If you need to increase the autonomy of your battery and you are looking for something light, easy to install and that does not scream to the four winds that your van is camperized, it is possible that installing a flexible solar panel is your best option. Read on to find out more about the most discreet solar panels on the market.
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Most important features of flexible solar panels
You don’t have to turn your head too much to realize that the main feature of a flexible solar panel is that very thing, that it is flexible…. 😅 This quality is achieved thanks to the fact that they are built with thin film cells, whose thickness is much smaller than those of conventional plates which allows them to have a certain flexibility.
Although these panels have traditionally been much less efficient than rigid panels, in recent years their performance has improved considerably.
As you may already know, thanks to their adaptability, flexible solar panels can be better adapted to some situations or applications outside of what is usual.
Advantages of flexible solar panels
- Thanks to their flexibility, they can adapt to surfaces that are not flat.
- They are much thinner than conventional ones.
- As they are thinner and do not have a metallic structure, they are very light.
- As they are glued to the surface, they are less resistant to wind gusts.
- They are very easy to install.
- They are much more discreet than the rigid ones, they will help your van to be less conspicuous.
- They are lighter and easier to transport.
Disadvantages of flexible solar panels
- In laboratory tests they have shown a somewhat faster degradation than conventional ones.
- They are generally not as efficient as normal ones, although in recent years their performance has improved considerably.
- There is not such a wide variety of models available on the market.
- Their price is somewhat higher than rigid ones.
- The fact that they are attached directly to the roof prevents optimal air circulation, which hinders good heat dissipation.
What is the performance of flexible solar panels?
As we have already mentioned, the performance of a flexible solar panel, a priori, is somewhat lower than that of a conventional solar panel. In addition, we should also take into account the following situations that would directly affect its efficiency:
- There may be a loss in energy production if the panel were installed on a curved surface, since the sun’s rays would not strike ideally over the entire surface. It is also true that in a van it is very difficult, if not impossible, to control the angle of incidence is adequate ….
- If there is no ventilation under the plate, the heat cannot dissipate properly, so the temperature of the panel will increase and there will be a drop in performance due to temperature increase.
How to install a flexible photovoltaic panel on a camper van?
Installing a flexible solar panel on the roof of a van is very simple, but perhaps not as simple as it might seem at first. If you think it would be enough to glue the panel directly to the roof, we advise you to read our post where we explain the BEST way to install a flexible solar panel without risk. Don’t let a hot spot ruin the roof of your van!
Final opinions on flexible solar panels and their price
Flexible photovoltaic panels are all the rage among camper and motorhome users. Their small thickness and lightness make them perfect to be placed on the roof of a vehicle. In addition, they go more unnoticed than rigid solar panels and are very easy to install, just keep in mind that they are more prone to overheating. So, forget about parking and deploying portable solar panels, attach it to the roof and let it generate electricity as long as there is sunlight.
As for their performance, they are generally a little less efficient than rigid solar panels, but their efficiency has increased considerably over the last few years.
Regarding their price, it is clear that it will depend both on their power and their brand or country of manufacture, but they are generally more expensive than traditional panels. What we can assure you is that, during the last years the price of solar panels has dropped a lot.
In our particular case, we chose to install a rigid panel because, after all, the van is our home. We are going to live in it continuously and our work depends on having electricity, so efficiency was our priority. So we installed a 455W PERC monocrystalline rigid panel. This is not to say that we think rigid solar panels are better than flexible panels, we just thought they met our needs better. So, make a list of your requirements, weigh your options and decide which solution best suits your particular case.