There are pros and cons to choosing flexible solar panels (or flexible solar sheets) over rigid ones. Flexible solar panels are cheaper but less efficient. They’re easier to install, but they typically don’t last as long as their traditional counterparts.
Traditional solar panels can be bulky, expensive, and challenging to install, making flexible solar panels or sheets an attractive alternative. However, sticking with traditional solar panels may reward you with better long-term savings.
How do solar panels work?
Solar panels use cells of silicon, boron, and phosphorus to convert energy from sunlight into electricity, creating a clean source of power for your home or business.
What if the sun’s not shining? Solar panels store the energy previously collected in batteries to provide continuous power at night or in inclement weather.
A major advantage of installing solar panels in your home is that in many areas, utility companies will buy the excess energy from your solar panels—meaning solar panels can quite literally pay for themselves over time.
How flexible solar panels work
Flexible solar panels work the same way as traditional “rigid” solar panels; they have photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity.
The big difference is in their name: they’re flexible, lightweight, and easy to install in ways rigid solar panels aren’t.
Flexible solar panels are largely the same as rigid solar panels in terms of operation. Efficiency and application are where the two really diverge.
Flexible solar panels vs. rigid solar panels
Flexible solar panels use far thinner layers of silicon (about 300 times thinner) than traditional ones to achieve their flexibility.
This makes flexible solar sheets more bendable and lighter than their rigid counterparts. They’re also surprisingly durable in terms of taking physical abuse, though they won’t last as long as traditional solar panels.
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Pros and cons of flexible solar panels
Due to their flexibility and lighter weight, flexible solar panels are a popular choice for boats, RVs, and camping. But they’re also useful in home applications, too.
If your roof can’t support the weight of a rigid solar panel, has odd corners, or isn’t perfectly flat, flexible solar panels are a great alternative.
However, flexible solar panels are only around 7-23% efficient—compare this to the 16-20% efficiency of rigid solar panels. Flexible solar sheets also typically have a shorter lifespan than traditional ones.
If rigid solar panels are an option for you, though, they’re far better at powering your home. They cost more, but they’ll also produce more electricity and be a more efficient use of your roof space. They also last longer.
How to install flexible solar panels
Flexible solar panel installation isn’t as intense as putting in rigid panels. You have a few options to attach the panels to the roof of your home or vehicle:
- Screw the panels directly into the roof surface, making sure to leave a little bit of room between the panels and the surface
- Use velcro or industrial tape along the edges of the panels to stick them to a surface. You may need to place material behind the panels, like plastic sheets, to avoid overheating the panels
Recommendations for flexible solar panels
Many manufacturers offer flexible solar panels on the market today. Some highly-rated options include:
- SunPower Flexible 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel: Only available at 100-watts, but boasting 23 percent efficiency, making it one of the best 100-watt options available
- Grape Solar Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel: Offers 20 percent efficiency
- Renology Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel kit: Available in 100-watt, 200-watt, and 350-watt formats, with 17.3 percent efficiency, this is a great option for people looking for more than 100 watts
- Winnewsun Bifacial Flexible Solar Panel: Offers 22 percent efficiency and a cheaper price point
- WindyNation Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel: Offers 17 percent efficiency at 100 watts and is the cheapest option on this list
Do solar panels affect home insurance?
Most insurance providers consider solar panel installations as permanent attachments to your home whether you’re using flexible solar panels or rigid ones, making them eligible for dwelling coverage.
This means that your homeowners insurance will likely cover damage to your solar panels resulting from a
However, solar panels installed on a detached garage, carport, or in the yard will fall under additional structures coverage. You can still get coverage, but the payout percentage will be less than with dwelling coverage.
Some providers exclude solar panels, however. Always check with your insurance provider before filing a claim.
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How do you mount flexible solar panels?
Flexible solar panels are usually fairly easy to install. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions and it should only take a few minutes.
Most flexible solar panels can be installed using adhesives, even just double-sided tape. Many of them also include grommets or purpose-built mounting kits for easy installation onto a surface.
How long do flexible solar panels last?
If they’re kept from physical damage and well cared for, flexible solar panels should last around 15 to 25 years without needing to be replaced. They don’t last quite as long as rigid solar panels—those can last 40 years or more—but they’re usually a bit more resilient to impacts.
What can you put under flexible solar panels to insulate them from heat?
The best method of keeping flexible solar panels cool is to try and make sure they’re ventilated. If possible, try to maintain an air gap between the panels and your roof. Consult your owner’s manual to see what method is recommended.