Flexible Solar Panels

Did you know that flexible solar panels are the perfect choice for your RV?!

Flexible solar panels can be installed and removed easily, fit onto irregular surfaces and provide free solar power!

Some flexible solar panels, such as those from Renogy, also come with an integrated charge controller which ensures safe charging.

So a flexible panel can make a fantastic solar system for your RV!

We’ve done the research for you, so read on to find out everything you need to know about RV solar panels.

Why flexible solar panels for RVs make sense

Solar Panels on RVs

Flexible solar panels are a great option if you are looking for an RV solar system for several reasons.

These portable solar panels offer maximum power production whilst working on RV roofs, or even boats and other mobile equipment.

Can be attached to irregular surfaces

Flexible Solar Panels on RV

A flexible solar panel is designed with a flexible substrate rather than the stiffer materials used for standard rigid photovoltaic panels. The flexible material can be molded into more complex shapes, meaning flexible solar panels are great for generating power when attached to irregular surfaces.

Because flexible solar panels can be bent and contoured to match the shape of your RV, they are easier to attach to curved surfaces like rounded rooftops and fenders.

Lightweight

Rigid panels tend to be quite heavy due to the metal frame and glass surface. As flexible solar panels don’t have a frame and they use a flexible substrate that is much lighter than glass, they weigh less than a regular solar panel.

So even if your RV roof is flat, using a flexible panel will save weight – meaning less gas used!

Overall, the flexible and lightweight nature of these photovoltaic panels makes them better suited to portable and mobile applications like an RV.

For these reasons and more, flexible solar panels are quickly becoming one of the most popular options when it comes to RV solar panels.

Best RV solar panels that are flexible

Awesome 25% Efficiency
SunPower 110 Watt Flexible Solar Panel
9.5/10 Our Score

The Maxeon Gen III prime back contact cells in the 110-watt flexible panel are from SunPower, which have an awesome 25% efficiency!

SunPower flexible panels have the greatest power output and charging capacity in its market. These panels are made of top-quality, lightweight polymer materials that allow for easy transportation, installation, and panel bending up to 30 degrees.

About this item:

  • Dimensions: 45.9″(L) x 21.9″(W) x 0.1″(H) (0.8″ including J-Box)
  • Weight: 4.4lbs – Lightweight, Portable, and Easy to Stow
  • Power: Rated Voltage (Vmpp) 18.8V | Rated current (Impp) 5.9A
  • Flexible: up to 30 degrees – Suitable for Irregular Surfaces
  • 5-Year power & 2-Year product warranty (no salt water exclusion) – Backed by SunPower
Extremely Flexible
Renogy 50 watt 12 volt extremely flexible monocrystalline solar panel
9.5/10 Our Score

Perfect for use on top of a van or vehicle, the Renogy 50W Lightweight Solar Panel is thin and capable of flexing A LOT! 

This lightweight flexible solar panel weighs only a quarter of its traditional 50W counterpart, making it easy to install on curved surfaces and meaning you won’t use extra gas once it’s attached to your RV.

About this item:

  • Brand: Renogy
  • Material: Monocrystalline Silicon
  • Item Dimensions LxWxH: 26.5 x 20 x 0.16 inches
  • Item Weight: 2.87 Pounds
  • Style: Solar Panel
Durable Surface
Go Power! GP-FLEX-100E 100w flexible mono crystalline solar expansion kit
9.5/10 Our Score

The Go Power Flex modules are made to withstand extreme climates in the maritime business, long-haul trucks, and recreational vehicles.

It may be bonded to the deck of a boat, an RV roof, or pretty much any other surface! Just make sure you use a proper adhesive for the surface you’re attaching the panel to.

These curved panels can be molded to any vehicle or RV and have parallel connections provided in the package, so you can connect this panel to an existing Go Power! solar system or add extra Go Power! solar panels to this item.

About this item:

  • Brand: Renogy
  • Material: Monocrystalline Silicon
  • Item Dimensions LxWxH: 26.5 x 20 x 0.16 inches
  • Item Weight: 2.87 Pounds
  • Style: Solar Panel

Types of flexible solar panels for RVs

There are a variety of flexible solar panels that you can use for RVs!

Amorphous solar panels

Amorphous panels that are flexible are also lightweight, which makes them well suited to portable equipment like RVs, boats, and trailers.

Flexible photovoltaic panels also have a number of other benefits including a flexible design that enables them to be rolled up as a portable solar panel.

Comparison of Solar Panels

Monocrystalline panels

Monocrystalline Flexible Solar Panels

Monocrystalline flexible solar panels for RVs are the latest trend in the flexible photovoltaic world. They’re lightweight and flexible, making them perfect for RV owners who like to travel or move their vehicle around quite a bit.

Monocrystalline flexible solar panels also have a number of other benefits including a flexible design that enables them to be rolled up for easy transport and self-adhesive backing which makes installation as simple as peeling off the backing and pressing it firmly against your roof.

Monocrystalline flexible solar panels can also be used on many different types of equipment, whether you need smaller flexible solar cells or more powerful ones.

Thin film solar panels

Thin-Film Flexible Solar Panels

Rigid solar panels are made with glass to protect the semiconductor cells inside. However, flexible thin-film photovoltaic panels use flexible substrates like plastic or fabric instead of glass. This has advantages and disadvantages for flexible solar panel construction, but flexible thin-film panels have a much lighter weight than rigid photovoltaic panels.

However, flexible thin-film solar cells are susceptible to damage due to folding and bending because thin-film photovoltaic panels have less tensile strength than panels with glass-based substrates.

For this reason, thin-film solar panels are not recommended for any application that will subject them to regular bending, folding, or pressure.

How to choose the best flexible solar panels for an RV

Solar Panels on RV

When you think of buying the best flexible solar panel for your RV, you need to think about a few key factors.

The most important factor to consider is your power requirements. If you’re frequently using appliances that draw a lot of energy, you may need to install multiple panels as flexible solar panels are more suited to lighter-duty use.

When more panels are combined within a solar panel rack, they can produce enough energy to keep all of your appliances running without your RV needing to be tied into a standard power source!

You should also think about where you will camp and what would be the optimal angle for your flexible solar panels in order to generate the most power. Usually though, they would be installed on the roof of your RV and therefore lay flat.

Once you’ve answered these questions, it will become much easier to choose flexible solar panels that are suitable for your specific use and needs.

What are the best flexible panels for my RV?

The best flexible solar panels for RVs are probably amorphous silicon photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. These flexible PV’s have the added benefit of being lightweight and flexible but also offer a very low profile which makes them easy to mount on a curved roof or surface where rigid PV panels might not be able to fit properly.

The flexible amorphous silicon solar panels are effective in lower light conditions which are ideal for RV applications because you might not always have direct sun on the panels when you park up.

However, as they have offered a lower power output you may require more solar panels to be wired together in order to produce enough power to meet your energy needs.

Flexible amorphous panels can be installed on a curved or flat surface, and offer the benefit of being extremely lightweight so they are easily carried from place to place. This also means they won’t cause your RV to use more gas!

The flexible amorphous silicon solar panels are an ideal solution for powering small appliances and electronic equipment on the go and can be easily stored in a truck or RV when not in use (if you don’t want to attach them to your vehicle), making them one of the best flexible solar panel options for RVs.

How flexible solar panel installation can be done on an RV

In case you wish to install solar panels on your RV you should carefully read the manual, and check you will not void the warranty on your RV or the solar cell.

Your flexible solar panel should be well protected from damage during installation and should not be installed where they will come into contact with any sharp objects, which may cause damage.

The photovoltaic cells that make up flexible solar panels are a lot more delicate than you might expect, so if you want to keep them intact the safest option is to hire a professional solar panel installer.

We don’t recommend that you try to install the panels on your RV by yourself unless you really know what you’re doing.

However, if you really insist on doing the installation yourself you should start by cleaning the roof of your RV with a pressure washer or, for regular cleaning, just use a wet soapy cloth to wipe down the surface.

The installation will depend on whether you are using self-adhesive flexible solar panels or mounting brackets.

If you choose flexible solar panels with self-adhesive fixing, you will need to peel off the backing paper and attach them directly to your RV’s roof.

When using mounting brackets, you need to make sure the correct brackets are included in your flexible solar panel kit. If using screws to attach the brackets, be careful not to puncture your panels and ensure you seal the roof around the screw properly!

How do you attach flexible solar panels to an RV roof?

1. Purchase flexible solar panels for your RV

2. Clean the surface of the roof with soap and water before installation

3. Place flexible solar panels on the roof of your RV so you can see the layout, making sure to leave a gap between each panel to allow airflow

4. Use an air compressor or leaf blower to blow off any water droplets that have formed on the flexible solar panels or the roof, to ensure good adhesive

5. Fix the panels to the RV roof, and seal the edges with silicone sealant

6. Plug flexible solar panels into the RV’s electrical system to begin harnessing solar power.

Advantages and disadvantages of flexible solar panels for RVs

The benefits of flexible solar panels for RVs

Flexible solar panels for RVs offer some advantages over traditional panels.

Reduced weight

Flexible solar technology reduces the weight and stress on RV roofs making them a great option.

Reduced cost

Flexible panels generally cost less than rigid panels.

Simple installation

Flexible solar panel installation is relatively simple if you buy the right RV solar panel kits, with the added advantage of being able to install your flexible panels in places a rigid panel couldn’t be placed.

Efficient even under snow/ice

If you use amorphous silicon cells in your RV solar system they will work even when partially covered in snow/ice which is not always true for other types of RV solar panels.

Reduced production waste

Flexible solar panels are thinner and smaller than rigid PV cells, which means fewer materials are used – and wasted – during production.

Reduced noise pollution

Because your flexible solar power system makes electricity silently, it does not create any noise pollution compared to other types of portable power generation like a diesel generator, and so does not cause any disturbance to the environment.

Some disadvantages of flexible solar panels for RVs

Flexible solar panels for RVs have a few disadvantages, which you should also consider.

Lower efficiency

Flexible photovoltaic power systems are generally not as efficient as rigid ones. You may need to add more panels to your RV solar kit to give enough power for your needs.

Shorter lifespan

Flexible solar panels can have a shorter life than a rigid panel depending on how you use them because frequently bending the panel can cause it to fray and break over time.

Durability

Flexible thin-film panels are incredibly flexible, which can mean they are less durable than a rigid panel because thin-film cells can be punctured if they are mishandled.

How much do flexible solar panels on RVs cost?

The costs of installing portable solar power on your RV depending on the size of your RV and how much power you need for your electrical system, the type of flexible solar panels you choose, and how much work is required in getting the flexible solar panels installed.

Flexible solar panels can range in price from around $100 to $500 per panel at the cheaper end of the scale, and between $1000 and $2000 for the best flexible solar panels.

Not all solar panels are created equal though, and so the more expensive flexible solar panels may be necessary if you have a large RV and require more power!

You should also consider the cost of installing your solar energy, which will depend on the size of your solar system and the complexity of putting them in. Flexible solar panels are flexible in appearance only, not in the way they need to be wired up to your RV’s battery banks!

When installed properly, flexible solar panels should last between 10 and 25 years.

Size of flexible solar panels for RVs

Solar panels come in different sizes and the space you need for your RV solar panels will depend on your power requirements.

If a single flexible solar panel makes enough solar power for your RV’s appliances and lights, not much roof space will be needed. If you need more than one, the correct mounting hardware will allow you to add more panels to your solar kit.

Flexible solar panel efficiency on RVs

The efficiency of flexible solar panels compared to traditional solar panels is lower. Flexible solar panels are estimated to be between 5 – 15% as efficient as traditional solar panels.

The flexible solar panel has thin protective layers of semi-conductive plastic instead of crystalline silicon, which is the material used in traditional photovoltaic technology. This gives the panel its flexibility but also means that a flexible solar panel produces less energy per square foot than traditional solar panels.

However, because a flexible solar panel can be easily mounted on almost any surface, it is very easy to have multiple RV solar panels in your system which combined should produce enough solar energy for your needs. They also work well in low-light situations which many RV campers would find themselves in regularly.

These advantages can help overcome the deficit inefficiency.

Flexible solar panel voltage and use

The flexible solar panel produces 12 volts of direct current (DC) power.

Depending on how many flexible solar panels you have, they may not fully charge your RV’s battery bank.

Flexible thin-film flexible arrays can be connected in series or parallel combinations for flexible solar panel voltage that matches your RV’s system usage.

How much power do you need to charge your RV batteries?

That would depend on the size of batteries you have in your RV and how much power you use, and will be different for every RV.

You should install flexible solar panels that produce enough solar energy to charge up the RV’s battery bank during the day, which should give you enough power for overnight when the batteries are not charging.

Remember that flexible solar panels will produce less power than traditional solar panels, so you may need to install more RV solar panels if you choose the flexible option.

FAQ

What are flexible solar panels?

Flexible solar panels are flexible photovoltaic (PV) modules that consist of an encapsulated flexible, lightweight PV panel with integrated semiconductor components and high-strength polymer frames to withstand being flexed without damage.

Why do flexible solar panels for RVs make sense?

Using flexible solar cells to power an RV provides significant advantages including that flexible solar cells are lightweight, durable, and weatherproof so they can withstand being mounted on recreational vehicles or other vehicles that will travel through all types of terrain.

How can flexible solar panel installation can be done on an RV?

The flexible photovoltaic modules are usually fixed to the roof of the RV by means of a flexible solar panel adhesive tape (with a strong aluminum backing) or attached using flexible mounting brackets or an aluminum frame.

The flexible solar panels are then connected to one another through their connecting solar cables, which then transfer the solar power to the RV’s battery.

What are the benefits of flexible solar panels for RVs?

Flexible solar cells provide many benefits such as:

  • flexible, durable and lightweight
  • flexible solar panels can be less intrusive than large rigid panels
  • flexible solar panels can withstand extreme conditions and travel through all terrains without wearing out or losing their charge capacity
  • flexible photovoltaic modules require minimal maintenance and can last up to 30 years
  • flexible solar panels are reduce noise levels compared to other methods of portable power generation
  • flexible photovoltaic modules can be mounted on the roof of RVs to harness solar energy
  • flexible solar cells do not need any external sources of energy.

How many solar panels do I need to run an RV?

You need around 360 Watts of flexible solar cells and flexible solar panels to power an RV. A smaller RV (40 feet in length) will require 90 flexible solar panels to power it, while a larger RV will require 180 flexible solar cells plus flexible batteries.

What does an RV flexible solar setup look like?

Flexible solar panels for RV consist of flexible photovoltaic (PV) modules that consist of an encapsulated flexible, lightweight PV panel with integrated semiconductor components and high-strength polymer frames to withstand the adverse conditions of vehicle travel without damage.

The panels will be connected via cable to a charge controller (also known as a solar controller) and then to the RV’s batteries.

What can a flexible solar-powered kit run in your RV?

Your RV solar kit should power everything you need!

Flexible solar cells have the capacity to power a range of equipment in an RV, including televisions and stereos, the water pump and hot water boiler for showers and cooking, refrigerators and freezers – even the air conditioner!

During sunlight hours, your RV solar panels will also be charging the batteries, so you still have enough power to use when the sun’s rays no longer provide the energy.

Conclusion

All in all, flexible solar panels are a great investment for your RV or any other vehicle, and may well be the right RV solar panels for you!

They are lightweight, flexible, and durable plus they don’t require any maintenance. Flexible solar panels can withstand extreme conditions and so are the best RV solar panels for most people.

Flexible solar systems provide an easy and convenient way to produce energy from the sun, and keep your RV powered up when you need it!

In conclusion, flexible solar panels for RVs provide a lot of benefits that you just can’t beat.