Are you going on a road trip or taking your boat out for a ride? Batteries do not always suffice when it comes to charging and giving power to all your devices and more. In this case, what you need are flexible solar panels.
Unlike the regular, bulky solar panels you find on roofs, these are lighter in weight and obviously bendable. The way these panels are ideal is because they can take the shape of any curved surface such as that of RVs, boats, and the like. Plus they are really good for the environment.
We understand that selecting a solar panel with all its special features and out of the many options can get complicating. So in order to make things easier, we bring to you the best flexible solar panels with a buying guide.
Solar Panel Buying Guide
Even if you opt for well-reputed brands, or go through dozens of reviews, there are still some factors you should know about before you proceed to purchase a solar panel for yourself.
The power the solar panel is able to generate is something you should look into first. The power output varies from each panel, but the general rule is that the higher the wattage is the more use you get out of it.
The wattage depends on the size of the batteries and how much stored energy do you consume. To generate more energy, people often several solar panels are connected to reach their desired wattage.
First calculate an estimated amount of energy you may need, then go forward with your purchase. Boats and RVs require somewhere between 100 to 300 watts, while large backup batteries may require 150 to 200 watts.
Technology and Cells
You can find two solar technologies, thin-film and crystalline silicon. Thin-film panels have layers of photovoltaic material printed on the panels. The material is 300 times thinner than crystalline silicon resulting in them being extremely flexible.
The flexibility is to such an extent that the panel can be bent and even rolled up. This feature is especially useful when you want to paste them on any curved surface.
The surfaces include metal, glass, and even fabric using their self-adhesive feature. However, thin-film solar panels are less efficient compared to crystalline silicon, and relatively more expensive, hence, not as widely used.
On the other hand, a lot can be said about crystalline silicon that uses two types of solar cells, polycrystalline and monocrystalline but more about that later. These solar panels are made from blocks of silicon being thinly cut into wafers.
The wafers are bound together and the end product is a solar panel that has the ability to bend about 30 degrees. Thus, these panels can be used for RVs. The use of polycrystalline cells and monocrystalline cells makes crystalline silicon solar panels the more efficient and economical option.
There is a third type of solar cell design called amorphous cell that allows more flexibility and is more efficient. They are superior because of their ability to retain the same output in high temperatures and perform well in low light.
Panel Material and Durability
The material of the panel and its durability go hand in hand. Solar panels as constructed by placing solar cells between polymer layers. Usually, two types of polymer are used, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE).
Although they both have their advantages, ETFE panels are more preferred. ETFE is used in better quality panels as they have better light transmittance and can withstand high temperatures and weather such as heat or rain.
This makes ETFE solar panels more durable with longevity of up to 10 years, while PET is used in cheaper panels can last up to 5 years. Another thing to look into when considering the solar panels’ life span is their waterproofness.
The junction box is the most at risk of being damaged by rainwater or salt spray. To avoid that, check the ratings. Ratings between IP65 and IP68 or higher mean that they are waterproof.
Weight and Size
Flexible solar panels are lighter and thinner than conventional solar panels. So, RVs or boats will not be able to handle the weight of conventional panels. Also if you have limited space, then be aware that foldable solar panels will take up a lot of space.
Plus, a panel that weighs less is easier to carry and install. While looking into the size and weight make sure that their power output meets your requirements and needs. The weights of solar panels can go down up to 5.7 lb and the power output 100W.
Best Flexible Solar Panels in 2021
ALLPOWERS 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel
SunPower Monocrystalline cells with 23.5% efficiency
Sealed junction box
4.7 lbs. weight
Pre-drilled holes for installation
Renogy 160 Watt Flexible Solar Panel
Monocrystalline power cells
248 degrees of flex range
A tenth of an inch thick
SunPower 50 Watt Flexible Solar Panel
Maxeon solar cells that are high efficiency
The junction box has an IP67 water protection certificate
Easy to follow user guide included
Winnewsun 100 Watt Bifacial Flexible Solar Panel
Bifacial solar module
Weighs 4 lbs
Less than 3% power loss in 10 years
22% power efficiency
WindyNation 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel
30 degrees of a flexible range
Waterproof including the junction box
Weighs 4 pounds
Grommet mounting holes are of stainless steel
1. ALLPOWERS 100 Watt 12 V 18 V Flexible Solar Panel - Best Flexible Solar Panels
First on our list is the ALLPOWERS flexible solar panel that uses SunPower monocrystalline cells. The cells have an efficiency rate of 23.5% which is reportedly higher than other monocrystalline cells.
What this means is that the panel can essentially produce high output despite the weather. For its weight of about 4.7 lbs., the panel produces 100 watts that can charge between 12 volts devices to 18 volts. Its unique design of being frameless makes this solar panel lightweight and can bend up to 30 degrees.
You can position the ALLPOWERS solar panel on any uneven surfaces. Although maybe not for your saltwater boat. The pre-drilled holes make installation super easy. Plus, you get 18 months of guarantee, which may not sound much but you will most likely not need it.
2. Renogy 160 Watt Flexible Solar Panel - Best Flexible Solar Panels
One of the most bendable panels on our list is this super reliable Renogy flexible solar panel. This 160-watt panel uses monocrystalline power cells that have the ability to bend up to 248 degrees. It is a crazy amount of flexibility that allows you to install the panels on any curved surface.
You can give its ultra-lightweight credit for its bendability. The panel is a tenth of an inch thick. However, just because it weighs less does not mean that the panel lacks in any way when it comes to its performance.
This is backed up by their power output warranty of 25 years. Plus a high power output means that you can use it for multiple applications. The 36 monocrystalline cells are very efficient and even in extreme weather conditions and the bypass diodes prevent the power from dropping too much under low light conditions.
This is proof of their supreme quality and long durability. Overall, the Renogy 160 Watt flexible solar panel is highly recommended.
3. SunPower 50 Watt Flexible Solar Panel - Best Flexible Solar Panels
What sets the SunPower 50 watt flexible solar panel is its high efficiency that is reported to be 23.5% higher than other models. With the aid of monocrystalline cells, this solar panel can produce more power output in less time. This is applicable even on cloudy days or low light conditions.
The battery will charge faster and your power will not be affected. Another thing that makes this flexible solar panel one of the best in the market is its IP67 water protection certification.
What this essentially means is that no matter how heavy of a rainfall it is, the junction box one of the most critical parts of a solar panel will stay protected. The installation is quite straightforward as well, made easier by including a user guide.
The size of this panel, which is 25.5 inches by 21.9 inches by 0.8 inches, makes them the perfect size for easy portability. What else can we say other than that we love this SunPower solar panel.
4. Winnewsun 100 Watt Bifacial Flexible Solar Panel - Best Flexible Solar Panels
Yet another solar panel that has made it on our list because of its efficiency. The Winnewsun flexible solar panel is all about high efficiency, where it is claimed that they have 22% power efficiency.
This is because this panel sports a bifacial design. The bifacial solar module has the capability of generating power from both sides, so you know you are getting twice the power output for the price of one, that too for an extended period of time.
The weight of this panel is only 4 lbs. and made using firm but flexible materials, making them easy to transport if need be. You can rest assured that with this solar panel you will be facing no power shortage.
If you want to talk about the durability and stability of the solar panel, then it is guaranteed that with this panel you will only lose 3% power over the course of ten years. In our opinion, the Winnewsun Bifacial gives good value for your money.
5. WindyNation 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel for RV - Best Flexible Solar Panels
The WindyNation flexible solar panel is what you should consider if you are looking for panels for your RV. Its 30-degree flexibility makes it suitable to bend to the irregular or curvy shape and generates a power output of up to 100 watts.
We absolutely love that the whole solar panel is water-resistant including the junction box. So you can be assured that rainwater will not cause the panel to malfunction, thus, adding to its longevity.
Speaking of junction boxes, it comes with a blocking diode which does a number of jobs. It prevents the battery from draining or discharging and eliminates the battery from overcharging. This feature ensures your safety as well as protects the battery from damaging the panel.
Lightweight at just 4 pounds, you can easily transport this solar panel on your mobile applications. Also, the monocrystalline solar batteries make certain that efficient power is being generated.
We would like to conclude by recommending the ALLPOWERS Bifacial Flexible Solar Panel because of its outstanding features. We hope this article was of help to you.