Portable Solar Panels Vs Rooftop for RV (Pros,Cons & Much More)

As portable solar panels came into the market about a few years ago, this opened new ways to get electricity in your RV. People are using rooftop solar panels for many years but these new portable solar panels have made their place in the market

Both portable and rooftop solar panels have their own pros and cons so you might be confused about which one you should pick

So in this blog, I will discuss the Pros & Cons of having portable solar panels or rooftop solar panels for RV life

Difference Between Portable & Rooftop Solar Panels

Portable solar panels come in different types ( Flexible, Suitcase, Foldable..) which are easy to carry on due to their lightweight and are easy to install anywhere. on the other hand rooftop solar panels attaches to the roof of an RV or Van with nuts and screws and you can’t move them around.

I did some online surveys on Facebook and asked RV users to select the option of which one solar system are they using currently in their RV. Here’s what I found

60% of them said they have the rooftop solar system, 20% were using portable solar panels and 20% were using both.

Pros of Portable Solar panels


Portable solar panels are very flexible, which allows you to move them easily around the vehicle and also allows you to angle them directly to the sun so you can get the maximum sunshine.

This comes super handy when you wanna park your Van under the shade like in summers. at that time these panels are like life saviors, you can park your van under the shades and still will be able to generate solar energy due to their flexibility.

On the other hand, because rooftop solar panels are attached to the roof of your RV or Van so to get the maximum sunlight,

so they can produce much energy you have to park your RV or Van under the sun. which is difficult sometimes especially in summers.

Best for Beginners

Rooftop solar panels require an expert to install them on the roof of your Van, because of their confusing wire connections.

and if you don’t have any knowledge about the wiring system it can be difficult for you to repair them by yourself.

But on the other hand, portable solar panels don’t require any expert skills to install. these panels come with a simple on wire cable which you connect to the converter or to the solar power station to store the electricity.


Well, the price of solar panels will not make that much of a difference but the installation process can be costly and tricky for you if you don’t have any experience,

Rooftop solar panels require a proper fitting so they can stay fixed onto the roof. Installing them by an expert will cost you more than the panels themself and also the electrical wiring system.

On the other hand, portable solar panels are not much high in price and there will be no upfront cost for you to install them.

I have discussed the average price of portable solar panels in this article with examples, Click here to learn more about the average price of portable solar panels.

More Efficient

As I discussed earlier portable solar panels are easy to move which allows you to angel them in any direction

on the other hand, rooftop solar panels are fixed on the roof you can’t move them around, to get the best angle you have to move your Van every single time to get the angle where they can get the maximum sunlight.

So in this case portable solar panels allow you to change their angle easily which makes them very efficient.

Additional Power

You have the limited size of the roof of your van where you can install your rooftop solar panels,

in this case, portable solar panels become very helpful to add some more solar energy into your system.

As they don’t attach to the roof so you can carry them inside the vehicle and will be able to generate more energy whenever you needed.

Cons of Portable Solar Panels

Security Issues

As the portable solar panels are easy to carry so likely they are easy to be stolen, you have to keep eye on them every time.

on the other hand rooftop solar panels are fixed so they can’t to stolen very easily, it’s close to impossible

You Can Use Only Them While Parking

These portable solar panels can be only used while you’re parked. on the other hand rooftop

solar panels will continuously generate electricity all day because of their fixed position on the roof but portable solar panels require a ground space so you can open them so then you’ll be able to generate electricity.

Take Some Space

Portable solar panels come in different sizes and shapes but they do take some space so if you have them you’ll need some space inside your Van to store them if you have only one of them that would not be an issue but if you have multiple of them so then this can be a problem for you.

On the other hand rooftop solar panels are fixed on the roof so they won’t take up the space inside of your Van.

Here’s a video about some pros and cons of portable solar panels Vs rooftop solar panels.

My Thoughts

I would recommend you to have both options In your RV. Install rooftop solar panels and also purchase some portable solar panels as well.

rooftop solar panels will produce electricity by not doing an effort and by having portable solar panels will give you some additional electricity or they can be used as backup solar panels.

if the rooftop solar panels get damaged or stopped working due to some reason in that case by having portable solar panels can be very helpful.


Portable solar panels have some mobile benefits that mean you can move them around easily but it comes with some cons (will Take some space in your van

You can only use them while parking, easy to be stolen). Pros will be (Easy to install, Most efficient means you can turn them at any angle, cost-efficient, best for beginners)

Rooftop solar panels require you to install them one time and they will generate power for you all day.

these panels can’t be moved around and don’t give you the flexibility to get the most power out of them.

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Chris Tsitouris is a renewable energy professional with 10+ years of experience as Director of Engineering at Solar Spectrum, previously working as Project Manager at SunPower and Energy Analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. As a thought leader, Chris has authored numerous articles and research papers.

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