit of hard-wired RV solar panels is they charge as you travel.
In contrast, the rolled-up solar zip is on the road, so when traveling for long distances, you won’t be charging.
The other thing, at least for my case, is that I’ve had a couple of long stretches without my awning out. If I were solar-dependent on the awning-producing power, I would do more, but I don’t like the hassle of setting up the awning every time.
The greatest concern with the RV solar awning is the weather. I usually keep my awning on the RV because it can get windy, especially in places like Roswell, Santa Fe, and Texas. For example, the wind is random in Texas, and it’s easy for your awning to break.
Regardless of how “strong” they say it is, the wind is the killer for RV awnings. Short-term, maybe, but long terms gusts over time are likely to weaken the structure. The extended awning position makes the array of panels a big “parachute,” even on moderate winds of 20-30 mph.
I imagine that for an RV solar awning to work, it should have a system to keep the wind from lifting it off. You don’t want a parachute on your roof.
The weight of the RV solar awning is also a huge concern. Some solar panels can be bulky. However, from the spec sheets of the available option, they seem not to weigh much more than the standard awning canvas. However, the more efficient ones are a bit heavier.
You must also be aware of the durability. Brand notwithstanding, flexible solar panels generally have terrible longevity, even those available in a large panel format that you stick on a curved surface.
Most flexible solar panels have a higher failure rate, and there’s no way the RV solar awning will last getting tightly rolled up over and over. The folding cables and opening and closing of the panels will cause long-term issues.
Finally, this is a given, RV solar awnings look like they’re made for people with wallets and no interest in DIY. These solar awnings are generally expensive, and they’ll also be many times the cost of mounting solar panels on the roof or using flexible RV solar panels.
Top Brands for RV Solar Awnings
With that out of the way, I’ll share some top brands and front runners in RV solar awning technology.
One particular brand, Potent Power, has seen runaway success with its Xpanse RV solar awning. The other two, Lippert and Electrek, are still in the developmental stages.
About Xpanse RV Solar Awning (Features and Benefits)
The Xpanse RV solar awning uses high-efficiency solar panels to power your RV. Xpotent Power dubs the Xpanse as the world’s first RV solar awning.
It’s a force to be reckoned with, and we shall see why you need to consider this solar array for your RV solar awning purchase.
Bi-Facial Solar Panel
The biggest benefit of the Xpanse solar awning is its bi-facial, which means it can produce electrical energy when illuminated on both sides. Of course, this isn’t a new technology, but it’s great to know the Xpanse has greater efficiency than a similarly-rated mono-facial module.
The bi-facial solar technology makes more sense in the northern states since it can significantly increase solar production in places with snow. Even if the panels get covered in snow, the back panel still receives sunlight from the light bouncing off the white reflective snow.
The other advantage of the Xpanse is that it can provide up to 1.2 kW of solar power. I love this because it’s usually difficult to generate enough power from an RV roof because there’s usually limited space. In any case, most solar RV panels I’ve encountered can only manage 500 to 800 W.
In contrast, the Xpanse can generate enough juice to run the RV onboard appliances while providing a comfy shady place.
On top of that, Xpotent Power also has other options, such as the 800W and 1 kW models, so it’s easy to find an option suiting your electrical needs.
I also love that the Xpanse RV solar awning is integrated with bypass diodes on each model. This is a feature we see with most high-end solar panels, and it’s useful for improving the efficiency of solar panels connected in series. It ensures the solar panel’s performance isn’t affected even if sections of the panels are compromised or shaded.
Durability is the biggest concern with RV solar awnings, but according to the manufacturer, the Xpanse is wind tolerant.
We’re yet to test it, but the manufacturer has employed an ingenious design to help with weather tolerance. The solar panel array has small gaps between the individual models for airflow and prevents the panels from becoming a large parachute.
There’s also the auto-retract feature, which allows the awning to retract to protect itself completely. But honestly, I wouldn’t trust the auto retract this feature, especially not on the winds that seem to come out of nowhere and shake the trailer.
Easy to Control
Thanks to the integrated touch button, operating the Xpanse is also a breeze. But again, I wouldn’t want to trust this automation for reasons we shall discuss later. I would’ve loved to see a manually-operated RV awning system.
The Xpanse also winds on the compatibility department. First, the design is compatible with RVs, so there is no need to worry about missing out.
Also, the design is bi-sided, meaning you can install it on either side of your RV. I love this because I can add it on the opposite side of my existing awning.
Finally, Xpanse is unsurprising and compatible with different electrical components used in traditional RV solar installations. It’ll work well with the existing charge controllers, inverters, batteries, and other appliances. I like this because I don’t necessarily have to overhaul or upgrade my electrical systems to accommodate Xpanse.
The second RV solar awning is from Eco-Dynamic Tech. It shares many features with the Xpanse, but the main feature is the colorful design. The rollout has been dubbed the ARTPIECE, thanks to the colorful design patterns.
It’s similarly powerful, rated 1kW, and sufficient for most RV electrical needs.
Operating the ARTPIECE is also flawless, and I like that it can be rolled up in seconds, using either an electric motor or manually. Plus, the awning is weather resistant.
The RV awning is yet to hit the market.
Lipper Awning boasts of offering the first flexible solar awning. It’s made from a flexible solar awning fabric, and the material is nice because it’s ultra-lightweight, easy to roll, and compact.
It’s an ideal solution for the growing demand for clean solar power. But for now, the available model can generate only 300 W.
The Lipper Awning is set to debut in the fall of this year.
Electric Vs. Manual Solar Awnings
Given the option between an electric and manual solar awning, I advise having the slider manually operated. Motorizing the solar awning would only make the setup more expensive and complex.
A manually-operated solar awning will take physical strength, but it allows you to support the front half of the solar panels when they’re in motion. It’s a critical feature because it eliminates the need for any structure to be ridiculously stiff and rigid. Plus, it ensures that the full weight of the array is not exerted on a small point.
Remember, the mechanisms of a solar awning weigh a lot, and only motorhomes/vans with a solid roof could have this installed to prevent a cave-in during a rollover.
This video has been included for its clarification of the topic matter. Credit goes to
RV solar awnings are something RVers should be looking up for. While the technology is still in the developmental stage, it looks promising. The prices are a bit higher, and we’re yet to see the real performance of the solar awnings on the grounds.
However, as new producers join the solar awnings and competition grows, we hope to see more refined models at better prices.