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rv solar panel review

Flexible RV Solar Issues Revealed – Our One Year Review

We’ve had the flexible solar panels installed on our RV for a little over a year and we have some mixed emotions about them.  Are flat solar panels necessary?  Is flexible solar really worth the extra money?  Will flexible solar panels last as long as tempered glass panels?  Instead of just talking about the newest RV solar panel technology I figured: why not show you our flexible solar panel issues and let you decide for yourself.

I’m not going to cover everything in detail because we’ve only had these thin flexible solar panels for a year, it would be the equivalent of me attempting to write the definitive guide to a random town we’ve only spent a couple days in.  I will, however, touch on a few more details of the Good and Bad of our Flexible RV Solar experience.

Here’s our setup:

1x – Go Power! 200W Flexible Mono Crystalline Solar Kit
3x – Go Power! 100W Flexible Solar Expansion Kit

DOWNSIDES

Cupping – Extreme temperatures can make the flexible panels slightly warp causing water, dirt, dust and sand to buildup in these little “cups” on the panels.

Flat Roofs – Our RV has a pretty flat roof, so when we park and level our coach the panels are basically flat.  Water does not run off the sides evenly and sometimes the water just sits on top of the panel causing more sediment to collect on the panels.

Scratches – When cleaning the flex panels the sediment caught in the “cups” can scratch the surface of the panel (to be clear you’re not scratching the solar cells, just the coating that covers them).

Gouges – We go on some crazy roads with low hanging branches when driving into National Forests, BLM lands, Wineries, Farms and even some national or state parks.  We’ve picked up a few small gouges in the panels from these low hanging branches over the past year.  I am not sure if the gouges are deep enough to damage the solar cell or if they have just damaged the coating around the cells, to my untrained eye it appears to be only in the coating.

Non-Tilting – When we installed our brand new flexible solar panels we glued them down so there were no screws penetrating through the RV roof, the issue here is the solar panels can’t be tilted for maximum sun exposure which is especially beneficial during the winter months when the sun is lower on the horizon.

Warranty – Currently the warranty on our flexible panels is 10 years which is perfectly fine by us because 1) we know we’re not going to have this RV for more than 10 years and 2) in 10 years I bet there will be much better, more efficient solar technology, so in theory I probably won’t want to keep any solar panels for more than 10 years.  That said the 10 year warranty doesn’t come close to the standard 30 year warranty on the tempered glass solar panels.

rv solar power

UPSIDES

No screws – The less holes in an RV roof the better, I don’t think anyone will argue with that!

Lightweight – The flexible solar panels are a tiny fraction of the weight of the more traditional tempered glass solar panel.   Its crazy SCARY how many people we see on the road who are maxed out (or WAY OVER) on their GCVWR.  This is not a joke people, you are putting yourself and everyone else on the road in danger by going over your RVs weight limits.  Please for the safety of everyone consider your weight at all times and before purchasing a solar setup. I’ll step down off my podium now

Better Aerodynamics – I’m not gonna tell you that installing flexible solar panels will provide you with better fuel economy or a better average MPG readout on your RV computer display…but I can tell you flat is more aerodynamic, and better aerodynamics equals better gas mileage!  So read between the lines?!?  Naahhhhh, seriously though, these flexible panels are more aerodynamic.

Bendable and Flexible – The greatest benefit to these solar flex panels has got to be the fact they can bend and flex!  You just spent $100 grand on a brand new Airstream so why not pony up a small percentage more for the flexible solar panels that hide on your roof vs. the tempered glass eye-sores that make your new investment look like something you’d see in a Honey I Shrunk the Kids movie?  Flexible panels should work great for vintage bus conversions, tiny teardrop trailers like the TAB, Airstream trailers, UFO’s, etc…pretty much anything that has a curved roof.

solar car

Your Imagination is the Limit – Sounds corny right?  It’s not! We saw one guy custom rig his flex panels as window awnings on the “non-awning” side of his RV (I didn’t take a photo unfortunately).  We met another guy that created a removable shade structure over his electric bike.  My favorite application has got to be the “Lazy Susan Portable Panel Tracking Array” we saw at Burning Man.  If you’re creative don’t just be boring and put panels on your roof like people have done in years past; these flat, flexible and lightweight solar panels are the future, so think outside the box and make something cool with them (then send me photos and we can create a small business together to market your ingenious creation; just kidding, I’d call the guys at that Shark Tank TV show if I were you).

You can dance on them – Some haters out there have said they’d never dance on their panels…well, we were told by GoPower! to dance away and these flex panels can handle it.  Granted we still wouldn’t recommend this for safety issues or the fact you may have a rock stuck in your shoe that can damage the panels, but nonetheless we installed, we tested and we danced!

OUR TAKEAWAY AFTER 1 YEAR

Even with our solar panels as dirty and beat up as they were during filming we were still able to bring in 26amps in the afternoon winter sun of central Florida.  So the GIANT, burning question is:  With cupping and minor surface scratches is there really any noticeable degradation of solar power coming into the batteries?  Unfortunately, I think the answer will only come after a few more years of testing.

Flexible panels are great if you need them!  There are loads of factors that might make flexible solar panels the best choice for your RV or motorhome but these are the few BIG advantages that come to my mind:  If you are concerned about weight or aerodynamic issues, if you have a rounded roof like a vintage bus or airstream, or you just want to have the latest solar technology installed on your rig.

For installations like ours, with a huge amount of flat, unobstructed roof space and plenty of weight before we get near the GCVWR, I’d recommend people to stick with the tempered glass solar panels.  Tempered glass panels are proven technology with a longer warranty and they’re about 25% less expensive.  In fact we are picking up our next RV this month and we’re planning to install a huge array of Tempered Glass solar panels instead of the flex panels (join our email list and stay tuned for that article).

Remember, these are just my opinions from our experience and I am no expert. What do you think?  Are flexible solar panels better for your RV?  Share your thoughts in the comments below and let’s help the solar manufacturers understand our wants and needs for future products!

 

2015 Update: We have an all new improved solar set up. Click the button to see our most recent upgrades:

 

If you want to know where we filmed this video, its the Hickory Hammock location from this post:  Fabulous Free Camping In Florida

Disclaimer – Nobody paid for this article, it’s truly our experience with the GoPower! Flex Panels installed on our motorhome. Remember, all brands of flexible solar panels are different so you might find different results.

Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (83)

  • Rv solar power UPSIDES No screws – The fewer holes in an RV roof the better, I Don’t think anyone will argue with that! Lightweight – The flexible solar panels are a tiny fraction of the weight of the more traditional tempered glass solar panel. Liquid Roof Repair with EPDM Coating is lightweight protection.

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  • I Love GoPower panels, but their charge controller is a PWM not an MPPT which is chopping 10-30% of your potential output. I’d recommend a quality MPPT charge controller manufacture such as Blue Sky Energy or Genasun Solar charge controller.

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  • John L.

    I came across some thin 4’x4′ aluminum panels years back (I’m a pack rat) not knowing what I would ever use them for until now. I cut them to size and used 3M 90 spray adhesive to glue my flexible solar panels onto the cut aluminum and made a aluminum frame so they can be tilted left or right. I went this route because I wanted to keep the weight down and be able to tilt for maximum sunlight, it also keeps the heat from my rooftop. So far they’ve held up nicely.

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  • Bill Hamilton

    Thanks for this review. I was going to add these to my truck camper but now on second thought……..

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    • They are still great panels. If you need to save on weight or have a unique roof that needs flexible or walk on panels, they are fantastic. Otherwise, stick with the slightly more durable non flex panels.

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  • mike

    I cant find the answer to my question: How much does it cost to do a solar system like yours and was it worth it? I have a 36′ fifth wheel. Thanks.

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    • Curious Minion

      Install and product costs for the solar, batteries and other tech mods are in this post: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/rv-modifications-technology Whether it’s worth it or not is a very subjective question. Lots of RVers feel that solar isn’t worth it because they feel you’d have to “wild camp” every night for years to recover the cost of a solar setup (vs. what you would pay to stay in a campground or park with electrical hookups over the same period of time). But if you’re happier boondocking and you spend a lot of time doing it, then a good solar setup is worth its weight in gold and you’ll never be sorry you did it.

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  • Bill

    Hello, I was just reviewing your comments about the flat solar panels. It looks like you have put them on your boat. Are you using them because of the space and are your initial comments for the RV relevant?

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  • Al Scardino

    I purchased Echo-Worthy 100W Flexible Panel and if failed at the 1 year mark. Worst Part is Echo-Worthy will not honor warranty. In fact, they tell me I am not in their system as have purchased legitimately even after showing them the purchase receipt from ebay and paypal. Failure is, production of 9V which is 50% of the engineered voltage which probably means, 1/2 of the panel failure to the connection box on the unit. The only exposed repairable part is the Blocking Diodes and that is confirmed as Not the problem. Ugghhh, I am stuck and must repurchase an alternative. Net is, steer away from Echo-Worthy flexible panels.

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    • Dejan Obradovic

      Same here, I purchased 12x 80W Lensun flexible Alu backing panels, a year later only 2 of them still have voltage, other 10 are total 0.0V, i even opened the J box and measured terminals before diodes, still 0.0V, not even a mV.
      I am going to argue that rigid cells are not meant to be installed in a flex/semi-flex modules, over time road stress and weather will crack bus bars (even if you can see that with your eyes).
      If you want flex you have to go with thin film.

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  • David R

    OH SWEET GOD, WHY ARE YOU STANDING ON THEM!?

    You know, they are still crystalline silicon cells, right? They aren’t thin-film polymer solar modules. They can still break and crack with localized pressure and bending.

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  • Iven Moorhouse

    Add to newsletter please.

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  • Jay

    I commented on your YouTube video hoping to warn others of the short life span of flexibile panels. 4 out of 4 delaminate, bubble or have to clear coat wear off. Great idea, really poor quality execution. Unfortunately my setup requires flat and flexible so I hope my current install flexible panels elevated 1/4″ with outdoor velcro will allow cool air underneath

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    • Not all flex panels are created equal. Some manufacturing standards are better than others. We know plenty of people that have had the flex panels for years and don’t have any issues. We are planning to install these same Go Power panels on our boats hard top. Are they going to last as long as the rigid panels, no. But, they are a fantastic solution for a curved roof or our boats hard top that we have to walk on to get to the sails, yes.

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  • John

    I’ve found flexible panels don’t preform as well in our Australian summer heat as a rigid panel does–in other words they get too hot

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  • Randy Morris

    I like mine a lot. If we stop for any length of time with no hookups I hoist mine up onto the roof with a rope. I store them in the clothes closet as they are very thin and light. Doing this, they should last a long time as they aren’t exposed to the elements full time and I also don’t have to attach them to the roof and jepordize the roof integrity.

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  • jos den Ouden

    Dear Jason,
    With respect to the remarks of hclarkx, do you have an idea as to the loss of power due to temperature rise?
    I intent to glue the panels on the aluminum outer hull of my airstream. Would it help to mount the cells on a separate panel following the form of the hull with some space in between for wind cooling?
    Regards,
    Jos

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  • hclarkx

    All very interesting, the article and video and comments. But, I saw only one mention of cell temperature. It sees that glued-down flexible panels would have a thin layer of rubber roof, some 1/8″ plywood, then 2″ of foam when installed on most RVs. That backing would take away very little thermal energy thus making flexible solar panels less efficient than those with air circulation under them. Maybe this is a modest penalty but could be a deciding factor.

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  • Paul Regula

    What type of adhesive did you use ? Thx , good educational article !

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  • Thank you very much for the education. I really needed it.

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  • Larry W

    I bought a semi-flexible solar panel to test it flat mounted and hail pitted it at least 2 or more layers down in the protective layers and shorted out the panel in less than 6 months of use after 2 hail storms. We have hail during the monsoon season annually in Prescott Valley, Az about 1/4 to 3/8 inch in size.
    Curious is there a rating system of any semi-flexible solar panels able to with stand hail and warranted so.
    The company I purchased the panels from excluded hail damage in their warranty, so a 100% loss.

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  • Charlie

    I found a company in California that sells solar synergy brand panels. 320 watt / 24 volt – framed are $109.00 and semi flexible are $82.00. Shipping is kinda stout. If you purchase from 3 to 8 panels it costs $296.00. I’m going with the semi flexible ones as long as I can find mounting hardware. Happy traveling. Charlie

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  • Randy Morris

    I have two Renology 100W panels on my fifth wheel and they have been great! My panels were not of the serial numbers that were recalled. My trailer has an arched roof so the work perfectly. Not wanting to compromise the integrity of the roof, I store mine in my closet in the trailer and hoist them up onto the roof with a rope when we dry camp. I wired up a 20 amp weatherproof receptacle (female) from the controller and attached it to the outside of the frame of the trailer near where the panels live and connect the cable from the panels into this receptacle. For speeding up the setup I have color coded all the connectors on the roof. Setup and takedown is a breeze. I am going to add one or two more panels as soon as Renology makes their new panels available.

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  • Michael Scarborough

    Thank you for getting on your podium and mentioning gross vehicle weights. This is a real problem on the road (which is not limited to just RV’s either).

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  • Richard Bailey

    I am planning on installing a flexible 100 watt solar panel on the ’94 Roadtrek Popular 190, using industrial velcro.
    What is the best way to get the solar panel cable through the roof and into the cabin? One on-line video showed a notch in the Fantastic fan frame, and commented that the cover still closed completely. This would seem to be a good solution.
    Or, has anyone tried running it down the bathroom vent?
    Or is there a better method?

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  • Bruce Nguyen

    I contacted Renogy support and they said they have a new redesign coming out in summer 2017 , they might have the scratches issue sorted out with that

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  • Jeffrey

    I have an Aliner Scout Hard Side Popup trailer (two roof sections that erect into an “A” and triangular side panels folded flat under the roof that erect and lock into the erected roof panels. I purchased the used trailer in December 2014 and in January 2015 I transplanted two Renogy rigid 100watt panels on the front roof section for a month long trip through UT/AZ/NM. I need the 200 watts due to short winter days and high power use recharging batteries for our telescopes, cameras and computers. It worked great, never needed to plug it.

    But the rigid panels and mount weigh about 42 lbs and that makes it difficult to erect the roof. So at the end of that first long trip with the Aliner I ordered two renofy flexible 100watt panels. Only 10 lbs installed, and the roof is much easier to lift.

    Earlier this week I removed the panels so I could build a lightweight detachable frame for them so I could detach and put the panels into the sun in the cases where I could not move the front section of the trailer into the sun (its not easy moving the trailer around by hand on uneven ground or ground that is not level).

    I noticed a thin plastic film delaminating from the surface. Its like a shipping film, but its not. I suspect is a UV inhibiting film to protect the thicker flexible plastic underneath. Renogy has been very good, offering a full refund or rigid panels and a partial refund. Renogy no longer makes these flexible panels, according to them a new design will come in mid to late 2017. My panels are a little less than a year old (installed in April 2015).

    I have an air gap between the Aliner roof and the panel so the panels will be cooler than if they were direct attached. The frame design I have come up with will maintain an air gap for the same reason (in February 2015, in Death Valley the Airstream beside me had flexible panels installed and the owner mentioned the heat issue, so I tried to avoid that issue).

    So I am stuck at the moment, I can’t go rigid due to the weight, and it appears as though the flexible panels are simply not durable.

    So far I have no fading or discoloration and the amperage from the panels is very good (MPPT charger frequently hits 16amps charging current coming from the two “100” watt panels wired in series (“100” watts in quotations because my 100 watt rigid panels have four more cells than these bendable panels).

    If I take Renogy’s refund and order different bendable panels I likely get the very same panel (made in China, resold my many). So I am likely not better off doing that. I may wait a year for the new Renogy panels, at the moment the panels I have work fine.

    I did not see any mention of the peeling issue in your review, I do see discoloration and scratches in your review, but so far I don’t have this issue (if I manage to scratch a solar panel I have likely scratched the roof of my car because its taller than the trailer when I tow, but I have been into places where larger RV’s take damage due to their height and width).

    Love your site!

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    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Our panels are made by Go Power and are not the same panels as Renogy. We did not have that peeling at all and still believe the Go Power panels are a great solution. It’s great to hear they responded well and were happy to refund your money.

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  • Deborah

    I need to find someone reputable to install a complete solar system on my Class B motorhome. Are there people/businesses that do installations? I live in Minnesota, about an hour and a half south of Minneapolis. But I travel down to Fort Myers, FL a couple times a year, and could even take my rig someplace in the southeastern United States, or in between there and Minnesota.

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  • John

    thank you for the post

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  • John

    so cool, flexible cell makes evrything easy; I bought hard cell, and some broken, haiz

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  • Talked with Renogy concerning flex panel recall. Excellent customer service! They are sending a rigid replacement panel plus $ refund for difference in cost and a prepaid shipping box for return panel. The fire hazard is high enough to warrant the exchange.

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  • Jeff

    Just received recall from Renogy concerning 100w flexible solar panel, stating fire hazard. If I want refund or partial credit they pay shipping but I have to box it up. I’m sure this is why they are no longer available. Hmmmm………weighing risk vs. convenience factor whether to go ahead with the return.

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  • Tim

    I put 2 100W renogy flexible panels on my 1980 Airstream last year. So far, they are awesome and meet all of my needs. I am getting a 12V fridge and that is going to push the system harder so that will be a real test. On the curved airstream roof, they slough off water pretty easily and look as good as the day I installed them. I’ve never danced on mine like you guys did though:)
    I’ve been thinking about adding more panels (I have room for two more), but it looks like Renogy doesn’t sell the flexible panel anymore.

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  • Bob

    I put together a mix-matched, system 10 years ago, I have 6 x 40 watt panels and then a 70, 75, & 80 watt panel. I hooked them in 3 sets, so each set is around 60 volts. The 40 watt panels were 20 years old when I bought them 10 years ago and are still putting out 95% of there original power. I have them going through a MPPT controller to 9 x 12v agm batteries, I picked up on EBAY for $110 each (including tax and shipping), they are rated @ 760 amps each but upon testing on arrival were between 850 and 900 each. Panels are mounted flat and are fairly heavy. We dry camp 2 weeks at a time with lots of TV time and only use the generator when we use the microwave or electric coffee maker. Often while driving we will use the microwave without the generator. one year on a 6 month trip, our alternator went out and we found we did not need it as longer as we traveled mostly during daylight hours. i now have a switch which disconnects the alternator when we are driving, just to extend its life and to get the most out of our panels. I like the idea of the flexible panels and will most likely switch to them, if my heavy antiques ever fail. I did not like drilling holes in my roof to secure the ones on my coach now.

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  • Chris

    Back in 2007 I installed Tempered Glass solar panels on my van, which I lived in. It ran my cameras, computers, radios and even later a thermal cooler. The panels consist on 1 160 watts Mono and 2 120 watt panels Poly. The batteries at the time was 55 AH AGM. They were 4 of them and 1 100 AH. The power also was connected to the Van’s electrical system, which could be controlled from the front. I had two power inverters. One 2000 watts and One 800 watts. The 800 watts inverter ran the laptops, tv’s, radios and other low power electronics. The 2000 watts inverter ran the thermal cooler, cameras and hot plate. This was a 12v system, but there was plans in the future to upgrade it to 48v.

    The mistake I made was with the batteries. The capacity was to low. The 55’s should have been one hundreds. But I did manage to switch from electrical cooking to propane, which help free up the wattage.

    I also added a solar controller, which improved system reliability.

    During this time, Flexible Panels did not exist. If they had, not only the top of the vehicle would be covered, but the sides as well. Wattage would be more like 1000 than the 400 I was putting out.

    I was also looking to reduce cost by getting Golf Cart batteries, but we are talking about a vehicle. I also heard they leak, so that probably wouldn’t work.

    With that said, I hope the prices of Solar Panel continues drops and the quality improves. I especially want to see AGM prices flaten, as they really make up the cost of your overall solar project.

    Oh one more thing. After using the Flooded Golf cart batteries I’m anxious to go back to AGM when the price is right. They are not as stable for a 12v system, although their capacity is greater for the cost you pay for them.

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    • Martine

      I bought two AGM Lead Acid Deep Cycle batteries at 100 amp hours each on Amazon for $99 with free shipping. I also found a wholesale LED battery online store which sells LED at $600 each for 100 amp hours, which is half of the $1200 typical price. I would bypass AGM and move to LED when you can afford it. Weight is half that of Lead Acid, life is longer, drainage can be greater at 80% max, and 3000 cycles of recharge vs 500 cycles.

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  • Ed Zoltay

    There seems to be quite a bit of information on the web regarding the wattage of solar panels needed for boondocking, but not much information regarding the number of batteries needed by lights and appliances. We have a 5th wheel with a residential refrigerator and LED lights. Is there a good rule of thumb to determine the number of batteries, 6 or 12 volt, needed to run the refrigerator overnight given that we have enough solar power to charge them during the day?

    You two rock,
    Ed

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  • Paul

    I’ve been using those flexible solar panels as portable power that I move around with and just lay against things. I haven’t actually installed these type of panels because I love how light they are to take on a camping trip, etc. That being said, when the panels get soft from being in direct sunlight, I noticed a tiny “breaking” feeling when I move the panel. It feels like I’m creating tiny fractures in some of the cells because the plastic is no longer rigid. You can’t really HEAR them crack; you can only feel it. The cells hold together just fine and I have not noticed any drop in output… Just scares me how they’re so unprotected. Then, seeing you guys dancing on these panels (while in sunlight), I can just imagine tons of fractures happening to the cells. If you notice no power loss then, maybe it’s okay 🙂

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  • Matt

    Hello,
    You guys are great. Just getting ready to solar out a 21 Rockwood mini lite, 600-800w. I’m going with the tempered glass panels after watching your video. I know you guys had Go Power before you went to flex. I’m trying to decide between Go power or Zamp. Also getting around 800ah battery bank, any suggestions on batteries? Thanks
    Keep up the good work…

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  • If they are so good, the company should consider developing the panels for houses too. Many house owners will want the same tech to be available to them, to install in places where they seem to be useful. They can be used as an esthetic piece, like in the walls to make them look better while providing electrical energy.

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  • James Mickelson

    Hi kids. Love following along on your grand adventure. Question for you. How do you like Harvest Hosts? Have you used them much since telling us about them? I am retiring in a couple months and will be full timing it. I have loads of secret places without people but would like to experience the idea they offer. I love the idea but just wonder how well it works. Hope to meet you kids some day. James

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  • Dale Yancy

    please add me to your email list. Thanks

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  • Mark

    Thanks for you awesome site. I have been following you for years although, as yet, we do not own our first RV. I have been researching for a long time and my wife and I plan to be full timers when i finally retire. I love all of your advice and have become an unexpected expert in stuff I never knew anything about. That brings me to a question for you.

    Tesla Powerall was just announced their new Powerwall battery for homes and my first thought was that this could be a great solution for solar power on a RV. Maybe it is overkill but the small version claims to provide 7KWH. What is your opinion an the ability of rooftop panels to charge something this big? Maybe you could convince them to make an RV sized solution? Maybe they would let you test it? Seems like a great way to replace a huge battery bank and maybe be able to even fuel an AC or microwave?

    Anyway, thanks for all of your insights and I look forward to being part of your blogger group!

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    • Terry

      I also want to know your opinion on the Tesla Powerall. My fiancé and I are moving into an RV full time while I finish school and are already working on ways to be power independent.

      I am also curious how long (which I know depends on how much current you use) you can use appliances and a TV for without sun? For example, we will be at roughly 10,000ft and will have the very real possibility of not having direct sun for 3-5 days because of storms. And no, I don’t have any problem crawling up on the roof and scooping the snow off.

      Your site is always helpful and entertaining. Keep doing you.

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  • Hey Wynns! I am in need of your expertise. I recently bought a R-pod 171 and would like to know if 2 flex 100w panels with a 2000w inverter would do me justice.
    1. what else will I need to complete to kit
    2. Is that enough or more than enough power for charging laptops, ipad, iphone, shaver, water pump. TV, apple tv, led lights, fan
    3. will an induction cooktop (double) be to draining for this system

    I’ve watched your solar videos many times but could use a straight forward response from you two. Great filming, presentation and experience over all.

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    • Those are not quick simple questions and really require a conversation to answer. I know that is not what you want to hear but to make sure you end up with the right set up, that is the best. I would suggest calling Go Power and letting them help guide you on the best set up for your needs. Otherwise you are more than welcome to book a chat session with us. [email protected]

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  • Nanette

    Does anyone have a solution for the security issues that surround portable solar kits?

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    • we have been camping with ours for years now and have not had any problems, nor do we do anything special to secure it. so I don’t have any advice but maybe someone else with chime in with suggestions.

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  • Jim

    Good info…From your GoPower suitcase video awhile back I have decided to go that route (portable solar). Looking at GoPower 120 watt portable suitcase ($550 Amazon) or 100 watt portable suitcase Renogy ($279 Amazon). Can’t figure why such a big price difference between the two. When in national parks (no electric) we park in the shade to keep cooler, so a portable solar panel seems ideal to keep the batteries topped off. Any thoughts on the difference between the two. Called both companies, and neither commented. Go Power did say something about a new tariff being added on solar panels made in China, as both are now made.

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  • Gary

    Bottom line, as Jason mentioned during the video, if you need the flexibility of the solar panel, then these panels are the way to go (the Airstream is a great example). They would be worth the extra money with the knowledge that they have a shorter lifespan. It all comes down to your application.

    With that said, good discussion and great video. Thanks!
    Gary

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  • Marilyn

    We have two fixed solar panels and probably would not have done it ourselves but the couple that owned our motorhome full timed and love Quartside. Az. We think they do a lot of good since we do dry camp a lot but we don’t know what to compare it to since our other one didn’t have them and we just cranked generator!
    I do like they are attached but looking at the flex ones they have caulking all around them we only have like four spots each where they are attached and then the wires are caulked. Just put in 6 new batteries since ours is 08 and hope it all works ok!

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  • Lee AKA Mr.Elf31

    I really like that you tell the truth about the few issues you have with them and the update on the suitability of those panels. It really helps to see honest information thanks, and I have decisions to make regarding my future off grid setup.

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  • Flex solar was a must for my situation– full-timing in a Winnebago View that was already over its GVWR by a few hundred pounds, so I needed to shave weight off any way that I could. My Renogy bendable panels have been doing great since last summer– no cupping yet, and very minimal scratches. Best of all, I tested them next to a 300-watt AMSolar traditional solar panel install on a friend’s rig, and both our systems were generating the exact same amps. One thing I did differently than your install, though, was to NOT glue them to the roof and not caulk the edges. Instead, I used 3M DualLock (aka “toll pass velcro”) so that water can easily roll off the edges of the panels, and a bit of air can flow beneath them. I’ve not ever had the need to unclick a panel from the roof to move/tilt it (or send it back for a warranty claim), but it’s nice to know those options are available due to the DualLock installation! Here’s a link to my install if any others requiring a flex solar system are interested: http://winnieviews.blogspot.com/p/skinnie-solar.html

    I agree with Jason & Technomadia Chris that traditional panels are still the best bet for rooftop installs if you can handle the weight & aesthetics, and flex panels are an absolute “no-brainer” for a portable solution, but if deployed carefully (and “semi” permanently), flex can indeed still work well on the roof too and provide great versatility.

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  • Jason,

    Excellent video report! I remember you dancing on those panels just a year ago. Hey, I’ve got an Excursion as well and its hard to tell exactly where you’ve got the wire run heading from the video. Is that a hole in the roof down to the TV box in the bedroom?

    Dennis

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  • Well done! Thanks. That post was really informative.

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  • Richard

    Have you considered using melamine foam (Mr Clean Magic Eraser or Private Label) to try and clean them? It’s a non scratch foam that only uses water, but is very abrasive. That might help with your scratches and getting all the gunk off your roof.

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  • I was a little more cautious when I decided to go solar. I bought one Gopower flex panel and one 160 watt glass panel from AM Solar. Although I didn’t have enough solar to really charge my batteries both panels worked very well. The flex panel has the same issues Jason mentioned. Cupping, scratches, glued down so you can’t tilt it, but it still produced the same energy with these issues. After a year on the roof the glass panel looked like I just bought it. I was able to move it to our new camper and I bought two more 160 watt glass panels to go with it. I also used the Gopower solar controller after about 9 months the digital displace went out. A week later it turned back on and it seemed to be working. I ended up installing a Trimetric 2030 solar controller in our new camper.

    My experience when you have a flat panel glued to the roof and one panel tilted facing the southern sun, the one directly facing the sun gets the most energy. The flat panel doesn’t kick in until the sun starts to come up over it (which doesn’t happen in the winter). We are a full time family and in the winter I want to tilt my panels towards the sun. I have seen the panels go from 11amps coming in when not tilted to 24 amps after tilting.

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    • Hey Jason, thanks so much for sharing your experience with us! It’s always best when we can all compare notes! We are adding a tilting kit to our next set up to help get the max.

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  • Steve Hall

    I have been following you and Technomadia with interest on these panels. Thanks for sharing your experiences with them it really helps to hear the pros and cons without a sales job to boot 🙂 Can’t wait to see your new coach and see what your advice and input has added to it. As a Fleetwood Expedition ower I am most curious, Fleetwood does a great job but there are always improvements. Be well, Steve

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  • Virtually ALL of the negatives you identified do not exist for our Unisolar flat-flex panels. No scratching (and yes we’re hard on our rig too), no cupping, no difference of any kind from the day I stuck them on the roof. In addition, flat panels of the amorphous silicon are very angle-tolerant, and so have less need of being tilted toward the sun. They are also more shade-tolerant. Cost these days is about $1.50 per watt, not so fierce. Given the advantages, I’d never recommend glass panels. Before you put glass on your new rig, look into Unisolar.

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    • Greg, you are talking about amorphous, which is a different technology (and older) from these monocrystaline panels we are discussing. They do have their place and can be a good option in the right situation. However, they do take up more space.

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  • Larry Spahr

    Hi guys
    I’m Larry with “The RV Solar Solution”.
    I have been following you for a while. I only wish when I was your age I thought of doing what you two are doing. But of corse when I was your age there was no Internet or computers. But let’s not go there. When you did the nice presentation on the flexible panels I wanted to call you and say NO! But I didn’t

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    • Thanks Larry. We do like the flex panels and they still preformed well. We still think they are a great option if you need them.

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  • Great post and I thought these were the answer to the woes of having glass panels on your roof. However, it doesn’t seem that’s the case. I did have two questions for you – first, are the panels still covered under warranty even if they get all scratched up? Second, if you do need to replace them, what kind of glue did you use that will allow you to pull them up?

    Thanks!
    Joe

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  • Mark Elliott

    Hi there – with panels connected to a central inverter you lose the power output from the entire array if even a single cell becomes shaded or damaged so I’m curious if you’ve considered using panels with micro-inverters so if a shadow falls on one panel you still get power off all the others.

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  • Simon

    Obviously every point is valid. But thankfully we’re at a time where this technology is going to improve and improve very quickly. The concept that solar is not part of the entire roof already sounds dated. With electric cars, Toyota and Tesla are already working with BAe systems and others on creating a car solar film like a wrap to replace standard car paint and so the list goes on.
    But you’ve shown where we are today and the realities of solar ownership and use – and this information has been very valuable!!
    Great vid!!

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  • It’s amazing how much you learn when you really spend time with something, isn’t it? Thanks for all the frank feedback, Jason. Totally off-topic… we love what you’ve done to make your logo more clear and visible on the white background. Looks like a license plate. How apropos.

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  • Hal Woods

    Your report is interesting but a little overdone seems to me. We’ve had the flat solar panels on our 2001 Monaco Windsor for almost three years now. Two traveling and one full year parked in far northern Vermont for a very cold icy winter. They are easy to install and my understanding is they don’t need to be tilted at all because the way they are constructed that absorb the sun’s rays from all directions when there is light alone, say on a cloudy day or direct sunlight. I would hate to trip over glass panels. We have one glass panel that came with the coach. Leaves and debris get stuck under the panels and are hard to dislodge. I suppose the tilted ones could tilt for cleaning, but that’s beyond what I want to be doing with my roof. I just wash the roof and walk on the panels when necessary and don’t fret about cupping and so on. I enjoy seeing my solar controller all lit up from dawn to dusk and know that my batteries are being charged so I don’t run the generator so much when traveling and staying at Cracker Barrels or Walmarts, etc. I have a feeling they will last a lot longer than the ten year warranty so don’t fret about that either. You say you are getting a new coach already. Good for you. I would think twice about installing typical solar panels. Just my humble opinion.

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    • Hal, these are monocrystaline flex panels which are a new technology (weren’t available 2001) and very different from the amorphous panels that you probably have. They are nice because they are much more compact so you can have a lot more solar in a much smaller space. The amorphous panels are great but I do believe solar technology has come a long way and will continue to get better and better. Before we know it we will have all kinds of new options that can be applied anywhere, are inconspicuous and more efficient.

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  • Never considered the weight of my glass panels. Mine are not mounted on the roof so I can move them to the most optimal location. On the other hand the weight of the storage batteries is. I have 4 6 volt golf cart batterys. That adds a lot of weight. So my input is not helpfull as to flex or glass. Just consider the battery weight as a GVW issue.

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  • Terry Landis

    All good points. Also I’ve heard that the heat produced by these flat panels cannot excape and that heat is transferred down through the roof. In contrast with the tried and true panels this heat problem is dissipated by the glass panels when there are mounted on brackets just a few inches off the roof. Lots to think about…Thanks for the great advice you always give…

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  • Eric

    Jase, you’re bumming me out dude! I really want the flexible type because of all the upside reasons you listed. Now I have to think harder and make sure I’m making the right decision, before I buy! I really like that the flexible panels are invisible from the ground (I don’t dance so that’s not a factor). The big, boxy old-school solar looks so…. old-school. I’ve been planning to buy the GoPower Extreme in the next month or so… and hopefully installing it myself… Now I’ve got to think about this again… WWJD (What Would Jase Do)?
    Even though I now know WWJD, I think I’ll stick with the GoPower Extreme. 10yrs is a long enough warranty for me.

    As regards tilting; Have you heard of anyone using an adjustable, shiny panel (polished aluminum or something) to reflect extra afternoon sunlight down onto the flat solar panels? I wonder if that would work?

    Thanks for your insights
    Cheers
    Eric–

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  • Hi Jason, thanks for the update.

    We’ve also been doing a long term evaluation of flexible panels, and had considered using them on the roof of our vintage bus. In the end, we decided to go glass – here is the post with all our reasons why:
    http://www.technomadia.com/2014/11/zephyr-is-solar-powered-800-watt-rv-bus-roof-solar-install/

    We are though really loving using our 6x 100W flexible panels as a ground deploy array. They are small and light enough to easily store when not needed, and we can set them up at the end of a long extension cord in the sun while our bus is parked in the shade.

    We’ve been comparing three brands of flexible panels – GoPower, Grape Solar, and Renogy. Anyone wanting to follow along, all our solar posts are here:
    http://www.technomadia.com/solar/

    Cheers!

    – Chris // http://www.technomadia.com

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