5 Reasons to Avoid Flexible Solar Panels for Your RV

Last Updated on April 21, 2023 by Jess

If you’re looking to add a solar panel to your RV for dry camping, you’ll discover two types of solar panels: rigid and flexible.

Rigid solar panels are traditionally installed and mounted on the roof, whereas flexible solar panels lay flat on the roof and can conform to the shape of the roof.

Although each type of solar panel has advantages and disadvantages, let’s take a closer look at flexible solar panels for your RV so you can better understand the pros and cons of this new technology.

What are flexible solar panels for RV?

Flexible solar modules are different from rigid solar modules. They are made of flexible plastic rather than glass. Thin wires connect the solar cells inside the flexible solar module to an MC4 at one end.

Then the panel is connected to another to provide more solar energy. This MC4 or similar device is also connected to the solar controller. They work in the same way as their rigid solar panel counterparts.

How do flexible solar modules differ from rigid solar modules?

The main difference between flexible solar panels for your RV and rigid solar panels is that they can be bent without breaking. However, the function remains the same.

Rigid solar panels are rigid, while flexible solar panels can be manipulated. They have a glass construction in a traditional panel and a plastic construction in a flexible panel.

What are the advantages of flexible solar panels for your RV?

As you can imagine, the flexibility of these types of solar panels is their big advantage. If you own an Airstream, you can install flexible solar panels to fit the curves of your camper. If you have a fifth wheel, they fit along the curvature of the front cap to capture the sun from that angle.

One advantage of flexible solar panels for your RV is that you can mount them at different angles and route them around other structures on the roof, such as air conditioners.

Flexible solar panels for your RV are not only movable, but they are also lightweight because they are encased in plastic instead of glass. This is important for RVs with limited roof load capacity.

They can weigh up to 80% less than rigid solar panels. This makes a huge difference when installing multiple modules on a smaller RV.

Finally, flexible solar modules are much easier to install than rigid modules. There are fewer holes to drill, and most come with a self-adhesive backing. You don’t need mounting brackets.

Just use Eternabond around the edges. Some people can avoid drilling a hole, while others drill a single hole for a pair of wires to connect the RV to the solar charge controller.

5 Reasons to Avoid Flexible Solar Panels for RVs

Despite their flexibility, lighter weight and ease of installation, you should avoid flexible solar panels for your RV.

If you prefer dry camping to camping in a campground surrounded by other RVers, spend the money on rigid solar panels.

1. less efficient

First, flexible solar panels are less efficient when you are on Bureau of Land Management land for weeks at a time. Because they are so thin, they have less material to absorb sunlight.

They also have less efficient semiconductor materials than rigid solar panels. Flexible solar modules for your RV have an efficiency of about 7% to 15%, while rigid modules have an efficiency of 16% to 20%.

2. more expensive

The technology for flexible solar panels is newer, which means these panels cost more. They can be two or three times more expensive.

However, installation costs are much lower. So it’s worth considering this before investing in flexible solar panels for your RV.

Please note: Before you buy solar panels for your RV, you should make sure that you have consider the cost!

3. more heat

There is no airflow under flexible solar panels because they are attached to the roof of the RV with adhesive. Therefore, the panels become very hot.

This also affects solar efficiency, as hot solar panels do not perform as well. In addition, flexible solar panels do not last as long as rigid solar panels due to this heat storage over time.

4. Less durable

Due to their pliability, flexible solar panels are not as durable as traditional panels. This also leads to additional costs, as you have to replace them long before the rigid panels.

If you want a ground mount, flexible solar panels are not a good solution because the strength of such a mount comes from the frames.

5. shortened service life

Because flexible solar panels don’t last as long as their rigid counterparts, they are more expensive in the long run. The panels cost more upfront, and you have to replace them sooner.

Flexible solar panels also store more heat, which affects their longevity.

A woman replacing her flexible solar panels for her mobile home

What happens when flexible solar panels overheat?

Because flexible solar modules for your RV lie flat on the roof and are not mounted on brackets, they are exposed to radiant heat and solar radiation.

Rigid solar panels are raised off the surface and do not suffer the same overheating due to adequate airflow.

Although flexible solar modules can withstand high heat, they can still overheat, causing the plastic laminate to burn. This is a costly repair or replacement and results in low voltage and loss of power.

Please note: You can find hundreds of solar panels on the market, but these are the 6 best portable solar panels for your RV!

How much do flexible solar panels weigh?

As mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of flexible solar panels for your RV is their lighter weight. Most flexible solar panels weigh 4 to 5 pounds. In contrast, conventional solar panels weigh 30 to 50 pounds.

This difference is important if you are adding a larger number of solar panels to the roof of your RV. In fact, for some roofs, flexible solar panels are the only option.

A motorhome with flexible solar panels

Are flexible solar panels for RVs worth it?

There is no right or wrong answer. As with other RV-related questions, what type of solar panel to use depends on the situation.

For example, if you own a motor home, flexible solar panels may be best. If you drive a Class A motorhome, you may prefer rigid solar panels.

If you want to dry camp for a few days once or twice a year, you can probably save money and install flexible panels.

Weigh the pros and cons of both types of solar panels and decide on what works best for your camping needs and the roof load of your RV. Would you consider installing flexible solar panels for your RV?

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