Flexible Solar Panels vs Rigid: Pros, Cons & Differences
There was a time when solar panels were a new thing and you didn’t have a lot of options. Those days are long gone. Not only does the power generation vary between panels, but now you can get rigid or flexible solar panels. Each comes with its own pros and cons.
While either of them may work for your particular situation, they each have specific applications where they excel. For example, if you’re looking for an easily portable solar panel or one for an unusual place, then a flexible panel might work best.
However, if a long life and durability are your primary concerns, it’s worth investigating rigid solar panels further.
Overview of Flexible Solar Panels
Flexible panels are extremely lightweight, making them ideal for applications such as on an RV where you don’t want a bunch of extra weight on the roof. Also, having such a high degree of flexibility makes them a prime choice for unusual mounting scenarios.
The lightweight nature of a flexible panel can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it provides an option when you have a roof or structure that can’t withstand a lot of weight. But on the other, you lose a lot of durability and wind resistance because of it.
Greatest Benefits of Flexible Solar Panels
Ease of installation is a significant benefit of a flexible solar panel. You don’t have to mess around with big, bulky mounts. Just plan where you want the panel and adhere it with an acceptable construction adhesive.
If you’re not placing it on a roof, you’ll have to purchase or build a stand for the panel. And once the panel is stuck in place, it’s not a simple process to move it to better locations throughout the year—unless you design your stand to be able to move or change directions.
Some flexible panels are designed not to be glued in place. These are a great option if you need to put out the panel to generate power and then hook it up elsewhere to use the power.
Overview of Rigid Solar Panels
Rigid solar panels were first on the market when solar panels became available to the everyday consumer. They remain a go-to choice for many people looking for solar power, even with the significant pros to using a flexible panel.
If you’re looking for a solar panel that will last for 25 years or more and still retains around 80% of its original capacity, a rigid panel is the only way to go. Also, while they may be a much heavier option compared to the flexible panels, they will withstand much more wind and weather without being damaged.
Greatest Benefits of Rigid Solar Panels
One of the biggest reasons to go with a rigid panel is its longevity. Many of them actually have warranty coverage for up to 25 years. And even after this timeframe, you still have a solar panel that continues to generate power. This is compared to the 3–5 years of expected life from a flexible panel.
As a rule, rigid panels are much more efficient and have a higher capacity. So, they will be ideal for situations where a lot of power generation is necessary. For example, powering your home with 100% solar power is best left to a rigid panel.
Most rigid panels need to be professionally installed. However, they are a much more durable product. So if your area is prone to storms, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about them being damaged.
We’ve given you some pros and cons and told you why each of these panels is amazing in its own way. Now, let’s compare them head-to-head to see which one is best for your application.
It’s possible for an experienced DIYer to install rigid panels themselves. They have some pretty nifty DIY kits available nowadays. However, flexible panels remain the most straightforward panel to install, mainly because they are often glued down and plugged in.
There is a little more to it if you’re mounting the flexible panel on a stand versus gluing it down, but it’s still very much a DIY installation.
Between a flexible or a rigid solar panel, the price is pretty much the same for each, although there will be lower or higher-end models available. The big difference in cost lies with their installation. As a rule, you’ll need to hire a professional for most rigid panels. And even if you don’t, a rigid panel will require much more equipment and hookup materials.
But when you factor in the long life expectancy of a rigid solar panel, you’ll see that, unlike the flexible panel, a rigid one will pay for itself in savings throughout its life.
To understand the cost difference, one should account for the durability. Sure, you can install a flexible panel for a fraction of the price of its rigid counterpart. However, the price difference doesn’t seem so big when you account for the rigid panel lasting 20 or more years longer.
Because of their construction, a rigid panel is much more wind-resistant and more durable than a flexible panel that can sustain irreparable damage if it’s bent too much.
Flexible and rigid panels each have their strengths when it comes to efficiency. Except for being susceptible to shade decreasing their generation, flexible panels are much more efficient in low light conditions.
On the other hand, rigid panels typically have a much higher capacity. Plus, they are available with much higher outputs to power even an entire house. So, the cost-per-watt is often lower with a rigid panel.
|Easy to move
|Cheaper to install
|Long-life: 25 years+
|Good in low light conditions
|High capacity and efficiency
|Good for temporary generation needs
|Investment pays for itself
We hope you’ll be able to decide which option is best for your project with this information. A flexible panel is probably best if you’re looking for a temporary option for the off-grid vacation home that you can bring back with you when you leave.
On the other hand, if you need something that will provide you with reliable power for many years and pay for itself in that time, a rigid solar panel system will be ideal.
Featured Image Credit: (L) Pentium5, Shutterstock | (R) Ken Schulze, Shutterstock