You’ll find retailers on eBay or Amazon selling all sorts of Flexible Solar Panels at all prices.
But how could you make sure you get the best bang for your buck?
The performance will vary depending on the quality of the solar cells used, the materials used to laminate those cells (the coating material, glue), and the rigor of the assembling process.
Table of Contents
- What is a Flexible Solar Panel?
- Flexible Solar Panels – What to Look For by RV with Tito DIY
- It Can Have Much a Shorter Life Span
- Sunpower Cell Technology Offers Superior Quality and Efficiency
- Super Lightweight
- What You Need to Know Before You Order
- How to Make Your Thin Film Solar Panel Last Longer
What is a Flexible Solar Panel?
Flexible or thin-film panel is a portable solar-powered system, which is commonly used for recreational vehicles such as, yachts, boats, caravans, motorhomes, e-bikes, campervans, truck campers, and more.
It is also a low-cost and more efficient panel, compared to rigid or traditional solar panels.
Here are the 5 things you must need to know about flexible solar panels before you decide to buy:
1. It Can Have Much a Shorter Life Span
It should be noted that thin-film solar panels, in general, have a shorter life span than traditional solar panels.
And many of the poor quality ones found in these marketplaces will have a life span as short as 1-3 years.
Unsurprisingly, those retailers will also offer no warranty on these products.
Warranty, evidently, is a fairly good indicator of how much does a seller believes in his product.
One year – standard, two years – great, three years – amazing.
One decisive factor in determining the lifespan of flexible solar panels would be the coating material.
The two most popular types of coating materials are:
- PET laminated solar panel – It is a polyester-based plastic. It is made by placing layers of PET, EVA, solar cell and PCB together.
- ETFE or or ethylene tetrafluoroethylene – It is a fluorine-based polymer, that can withstand high temperature easily.
The main differentiating factors between the two would be strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion.
While, PET-laminated thin solar panels generally have a lifespan of up to 5 years.
ETFE-laminated flexible thin film solar cells have lifespans of up to 10 years.
Just like Link Solar’s flexible solar panels, it rests assured that their solar panels are made of high quality and premium extreme crack-resistance ETFE material, with 3-year warranty.
2. Sunpower Cell Technology Offers Superior Quality and Efficiency
Sunpower’s Maxeon multi-layered cell technology makes them arguably the highest quality of flexible solar cells commercially available.
SunPower cells boast efficiencies of up to 24.3%, which makes them capable of providing up to “35% more power compared to conventional cells with outstanding aesthetics.”
Conventional solar cells will often have thin lines on the front of the cell, caused by the metal paste which is used to make electrical contacts.
Those characteristics not only affect the aesthetics of the cell, but the overall efficiency of the panel as well.
The exposed metal components are also vulnerable to corrosion, and although this might not be an issue for a rooftop solar panel system.
It might be so if the system is in proximity to seawater, i.e. on a boat, or even near the coast, which makes it ideal for building a Marine Solar Panels.
3. Super Lightweight
Flexible solar panels are super lightweight and known for its durability and easy to installation.
So, you don’t have to worry about the help of someone else to lift them up, when installing into your recreational vehicle.
4. What You Need to Know Before You Order
If you’re looking for a flexible solar panel that’s low-cost, just to charge your phone or your tablet, then PET-laminated panels might be what you are looking for.
Also, you might not need the most efficient cells out there (24%), remember that you will get less value from higher efficiency cells.
Tip 1: Efficiency rating does not affect power output, it will not make your phone charge faster. Higher efficiency cells only decrease the surface area needed to achieve the output shown.
For small-scale normal conditions, charging the highest efficiency solar cells are generally not worth it.
If you’re looking for a flexible solar energy panel for your boat, RV, or for camping, you can visit our flexible panel product page for wide series.
One that you’ll use for more than charging a phone, like your refrigerator, engine starter, or battery.
Waterproof, fire-resistant, durable and reliable.
The ETFE Solar Panels definitely are what you are looking for. A bit pricier, but definitely worth it.
Tip 2: There are a number of ways you can fix those panels.
Mounting brackets, glue, adhesive tape, screws.
Which of those options suits you best?
Are you sure that your devices are compatible?
What if it rains?
What if the seller does not offer custom solar panel sizes?
Do you have alternatives?
What is Volts? The numbers what they mean?
There are a lot of things to consider before ordering, and we know how confusing the buying process might be.
But, don’t worry! We’ve got your back.
If you have any solar energy related questions?
You can leave us a message anytime.
We’ve been in this business for 10 years now, we know what works and what doesn’t.
We’ll just try our best to help you out, and even if you don’t buy anything from us, that’s okay.
5. How to Make Your Thin Film Solar Panel Last Longer
Tip 1: The first (and easiest) way to ensure a long lifespan for your panel is of course to buy quality.
Make sure you know what you’re buying.
Always make sure you know what materials are being used.
Tip 2: Are you going to buy thin film flexible solar panels, made from SunPower Grade A cell?
Hold up! They are not graded as you might think. Read this, if you don’t want to be fooled.
(Grade A SunPower cells are actually the lowest-graded SunPower cells.)
Once, you’ve purchased the panels, remember that any physical damage to the surface of the panel, it can reduce the overall performance and lifespan.
Scratches or cracks, for example, will diminish the cells’ exposure to sunlight and affect performance, or even allow water in if the damage is serious enough.
Therefore, we recommend that you carefully think about the different factors that might mitigate your solar panel’s performance before setting them up.
Because for example, stray branches, strong winds which might pick up small objects and damage the panels’ surface, or birds (and their tendency to defecate at will).
If you’re traveling and do not need to use your flexible solar panels, you might want to use a protective cover.
Lastly, you will want to clean your solar panels for optimal performance
. Water stains and accumulation of dust or dirt might even damage your solar panels.
Most importantly before cleaning, you need to first remove the larger grainy objects which can scratch the coating when wiping the panel clean.
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