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Published Sep. 20, 2021

The best solar panel starter kits may not take you completely off-grid, but they can get you close and significantly reduce your power use in the process. When you create your own power, you can achieve independence and flexibility in how you meet your power needs. Solar panel starter kits jumpstart the process. 

These kits contain basic components, including photovoltaic (solar power generating) or crystalline panel(s), a charge controller to help manage power generation, and (sometimes) an inverter to convert DC to AC power. They’ll also come with various cables, brackets, and connectors to set it all up. The trick is figuring out the number of panels and a design that works for your energy goals.

How We Picked the Products

Methodology

I considered 67 kits from various companies during the selection process. I factored in solar cell type, ease of installation, and the inclusivity of the kit. Solar cell type mattered, with monocrystalline getting higher marks for efficiency while polycrystalline got points for affordability. Solar panel starter kits should have most of the necessary hardware to connect the panels and store power fairly quickly. 

I also considered the controller type: how easy it was to use and its expandability. A kit that can expand from 100 to 400 W gives users a way to learn and adapt before committing to a more complicated system. I couldn’t ignore installation ease and instructions either. Some brands offer easy access to online instructions, diagrams, and tech support, while others don’t. Any kit that included excellent customer service, which many solar companies do, was also more likely to make the list.

The Best Solar Panel Starter Kit: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Kit

All-Inclusive

The WindyNation kit features easy installation and a display that provides system amperage, amp-hours, temperature and more, for easier control and adaptability. WindyNation

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Why It Made The Cut: The WindyNation kit includes everything you need (including four batteries) to get started, plus an easy-to-use solar charge controller with a bright LCD display and adjustability settings. The ease of use makes it stand out amongst the competitors.

Specs: 

  • Watt hours per day: 1700 Wh
  • Battery size: 4 100-Ah AGM deep cycle 
  • Control: PWM solar charge controller 

Pros:

  • Quick, easy access to online instructions
  • Simple installation
  • Includes 400-Ah battery bank
  • Excellent customer service

Cons: 

  • May need to upgrade cable gauge to increase efficiency

The WindyNation 400-Watt Solar Kit provides absolutely everything you need to create your own solar energy. The sheer number of panels and batteries are enough to provide up to 150 amp hours (Ah) or 1700 Watt hours (Wh) per day, depending on the weather conditions. The fact that this kit includes the batteries saves you money in the long run. The majority of kits may include converters for various battery types but not the batteries themselves. The kit is designed for use on homes, cabins, RVs, and boats.

One of the top features is the easy-to-see and use solar charge controller. Its LCD display provides quick access to amp-hours, temperature, voltage, system amperage, and DC load draw. Users can make adjustments directly to the controller as needed. 

The kit includes:

  • 4 100-watt polycrystalline solar panels
  • 4 100-Ah AGM deep cycle batteries
  • 2 Interconnect cables
  • 30-amp P30L solar charge controller
  • 40-foot solar cable
  • Solar connectors and wiring
  • Mounting hardware

Directions are available online, and users find them easy to access, print out, and follow. WindyNation also provides a 5-year solar panel warranty and a 25-year power output warranty. Within that warranty time, they provide consistent and reliable customer service.

Best Foldable: DOKIO 220w 18v Foldable Solar Panel Kit

Fold and Go

This 220-W solar panel can charge batteries and offers power for light use. DOKIO

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Why It Made The Cut: The DOKIO may not be all-inclusive, but it is compact and offers versatile connectivity options for small devices.

Specs: 

  • Watt hours per day: Not available
  • Battery size: Requires a 12V battery bought separately
  • Control: PWM solar charge controller

Pros:

  • Includes 5 DC conversion adapters
  • Folds down easily
  • Uses monocrystalline silicon solar cells for greater efficiency
  • Directly charges via USB ports

Cons: 

  • Performance declines over time

The DOKIO 220-W 18V Foldable Solar Panel Kit is not only convenient, but it has monocrystalline silicon solar cells that perform well, even in low light conditions. These panels include smart four-stage PWM charging, which protects against overcharging, reverse polarity, reverse current, and short-circuits. The control panel’s LCD display lets you keep track of power but also has two USB ports for directly charging devices. 

It doesn’t come with a battery, but the kit includes DC adapters to fit batteries of five different types. If there’s a downside to the DOKIO, it’s the speed with which it loses efficiency. Solar panels lose efficiency over time, but these tend to do that faster than average.  

The kit includes:

  • 1 220-W solar panel
  • 1 20-Ah controller
  • 1 SAE to XT60 cable
  • 1 XT60 to alligator clip cable
  • 5 DC conversion adaptors

Best for Large-Scale Use: Renogy 200 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit

Balance Price and Efficiency

This Renogy kit comes at an affordable price yet offers the components to expand as needed. Renogy

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Why It Made The Cut: The Renogy kit can expand to include up to 400 watts, giving you the power to adapt the kit by adding panels as needed. 

Specs: 

  • Watt hours per day: 1000 Wh per day
  • Battery size: Charges a 12 or 24V battery (bought separately)
  • Control: 30-A PWM charge controller

Pros

  • Increased efficiency of monocrystalline solar cells
  • Includes features like corrosion-resistant aluminum frame for long-term outdoor use
  • Kit can be expanded over time, instead of an all up-front investment
  • Excellent customer service

Cons 

  • 12 or 24V batteries not included

If you need a lot of solar power, consider the Renogy 200 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit. It comes with two high-energy efficient monocrystalline solar panels and the included tilting brackets let you adjust the angle for optimum sun exposure. Monocrystalline’s high efficiency provides a good power return for the panels’ square footage.

The kit includes:

  • 2 100-W monocrystalline solar panels
  • 1 30-A PWM Wanderer charge controller
  • 1 20-foot solar panel connector adaptor kit
  • 1 8-foot tray cable
  • 1 set of solar panel branch connectors
  • 2 Z-brackets

While you have to purchase either a 12 or 24V battery separately, the kit includes everything else you need to get started. One of its best features is its adaptability. You can add panels over time, letting you add up to 400 W. Renogy is also well-known for their excellent customer service.

Best for Going Off-Grid: Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit

Start Big

This kit quickly gets a small home off-grid and moves toward energy independence. Renogy

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Why It Made The Cut: This big Renogy kit balances power and efficiency with price and offers a charge controller with negative grounding, making it an excellent (and safe) choice for those heading off-grid.

Specs: 

  • Watt hours per day: 2000 Wh per day
  • Battery size: 12 or 24V battery sold separately
  • Control: 30-A PWM charge controller

Pros:

  • Four panels offer quick charging
  • Excellent panel quality and efficiency
  • Controller works for a maximum of 400 watts

Cons: 

  • Requires additional hardware for full installation
  • Does not include full installation instructions

The Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit is a more expansive kit than most. It can produce up to 2,000 Wh per day and charge a 200-Ah battery from 50 percent to full in 3 hours. Of course, charging times depend on weather conditions. Full sunlight can power it up faster than when under cloud cover. 

The 30-A PWM control charger can expand to control up to 400 watts. It includes negative ground control to protect from battery reverse, short circuits, overloading, and overcharging, which improves safety for off-grid operations.

The kit includes:

  • 4 100-watt Monocrystalline solar panels
  • 1 30-A PWM Wanderer charge controller
  • 1 20-foot adapter kept
  • 1 8-foot treat people
  • 3 sets male/female solar panel connectors
  • 4 sets Z-brackets

This is one of the few kits that doesn’t include all of the hardware necessary for setup. While that is a weakness, once you get it up and running, it’s easy to expand and adapt based on where you want to install it and how you plan to use it.

Best Value: WEIZE 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel Starter Kit

Small and Simple

This single-panel kit includes almost everything you need to start your energy independence. WEIZE

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Why It Made The Cut: The WEIZE contains the bare essentials (except for a battery) to start collecting power with a minimum investment. 

Specs: 

  • Watt hours per day: 300 to 600 Wh per day
  • Battery size: 12V battery sold separately
  • Control: PWM charge controller

Pros:

  • Simple setup right out of the box
  • Provides enough power for small devices and low-energy needs
  • Excellent customer service

Cons: 

  • Sometimes controller arrives defective
  • Poor instructions, especially for beginners

The WEIZE 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel Starter Kit keeps things simple to save money for those who don’t need a big kit or who only want to dip a toe into solar energy. It’s designed to power small devices, and in full sunlight, it can make quick work of charging a 12V battery.

For the price, the panel offers excellent construction. An aluminum frame and multiple layers of materials create a protective barrier over the solar cells. The kit is a good way to learn how and what you want to run on solar energy before purchasing more panels. However, keep in mind that you have to purchase the battery separately.

The kit includes:

  • 1 100-watt monocrystalline solar panel
  • 1 pair MC4 20-foot extension cables
  • 1 10-A PWM charge controller
  • Mounting brackets

Things to Consider Before Buying a Solar Panel Starter Kit

Purpose

Before buying, determine how and where you want to use the solar panels. Do you want to use them on a vacation cabin or install them on your RV? Will they be a permanent fixture around your home or something you use only in an emergency? The answers to these questions can help you determine the size and type of kit you need. For example, a foldable solar panel starter kit is an excellent option for occasional or emergency use.

Portability

Design and mounting brackets make a difference in portability. Some panels are permanent fixtures but can fold down when not in use. Foldable kits offer the best portability because they’re not meant to be permanently mounted to a home or an RV. These kits can go with you camping, to the beach, or stay strictly for emergency use.

Efficiency and Power

The power cell type, size of the panel, and efficiency of the charge controller and cables all impact the efficiency and power provided by the solar panels. Monocrystalline power cells are the most efficient. However, they are larger, bulkier, and more expensive. Polycrystalline cells may be less efficient, but they’re a good choice for beginners who aren’t ready to invest in solar power just yet. 

Consider how long it takes the panels to charge a 12V battery, the most common power storage device. Some may take only a few hours with full sunlight, while others may require a full day. The greater your energy needs, the more panels you’ll need to fill more batteries in a shorter amount of time.

FAQs

Q: What will a 100-W solar panel run?

A 100-W solar panel can run a few small devices at once, such as mobile phones, a light or two, and routers. It cannot, however, run large appliances, like a heater, air conditioner, or television.

Q: Do solar panels work off of moonlight?

Solar panels cannot work off of moonlight. They require raw sunlight that contains photons, which moonlight does not.

Q: Do solar panels work in the rain?

Solar panels can work in the rain and in cloud cover. Rain can actually be good for the panels because it washes away dust and dirt that can block the solar cells. However, the panels will not create as much power when there’s less sunlight.

Final Thoughts

The WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Kit stands out among other kits for its inclusivity. It’s one of the only kits to include batteries. Additionally, it has all of the hardware and connector cables needed to establish your own mini-grid. For portable applications, the DOKIO 220w 18v Foldable Solar Panel Kit provides the simplest setup and easiest storage. Travelers will have a hard time finding an easier way to pack around their own power.

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