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Flexible solar panels are portable and powerful devices that provide steady power on the go. The distinguishing feature of flexible solar panels is their ability to roll and fold, unlike conventional solar panels which are rigid in nature. Due to their flexible designs, these solar panels are useful for various excursions such as hiking, camping, kayaking, climbing, cycling, just to mention a few. In addition, flexible solar panels can be used on boats, RV’s, and autos for functions such as charging solar batteries.
Are you looking for the best flexible solar panel for your next expedition? We spent 48 hours researching for the top quality products in the market and narrowed down to five best flexible solar panels, which we summarize in the table below review in depth in this article. There is also a buying guide to lead you through everything related to picking the best flexible solar panel.
Our analysis was majorly based on power, efficiency, and the bending angle of the solar panel. Power is the most important factor to consider in a flexible solar panel. Generally speaking, the more watts a panel generates the better because you get to charge batteries much faster than low watt devices. A high-efficiency panel needs minimal panel surface to produce energy, while low-efficiency panels tend to be larger. Find out more about the factors to consider when buying a flexible solar panel further down.
Kicking off our list is the BougeRV ISE020N 100W Solar Panel, which is powerful and lightweight owing to its 0.1in thickness and weighing just 5.73 pounds. This panel boasts a unique frameless design that ensures easy installation. Each corner has three metal-reinforced mounting holes for fixing screws, hanging and removing the panel while allowing easy transportation.
As you would expect with flexible solar panels, the BourgeRV is bendable to a maximum of 30 degrees, thus encouraging mounting on curved surfaces. Some of the places you can mount the panel include on RV, van, travel trailer, tent, cabin, or any other uneven surface. The manufacturer claims that this panel can also be useful for Bitcoin Mining, thus saving on your electricity expenses.
At around 23% to 25%, this solar panel is more efficient than many average devices on the market. In addition, it comes with an integrated blocking diode, which helps prevent reverse current drain, especially at night. This ensures optimum efficiency levels.
Speaking of the construction, the panel features a special EFTE film, which has high-temperature resistance, anti-fouling, and anti-corrosion properties, while still being easy to clean. The durability of this solar panel is remarkable too, thanks to its water-resistant body. In fact, the body is such sturdy and flexible that it can be used on tight spaces or crowded areas that are usually out of bounds for conventional glass and aluminum panels.
Last but not least, the product is covered by an 18-month warranty plus lifetime service.
What are our favorite features?
Powerful panel with higher-than-average efficiency
With up to 248-degree arc, the Renogy 100 Watt solar panel can be mounted on the wide range of irregular surfaces where standard panels can’t fit. Whether it is mounting on top of a van, on the curved top of an airstream, or for marine use, nothing beats the flexibility of this panel. The mounting itself is possible using the structural adhesive silicon on the back of the panel. You may need to consult your local contractor for installation guidance, just to be on the right side.
The panel’s efficiency rating is 15.46%, which is quite on the lower side compared to the other models on our list. It still generates 100 watts of power to use on a boat, teardrop trailer, and cabin or in a vehicle.
Featuring ETFE material, this panel provides higher light transmittance and extended service than conventional PET material. ETFE material is also known for its high-temperature resistance, non-corrosive nature, and self-cleaning abilities. All these ensure maximum performance on a day to day basis.
At only 4 pounds, this device is 70% lighter than traditional solar panels, thanks to the use of premium polymer materials. As a result, installation and transportation is a breeze. In fact, this panel is so sleek – just a tenth of an inch tall, making it perfect for hidden solar installation. The lightweight construction is also said to reduce mpg on cars, leave alone the panel’s ability to withstand winds of up 2400pa and heavy snow loads up to 5400pa. The 5-year warranty on this product is a major plus as well.
Overall, a great solar panel designed for the most irregular surfaces.
What do we love it for?
Excellent bending angle of up 248 degrees
Utilizes EFTE film for maximum durability and performance
Sleek, lightweight design for easy installation and transportation
This flexible solar panel is arguably the easiest to install compared to other models on the market. The GIARIDE Solar Panel can be fixed onto the desired surface by glue, tape, grommet, or Velcro. The panel has pre-drilled holes for fast set up and securing on a mounting surface. On another perspective, the panel is easy and quick to remove when needed.
The panel’s efficiency is 21%, which is much higher than traditional panels. The benefit of this is that the solar cells transform more energy with little sunlight. Output power is 100W at 18V and this can effectively charge electrical items on the road.
Panel flexibility is up to 30 degrees, which allows mounting on slightly curved surfaces such as on a roof, motorhome, RV, cabin, tent, boat, and many more applications. The solar cells on this panel are monocrystalline. These are the most advanced solar cells on the market, and they offer great energy conversion rates.
Speaking of weight, this panel is just under 4 pounds and it’s still among lightweight solar panels on the market. The lightweight design makes the panel easy to hang, remove, transport, and store. Worth mentioning is that the panel is water-resistant and dust-proof for extended durability. Apart from the panel itself, the package includes a user manual plus 18-month warranty information.
Overall, the GIARIDE Solar Panel is a great choice if easy installation ranks high on your priorities.
What are its best features?
Multiple installation options
High efficiency of up to 21%
Lightweight design for easy installation and transportation
Made in the US, the SunPower Solar Cell has great transformation efficiency of up to 22% to 25%. This rating is by far superior to most monocrystalline panels in the market with 17%–19% efficiency. Not only that, users can benefit from remarkable power efficiency because the unit doesn’t need much light to charge items even though the panel is smaller than conventional units.
The flex range of this panel is 30 degrees, and that makes it ideal for mounting on a number of irregular surfaces. Some of the common uses include RVs, tents, cabins, cars, trucks, and trailers. This panel has an output of 50W at 18V, which is enough power to charge 12V lead-acid batteries and other equipment.
Weighing just 2.4 pounds, this panel is probably the most lightweight available in the market. The little weight makes for easy hanging and removing as well as transportation. In addition, the panel’s frameless body along with reinforced mounting holes on each corner makes installation a no-brainer.
The durability of this solar panel is also very good because of water-resistance property. Short circuit and surge protection are also useful additions for both the panel and user safety. Beyond that, the panel’s flexible material allows storage in tight spaces and congested areas.
Finally, the package includes an instruction manual, and the product benefits from the 18-month manufacturer’s warranty.
Winding up our list is the ALLPOWERS Solar Panel AP-SP18V100W. The company that makes this panel is famous for their quality products, and this flexible panel is a great example. The first thing we love is the panel’s immense efficiency of up to 23.5%, which dwarfs most panels in its class with 17% to 19% efficiencies.
Another core element of this panel is water resistance. This makes it ideal for use in unpredictable weather. In addition, the panel features a durable laminate that guarantees extended lifespan compared with conventional glass and aluminum panels.
Pre-drilled holes on each corner of the panel make for quick mounting and securing, thus ideal for temporary installations. The lightweight and frameless construction also ensures easy hanging and take down as well as effortless transportation. The item weighs 4.7 pounds precisely, yet it packs a generous 100 watts of power.
There’s a thin plastic sheet on the back of the panel, which is bendable to a maximum of 30 degrees. This allows mounting on various irregular surfaces including on top of boats, RVs, trucks, trailers, and cabin, just to mention a few. For safety reasons, the panel utilizes short circuit and surge protection technology. You can trust this CE, RoHS, and FCC certified solar panel. Be sure to read the included instruction manual too.
In conclusion, this product has an 18-month guarantee so you can rest assured. This is an efficient flexible solar panel overall but quite expensive.
What are its best features?
High efficiency of up to 23.5%
Waterproof construction for durability
Powerful unit that produces 100W
Easy to install with a bending limit of 30 degrees
What could be improved?
Things to Consider
Flexible solar panels are increasingly being used in various settings including homes, RVs, boats, tents, trucks, and trailers. Most homeowners are now using solar panels in attempts to reduce electricity costs. Others enjoy the convenience of having to power their electrical items when roaming around. Whatever the motive of purchasing a flexible solar panel, having the right information can help narrow down to your ideal product. This guide has everything you need to know before buying a solar panel.
How do flexible solar panels work?
Solar panels work by the photovoltaic effect – the ability of a material to produce electricity when light falls on it. The panels convert sunlight into direct current electrical energy. Then, an inverter unit converts the direct current into alternating current (AC) for use in your home or anywhere the solar panel is installed. Any excess energy can be stored in a battery storage system for later use, for example, at night.
Note that solar panels utilize the light energy from the sun and not the heat energy. As such, solar panels can produce electrical voltage even on cloudy days as they do not need direct sunlight. Solar panels are very effective when they’re north facing or pointed directly at the sun. Flexible solar panels, however, are installed anywhere including on moving vehicles and boats, because of their bending ability.
Advantages of flexible solar panels
Flexible solar panels provide an outstanding way of powering your moving machines such as RV, travel trailer, or boat. These devices are flexible and portable, but there are additional benefits beyond that.
The most obvious benefit of flexible solar panels is that they provide eco-friendly energy. These products use a renewable resource, and they do not produce harmful gases or wastes.
Another advantage of flexible solar panels is saving money on electricity costs, especially when installing in homes.
The real value lies in their flexibility, which allows flexible solar panels to be installed in unusual places. These panels can bend up to a certain degree so as to fit on most curved surfaces such as on top of cars, cabins, and RVs.
In addition, there’s the agility factor. Flexible solar panels are lightweight and easily sneak into spaces where traditional solar panels can’t fit.
Another major benefit is the freedom that comes with flexible solar panels. The freedom to go anywhere while you rest assured of reliable energy. This is especially beneficial for RV camping enthusiasts who have lots of electrical devices to light, power or charge on the road. The same applies to boating lovers.
Lastly, the cost of installing flexible solar panels is much less than regular solar panels. Flexible panels require very little effort to install because they are ultra-lightweight. Some such as the GIARIDE Solar Panel 100W can be affixed to surfaces using glue, tape, or Velcro – absolutely no-brainer.
Features to consider before buying
Power and efficiency
Flexible solar panels have different power output. Find out the amount of energy you need in your trailer or camper, for instance, to better understand the number of solar panels you will need. In most cases, a 400W solar system will be sufficient for living off the grid. Most of the panels we’ve reviewed above are 100W. Therefore, you may need to buy two or more depending on the intended use.
Efficiency is another huge factor to consider when looking for a solar panel. Basically, it refers to the amount of light the panel can convert into electrical energy. Make sure the panel has high energy efficiency rate – anywhere from 15% to 22%. The BougeRV ISE020N 100W Solar Panel above boasts up to 25% efficiency and it should provide more than enough power for all your devices.
Materials and durability
If you want your flexible solar panel(s) to last for years, consider the quality of the construction material. The quality of the material correlates with durability so be sure you’ll get value for your money. Since these panels are used outdoors, find out how weatherproof they are. For instance, pay attention to water resistance, snow resistance, and impact resistance properties.
The best flexible solar panels such as the Renogy RNG-100DB-H are made from ETFE material. ETFE is strong and extremely weatherproof, so you can be sure of the product.
All flexible solar panels are bendable. Perhaps the question is, to what extent can the panel bend? 30 degrees seems like the standard flex range, but some panels can do more than that. Such is the capability of the Renogy RNG-100DB-H panel with a 248-degree arc.
Generally, flexible solar panels are easy to install. Most flexible solar panels have pre-drilled mounting holes for straightforward setup. Simply screw in the panel to the desired surface and paste a sealant on the screws plus the edges of the panel. A few tools such as hand drill, drill bit kit, sealant, and wrench will come in handy. Installing a flexible is a DIY job, and you can always follow the instructions manual to get it done. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you can’t figure it out.
Size and weight
Flexible solar panels are really thin and portable but there are still minimal variations. For instance, the ALLPOWERS AP-SP18V50W 50 W Solar Panel weighs a mere 2.4lbs, while the 100W version comes in at 4.7lbs. The dimensions could be different as well.
Here you have to choose depending on your intended application. An RV would not mind carrying a heavy panel but you will want an ultra-lightweight panel for camping.
A warranty is a partial security for your investment. Flexible solar panels don’t enjoy lifetime warranties such as conventional solar panels. Most manufacturers only offer 1 to 2-year warranties, which somehow leaves consumers vulnerable. However, you can always find exceptional offers such as the 5-year warranty on the Renogy RNG-100DB-H 100 W Solar Panel.
A series connection can be done by two or more panels of the same power and current or even panels with different voltages or currents. Solar panels are connected in series using an MPPT Controller. Connecting your panels in series increases the voltage level and MPPT controllers accept higher voltage input. Some controllers such as Renogy MPPT Controllers are able to accept up to 100 Volts input. The benefit of a series connection is that the current can travel over long distances. To calculate the controller capacity, multiply X number of panels by watts to get the total watts of your solar system. Divide the total watts by your battery bank voltage to get the amps. For instance, 2 – 100W solar panels = 200W / 12VDC battery bank + 25% (to allow cold temperatures) = 20. 83 amps
A solar charging system is only complete with a charge controller. The charge controller takes energy from the solar panel and converts the voltage so that it can charge a battery, whether lithium-ion or lead-acid. Note that a 12V battery bank is compatible with a supply voltage of around 16V. This allows charging a Lithium-ion battery to 12.60 (3 x 4.20V/cell) and lead-acid battery to 14.40V (6 x 2.40V/cell). Pay attention to the charge controller’s voltage requirements before buying one and only connect it to the appropriate battery, Li-ion or lead-acid battery.
Literally yes you can, but neither you nor the solar panels will welcome the outcome. Flexible solar panels from Renogy are some of the most durable, but it’s still not recommended to step on them.
Flexible solar panels have brought a new approach to living off the grid. The problem as always is choosing the best flexible solar panel, which we believe the guide above has solved for you.
We also handpicked five flexible solar panels as good examples in your search. The BougeRV ISE020N 100W Solar Panel is our best overall pick because of its high efficiency and durable EFTE film.
For maximum flexibility, we highly recommend the Renogy RNG-100DB-H 100 W Solar Panel with a bendable range of 248 degrees. This panel can easily be wrapped on a circular surface. A 5-year warranty on the product is also a huge advantage.
Finally, we really liked the multiple installation options offered by the GIARIDE Solar Panel 100W. The model’s efficiency is also on the high end.