1. Flexible Solar Panels Can Have Much Shorter Lifespans
Flexible solar panels can come in a variety of different forms. In particular, they vary in terms of quality of materials, manufacture process and performance. You will find many retailers on online marketplaces such as EBay and Amazon selling such varieties of solar panels. It should be noted that flexible solar panels in general have a shorter lifespan than traditional panels and many of the poor quality ones found on these marketplaces will have lifespans as little as 1-3 years. Most retailers will also offer no warranty on these products.
Two common types of flexible solar panels you will come across are PET and ETFE coated. PET is a polyester based plastic, whereas ETFE is a fluorine based polymer. The main difference is the strength, durability and resistance to corrosion. This means that where PET flexible solar panels have lifespans of up to 5 years, ETFE panels have lifespans of up to 10 years. This of course is highly dependent on usage.
2. Sunpower Cell Technology Offers Superior Quality and Efficiency
Sunpower's Maxeon multi-layered cell technology makes them arguably the highest quality of solar cell commercially available. Sunpower cells boast efficiencies of up to 23%, which makes them capable of providing up to 20% more energy than traditional solar cells.
Conventional cells will often have thin lines on the front of the cell, caused by the metal paste which is used to make electrical contacts. These connections on the front face of the cell not only look poor, but they reduce the efficiency of the panel. Sunpower’s Maxeon technology removes the need for these lines which increases efficiency and aesthetics.
On top of this, exposed metal components on the front of the cell are vulnerable to corrosion. This is not really an issue for rooftop solar panel systems unless they are on the coast or near seawater. However, depending on the purposed of your flexible solar panels, it is highly likely that they can become exposed to seawater. For example, when using solar panels for motorhomes, caravans or motorboats, corrosion can be a serious issue. This makes Sunpower solar cell technology the natural choice for flexible solar panels.
3. What You Need to Know Before You Order
You need to know the purpose of your panels before you start shopping. If you are simply looking for some low cost small panels for charging small items such as phones, iPads etc. then maybe PET budget panels are for you. If you are looking to charge batteries to help power appliances on a boat or motorhome then it is likely that higher quality ETFE flexible solar panels are the right choice.
You should think about which type of system you need and what components are necessary. If you are looking to charge up batteries then you have to think about which type of batteries you will use and what capacity you need. How much energy do expect to need over a whole day? How many panels will charge these batteries on a good or bad day?
You also need to consider how you will fix these panels. There are a number of different ways to fix these panels, such as screwing them directly into a surface, fixing them onto metal brackets or using some sort of adhesive tape or glue.
Although there is a lot to consider before you start buying, don’t worry if you are unsure about how to make these decisions. A good reputable manufacturer and supplier, such as Link Solar, can offer expect advise and assist you in making these decisions.
4. How to Make Your Solar Cells Last Longer
The first (and easiest) way to ensure a long lifespan for your panels is of course to buy quality. Make sure you buy from a reputable company, such as Link Solar, and always enquire about the quality. One way to ensure the quality is to ask for recommendations from previous customers.
Any physical damage can reduce the lifetime of your panels, as well as the overall performance. Scratches etc. will reduce the amount of sunlight which reaches the cells and therefore reduce the electrical production of the whole panel. Larger scratches can also permit water ingress and cause more serious damage to the panels. In order to avoid this, think carefully about where you will position your panels. For example if you are placing them on a motorhome, is the roof the best option? If so, then think about using a protective covering when travelling through woodland areas or during times of poor weather.
Make sure you maintain your panels regularly. Accumulation of dust, dirt or water stains will reduce the performance of your solar panels, but also damage them if not cleaned regularly. However, when cleaning flexible solar panels, make sure you use good quality cleaning materials and products. If the panels are simply wiped carelessly with an old cloth then it will likely rub small objects into the surface and cause scratches on the coating. Try to remove any light dust or grainy objects before tackling any surface stains.
We at Link Solar hope that you have found this blog post useful and take our advice on board before buying flexible solar panels. However, if you have any questions then please contact us and we will be happy to help!
Below are some examples of issues occurring with other suppliers' PET solar panels.
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