Flexible solar panels vs. rigid is a question many would-be solar owners have faced in recent years. This innovative technology has changed the game for some solar power systems, but they may not be right for everyone. So how do you know which you should opt for? We’re breaking down the most important pros and cons to know before your next panel purchase. 

flexing solar panels
Curved Battle Born Semi-Flexible Panels

What Is the Difference Between Flexible Solar Panels and Rigid Solar Panels? 

As you might expect, the primary difference is whether or not the panels are capable of bending without breaking or suffering serious damage. Traditional rigid panels are stiff to the touch, while flexible ones can be partially twisted or manipulated in a number of ways. This extremely important difference results from their thin plastic construction rather than the glass-encased version used for rigid panels.

thin lightweight flexible solar

What Are the Pros of Flexible Solar Panels vs. Rigid?

Flexible solar panels have numerous advantages over their rigid counterparts. The biggest of these is their flexibility, both literally and figuratively. Through their ability to bend, they can be mounted in far more configurations and locations than traditional panels. 

Flexible panels are also significantly lighter and lower profile, another advantage when it comes to expanding where you can set them up. In many cases, they’re also easier to install. Some models are as simple as using double-sided tape or other adhesives. You can mount some flexible solar panels in just minutes. This is also a valuable feature for those concerned about drilling holes into their mounting surface, which could let in water and cause damage.

Watch as the Mortons on the Move install flexible panels and talk about the pros and cons

What Are the Cons of Flexible Solar Panels vs. Rigid?

One of the biggest cons of flexible solar panels vs. rigid will be apparent as soon as you start shopping. Flexible panels tend to cost significantly more than comparable rigid panels due to the technology required to produce them. This might place flexible panels outside the budget of some would-be solar power users. 

Flexible models also have higher long-term costs, as they generally don’t last as long as rigid ones. Owners have to buy new expensive panels more often. In most cases, flexible panels also generate electricity less efficiently, which is a potential concern for users who need every watt. 

ridged panels
Part of the strength of a ground setup is the solar panel frame. Flexible panels would not make sense here

Because flexible panels are typically mounted directly to the surface they are on, they also have no air gap to help cool them. On hot days the panels can get very hot, and when they do, produce less power. Hot panels can lose up to 20% of their rated output. This heat can also transfer into the surface they are adhered to making whatever they are attached to hotter. This may not be ideal on a hot summer day.

How Long Will Flexible Solar Panels Last? 

Several factors determine how long a solar panel lasts, from normal wear and tear to unexpected damage from weather, animals, or other sources. However, flexible solar panels tend to see their primary stress from how they are bent for installation. As a result, owners can expect their panels to last roughly 5 to 15 years. While this may sound like a while, flexible solar panels wear out faster vs. rigid ones. Rigid panels can often operate for 25-40 years under normal conditions.

solar panels in hail
Rigid glass solar panels are very strong and can withstand years of extreme weather.

Do Flexible Solar Panels Overheat?

There’s a notable difference in the likelihood of overheating when considering flexible solar panels vs. rigid. However, this is primarily due to the way you mount each type. Flexible solar panels tend to lie flat against the surface they adhere to, exposing them to this radiated heat in addition to their own heat from sun exposure. 

hot flexible panel
All that black directly on this RV’s roof adds heat to the roof and the panels get hot.

On the other hand, the more substantial mounting hardware required to use rigid panels also raises them and allows airflow to cool the bottom of the panels. This typically results in less common overheating. Of course, flexible panels can also take advantage of this cooling if mounted with space. This removes one of their primary benefits: the ability to conform to any shape with a low profile. 

On a 90 degree day in direct sun without an air gap they can get hot

How Much Do Flexible Solar Panels Weigh? 

Most flexible solar panels weigh roughly four to five lbs each, with different models varying slightly within this range. That’s far less than traditional panels, which usually weigh between 30 and 50 lbs. This difference can really add up, especially for mobile solar setups or systems with many panels. Therefore, when considering flexible solar panels vs. rigid, those looking for lightweight solutions should opt for flexible ones. 

How Do You Stick Flexible Solar Panels On? 

Mounting methods will vary from brand to brand, but the easiest models like our flexible Battle Born energy kits may already have adhesive tape on the back. This leaves owners to simply peel off the protective backing and stick the panel wherever they want it. 

battle born solar peel and stick
An example of the Battle Born Solar Peel and Stick

In other cases, you’ll need double-sided tape you apply yourself. Alternatives include Velcro-style adhesives for those who want to remove their panels occasionally. Some have also had success gluing panels to mounting surfaces. Take care to avoid long-term damage to the object you attach the panels too if you opt for this.

Finally, you can attach some flexible solar panels like traditional panels by screwing them into the mounting surface, either directly or with additional mounting hardware. This versatility is one of the flexible solar panels’ most significant advantages. 

solar panel screwed down
This is an example of screwing a flexible panel down

How Do I Choose Between Flexible Solar Panels vs. Rigid? 

The choice of flexible solar panels vs. rigid ones is a personal one that requires a careful assessment of a few factors. These include not only your power needs but also your panel location and, of course, your budget. 

It’s crucial to remember the downsides. Flexible panels will cost more than rigid ones, have lower power generation efficiency, and likely need to be replaced sooner. Despite all this, flexible panels can be an excellent choice for those who need to install them in unusually shaped places or who require low-profile panels for mobile use. This is, perhaps, their most valuable feature as it allows many uses that wouldn’t be possible with traditional panels. Those looking to build, expand, or update a personal solar power system should consider all these factors to help them understand whether flexible panels are right for them. 

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