Here is a quick guide and the shortlist of the best flexible solar panels for RV use on the market today...
Consider a flexible solar panel if you're thinking about getting solar power for your RV, camper van, or trailer. They are a little more forgiving than rigid solar panels and are very convenient for the RV lifestyle!
In a recent podcast interview with Matt Foxcroft about RV innovations, we mentioned that running over a pothole in an RV is like going through a near 5.0 earthquake.
Plus, they can be easily installed on uneven or curved surfaces. That's why some people opt for flexible over rigid solar panels.
While flexible panels may not be quite as efficient as traditional solar panels, they still offer high efficiency and excellent power output.
The following outlines what to look for in the best flexible solar panels and my top choices on the market today!
Flexible Solar Panels vs. Traditional Panels
The main difference between traditional rigid panels and flexible panels is (surprise, surprise) the flexible nature of the panels.
Flexible solar panels can be used in a wide range of applications. There are different installations that flexible panels are well-suited, such as being installed on uneven surfaces. That makes them great for recreational vehicles and camper vans!
Flexible panels are also lightweight, durable, portable, and relatively low cost!
They are also semi-transparent, meaning they can be installed on glass or as a window.
While flexible solar panels have many benefits, there are some disadvantages of flexible solar panels as well. Traditional solar panels are more efficient than their flexible counterparts. A standard solar panel is better at converting sunlight into solar energy than panels with a curved surface.
Flexible solar panels do also take up a little more space than conventional solar panels. That's because the layers of PV cells are not as thick, so they must be spread over a larger surface area. That means they take up more space.
These panels can also have a shorter lifespan than a conventional panel.
The 5 Best Flexible Solar Panels
It is difficult to identify the best choice when it comes to flexible solar panels. There are many good ones out there! But the following are my top 5 picks.
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The Renogy brand offers a wide range of applications, which is why some consider this the top pick when it comes to flexible panels. This particular model is for those who only need minimal coverage at 50W or need to string small panels together.
You can use it for 12v battery charging and connect multiple panels in one series to charge 24/48 volt batteries. You will want to utilize a charge controller to protect the battery.
The 30-degree arc can be mounted securely to your RV, camper van, or other irregular surfaces.
It is made from high-quality materials, including ETFE.
It can also tolerate higher temperatures and is waterproof.
Another great option is the Renogy Flexible Panel. This high-quality panel is extremely flexible and can be mounted on many different vehicles.
This ultralight panel uses advanced polymer materials and is more lightweight than traditional panels.
The Renogy panel is also highly durable. It has been rigorously tested and can withstand harsh weather conditions such as high winds of up to 2400 PA. As well as snow loads of 500 Pa.
Note: There is also a Renogy 100 Watt for a happy compromise between their 50W model and the above 175W model. Or, a 200W if you want even bigger. You can click on that link above and select the size you want.
This lightweight and flexible panel weighs only 3.97 pounds. That means it is easy to transport on any trip, and can be attached to most RVs.
It is also made from high-quality ETFE, and suitable for 12v charging.
Or, attach multiple panels in a series to charge 24/48 volt batteries.
This highly efficient monocrystalline solar cell removes electrodes on the solar cell surface, making it up to 50% more efficient than similar solar panels.
*This panel also comes in 200W. You can click the link and then select the bigger size.
This flexible solar panel is popular among off-gridders, as you can easily see in the 5-star ratings. It has an ultra-lightweight and ultra-thin design.
This model was upgraded with 9-busbars solar cells and provides a high conversion efficiency up to 23%. Its polished PET coating helps optimize the conversion efficiency.
Overall, it's an affordable option with great output.
I can't help but say this brand's name with Arnold Schwarzeneggar's accent, but it's great beyond its fun name. It's ultra-lightweight at just over 3 pounds and is only .07 inches thick.
It's survived environmental tests for high winds, hail and snow loads (2400pa).
Plus, it's one of the most affordable options on the list. In fact, this 100W panel is nearly the same price as the Renogy 50W.
What to Look For in Solar Panels
There are many things to consider before purchasing your flexible solar panel.
The main purpose of purchasing a bendable solar panel is to ensure it will be snug when mounted onto a smooth curve. Flexible panels typically have a 30-degree upward bend.
These panels are meant to be portable and easy to move, which means you want to find a lightweight design. This is especially important if your vehicle is on the smaller side!
Look for a lightweight panel that weighs anywhere from 3 – 5 pounds.
There is also a difference between slim and thin flexible solar panels. Thin ones are a little more likely to bend.
But overall, these lightweight solar panels are easy to take with you and install!
The primary function of a solar panel is to turn direct sun into maximum power for you. Look for a panel that can produce 100 watts at a time.
Look for a panel made from high-quality materials such as ETFE, monocrystalline solar cells, and an aluminum frame. Since these materials are very durable, they will help your panel last for a long time.
Many solar panels will experience a power drop when there is no direct sun. If the panel has bypass diodes this will not be an issue. They allow your photovoltaic cells to stay in use even if the panel is not exposed to direct sunlight.
Provides Enough Power
How much power do you need? If you are traveling alone or with just one other person, you'll need less energy than a family of four will.
A 100 watt flexible solar panel may be sufficient for a short trip with just a couple of people. However, if the trip is extended or more people are traveling, you'll want to get something that fits your needs.
Be careful about buying just any flexible solar panel kit. You want to be sure that you purchase from a renowned brand that uses good quality materials.
The Truth About RV Solar Panels & Lithium Batteries
People keep asking us if all the solar and lithium upgrades are worth it… Today we are going to show you just why we love having reliable power while out boondocking in our Arcadia 5th wheel. Come along as we upgrade our RV power system and learn from the experts at Keystone RV!
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Types of Solar Panels
There are three types of solar panels: Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline, and Thin Film. The following outlines their differences.
Monocrystalline Flexible Solar Panels
A flexible monocrystalline solar panel has cells made from silicon wafers. These panels are built from wafers being assembled into rows and columns. These panels are cut from a single, pure crystalline silicon, which helps them have excellent performance.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Similar to crystalline panels, polycrystalline panels are also made from the crystal of silicon. However, they are composed of fragment pieces of silicon crystals that get melted together before being sliced into wafers.
Thin Film Solar Panels
Different than crystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, thin-film solar panels are composed of a variety of different materials. The most widely found thin-film panel is made from cadmium telluride (CdTe).
More Helpful Articles on Solar Panels…
I've actually written quite a few articles about solar panels. Here are links to a few of the most popular:
- The 5 Best Portable Solar Panels for RV Use
- 6 Super Easy Tips on How to Care for RV Solar Panels
- How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run a Refrigerator in my RV?
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