Flexible Solar Panels vs Rigid

Because of their flexible nature, Flexible Solar Panels can fit on curved and other complex surfaces. The Flexible Panels can adhere flush to the roofs of vehicles giving them Aerodynamics when traveling, but buying them now may not be the best decision because of their ongoing problems. No doubt Flexible Solar Panels are the future of the Solar Industry but does the proven Standard Rigid Solar Panel still have the advantage?  Flexible Solar Panels vs Rigid:

Flexible Solar Panel

  • Lighter-Innovative
  • Future of Solar
  • Aerodynamic for Vehicles
  • Adheres to any surface
  • Easy Install
  • Micro-Cracking Problem
  • Can’t dissipate heat properly

Rigid Solar Panel

  • Cheaper Price
  • Durable
  • Made of Glass & Aluminum
  • Last 25 yrs.
  • Standard in the Solar Industry
  • May Need Pro Install
  • Resist Impact

Flexible Solar Panels for RV


Flexible Solar Panels are a great idea for fitting to RVs adding to Campers conforming to places that would be impossible for standard Rigid Panels to adhere to. If your Camping Van or RV is horrible on gas then the Flexible Solar panels will add aerodynamics and with that become more energy efficient. So there are plenty of applications where even with the Flexible Panels problems they might be worth it for you to add to your vehicle.

Flexible solar cells are made by layering photovoltaic material on a base, which is a substrate of high-grade plastic or glass. These cells are way thinner and much more flexible than a conventional mono or polycrystalline solar panel.

The layered configuration of these ultra-thin solar cells allows for a more compact design to minimize the energy loss when overshadowed by clouds. Other advantages of flexible solar panels are that they can be easily attached to unusual smaller devices such as laptops, mobile phones, and cameras, to name a few. This opens up a world of uses for Flexible Solar Energy.

Flexible Solar Panels are fairly easy to attach to RVs, Vans Motorhomes, and even Sail Boats where you’ll be anchored up and need power in isolated areas around the world. Anywhere where power is needed.

They work well on Cabins or Homes off-grid. They are bondable to most surfaces using silicone and yes, velcro. Their thickness is extremely thin as low as 0.08 of an inch. Built for RVs on the move adding energy to your vehicle by saving on fuel as travel while providing energy once you get to your location.

The installation can be easier compared to thicker ridged type Solar Panels using fewer holes drilled on the top of your RV. The heat has been an issue in the past with simply gluing down panels to the roof because the Solar Panels need a small air gap to partially eliminate any heat passively absorbed by the sun.

Most installers recommend putting a spacer behind the panel that will lift it up some. Another way of preventing this problem is by using double-sided tape or velcro tape, or plastic cardboard just enough to give the panel some air between itself and the hot roof. Weight is so important when you are on the move and with lighter-weight trailers Flexible Solar Panels are much lighter than the standard rigid Panels.

The cost of installing flexible solar panels on RVs and Campers is much less compared to regular solar panels since they require less labor (the buyer usually installs the Panels themselves) and effort to be installed and being lightweight, they can be easily carried.

There is also an emerging category of ultra-thin film solar panels that you can bend as much as you can bend a thin sheet of plastic, but these currently have very low efficiency. The future looks very bright for Thin-Film Solar Flexible Panels. It’s just a little early in its product development to catch up on the real-life situations that all new products go through. Many experts feel that now may not be the time to use it.


Flexible Solar Panel Air Gap


Rigid Solar Panels are the most common panel on the market and are composed of two standard types of cells called monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells with a layer of protective tempered glass and an aluminum frame. These units are very durable and are used in almost all applications with flat surfaces.

The materials used in Flexible Panels are not as durable, as the glass and aluminum. An impact can break the flexible panels in no time. For example, if there is a hail storm, then it damages the flexible panels. Secondly, if you accidentally step on the flexible panels during installation, then this can also damage them.

Because of their lightweight and easy installation, most owners will install the Flexible Panels but they have a limit to how much you can actually bend. The Flexibility of the Panel is meant to be no more than a 30-degree radius for any panel if you are installing it yourself and go past that amount then you could hear a crunch somewhere in the panel. That would mean a broken cell. Once you break one cell you bring down the voltage of the whole Solar Panel.

Unlike Flexible Solar Panels, they can be moved and tilted towards the direction of the sun. An important objective of installing the panels on the mounting racks is to facilitate the airflow underneath the panels Rigid Solar Panels are able to do this most Flexible Panels can’t because they adhere directly to the flat surface of your RV or Camper. These overheating problems will happen in warm or colder areas of the Country. Other important problems are:

No Airflow underneath the panels makes the temperature too hot, then it can burn the plastic laminate of the flexible solar panels as well. The result is that the functioning of the solar panels encounters is hindered. The lie of the cells is also lessened by this lack of airflow beneath the Panel.

Rigid Solar Panels are made from tempered glass or aluminum frames providing stronger construction. Flexible Panels use less durable material that won’t hold up They can be easily damaged.

Warranties-for Flexible Panels can be as little as a year to a year and a half. Rigid Panels as long as 25 years. Even what seems to be reliable Amazon Companies that offer 25-year Warranties.

The manufacturers in China and some not all maybe fly by nighters that are only open for a few months and then close their shop down leaving you with a worthless extended warranty. Even if your Panels that are made in China, deliver the power you expect they still use connectors and hardware that are not quality.

China Flexible Solar Panels are also difficult to get the repair done at a normal time frame if they won’t work. Always use a reputable local distributor that fulfills that promise if you have to go Flexible. The Industry is expected to improve and that means more opportunities for local and American companies to get involved with this growing product.

Micro-Cracks – A major and common problem with flexible solar panels, is the occurrence of micro-cracks. This is one of the common problems that you might have seen and observed in the crystalline PV panels that are bendable and have curved surfaces.

Hots Spots- Can affect both –Hot spots are areas on the panels which become overloaded and therefore become warm. Hotspots on panels are mainly caused by badly-soldered connections or are a result of a structural defect in the solar cells.


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Glass Solar Panels


  • Rigid Panels are heavier than Flexible Panels usually 16 lbs per 100-watt solar panel, Flexible Solar Panels weigh in around 4 lbs. per Panel per 100 Watt panel
  • Rigid Panels Cause Aerodynamic Drag- to your RV or Camper or whatever the vehicle you are driving unlike, the Flexible Panels that are designed to flush mounted to your vehicle creating no drag at all which means they are very efficient saving you gas mileage and money.
  • Rigid Panels made of Glass and Aluminum are Heavy– they need a stable strong structure to be mounted underneath where, as Flexible Panels are light and can be added to any kind of surface even Tents, Backpacks, or Clothing.
  • Rigid Solar Panels Installation– No one likes the idea of putting holes into the roof of any RV and would need in most cases to be professionally installed where Flexible Panels wouldn’t
  • Safety Issues– Because Rigid Solar Panels are heavy if they are not properly anchored to the top of your vehicle they can fly off at a high speed and actually hurt somebody or worse.
  • Rigid Panels can’t Bend– This creates all kinds of applications for different types of surfaces like Motor or Sail Boat Boats or odd-shaped roofs or camp tents that are solid enough for Ridgid Solar Panel


Snail Trails on Solar Panels


             Snail Trails on a Solar Panel

If your Flexible Solar panel is making use of a defective kind of front metallization silver paste, then it will likely and probably be showing Snail Trail Contamination.

Snail trail is a discoloration of the Solar panel which usually happens by itself after a couple of years of production. Snail trails have multiple causes, but one cause can be attributed to the use of defective front metallization silver paste, in the solar cell manufacturing process.

A Defective Silver Paste used in the Manufacturing of the Panel can lead to moisture in the panel, and as a result of this moisture, oxidation can occur between the silver paste and the encapsulation material called EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate). This will result in silver oxide and acetic acid (vinegar)  hydrogen.

This chemical effect because of this reaction is fed from the back of the panel to the front of the Panel and causes a breakdown on the front of the panel. This effect becomes visible as ‘snail trails’, resulting in a reduction in the panel’s performance and loss of energy production. The snail trails can also arise as a result of microscopic cracks in the panel.


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Potential Induced Degradation



Another potential problem with both Glass Rigid Panels and Flexible Solar Panels is Potential Induced Degradation (PID) This problem can arise when a voltage difference occurs between the panel and the earthing. For safety reasons, the solar panel is earthed, which can cause a harmful potential difference between the earthing and the voltage generated by the panel. In some cases, this generates a voltage that is partly discharged in the primary power circuit.

The consequences of this effect are an ongoing reduction in performance and accelerated aging of the PV panel. PID affects solar plants and leads to a performance loss of up to 10%. This type of problem is happening more in Flexible Solar Panels and adds to the accelerated aging process of the Panel.

Some real good deals through us and Amazon Flexible Panels for your Sailboat, Marine, Cabin, or RV AUECOOR 10x 100 Watts 12 Volts Flexible Solar Panel Bendable Lightweight Waterproof Off-Grid Solar Power System Charger for RV, Camping, Boat, Caravans, Motorhome

Renogy 800 Watt 12 Volt Solar Premium Kit with 60A MPPT Charge Controller/Solar Cable/Solar Fuse Mounting/Z Brackets for RV, Boatthis 800 Watt Designed for off-grid solar panel system, caravan, RV, boat, Green house solar panel system. Cell efficiency: Regular-sleek style-Monocrystalline: 21%

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JimGalloway Author/Editor





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