One of the greatest joys of this life is traveling. And if you spend a lot of time on the road, you know the additional costs you incur along the way; one of the chief expenses being electricity bills. However, you can get rid of it completely.
Whether you are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or the depths of the Amazon Forrest, flexible solar panels can give you the power you need to keep all of your gadgets alive.
Flexible Solar Panels are lightweight products that are usually suitable for temporary outside use. You can use them on boats, RVs, and any other surface you want. Usually, they are easy to install, and that greatly reduces your installation costs.
Choosing one that can fulfill all of your demands can be a lengthy process. But don’t you worry about it! In this article, we will discuss not only the leading models of flexible solar panels in the market but we will also discuss in detail how you can choose one.
Quickly Review Of the Best Flexible Solar Panels for Boats
1. Renogy’s 50 Watt Extremely Flexible Solar Panel – The Best Overall Flexible Solar Panel
Renogy’s 50 Watt Extremely Flexible Solar Panel is worth 4.5 out of 5 stars. The reason is quite straightforward –it has all the features, like lightweight, robust construction, and IP68 protection, that makes it one of the best flexible Solar Panels you can buy to put over rooftops, boats, RV, or any other curvy surface.
- The Solar Panel is made from monocrystalline. These types of panels have single crystal silicon which gives the electrons a larger surface area and hence it helps to effectively generate large amounts of electricity.
- Due to its polymer construction, the unit weighs 2.87 pounds which is 70-percent less than the weight of many typical panels. You can easily take it with you when you are going out to the sea.
- Besides thanks to its low weight, you will find no trouble mounting it up on the top of the boat and setting it up.
- It has an extremely thin lamination that makes sure that the unit catches maximum sunlight and transforms into electricity instantly.
- Renogy 50W has a protection class of IP68 which indicates that it can withstand damage from water. It can withstand wind up to 2400 PA and snow load up to approximately 5400 PA. Also, the company claims that no hot spots will develop on the surface.
2. ALLPOWERS’ 50 Watt Bendable Solar Panel – Best Lightweight Flexible Solar Panel
ALLPOWERS’ 50 Watt Bendable Solar Panel will get 4 stars out of 5. We have deduced one point because it is not entirely bendable. However, its many advantages outweigh this tiny disadvantage. The unit weighs only 2.4 pounds so you will be able to take it anywhere you want.
- The solar panel is semi-flexible and can easily be put on any type of surface. Also, it is easy to store it in your cupboard or any other congested spaces when it is not in use.
- The solar panel can curve into a 30-degree arc which makes it ideal to be used on different types of curvy surfaces like tents, cabins, cars, RV, and of course boats.
- It only weighs 2.4 pounds which makes it one of the most lightweight units on the market. So you will also find no trouble transporting it from one place to another. Moreover, it is that much easier to install it and hang it anywhere.
- It has a frameless design and comes with four metal mounting holes so that you will find no complications while setting it up.
- The unit has an air resistance of up to 2400 PA and snow resistance up to 5400 PA. So you can use it in any type of weather you want without worrying! It also has a hail impact of 25mm at 23 meters per second.
3. GIARIDE’s 50 Watt Flexible Solar Panel – Easiest to Install
GIARIDE’s 50 Watt Flexible Solar Panel is made from Monocrystalline and has a thin layer that makes electrons traps solar heat more aptly. The reason it comes at number three on our list is that its installation process is extremely convenient. You can use zip ties or any adhesive to firmly secure it on a surface. Hence, it deserves 4.5 stars out of 5.
- It is a monocrystalline solar panel that gives you 22% more efficiency than a conventional model. Furthermore, due to its bendable structure, you can use it over any surface without causing trouble.
- The unit has advanced lamination which not only helps to make the unit work more effectively but also protects it from water and dust. The junction box is completely sealed and not even a drop of water can enter into it which makes it a great solar panel, especially for boats.
- It weighs approximately 2.6 pounds. So, it is pretty light in weight and you will have no problem transferring it between places or during the installation process. You can do it all by yourself.
- The device takes only a few minutes to install and it can easily be mounted on any surface using Velcro, tape, zip ties, grommet, glue, or any kind of adhesive. Furthermore, the manufacturer has pre-drilled holes on the panels which secure the product to the surface.
4. Renogy’s 175 Watt Flexible Solar Panel – Best Overall Performance
Renogy’s 175 Watt Flexible Solar Panel is the fourth product on our list because of its excellent performance. As you will find out in the points below, the device features bypass diodes and TPT back sheets which enhances its operations. After evaluating every aspect, we think this unit deserves 4 stars out of 5.
- Having multiple layers of lamination, the solar panel has the best performance you will see in products of such kind. It is EL tested and ensures that there will be no hot spots.
- Renogy 175W possesses bypass diodes whose only purpose is to minimize power drops that occur when a shadow comes over the panel. It helps to enhance the performance in low-light conditions. This solar panel also features TPT back sheets that displace as much heat from the device as possible.
- The unit has an output tolerance of 0 to 3 % which is good. It can withstand high wind up to 2400 PA and snow load up to 5400 PA.
- With a corrosion-resistant frame made from aluminum, you can be sure that the solar panel can survive a few bumps and accidents along the way. At the back, you will find pre-drilled holes for ease during installation.
- It weighs 6.2 pounds which is a bit more than other rivals. However, it still weighs less than many conventional solar panels and is easy to move around.
5. Winnewsun’s 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel – Best Bifacial Solar Panel
The Winnewsun’s 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panels gets 4.5 stars out of 5 because it is bifacial. This means it can use light energy to make electricity using either side. Moreover, you can mount it anywhere; whether you want it over your boat or on the side.
- Being a bifacial model, the Winnewsun’s solar panel can be used to generate loads of electricity within a few hours. It is made from monocrystalline silicon and can be used on both sides so it works best on suspended frames.
- The product weighs only four pounds and hence can easily be transported, hung, and installed without requiring a second set of hands.
- It offers a steady power supply and has a power loss of less than 3 percent during the initial ten years.
- The device is also sensitive to light which means that it will easily absorb the weak rays of sunlight that fall onto it during a cloudy or rainy day.
- You can use this solar panel in any position of your choice. You can mount it up on top of our boat or RV or you can place it on the side of the vehicle. Many professionals suggest that you place it over a white or any other reflective surface so that you can get maximum power from both sides of the solar panel.
6. XINPUGUANG’s 100 WATT Flexible Solar Panels – Best Flexible Solar Panel to be connected in Series
XINPUGUANG’s Flexible Solar Panels can connect in series and provide as much as 1000 Watts of energy and this is the reason that we will give it 4 stars out of 5. Furthermore, it has excellent performance and provides power efficiently. So, if you are thinking of expanding your current solar energy system then you should invest in these!
- With a power output tolerance of -/+ 3%, XINPUGUANG’s panel is the most appropriate solar power for off-grid. It can also be wired in a series of batteries that have a voltage of 24/48. So, it can be used for small to medium-sized solar projects.
- It is constructed from top-quality silicon and has multiple layers of lamination that helps to enhance the performance of the cells and also ensures that the unit survives for the longest time.
- The product has a protection rating of IP65. Products with this rating are resistant to water damage however if it is only in small quantities like splashes or from a nozzle. Furthermore, they also keep the internal workings of the solar panel safe from dust and other pollutants in the air.
- It is light in weight and you will be able to install it conveniently all by yourself.
Value Editorial & Buying debates
Flexible Solar Panel; what’s different?
Before we talk about all the different types of solar panels and how to choose the best one from the many different options you see in the market, let’s talk about what flexible solar panels are and what made them so popular in recent years.
A conventional solar panel consists of silicon wafers. They have a maximum thickness of 200 micrometers, which if you want to imagine is a bit thicker than a human hair.
Now, if we talk about the flexible models, the only difference is that the wafers have been made a bit thinner so that they are only a few micrometers thick. So they can easily conform to the shape of the surface they are put over.
Due to their thin nature, the flexible solar panels are lightweight and that is why most people opt for these. If you are going for a trip in the wilderness and want a time-saving and convenient way to charge all of your important electronics, then you should buy flexible solar panels.
Their flexibility allows the user to roll them into small shapes for convenient storage. Many people prefer these also because they massively decrease the installation cost. Their installation is not labor-intensive and usually does not require a lot of people to set it up.
All of these reasons also make them the perfect travel partner. They are easy to handle, install, and operate. So what more can one ask?
Different types of Solar Panels
One of the things that are most important for you to know before you go on your hunt for a solar panel, it is imperative that you know the different kinds of solar panels that are available in the consumer market and how they differ from each other.
Since this point was so important we decided to make a separate heading for discussing it in detail. Generally, there are three major categories of different types of solar panels:
1. Mono-Crystalline Solar Panels
Mono-crystalline solar panels are made from the purest solar cells. These cells are composed of silicon wafers which are arranged in an array of rows and columns, typically in the form of a rectangle. The wafers are then covered by a glass sheet and framed together to keep them protected from water and dust damage.
Mono-crystalline solar panels have black-colored cells so you can easily spot them. Their color is black because of how the light bounces off the surface of the cell which is a pure silicon crystal.
This type of panel has high-performance, helps to save space, and has impressive resilience. They can also handle high temperatures with grace so you can use them anywhere around the world.
However, the downside of these solar panels is that they have a high maintenance cost.
2. Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline Solar Panels are made from raw pieces of silicon which are heated together and molded before they are cut into wafers. After this, they go through the same process that the mono-crystalline solar panels do before they are ready to be sold.
If a solar panel has a blue-ish hue to it, then it is a polycrystalline panel. Most of the time, these types of units have a white or silver back-sheet and a white frame.
Since it has a different type of silicon it has a relatively lower production cost and hence has a lower selling price. They have a similar power output as compared to the mono-crystalline panels. However, as the name itself suggests, the unit has multiple layers of solar wafers which tend to take more space.
It might be hard to transport them from one place to another so they are not ideal for travel. Furthermore, some professionals also suggest that these units have a comparatively shorter lifespan as compared to its predecessor.
3. Thin-Film Solar Panels
Thin-Film Solar Panels are made from different types of materials such as Amorphous Silicon (a-SI), Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS), and cadmium telluride (CdTe).
In the case of CdTe and a-SI, the material is placed between layers of conducting material so that they can capture maximum light energy. The entire structure is then covered by a glass screen for protection. A layer of non-crystalline silicon is situated over the screen.
The CIGS panels are made by placing the four elements in-between two layers of conductive layers such as glass, aluminum, steel, or plastic. Then, electrodes are placed on both sides of the material to effectively capturing electrical currents.
They are bendable, convenient, and inexpensive. Furthermore, they perform well even under high temperatures. Emitting black and blue hues, the panels are similar to the mono-crystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. The only main difference is the low price and flexibility.
Things that You Should Consider Before Buying a Flexible Solar Panel
The Type of Solar Panel
When it comes to travel mono-crystalline and thin-film panels are the best. They are thin (as the name indicates) flexible, efficient, and take small storage space.
Besides, they are extremely light in weight. You can get a product that weighs as little as 2.4 pounds like the ALLPOWERS’ 50 Watt Bendable Solar Panel!
Another thing to keep in mind is the cost. The larger the solar panel the more expensive it will be. So you need to step back and think about the necessities before investing in any kind of solar panel.
However, you need not worry much! You will find a long of cheap alternatives in the market. We have also reviewed some of the above.
This is the first thing that you need to check in the solar panel while inspecting. A very simplistic way to understand how much power you need is by judging the number of devices you want to connect to it. The more the electronics the higher the wattage you will need.
Although if you are going on a boat trip then a flexible solar Panel with 50-100 Wattage is enough. If you want one for your off-grid shacks or RVs, you will need a solar panel with at least 200-300 Wattage.
If you are spending your hard-earned money on a product you want it to stay in shape for as long as possible. In the case of solar panels, you need to evaluate the manufacturing materials to judge their durability and reliability.
Some of the plastic screens that manufacturers use to make solar panels are ETFE, PET, and PTE. The former is expensive but offers exceptional protection and energy transmission than both of the latter.
Water-Resistant and Dust-Proof
Also, make sure to check if it has protection against dust and water. If you are specifically going to be using it for outdoor adventures, then you will be no stranger to water splashes, mud plasters, and dust.
Typically, flexible solar panels can withstand wind as strong as 2400 PA and snow load up to 5400 PA. So check these aspects of the solar panel too before making a decision.
Ease of Installation
If you are traveling, then you will hardly find any expert along the way that can help to install your device. So, read through the reviews to judge if the device is as easy to install as the company claims or not.
Many panels have pre-drilled holes and come with Velcro, zip ties, or self-adhesive tapes to help you secure the unit to any surface.
You need to look at how flexible the solar panel is. We know what you are thinking – It is a flexible solar panel so isn’t it obvious?
Well, no. Though all solar panels that claim to be flexible can curve over any surface, solar panels can only bend to a certain angle or degree.
As you might have noticed in the reviews above, The ALLPOWERS’ 50 Watt Bendable Solar Panel can curve into a 30-degrees arc.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Flexible Solar Panels
Now that we have gone over the best flexible solar markets that you can buy and the buying guide, let’s talk about the different perks and drawbacks of this type of product.
Versatile in Operation
The biggest benefit is that it can fit anywhere and it can be used for any type of solar project! Like we have discussed several times above, flexible solar panels are lightweight and can be mounted over any surface.
So, if the roof of your house or office building cannot bear the weight of a traditional solar panel, just buy this type of unit. In addition to this, several models can easily be linked into a series. Hence, you can always upgrade it and increase efficiency whenever you want.
No installation cost
They can also decrease the expenses of installing and maintaining the unit. The panels are small and you can easily secure them over any surface yourself. They also have pre-arrangements like pre-drill holes which makes this task easier.
There is no need to hire a professional to aid with the installation process!
Most people buy these because you can take them with you anywhere you want. So be it a boat, RV, or a tent, the panel will fit snuggly over the top and provide you with the energy you need. Also, they are very easy to handle.
Another great advantage is the weatherproofing. This means it can withstand rain, wind, storm, snow, and extreme temperatures without any problem. However, different models have different protection criteria.
Not enough power
Though they can be connected in series, the flexible solar panels are less efficient and provide less power as compared to the classical panel. Hence, they are more ideal for short-term use only.
Take up Space
Since solar panels are thin and they spread over an entire surface they can take up a lot of places. So, it is plausible that maybe the surface is not large enough to fit the entire solar panel over it.
However, you can easily avoid it by taking measurements of your roof/ ceiling beforehand and find a solar panel that easily fits between those measurements.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When are flexible solar panels useful?
Flexible solar panels are great for temporary or small solar projects. So, if you are planning on going on a small adventure into the wilderness, then this might be the perfect device for you. It can keep your phones charged and other applications powered throughout the trip.
Why do flexible solar panels fail?
Though these panels are lightweight and can survive different weather conditions, they cannot survive a hard or strong impact. They are thin and hence are prone to physical damage in case of a powerful impact.
How efficient are flexible solar panels?
There is no right answer for this because the efficiency of a solar panel, or rather any product, depends upon its construction and features. So if you are thinking of buying a flexible solar panel, do check its power and material quality.
Although, many professionals have deduced that flexible solar panels can give as much as 23-25 % efficiency but this is extremely variable.
What size solar panel do I need to charge a 12v battery?
If hypothetically, you get only eight hours of sunlight in your area and need to recharge 100 Ampere per hour to a set of batteries, then you will need a solar panel that has at least 150 Wattage
Experts suggest that you should always overrate your needs by 20 % or more. And then buy a solar panel that will fulfill that requirement. This is because you can run into an emergency and need more energy. So it is always better to be safe.
In our hypothetical situation, after adding the additional 20%, you will need to buy a solar panel that offers 180 Wattage.
Flexible solar panels are one of the most convenient energy sources that you can find in the market. Though they might not be able to provide power for your entire house on regular basis. However, they are perfect if you travel a lot.
Checking up different features like power, installation process, durability, and flexibility will help you chose the most ideal product. We used these features ourselves and finalized the above seven products.
We found out that Renogy’s 50 Watt Extremely Flexible Solar Panel was our favorite. It is a mono-crystalline panel that weighs below three pounds and has IP68 protection. The lamination also helps to enhance the performance of the product and makes electric power instantly.
Our second and third favorite is ALLPOWERS’ 50 Watt Bendable Solar Panel for being the lightest flexible solar panel that we came across and the GIARIDE’s 50 Watt Flexible Solar Panel because it takes the least time to set-up.
No matter which unit you choose, you need to properly evaluate your decision because these can be costly. So, you do not want to end up with an expensive product that does not serve your needs correctly.