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Best Buying guide for Flexible Solar Panels

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Flexible solar panels provide a more portable and lighter approach to traditional solar panels. They are easy to install and can be used to power appliances for outdoor activities or recreational vehicles. They might not be the best choice for powering your home, but they have certain advantages tailored to specific people.

Flexible Solar Panels

These electricity-generating devices are made of ultra-thin silicon cells with a few micrometres of thickness. The cells are sandwiched between layers of protective plastic. This is called thin-film solar technology, giving them more flexibility than standard polycrystalline or monocrystalline panels.

While reducing the width of the solar cells increases their flexibility, it comes at the cost of their lifespan and efficiency. This gives their non-flexible counterparts a chance to remain popular because of their ability to generate more electricity and have an average life of 25-30 years. 

However, they are gaining popularity since the needs of solar consumers are shifting to lightweight options.

Flexible Solar Panels Usage

Flexible solar panels can be used for:

These are just some examples, but they can be used anywhere where there is a need for occasional power. They’re primarily used for curved spaces because of their flexibility and the amount of space they occupy compared to conventional solar panels. You can also use them to charge electronic devices like digital cameras, mobile phones, GPS, and communication systems.

Rather than lugging around heavy solar panels. These panels are great for such uses due to their lower weight, smaller size, and flexibility. They can also fill the energy needs of mobile solar projects. You can even mount a flexible solar panel on your RV’s roof. You don’t need to worry about the wind since it won’t be damaged by it while driving.

Advantages

Portability:

They are easy to carry and convenient for many environments due to their flexibility, lower weight, and smaller size. You can take them anywhere and store them with ease. Most manufacturers sell these panels with a carrying case to make transportation easier.

Mounting:

They can fit on a roof of any shape or size. They can even be attached to the roof of an RV. Their versatility in their placement is their most significant advantage. They don’t need additional installation equipment and can be mounted with screws and industrial silicone adhesive. A lower-weight solar panel ensures zero harm to the delicate roof of your recreational vehicle.

Disadvantages

Reliability:

They are less durable due to having no rigid design. Their flexibility is a double-edged sword since it makes them more susceptible to damage and breakage over time. This is why most flexible solar panels can only live upto five years, compared to 25 years for a rigid panel.

Efficiency:

They are less efficient and effective at generating electricity due to the thin designs with a less conducting material. This only gives them an output of 50-300 watts. Lower efficiency isn’t beneficial for residential applications, especially if energy-hungry appliances or large devices exist. Other disadvantages include:

  • Lack of adjustability.
  • Cupping.
  • Gouging.
  • Scratching.
  • Pooling.

Things To Consider When Purchasing A Flexible Solar Panel Kit

You have to consider these factors to make the best possible decision:

Warranty:

High-quality solar panels usually have strong warranties. So, look for options that have at least five years of coverage. Low costs will be associated with shorter warranty terms, but the panels won’t work for long, either.

Ease of Installation:

It doesn’t cost much to install flexible solar panels. However, you’ll still need clear guidelines even if the panels are portable. The standard user guid should be legible and in your language. The installation kit should also include adhesives or velcro.

Weight and Size:

Portability is a priority for many customers; you can’t sacrifice that. Plus, the panels should be lightweight, especially if you’re taking the panel for hiking, where you have to carry it around a lot.

Bending Angle:

The primary reason flexible solar panels are popular is that they can be fitted to curved surfaces. The bending angle is the amount they can flex without breaking. Their flexibility can range from 30-248 degrees.

Longevity:

Keep an eye out for the expected lifespan of a solar panel. Longevity depends on the quality and materials used to create the solar panel. Panels made of plastic tend to degrade faster than those made with aluminium or glass.

Plastic will last less than metal or glass, but it offers protection from corrosion and rusting in wet environments. Flexible panels made of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) are more durable than polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Efficiency:

It is the amount of sunlight a panel can absorb and transform into electricity. A solar panel with a 30% efficiency rating would only be able to convert 30% of the total sunlight it receives into energy.

Flexible solar panels are 10-15% efficient, while rigid panels are 15-20%. Highly efficient options can even be up to 22% efficient. The cost of a solar panel increases with its efficiency.

Power Output:

The energy your solar panel produces is its power output. This power determines how many devices you can power at a given time. Outdoor applications may need a higher output which ultimately depends upon what you’re powering. Like efficiency, increased prices are for higher power outputs.

Rigid vs Flexible Solar Panels

Flexible solar panels might be easier to use, but they’re only reserved for specific and temporary uses. They might be great for hiking or RV trips, but you wouldn’t expect them to power your home for a year.

However, they’re portable and great for powering RVs, boats, or electronic devices. But they have low efficiency and are not the best option for powering large devices. One tradeoff of their flexibility is that they have a lower expected lifespan.

Your need for flexible solar panels depends upon your use. We advise you to research this technology before you buy it. Also, determine if flexible panels can support your needs or not.

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