Comparison of three best lightweight flexible solar panel brands

The top three brands of lightweight, flexible solar panels all have the following in common:

  • Quality, high-grade cells;
  • Tough textured surface;
  • superior top encapsulation layer for UV protection and repelling pollution;
  • Appropriately soldered and sealed junction boxes to prevent corrosion from moisture;
  • Bypass diodes;
  • Electrical testing i.e. voltage and current, plus Electroluminescence (EL) testing during production.  The electrical test confirms the current and voltage are within production limits while the EL test confirms that the cells are free of defects and are well matched.  If present these result in a lower panel output and possibly a shortened lifespan.

 

Getting quality lightweight flexible solar panels

 

It's not WHERE they are made that is important - it is HOW they are made.  

The majority of flexible solar panels are made in China even if the seller doesn't declare this and refers to 'cells' as being made in the US.  There are many manufacturers in China and they produce various grades of solar panels and then sell them to retailers through pro-active marketing campaigns and email cold-calling.  Flexible solar panels can be offered by Chinese manufacturers at a cheap price because they are mass produced in large production runs with low cost cells and materials and minimal quality control checkpoints.

Premium flexible solar panels are also made in China but to achieve this they need to be made-to-order against quality specifications. All flexible solar panels sold by Solar 4 RVs are made to specifcations stipulated by us at the time of order.

 

You get what you pay for so customers need to assess the risk of buying cheaper flexible solar panels.   

Possible issues that could be encountered when purchasing cheap flexible solar panels:

  • Damaged cells;
  • Overlapping cells;
  • Low grade, inferior cells
  • Sharp edges; 
  • Inadequately sealed junction boxes allowing corrosion from water, particularly sea water;
  • Zinc plated fixings in the junction box which corrode with moisture;
  • Inferior by-pass diodes fitted or not fitted at all.

Read 'How to compare good and bad flexible solar panel' here

 

 

Three premium brands 

eArche

flexble solar panel surface is patent pending material similar to aircraft windows

  • 2.2mm thin and lightweight
  • Flexible (frameless and EPDM rubber edge options)
  • Stiffness and support (thin aluminium frame option)
  • Advanced patent pending encapsulation materials similar to aircraft windows
  • Tough textured surface for robustness;
  • 5 year warranty for mobile applications;
  • 10 year warranty on buildings;
  • 25 year linear output warranty;
  • The only lightweight, flexible solar panel approved by the Clean Energy Council
  • Made in China (read 'Made in China - 5 things you need to know)
  • Various sizes - smallest panel 50W, largest 325W

Edging options:

  • Frameless (no edge)
  • rubber edge for flexbility
  • thin anodized aluminium alloy frame for stability

 

Solbian

Solbian lightweight solar panel on trimaran

  • 2mm thin and ultra-light.
  • Flexible;
  • Made in Italy;
  • The panel of choice for yachtsman: Marine grade - tested on racing yachts;
  • Tough textured surface option for robustness;
  • Options include junction box on top, solder tabs underneath, or wires underneath;
  • Option of doubled-sided (Bi-Adhesive) acrylic sheet pre-attached to underside of panel for easy installation;
  • Factory fitted zips available or canvas maker can sew zips onto panel;
  • Eyelets can be fitted in location of choice;
  • Black or custom colour/pattern available to minimise or eliminate 'solar panel look';
  • variety of length and width combinations available;
  • 5 year world-wide warranty.

 Options:

  1. SP (SunPower) series: Monocrystalline Sunpower cells
  2. AiO (All-in-One) series: inbuilt MPPT controller and Sunpower cells 
  3. SR (Super Rugged) series: Monocrystalline cells with Merlin grid technology
  4. Sxp series: Polycrystalline with ultra-thin copper wire mesh

 

RADpower

RADpower lightweight solar panel  ETFE tough textured surface

Options:

  1. SunPower range with MAXEON GEN III cells
  2. Multi-Mesh range with Multi-Wire Inter-Connection Technology

 

Comparison of flexible solar panels
  eArche Solbian RADpower
SP Sxp SR SunPower Multi-Mesh
Cell Type Monocrystalline silicon SunPower Monocrystalline  Polycrystalline Merlin  Monocrystalline SunPower
Monocrystalline 
Monocrystalline with multi-wire technology
Sizes available 50W, 100W, 160W, 180W 52W, 75W,100W, 118W, 125W, 137W 48W, 64W, 128W, 156W 108W 18W, 30W, 110W, 120W, 135W, 150W 130W
Junction box IP 68 rated IP 68 rated IP 68 rated IP 68 rated IP 68 rated IP 68 rated
Output cable type PV1-F, 4mm2
(tinned copper)
PV1-F, 4mm2
(tinned copper)
PV1-F, 4mm2 (tinned copper) PV1-F, 4mm2 (tinned copper) PV1-F, 4mm2
(tinned copper)
PV1-F, 4mm2
(tinned copper)
Output cable length pos 0.2 metres
neg 0.5 metres
0.6 metres each 0.6 metres each 0.6 metres each 2 metres each 2 metres each
Connectors
fitted
MC4 compatible connectors European MC4 compatible connectors European MC4 compatible connectors European MC4 compatible connectors none fitted
MC4  connectors available
none fitted
MC4  connectors available
Top layer composite material polymer polymer polymer ETFE ETFE
Edging

None, EPDM rubber or thin aluminium frame

None  None  None  None  None 
Thickness of panel panel only 
2.2mm 
2mm 2mm 2mm 3.5mm 3.0mm
EPDM edging 8mm nominal nominal nominal nominal nominal
slim frame 6mm          
thick frame 20mm          
Weight varies depending on edging varies varies varies varies varies
e.g. 100W = 2.1 kg e.g 100W = 1.4kg   e.g. 108W = 1.7kg e.g. 110W = 2.3kg 130W = 2.8 kg
           
Manufacturer’s product warranty (years)

5 mobile

10 buildings

5 5 5 2 2

 

To read our flexible solar panel buyer guides - CLICK HERE

Solar panel installation products such as double-sided adhesive tape is available - CLICK HERE