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The 5 Best Flexible Solar Panels

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Author Icon Written by Tamara Jude Updated 12/20/2023

Interested in using solar energy to power your recreational vehicle (RV), boat, or campsite equipment? Consider investing in flexible solar panels. Though smaller than traditional solar panels, these panels offer the convenience of renewable energy in a portable package.

We at The This Old House Reviews Team have researched the best flexible panels available, including those from leading solar panel companies. Read on to compare our top panels and learn how they can help power your next off-grid adventure.

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5 Best Flexible Solar Panels

  • Best for RVs: Renogy 175-Watt, 12-Volt Flexible Solar Panel
  • Most Flexible: Renogy 100-Watt, 12-Volt Flexible Solar Panel
  • Most Efficient: SunPower 110-Watt Flexible Solar Panel
  • Best for Boats: HQST 100-Watt, 12-Volt Flexible Solar Panel
  • Best Universal Design: WindyNation 100-Watt, 12-Volt Flexible Solar Panel

Important Note: Sunpower only installs panels from its manufacturing partner, Maxeon. Get a quote from one of the certified installers below to install any other solar panel brand.


Best for RVs: Renogy 175-Watt, 12-Volt Flexible Solar Panel

Score: 94 out of 100

Renogy’s 175-watt flexible solar panel tops our list thanks to its high power capacity and efficiency, making it an excellent choice for recreational vehicles (RVs). This highly flexible panel is ideal for installations on camper tops, back windows, or other uneven surfaces. 

Pros
Has a high power capacity ideal for RVs
Offers up to 248 degrees of flexibility
Provides 17.3% efficiency
Cons
Must be sent in for technical support
Is more expensive than similar flexible models

Panel Details

This monocrystalline panel is portable and efficient. It weighs 6.2 pounds, making it light enough for safe installation on camper and RV roofs. Its 17.3% efficiency rate is higher than standard flexible panels, which typically fall between 10% to 15% efficiency. Solar panel efficiency represents how effectively a solar panel absorbs sunlight and converts it into usable energy. The higher the percentage, the better the performance and power generation. 

This panel’s ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) polymer surface has high transparency for better light conversion and an anti-scratch surface for protection. It’s waterproof and resistant to extreme weather, including high winds and snow loads. The panel design includes six grommets and MC4 connectors for easy installation. These are the standard connectors in the solar industry and make it easier to string together multiple solar panels. 

This panel model comes with a five-year warranty for workmanship and material. This includes protection against defects or issues resulting from poor manufacturing or faulty materials. You’ll also receive a 25-year power warranty that guarantees performance at the following thresholds: 

  • 95% output coverage after five years
  • 90% output coverage after 10 years 
  • 80% output guarantee after 25 years

Renology’s Technical Support team will test and repair your panels if they fall below these thresholds.


Most Flexible: Renogy 100-Watt, 12-Volt Flexible Solar Panel

Score: 92 out of 100

Renogy’s 100-watt, 12-volt model is one of the most flexible solar panels on the market. It easily installs on most curved surfaces, with up to 248 degrees of bendable angle.

Pros
Offers the highest flexibility angle
Weighs only 4.2 pounds
Works well for smaller solar projects such as boats or cars
Cons
Has a lower efficiency than other panels in our review
Provides limited instructions for installation

Panel Details

The Renogy 100-watt panel offers many of the same features as the 175-watt version but in a smaller version. These panels work best for smaller solar projects such as campsites, boats, and vehicles. They weigh 4.2 pounds and are only 0.08 inches thick, offering a low-profile with ample power. This panel provides 14.9% efficiency, which aligns with the industry standard but ranks lower than other panels in our review. 

Similar to the 175-watt version, this panel uses an ETFE polymer for maximum energy absorption and protection. The 100-watt panel is waterproof, dustproof, and resistant to extreme weather conditions. The panel includes MC4 connectors, six grommets, and silicon adhesive for installation. 

This Renogy 100-watt model includes a five-year warranty for workmanship and material and a 25-year power warranty with a promised 80% power capacity threshold at its conclusion. 

Renogy also offers this panel in a flexible solar panel kit to make installations even easier. Each kit includes two solar panels, a charge controller, and connector cables. The charge controller prevents your panels from overcharging or undercharging. It also sends excess energy to a solar battery for later use.


Most Efficient: SunPower 110-Watt Flexible Solar Panel

Score: 91 out of 100

Known for its high-efficiency solar panels, SunPower manufactures one of the most efficient flexible panels available. Its 110-watt panel offers up to 25% efficiency, the highest rate on our list.

Pros
Bends up to 30 degrees
Folds easily for storage
Provides one the highest efficiency rates available
Cons
Isn’t made for use near salt water
Offers short power and product warranties

Panel Details

SunPower’s flexible solar panel uses Maxeon’s high-efficiency monocrystalline cell technology. This panel weighs 4.4 pounds, about the standard weight for flexible panels. Its 25% efficiency rivals the rates of some traditional rooftop solar panels. 

This panel’s ETFE surface resists corrosion and extends its life span. It’s waterproof and resistant to extreme weather, including high winds and snow loads. The panel includes six stainless steel grommets and standard MC4 connectors for quick assembly. However, you must order a special tool from the company to disconnect the panels. These panels are designed for outdoor use but aren’t listed as waterproof or resistant to dust or wind. 

Although SunPower is known for its long-term warranty coverage on traditional panels, its flexible panel option doesn’t have the same standard. This panel includes a two-year product warranty, less than Renology’s coverage. You’ll also receive a five-year power warranty that guarantees up to 80% output by the end of the coverage period. The warranty does not cover use near salt water.


Best for Boats: HQST 100-Watt, 12-Volt Flexible Solar Panel

Score: 86 out of 100

The HQST 100-watt panel is waterproof and has a compact solar cell design, making it an excellent choice for boat enthusiasts. 

Pros
Has a compact size ideal for boats
Provides a high efficiency of 23%
Is waterproof and dustproof
Cons
Doesn’t include a charge controller
Uses a less protective PET polymer

Panel Details

HQST’s 100-watt flexible solar panel stands out for its innovative monocrystalline solar cell technology. The company includes more solar cells on the panel surface by increasing the standard five busbars to nine. Busbars are the thin rectangular strips in the front and back of solar panels. These strips conduct the direct current (DC) energy that’s produced after sunlight is converted.

Increasing the number of busbars improves conductivity, reduces power loss, and increases power production. HQST’s model offers an impressive 23% efficiency and has a curve radius of 30 degrees, which is the industry standard for bendable panels. 

This panel uses polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is less durable than ETFE. This results in a shorter life span: ETFE lasts a minimum of 10 years while PET lasts a minimum of five. Despite the difference in polymer, this panel protects against water and dust, making it ideal for marine applications. The 100-watt model also offers high wind and snow protection. 

HQST includes a one-year material and workmanship warranty, one of the lowest on our list. This model is backed by a 25-year power output warranty that offers the following power guarantees: 

  • 95% efficiency rate after five years
  • 90% efficiency rate after 10 years
  • 80% efficiency rate after 25 years

Best Universal Design: WindyNation 100-Watt, 12-Volt Flexible Solar Panel

Score: 85 out of 100

The WindyNation 100-watt panel has a universal design that works with most outdoor and off-grid situations. This panel also regulates your battery use, helping to keep your panels running longer. 

Pros
Includes a blocking diode to reduce unnecessary battery discharge
Is less expensive than other flexible panels
Weighs only 4 pounds
Cons
Uses PET coating
Includes only a one-year manufacturer’s warranty

Panel Details

This 100-watt monocrystalline panel provides efficient solar power for most outdoor installations, whether traveling by car or camping out in the woods. It offers up to 19% efficiency, weighs only 4 pounds, and has a thickness of 0.1 inches, making it light enough for most outdoor installations. Its 30-degree flexibility accommodates most curved surfaces. 

This panel uses PET polymer, which means it’s more susceptible to corrosion and cracking. However, it’s more affordable than ETFE options. Additional features include a blocking diode to prevent unnecessary battery discharge. It also prevents the battery from overcharging during the day. This WindyNation panel is water-resistant, making it suitable for use during inclement weather. This panel can be installed various ways, including via grommet holes, adhesive, or velcro.

The WindyNation model only includes a one-year manufacturer’s warranty but offers a 25-year performance guarantee. Below is a breakdown of the guaranteed output thresholds: 

  • 95% efficiency rate after five years
  • 90% efficiency rate after 10 years
  • 80% efficiency rate after 25 years

What Are Flexible Solar Panels?

Flexible solar panels offer the benefits of a traditional solar system in a more portable package. Unlike rigid solar panels used in home installations, flexible solar panels are thinner alternatives for off-grid and mobile installations. They aren’t powerful enough to run a house but provide adequate power for boats, RVs, campers, or camping sites. 

Flexible panels are ultra-thin, lightweight panels that are easily installed. They’re also bendable, making them easier to attach to a curved roof or window. Typical flexible panel installation involves using adhesive tape or velcro to mount the panels, compared to the stiff mounting racks used for traditional rooftop installations. 

Types of Flexible Solar Panels

Similar to traditional solar panels, flexible panels come in three types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. 

  • Monocrystalline (mono) panels: These panels have higher efficiency and power production than any other type of solar panel. Due to their high-quality construction and energy production, they’re the most expensive panel option. They’re constructed with silicon wafers to help with sunlight absorption. Monocrystalline cells are cut from a single, pure silicon cell, which is ideal for optimal energy absorption. 
  • Polycrystalline (poly) panels: These more affordable panels provide lower power production than mono options. Like mono panels, poly panels use silicon wafers in their design. Poly cells are composed of fragmented silicon cells, which create imperfections that reduce the panel’s efficiency. Since poly panels provide less power, you’ll need more panels in your installation to meet your energy needs.
  • Thin-film solar panels: Thin-film panels offer the lowest power production and efficiency but are the cheapest. Unlike monocrystalline and polycrystalline options, thin-film panels use thin layers of photovoltaic material instead of silicon wafers. These panels also have a shorter life span than mono and poly options.

Flexible vs. Traditional Solar Panels

Traditional solar panels have better power production and efficiency than their flexible counterparts. They’re sturdier, made to last 20 or more years, and can handle extreme weather conditions due to their weight and construction. However, these panels aren’t portable and must be installed with mounting racks on your roof.

Flexible solar panels work best for off-road and recreational projects. Their added flexibility makes them perfect for nontraditional installations such as on campers, tents, and yachts. Compared to traditional panels, flexible options are less durable and efficient. Because they’re thinner than residential panels, they can’t withstand long-term exposure to the elements. Flexible panels aren’t ideal for houses since they have limited power production. 

Pros and Cons of Traditional Solar Panels

Pros
Last 25–30 years
Provide higher efficiency and power production
Withstand long-term exposure to various weather conditions
Cons
Have a rigid construction
Require permanent installations on the ground or rooftop
Weigh too much for portable installations

Pros and Cons of Flexible Solar Panels

Pros
Can be installed on curved and uneven surfaces
Doesn’t require professional installers
Are lightweight and portable
Cons
Are less durable and have shorter life spans
Produce less energy than residential options
Not protected by long-term warranty coverage

What To Look For in Flexible Solar Panels

You’ll need to find flexible solar panels that work best for your specific project. Consider your power needs, installation location, and the weight limit of your RV, boat, or car. Here’s a breakdown of factors to consider when looking for the best flexible solar panels.

Cost

High-quality, monocrystalline flexible panels cost $130–$225 for 100-watt options. Larger capacity models cost more, with prices between $275 and $600. These prices represent the cost per solar panel. You may need multiple panels or additional accessories for your solar system, including a solar battery to store your excess energy. 

Some manufacturers, such as Renogy, offer flexible solar panel kits to make the solar panel installation process easier. Most solar panel kits include solar panels, a charge controller, and connecting cables. Flexible panel kits start at around $220 for 100-watt kits and can run as high as $800 for high-capacity 350-watt options. 

Most flexible solar panels are available through panel manufacturers’ websites and online retailers such as Amazon. 

Durability

Flexible solar panels have shorter life spans than conventional solar panels, lasting five to 10 years on average. Choosing panels made from durable polymer substances ensures your panels will last as long as possible. These substances protect the photovoltaic cells (PV cells) and increase panels’ longevity. The most common polymers are ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET has been the standard polymer for flexible solar panels. ETFE offers better protection against corrosion, longer panel life span, and improved light absorption. However, ETFE panels cost more than PET alternatives. 

You’ll need to check the official manufacturer’s documentation if you’re looking for panels with waterproof or dust-resistant protection. Some panels aren’t made with this protection and will omit these labels. Only flexible solar panels with these specified features will protect against dust and water. 

Efficiency

Most flexible solar panels have lower efficiency ratings than their traditional counterparts. Expect 10%–15% efficiency from typical flexible solar panels. Some high-quality flexible panels have efficiencies as high as 23%–25%. 

Flexibility

Flexible solar panels work best for campsites, recreational vehicles, and boats due to their flexible design. Unlike traditional, immovable solar panels, flexible panels can bend to install on uneven surfaces on a boat, RV, or car. Look for flexible solar panels with at least a 30-degree bending angle (or curve radius), which is the industry standard. Some flexible panel manufacturers, such as Renogy, produce panels with a larger curve radius to make the panels more adaptable to curved roofs. 

Warranty

Flexible panels have a much shorter life span than conventional solar panels, so their warranty coverage is also shorter. High-quality panels will include a five-year warranty covering material and workmanship. They may also include a power production guarantee, which guarantees a certain production level for a particular time frame, but these are less common. Top-quality flexible panels include coverage for up to 25 years. 

Wattage

Choose flexible solar panels that meet your power needs. Hundred-watt flexible solar panels work well for smaller installations, such as boats, for up to three hours. Look for panels that produce 175 watts and higher if you need to power an RV. The higher the total wattage, the higher the price. You can also increase the number of panels in your installation to meet your power output requirements.

Weight

Portability is one of the main advantages of using flexible solar panels. Flexible panels weigh less than other portable options, around 3–5 pounds. This is the average weight for 100-watt panels. Two-hundred- to 300-watt options could weigh as much as 8 pounds. However, this weight is still significantly less than traditional solar panels.


Our Conclusion

Flexible solar panels allow you to apply the benefits of renewable energy to your outdoor leisure activities. Although flexible panels offer less power production and efficiency than conventional panels, they work well for small solar projects and recreational vehicles. Their portability and flexibility make them perfect for an RV’s roof, a camper’s back window, or a car’s hood. We recommend comparing at least three brands before buying.


FAQ About Flexible Solar Panels

Are flexible solar panels more efficient than conventional panels?

No, flexible solar panels are not more efficient than conventional panels. Conventional panels offer up to 22% efficiency while flexible panels offer 10%–15% efficiency. 

Are flexible solar panels as good as rigid panels?

No. Flexible solar panels are less durable, less efficient, and produce less power than rigid panels. However, they’re ideal for small solar projects such as RVs, camping sites, and boats, thanks to their adaptability and portability.

What is the life span of a flexible solar panel?

Flexible solar panels have an average life span of five to 10 years, while conventional solar panels last 25–30 years.


Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team is committed to providing comprehensive and unbiased reviews to our readers. This means earning your trust through transparent reviews and data to back up our ratings and recommendations. Our rating system for solar providers is on a 100-point system based on five factors:

  • Payment options (40 points): Options include purchase, loan, lease, and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). Companies receive points for each of the four options they provide.
  • Solar services (30 points): Does the company provide in-house installation of solar panels and battery backups? Can the company also monitor energy production and perform energy-efficiency audits to ensure system performance? The more options available, the higher the score. 
  • Warranty options (10 points): The success of a residential solar system depends on the workmanship, performance guarantees, and length of product coverage. The more warranties a company offers, the higher the score it receives. 
  • State availability (10 points): We award the most points to companies with the broadest service area and state availability.
  • Reputation (10 points): We factor in how the Business Better Bureau (BBB) scores each company. We deduct points for any alerts or pending lawsuits.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.