Flexible VS Rigid Solar Panels – Which One is Best?
Have you been wondering as you purchase your solar equipment for your solar generator whether you want to go with flexible or straight rigid solar panels? It is a tough choice if you don’t know the pros and cons. So what is the difference between flexible vs. rigid solar panels? There are quite a few.
One big thing that remains the same between them is how much power they get and at what rate. They both have 9 bus bars across and the same amount of grid squares, so they are virtually the same in this realm, but let’s take a closer look at their other features.
Also, if you want to take a look at my video on the subject, watch that below!
Rigid 100 Solar Panel
Some people wonder if the rigid 100 solar panels are more or less durable than the flexible ones. Do the flexible solar panels bend easily and not break? Does the glass on the rigid panels crack easily?
Well, in my video above, I actually answer this question. The rigid frame solar panels can take my weight, while the flexible solar panels will crack easily under my weight unless it is on a completely flat surface. So if I were putting the rigid frame panels on the roof of an RV then it would be better than the Flexx 100 because they are more durable.
Even moving them around, the rigid panels are less likely to break than flexible ones because the frame provides the stabilization that the rigid panels need. The flexible panels, on the other hand, can be damaged easily unless you grab it in the perfect spot and move it carefully.
When I converted my 27 Travel Trailer RV to have solar panels, a couple of the Rigid 100 solar panels actually fell off the roof before I secured them down. They fell straight down to the ground after hitting a tree branch and they didn’t even crack! They still work perfectly.
The Rigid 100 panels, of course, weigh a bit more than the flexible ones at 16 pounds. You can get about two of them in one carrying case, which puts the whole thing a tad above 30 pounds. This is still definitely portable. You can easily carry 30 pounds, especially in the carry case, but you will have to take more trips than you would with the flexible panels, which makes it a bit more of a pain to set up when you’re out in the woods camping.
Easy To Handle
The rigid frame solar panels may not be the lightest option available, but what they lack in weightlessness they make up for in how easy they are to tote around by hand because of the frame. While the flexible panels can flop around, making it easy to break some of the cells, the glass rigid panels will stay firmly in place and it is difficult to harm the cells.
These rigid panels even have a makeshift handle in the frame.
If you live in an area that has a lot of wind, or even an average amount of wind, then the Rigid 100 solar panels will be much easier to work with than the flexible ones. The rigid panels are much more durable when it comes to resisting wind and won’t blow over easily because they are much heavier.
The rigid frame solar panels are what I recommend to most people for more frequent use because they are much more durable. They have an extremely strong tempered glass front and are generally more difficult to damage through everyday use. Because of this, they have a lifespan of about 25 years or more. That is truly impressive when compared to the lifespan of most flexible panels that have a lifespan of about 3 to 5 years of constant use.
Flexible 100 Solar Panel
One thing that people really love about the Flexx 100 solar panels is that they are very lightweight. You can get about five of them in a carry case, which takes you to 25 pounds. This is less than carrying two of the rigid solar panels.
These make the flexible solar panels the perfect option to take with you on trips or anywhere on the go. If you aren’t staying there permanently, these are perfect to take along with you. A lot of panels can fit in the trunk of basically any car along with a solar generator.
Difficult to Handle
Even though the flexible panels are very lightweight, they are more difficult to handle than the rigid frame solar panels. If you allow them to bend or hold them directly on top of a cell, you could damage some of the cells on the panel. They are fragile, and for this reason, I almost always carry them in the carry case because it will hold them securely and distribute the pressure of me holding them evenly across the surface.
Need A Stand
All solar panels develop micro-cracks over time. The rigid panels develop them a bit slower, which is why I mentioned that their optimal life is about 25 years. After that, they will still work, but they will have a reduced output because of the cracks.
Flexible panels are great because they are portable, but they shouldn’t be allowed to be flexible when they are in use. It is important to make a stand for them so that they are elevated off the ground and held firmly in place. Otherwise, even strong gusts of wind can damage them by creating microcracks.
If you have researched a bit about solar panels, you may know about the Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) finish. What this actually is, is a fluorine-based plastic. It is specially made to be durable and to be able to withstand high-temperature changes, which makes it perfect for a coating on solar panels.
Another thing that it does on the Flexx 100 panels is it is manufactured in such a way that it has a texture of tiny bumps on the solar panel. The purpose of this is to act as a kind of magnifying glass, so you actually get more energy from the sun per cell than you normally would if it were just a flat surface.
This is a really neat feature that is in the Flexx 100, but not the rigid frame solar panels. The rigid frame has a glass coating, which provides an even more durable surface. But the ETFE finish is definitely the way to go if you are getting a flexible panel.
ETFE plastic is meant to last 20+ years and does not break down quickly like PET.
Other flexible solar panels have a Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) material that is laminated onto the surface of the panel. This is the same plastic that is used in water bottles. It is durable, but not nearly as durable as the ETFE. The PET plastic has a lifespan of about 3 years and ETFE has about a 20-year lifespan.
It can get confusing wondering why flexible panels will only last a few years if they have an ETFE finish. When I talk about lifespan, I am talking about the panel making at least 80% of its original power when new. Since solar panel cells break down over time they will only last so long. Because flexible panels tend to bend and move in the wind, they break down faster than a straight rigid framed solar panel.
When you talk about price, these two panels cost roughly the same. However, you will of course get more bang from your buck if you buy the Rigid 100 panels since they will last for much longer. If you are buying panels for regular everyday use, then you will definitely want to buy the rigid frame solar panels to ensure a longer lifespan.
If you are wondering which solar panels are best for you, it is pretty clear to see that the rigid frame solar panels are the ones that last the longest and are the most durable. They might even just be the easiest for everyday use. They are much less finicky than the flexible solar panels. However, if you are looking for a more lightweight, portable option, then you might be more interested in flexible solar panels.