Powerful and Flexible RV Solar Panels
If your RV plans include wild camping, or boondocking, then adding solar power to your rig is a must! With the spankin’ new flexible solar technology that’s just launched, installing solar panels is easier to do than ever…and for those who’ve been waiting for better solar technology you’re in luck since these new flexible panels are more efficient, lighter weight and extremely aerodynamic.
When we left Windy the RV (our Monaco Vesta) we decided to leave our 480 watt Solar Extreme Kit with her. When we moved into Roy the RV (our Fleetwood Excursion) we knew adding Solar Power would be one of our top priorities. We held off on solar the first few months of travel waiting for the brand new solar Flex Panels to be launched; it was worth the wait.
We ordered 500 watts of solar power for our roof, and honestly we could fit another 500 watts if we wanted to. Unfortunately Fleetwood has seen some of my How Not to Install videos so they requested we have a dealer do the install, so someone other than me would be liable for damages. Here’s exactly what we had installed, if you want to read up on the details here are Amazon links (of course you can find them in our awesome Travel Store too).
1x – Go Power! 200W Flexible Mono Crystalline Solar Kit
3x – Go Power! 100W Flexible Solar Expansion Kit
From the factory Roy came with a 2000 watt pure sine inverter with a built in smart charger so there was no reason to replace the inverter like we did with Windy. Roy also has 4 flooded type batteries on board which totals 464 amp hours (or “ah”). Its equivalent power to the battery bank we had with Windy but now we have a residential fridge which is kind of a power hog! (you can see all of our solar info here)
So now you’re caught up with our personal details let’s talk about why these new solar flex panels are better:
- Over 80% lighter weight than the tempered glass version of the panels.only 1/8” thin.
- Flexible making them more aerodynamic and allowing them to fit the curve of our roof (especially helpful for really curvy RV’s, vintage busses and Airstreams).
- 2% – 3% more efficient than the tempered glass monocrystalline solar panels and 2 times more efficient than the amorphous style “thin film” panels.
- Extremely durable so you can walk right on them, no more unsafe tippy-toeing around the panels on the roof.
The kit comes with a solar controller to monitor the batteries and prevent over charging. It displays the solar charge coming in, the current battery levels and of course the nifty power boost technology that tops up the batteries at the end of the day to keep us powered through the night.
Let’s talk potential downsides
We had a few questions and concerns before we installed these flex panels on the RV so we asked Go Power! and here’s what they said.
- Warranty – Why a 10 year warranty for the flex panels instead of the 25 year warranty like the glass panels?
This has to do with the ‘flexing’ of the panels. If someone decides NOT to permanently mount a Flex panel and keeps flexing it for years and years something’s going to give. The solar cells should last 30+ years if they are secured to the roof.
- Heat – People are concerned about heat with traditional glass panels, and we’ve always said:
“The cooler the panel the higher the efficiency”. How does heat effect the flex panel when glued to the roof?
In extreme cases it’s going to lose some efficiency, but because we are using SunPower cells, which are one of the most efficient cells available, they are designed for high heat and low light applications so the loss would be minimal. As a rule of thumb just don’t stay too long in Death Valley in the middle of summer and you guys will be just fine 😉
- Tilting – Many people want to tilt, is this an option with the Flex Panels? The Flex panels are not really made for tilting, but they will conform to the shape of the roof. This is ideal say for Airstream owners because they can flex it out to the shape of the roof versus making special mounts that look ugly. Tilting is great if you’re RVing in the winter months when the sun is lower on the horizon, this allows more sun to hit the panels. On the other hand most people don’t want to go up on the roof and tilt up the panels throughout the day, and more importantly remember to bring them back down before they drive away! We really only recommend tilting to customers that are planning on RVing in the winter months and are going to be parked in the same location for two weeks or more. If they aren’t staying long in the same spot I recommend getting another panel, that usually makes up for the difference in power and they don’t have to do any extra work!
A little extra info on tilting: When you adjust / tilt the panel you only increase the solar performance by 5% (during summer months). The biggest benefit comes during the Winter months, where tilting the panel can increase performance up to 41%. Power output varies with time of year, weather and location. These percentages are calculated on assumed average winter hours in the Southern US.
After a short three months of use we’ve seen as much as 26 amps coming in on the solar controller…and we’re not even into summer yet. If you have any questions or comments please share below. These flex panels are the newest technology in RV solar and we’re excited to test them out and share our findings (BTW – we’re trying to convince Fleetwood to install 1 panel on every RV with a residential fridge, whaddya think?).
2015 Update: We have an all new improved solar set up. Click the button to see our most recent upgrades:
Disclaimer: Our solar is provided by Go Power for review purposes but our opinions, research and dance moves are provided by ourselves, not purchased or swayed.
Thanks for this most informative site. I have a question relating to the heat collected by the panel. We have an Alliner popup trailer; it looks like an A-frame when the roof is up. The roof panels are not much more than sheets of rigid insulation with a plastic or fiberglass skin on both the outside and the inside. Our current practice is to place two 40 wt cyrstlline panels above the roof vents, which works but the peak of the roof is very high and it is not easy to get them up there. More importantly, we are heading to Death Valley in April/May and the winds will bring them down. So, taping down one or two of these thin panels would be a great step forward but what about the heat collected by the panel? Would it damage the roof panel? With the old style panels there is at least a 1/2 inch of air space between the roof and the solar panels. But the flex panel would be resting directly on top of the roof surface. Thoughts?
Not sure on that since it would be difficult to feel through the roof of an RV or the sailboat to see how much heat is generated. That would be a question for the panel manufacturer. Another option (since the roof of the A-liner is difficult to access and since it’s steep and you might not be able to park it with the panels facing south) would be to build a PVC pipe frame for the flexi panels and deploy them on the ground at your campsite. A quick Google search for “build portable PVC frame for flexible panels” will bring up plenty of results. The frame & panels could be easily stowed inside the door of the camper as you’re closing up to change sites or head home.
Briant Sinclair Davis
Hi, my name is Briant, and I am looking into taking an old camper and turning it into a tiny house for myself. I have a question about the wires for the solar panels. Are they weatherproofed wires? I know nothing on this but I really want to do this. I think its the best option for me.
Yes, the wiring from the panels has to be weather resistant. When you’re buying your solar setup (if you’re doing it yourself) just make sure you’re clear what it’s going to be used for so that you get the good stuff. Good luck with the project!
I am trying to put one flexible monocrystalline 300 to 320 watt solar panel on my SUV/Camper. I have a Nissan Xterra. I’m currently using 5 one inch aluminum 30 watt Goal Zero panels that are totally ineffective and inefficient. For instance in California at high noon on a warm sunny day with the sun directly overhead, I only get about 15 watts per panel. So instead of only getting 150 watts, I only get about 80 total watts.
Suggestion: Never buy Goal Zero solar panels.
Can you tell me where I can buy a QUALITY 300 to 320 watt flexible monocrystalline 12 or 24 volt solar panel that is NOT made in China. I hear that SunPower makes a very good solar cell, but where do I find a whole solar panel (320 watts) made out of SunPower solar cells? Also can you tell me how I can design and mount this 320 watt panel on the roof rack of my Xterra in such a way that I can angle them when I want to?
So those are my two questions:
1) Where can I buy one 300 to 320 watt flexible panel, instead of three 100 watt panels?
2) How can I mount this singular 300 to 320 watt panel to the 2 inch tubular roof rack of my Nissan Xterra in such a way that it can be angled?
I see that you upgraded to a different version recently. However, I was wondering if this system was good at meeting your needs while you had it. My husband and I are thinking of buying a Class A 1994 motorhome to live in for a few years while we build a house. We want to have enough power from solar to not need a hookup, but we don’t have a large budget to work with. These seem much more affordable than your new ones so we’re curious to see if they might work for us. Could you give us any guidance?
Hey guys start thinking about an awning solar system should be able to make something work that way
Nikki & Jason – I just wanted to thank you for all of the information you have been posting for boondocking and solar. We had solar installed while we visited family in Eugene Oregon. And after visiting CW, we drove past your RV! We stopped by, but were told you were busy editing video and we did not want to interrupt you. Our post about missing you and getting solar is at http://rvbuiltfortwo.com/solar-for-lola/.
See you next time when you are taking a break!
Jeff & Christine
Even when we’re editing we can usually take a minute to say hello! Sorry we missed you. I hope you enjoy your solar setup, we’ll be sharing a video in the new year diving even deeper into our solar tech.
Mike & Patty
Hello Jason & Nikki Love your blog. Have followed you two for years. It’s been sometime since your review of the flexible solar panels. Have they truly held up and met your expectations? We have an arched roof class A FR3 and have considered this option but are skeptical on the endurance. Happy travels and hope to see ya on the road.
We guys, we did post an update and video about them here you should check out: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/solar
Excellent review and practical layout. We are off to pick up our first motor home tomorrow in Colorado and bring her home to Long Beach, CA. I will be adding solar and love the flexible panels. We have spent the last 10 years on a sailboat and have both flexible solar and wind to keep us independent. Just returned from 5 months on the hook without plugging in. I love being energy neutral. We wilł take some time and determine our amp needs on our Winnebago View then panel up. I was wondering how to connect them. Glue, who woulda figured.
Enjoying your posts and learning a lot. Much thanks.
Still researching and planning myself… Don’t know if you already have a wind turbine (or two) but from what I’ve heard they go hand and hand with solar and compliment each other…
I’m hoping to do micro RV, combining minivan based model with teardrop trail type unit, Towing a small cargo trailer for extra storage…
Ideally would like to run it full electric, solar panels on trailer and van roofs, wind turbines and ?
Wind turbines do not work well for RV’s at this point. I hope they make something in the future that will but for now, they have to be mounted above the tree line (not always easy to do) and create a lot of noise and vibration (good luck sleeping). We have checked into multiple times over the years and talked to different manufactures. If we see anything we think might work, we will most certainly share it!
When you hook up the portable solar panel to your batteries, how do you configure it? On the same batteries as your controller for the flexible solar panels, but opposite terminals, or on the other batteries in your battery bank?
GoPower! recommended we connect the portable panel to the opposite terminals that our rooftop solar is setup on.
Would like to put in solar so we don’t have to worry about generater stopping when we leave camper for any time we have a 19″ leasure craft and travel with our pets and don’t want to worry about overheating
Is 500 watts enough to power a refrigerator 24/7 or a space heater/air conditioner 2/3 of the day?
wont run an ac or space heater ….2000 plus watts needed for that
We were able to run a fan or a space heater during the day (with sun). It’s not about how many watts so much as it is how much battery bank you have. We now have 700AH of lithium batteries and 900 watts of solar and are able to run a space heater for a good while at night along with our residential fridge and a few other things.
I live in the inner city of Camden, NJ: yes Camden. I’m tired of a high electric bill but they say solar panels can’t be installed here. How can the flexi panels work for my 3bedroom 3floor row home with a backyard for our dog. I need help saving money and not having to sacrifice my childs needs like food. Help me.
Sorry, residential and RV solar applications are very different. You would need to talk to a residential solar company.
Hello Wynn’s! As someone in the research stage of my full timing dreams, I’m very intrigued with your solar install on Roy. Not only do I want to do extensive boondocking, but the Fleetwood Excursion (35B) also happens to be the forerunner for our new home.
Question; it seems that your biggest limiter is your battery bank. I assume that you’re using the standard four house batts that come in the Excursion with the residential fridge option. Have you considered adding to those? I would assume you have and I’m curious what has stopped you? I realize that deep cycle batts are a large monetary investment, so if that is it then it’s very understandable. If not, is it an issue with the battery compartment in the Excursion? On my “Boondocking Needs” list is adding at least two more batteries to the bank, but maybe I’m missing something that I should know.
Thanks a million for all that you guys do! Keep it up!!
Hey Ryan! We would absolutely recommend adding additional batteries (probably 2). The only reason we have not is because we don’t own Roy as he is a test unit so we wanted to see how we would fair with what came standard with the residential fridge. We are picking up our next rig soon and I will say, it has more batteries.
Help!! I was wondering, where does one put the charge controller and where did you have the wire from the roof come down. I’ve got 600 watts of panels and a TS-MPPT-45 controller. Hope you can help. By the way I also have an 2014 excursion 35b.
The charge controller needs to be as close to the battery bank as possible and you need to make sure you use the correct gauge of cable. Most people run the wire down from the roof behind the fridge but it varies based on each RV model and floorplan. Good luck.
With your recent solar install complete, what can 500w do for you, and what should one budget for this project?
500 watts of solar and 420ah of battery we can do all this: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/boondocking-video
With our new RV and residential fridge we would need almost twice as much solar and battery to do the “same”.
You can find pricing in our custom created store: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/store
Thanks so much for all you do for the RV community! I have enjoyed your videos and blog comments. I was surprised that you now recommend the standard rigid panels over your new flex panels.
We have a “Pop Up” truck camper, and plan to go with the flex panels because they are so much lighter. [We sometimes travel with a canoe or two on top, and that is about the max weight the roof can bear.] I recently found a website which shows a dandy solar installation for a Pop Up:
Thanks again! Evan…Napa Valley, CA
Wait…GoPower didn’t teach you ANY of those dance moves??
We think the Flexible panels are great for applications with rounded roofs or special circumstances where weight or aerodynamics is an issue. These flat panels definitely have their place in the market.
hi guys i no your in to solar and im going to be to but i was wondering if you have ever seen a solar powerd cooler just for your beer ha ha i have seen them onthe internent just wonderd if you had ever been around one or if there any good thanks allen
In one of your videos you had indicated your appreciation of a residential refrigerator over the traditional rv refers. Can you tell me what sort of time do you get out of your solar set up when your boon docking? Thanks for your time-enjoyed the Harvest Host video.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but alas that is what I am. With our 500 watts of solar and 464 amp hours of battery we can barely live without starting the generator. A typical summer day goes like this: Wakeup and run the gene for 20 minutes to charge the batteries while I boil water for coffee. During the day we don’t have to run the gene. At night around 10pm before bed I run the gene for another 20-30 minutes to top off the batteries.
If we didn’t have the solar panels we’d be running the generator 3-5 hours per day.
Hope this helps, we do plan to do a residential fridge video in the near future.
Thanks for the vid. I’m thinking of doing flexible panels on my roof, mostly because of the weight savings and it being used a small travel trailer. How are the wires secured to the roof? Is there any way you could email a closeup photo of the wiring on the roof? Looks easy enough to use roof sealant to secure the panels, but I don’t want wires flopping around. Thanks!
Hi, can you tell me if one of your solar systems would run an oxygen concentrator,Specifications
Input Voltage 120 VAC +/- 10%
Input Frequency 60Hz
Average Power Consumption 350 Watts
Oxygen Concentration* (at 5 LPM) 93% (+/- 3%)
Liter Flow 0.5-5 liters per minute
Weight 31 lbs (14 kg)
Sound Level 45 dBA typical
Dimensions (HxWxD) 23 in (584 mm) H x 15 in (381 mm) W x 9.5 in (241 mm) D
OPI (Oxygen Percentage Indicator) Alarm Levels Low Oxygen: 82%
Very Low Oxygen: 70%
Operating Temperature 55°F to 90°F (12°C to 32°C)
Storage/Transport Humidity -30°F to 160°F (-34°C to 71°C) up to 95% relative humidity
Operating Humidity up to 95% relative humidity
Outlet Pressure 5.5 PSI
Operating Altitude 0 to 7500 ft (0 to 2286 m
I am hoping you can help me, our family camps at a campsite from may to sept. and we have no hydro, just a generator. I need to run my oxygen machine 24/7, but I could just run at night time, say for 8-10 hours at night, then run on generator during the day. I hope you can help me, Thank you.
I would contact GoPower! or a solar installer/dealer for this information.
Just saw the video from Charles Deem Wilderness. You were only 16 miles from the house and didn’t let us know so we could offer a beer or our Hoosier hospitality . Promise next time to let us know the next time you are that close.
Oh man, we’re always up for a good beer! You can always see our current locations on our social media and on the “Where we are now” map at the bottom of every page of our site.
My husband and I will be packing up and moving into our rv full time in 2 short months! I find that I am getting very stressed trying to figure out solar. I really love the extreme kit but I think we could live of off the Elite kit Go Power offers. I am having such a hard time understanding the differences between a 2000w and 3000w inverter. I want to fun my electric /propane fridge on power full time or at least most of the time. I watched your video about the extreme kit and it was so helpful but we will not be using nearly as many plug ins as you did in the video so I wanted to see if you had any opinions about the Elite kit that comes with the 2000 w inverter. Would you guys have been able to run on the Elite kit instead of the extreme?
The general rule is “1 to 1” If you have 400 amp hours of battery you should have 400 watts of solar.
There is no reason to get a 3000 watt inverter if you won’t be using much power, we currently have a 2000 watt puresine inverter in Roy (the Fleetwood Excursion) and it servers our needs just fine.
If you have lots of questions you can always book a chat session with us, there no need to pull your hair out stressing 🙂
Is 600 watts combined with the propane enough to live in?
that’s an impossible question to answer. It works for us (all though we need more batteries to go with those 600watts) but I know plenty of people who need far less and way more. its all about what you need and what works for you. If you have not watched our day in the life video, check it out. It lets you see what we could do in a day in our last coach. You will find it here on this page: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/rv-wild-camping
Have you read Handy Bob’s RV Battery Charging Puzzle? handybobsolar.wordpress.com/the-rv-battery-charging-puzzle-2/
You should read it if you haven’t. The main take home points I found were:
– Measure voltage right at the battery for accurate voltage (using a 500A shunt)
– Charge to 14.8V, then continue to feed power for 1-2 hrs.
– Don’t drain batteries below 12.2V (50% charge point)
We just got a 2015 Airstream International Signature 19′, and we’re gathering components to have 600W of flexible panels (thanks, Jason & Nikki!), with Bogart TM-2030-RV meter, SC-2030 charge controller, and four 6V 235 Ah batteries (470 Ah @12V). We’re also going to get a Magnum 3000W pure sine wave inverter (thanks, Jason & Nikki!) that is also a smart charger. We’re hoping to do a lot of camping/boondocking thanks to you guys!
Glad to hear you’re out on the road and well equipped for wild camping! We are familiar with Bob, and we’re thankful for people who research and share in major depth and detail.
Hope we get to cross paths out there in the wild.
So . . . You’ve had the solar panels for a while now, also. Still working well? Any reduction in efficiency over time? Cupping of the panels?
My personal opinion is if you need (i.e. Airstream or a Vintage bus with a rounded roof) the flexible panels then go for it, if you have a flat roof then stick with the tempered glass panels. Our panels seem to be functioning equally as good as when we installed them.
How are the flex solar panels doing?
Holding up well so far. My personal opinion is go with the standard tempered glass panels as it will save you money and they have a longer warranty…unless you need to have the flat panels for an application such as a bus conversion, Airstream, etc.
Guys, Beth and I are sailors and have spent the last 3 years restoring a Westsail 42 Ketch for extended cruising. In many ways, it is our water borne RV. Like you, we have taken big steps to be environmentally responsible, reduce our foot print or keel print, and increase our self-sufficiency. Yes, we have 2 Nature’s Head composting toilets on our boat.
I recently saw your solar panel video. Tremendously done in a mere 2:09 minutes.
We are going to install solar panels as our primary charging mechanism while using our diesel engine primarily for propulsion. I was very much intrigued by your solar panel set-up and the Go Power! product..
I would appreciate hearing about your experience with the G0 Power! product over time. Moreover, I would appreciate others’ experiences, as the variety of input makes a better picture. I probably won’t get to this project for a few months, so I don’t need a response that takes anyone out of a normal routine. I certainly appreciate and respect everyone’s privacy and schedule.
Thanks again, and even though we “RV” on a different medium, your videos are fantastic and share a lot of the same issues we deal with on the boat. As such, I would feel privileged to share in any discussion on these similar issues.
As I say to my fellow cruisers, “Fair Winds and Following Seas”, but for you and the other RV’ers, “ Sunny Skies and Smooth Roads”!
Doug & Beth Tate
Westsail 42 Ketch #91
Doug and Beth,
The flex panels are amazing for sailboats. So far ours have held up well. I would contact GoPower! directly and ask them about marine install. I know they do plenty of installs on boats, but not sure about the inverters and salt water. We’ve been using GoPower! products for nearly three years and they have not disappointed us.
Good luck with the install, I hope this helps.
Firstly, thank you very much for this information. I was wondering, are you using an auto transfer switch? I gather that you guys are more off grid then on, but I was thinking about ways that I could be able to get off grid more easily, but also decrease my electricity utilization when I am docked.
Thank you very much and, please, keep it up!
The beauty of the GoPower! Solar kits is you don’t have to think…they’ve supplied everything you need to incorporate solar into your RV. You can find all our solar info here: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/solar
You can find our Travel Store with all our Solar gear here: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/store
Just found you guys and I’m a fan! We live in a Northern CNada and had never heard the term boondocking before…we just call it camping!!! 🙂
I have an ’87 Syncro (aka “the Panzer”….because it’s German and looks like a tank). Obviously we won’t have the needs you have with a full fridge, etc.. We are looking at getting an Engel-style fridge/freezer combo. That, with the lights, sink pump and charging iPad and phones (maybe a small tv at some point) is what we need. We don’t want to overkill it and are concerned affixing it to the roof. Any suggestions?
PS – all is forgiven for not keeping the Westy 😉
It was tough to get rid of that little Westy, but I don’t think we could do what we do without something larger. I would suggest you look into the portable panel, maybe getting two of them, or purchase 2 flex panels and make your own “portable frame” from conduit or PVC pipe. Hope this helps get the creative juices flowing.
My husband and I have followed you all for a couple of years now. We have 4 kiddos (7,6,4,and 2) and we are trying to make our RV as sustainable and “green” as possible. We have been itching to take the plunge into full time living but with a family it’s a little more complicated (as I’m sure you can imagine). So all of that said- we are trying to figure out which solar outfit would be best for our lives in the RV. We are trying to decide between the Go Power! Solar Extreme kit and the newest flexible set up you guys have. We have watched your “A Day In The Life” video like 100 times trying to envision what our days would look like wild camping of the cord and how much solar we would really need. All I can come up with is- With 4 kids…more is better. Haha. We try to be as energy conscious as possible though and we aren’t afraid to make our kids play with sticks and rocks as opposed to video games. 😉 That being said, I do NEED my coffee so power is a *must*.
Also- different topic (and a messier one at that) but still as important- We want a composting toilet. Not only for the “green” aspect but also because we wont have to dump as often which is a HUGE plus for us since dump stations and children are not my idea of a good time. Here’s my question- Because you must separate liquids from solids…how do I put this….is the toilet set up for smaller persons too? They don’t understand how to control anything coming out (oh gosh, this is a horrible first conversation to have with someone…) so I am concerned that we will have liquids in our solids and heaven forbid….solids in our liquids. *shudders*
I’d love to hear back if you are interested in tackling such questions. 🙂
Well hello! The solar question I can answer. If you have ample roof space and weight isn’t a big concern, I would go with the solar extreme kit and one portable panel (same set up we had for the day in the life video) and I would suggest a minimum of 600AH of batteries.
As for the composting toilet questions I would suggest contacting Larry at Natures Head (the phone number is on the website). He has had every question under the sun and can probably give you some great suggestions of what others do for a similar situation. If he doesn’t answer leave a message and he will call you back. He has always been so quick to respond. Hope that helps! Happy planning and hope to see you on the road soon!
Fantastic! I will definitely contact Larry.
As for the solar set up- Matthew (my husband) is leaning towards the flexible set up because of weight, space and the fact that no holes in the roof is always a plus. Is there a reason you lean towards the Extreme Kit over the set up you guys have now?
Thank you so much for your quick reply. You guys are so helpful to so many people. Keep on keepin’ on!!
Could you give me the name of the adhesive you used to glue down those flexible solar panels?
you can find that information here: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/flexible-solar-panels-rv
This all brings up an interesting question of whether flexible solar panels begin to be installed on the roofs of cars to help power hybrids. Something which is another benefit is that they reduce the profile and wind resistance on the RV. So you probably get a small gas mileage boost, particularly if you have a lot of them as you do.
Its very interesting to see you branch into different directions in your research. I followed you from the early stages and your articles have become increasingly technical. This is very valuable because you are field testing and documenting the usage of various technologies — and this provides important feedback to users and to manufacturers. As you are aware, there is often a difference between how a technology works hypothetically and the real world usage. All too frequently the field testing is minimized. I also think your articles will help encourage the use of more solar — I know your articles influenced my decision to skip a generator and go directly to solar with my rig.
Thankfully we’ve been able to help GoPower test the majority of their products through our different RVs, and whether you end up with their brand or another its great to know solar is catching on…we really think it’s the best way to Wild Camp.
Attached is a copy of my blog on the issue.
The panels were installed in November 2013 and inspected in April 2014. When the photo was taken.
Euro-Line Solar the supplier of the ApolloFLEX Mono flexible solar panels have delayed in fixing the problem by asking for a wiring digramme, then photos of all the panels and now the removal and freighting back to Germany . Which is difficult as they are glued to the roof of my motorhome and I live in outback Australia.. It would be expensive to do this.
Euro-Line Solar the supplier of the ApolloFLEX Mono flexible solar panels have a 23 year warranty and under EU law have to fix them or give me my money back . But they now will not reply to my emails.
After further research it appears that rust is the problem see attached blog from Paul in New Zealand
Showing how to peel back the plastic to get access to an un-corroded section of terminal – which you can then use to build new connectors.
Thank you Jason
GoPower has pre-sealed the connectors that rusted with a waterproof silicone, they said it should keep out the water and protect the connectors. We’ll see how it goes.
I am interested in how you are getting on with your flexible solar panels. After careful research I had ApolloFLEX Mono flexible solar panels attached to a tropical sun roof of my motorhome here in Jabiru, Northern Territory, Australia. I have just completed an over 20,000 km journey from Jabiru to the east Coast over to Tasmania and back up to Darwin. I am stuck in Darwin after mechanical repairs.
I had skilled engineers install the panels a 630 watt system producing 30amps.
Since installation in November 2013 they have rapidly deteriorated to date to a 1.4amp system. Euro-Line Solar the supplier in Berlin want me to remove the glued panels from the roof of my motorhome and send them back to Germany. The cost is prohibitive. On inspection the electrical terminals are sealed by a blob of Selastic with no diodes. Corrosion has occurred and I am stuck with AU$1,000s of flexible solar panels that only lasted 2 to 3 months stuck on a purpose built tropical sun roof.
I have written a blog on my travels.
This is a story of dodgy German solar panels and the dangers of buying over the net. With no back up.
I researched these panels for the best part of a year and did not find many flexible options.
Now there appears to be greater choices.
Like you we saw this as an exciting pioneering project testing these new flexible panels. The ApolloFLEX Mono solar panels could not survive the tropical rains of the Top End of Australia, the 50 C temperatures of outback north east Queensland and the drive south to Tasmania.
They failed on all points except from being light weight. Which I could have achieved with laminated cardboard.
The design of the two separate solar arrays were approved by Euro-Line Solar, using all their products as recommended and installed by experiences engineers. They will not come to Australia and repair the panels or refund my money in breach of EU consumer Law.
They do not respond to my emails. They have taken decades of savings and are ignoring the situation.
I am not on holiday I live in my motorhome this has crippled my mobility.
Next week the engineers are going to inspect the panels and see if they can be repaired.
From one panel it has rust from a screw to one of the power terminals.
The hope is that is causing an earth or resistance in the system.
As you can imagine I have little confidence in this product and that in this case I have been carpet bagged.
Like your trip my journey started with great expectations and enthusiasm ending up with disappointment and a large bill.
ApolloFLEX Mono flexible solar panels are not made to go outdoors let alone remote palaces as they were designed for.
I hope your experience is different.
My Norty Bits web page is nortybits.me/2014/04/14/doing-more-miles-than-rommel/
Where you can see the rig and the report on there inspection in Maryborough Queensland, Australia.
Since then the panels have all but died.
Any help in this matter from you fellow solar users would be appreciated.
Thank you so much for sharing with such detail. We are testing these products here in the US, but the jury is still out as many people are having issues with the flexible style solar panels. GoPower! (who makes our panels) warranties the panels for 10 years, so we’ll see how long they last. Do your panels not have a replacement warranty?
How are things currently going with your flexible solar panels?
So far so good! No complaints or issues yet.
I loved your video of the flex solar panels being installed on your roof. Although I would not recommend jumping up & down with joy on them. The panels on my roof need frequent cleaning and I’m a little scared the plastic panels will scuff much easier then the glass panels – maybe the reason they only have 5 years warranty.
I just finishing a trailer with 2100 watts that will supply 100% solar for the HVAC system, maybe one day our paths will cross
GoPower! says we can walk, jump and do a jig on the flex panels, and we figure it’s our job to really test them…so that’s the only reason we beat these panels up. I would agree less is more when it comes to the plastic surface of these new flat solar panels.
"...nice man from Germany"
Your video cracks me up you guys…. 🙂
I like the idea of Fleetwood putting a panel on every RV with a residential fridge. Two questions:
1. Have you ever done a test to see how much power your fridge and inverter ( plus any phantom loads on it ) draw each day? I would think this would be a baseline minimum of how much daily power you need and might be a useful number for anyone considering a residential refrigerator.
2. Has Fleetwood ever said why they don’t offer a larger solar system ( something like yours ) as an option? Aren’t a lot of these custom ordered? Is there just no demand?
We are trying to convince Fleetwood to either pre-wire the cables, or at least run a conduit so the install of panels, Wifi Ranger, Wilson Booster, etc can be much easier and less expensive.
As for the load the absolute minimum amp hours to keep the fridge running on flooded batteries is 400ah. Realistically the only option is to go lithium if you don’t want to run the generator, or carry a huge battery bank in the 1500ah range.
It’s a real bummer for sure, we love the residential fridge but hate how power hungry it is.
Thanks for sharing your solar install!
It’s impossible to tell for sure, but it looks from the photos like you’re using 10 gauge wire with MC4 connectors to bring the power of the combined panels down from the roof to the solar controller.
Is that correct? If not, what are you using?
I just did a similarly sized self-install on my RV, but chose to go the old-fashioned rigid panel route based largely on AMSolar’s information. Thanks for being our guinea pig!
We just replaced our PWM controller with a much more expensive one, we’re hoping to test it a little bit longer then we’d like to do a post about “solar mistakes”. From what I know go with the thickest gauge cable you can find and keep the wires as short as possible.
My system is 540W, just slightly larger than yours. I struggled to find a short route from the junction box on the roof to where the controller would be mounted in a basement compartment near the batteries. In the end, my best route only got it down to about 22 to 25 feet, so I went with 4 gauge cable. 35′ of that ( also for the controller to battery cable run ) was $175 and it was kind of a PITA to run.
You can see pictures of the roof box with the wiring at https://plus.google.com/photos/101533552838802518081/albums/6002206624346422593?authkey=CNKhpNigsd_DpgE
I did a writeup, including costs, on RVillage in the Solar and Alternative Energy for RV’s.
The manufacturer’s claims of being more efficient than rigid panels are stretching the truth somewhat. Your panels are ~17.5% efficient vs sun power or LG rigid panels which are now over 20% which means you can generate ~15% more power for the same roof space with rigid panels.
Flexible panels are also more susceptible to damage, while the “panels” are flexible the cells inside the panel are not. The flex comes from the joins between the cells and the electrical connections there can fail prematurely.
Finally because flexible panels must be mounted directly to the roof they’re going to run hotter than rigid panels which further decreases the power output.
With rigid panels you can mount them a few inches off the roof to create a “tropical roof” which will keep your RV and panels cooler in the hot sun.
The flexible panels are significantly lighter than glass panels so if you’re really close to exceeding the maximum weight limit of your RV flexible might be worth the 500% price premium. If the failure rate of flexible panels decreases over the next few years they’ll certainly be a more attractive option, but at the moment i’d be cautious.
As we stated the GoPower flex panels are Sun Panels and are more efficient than the rigid panels we had installed on Windy. This is fact, no stretching of the truth.
Flex panels are new technology and that’s exciting but the jury is still out on longevity, hence why the warranty is a fraction of the length of tempered glass panels.
Bottom Line – If you’re in an RV with a curved roof you should seriously look at these new flex panels, if you have a flat roof and don’t mind drilling into the roof then save the $$ and go for a rigid panel.
Apologises, I mis-interrupted the statement “2% – 3% more efficient than the tempered glass monocrystalline solar panels ” as meaning more efficient than new rigid panels rather than 2-3% more efficient than the old ones you had installed.
Panel efficiency is quite simple to work out , you divide the output in kilowatts by the panel area in square meters. The 100W Go Power! are .100 / (1.05m * .54m) or 17.6% efficient. The Sunpower 327 rigid panels are 20.3% efficient, so while they may use cells from Sun Power they’re not comparable in power output. This is could be due to using lower grade cells and the increased spacing required between cells to enable “flex”.
The flexible panels have a better output than what you had previously, look better, and weigh less, sounds like a win to me 🙂 I wanted to point out that flexible are not more efficient than the best rigid panels so if every watt counts readers should investigate both options fully.
GoPower claims the flex panels are 20% efficient and their rigid panels are 17-18% efficient.
We agree one should always do research before laying down the dough!
You’re talking about cell/module efficiency , which is the efficiency of the individual cells, not the overall panel.
Panel efficiency is simply rated power in kilowatts / surface area in m2 , or 0.1kW / .572m2 = 17.4% efficiency for the GoPower.
This figure has been confirmed by GoPower, the 19.9% figure on their marketing literature is the cell efficiency.
Definitely does pay to do the research. Flexible panels look great and can squeeze into tight spaces… but they’re still ~15% less efficient than the best rigid panels.
Hey Guys. The traditional glass panels come in 160w size, which means that I can get almost 1000w out of six panels. To get that much wattage with the flex panels, you’d need 10 of them, no? Are the flex panels really more “efficient”?
I’m in an old 82, Ford brougham Rv.
I love it. But, i want these flexible solar panels, where can I get them, and about how much…
And, I’ll do it myself..
I wouldn’t call or pay anyone or a professional to do this.
You seem r on be down to earth people and that’s where I’m at. And , so surely you can tell me what you learned and help me out however you can…
R.v people…, ….
Dean there are amazon links in the post to the panels for purchase. Everything we have learned about solar and all of our information about solar is on our solar page: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/solar
Great video guys. Always enjoy the way you produce them.
I just put 400 Watts of GoPower Flex on my 1960 Airstream in anyone wants to see how the flexibility comes in really handy. Check my blog – link below.
Keep up the great work!
You Guys rock at the Solar Panel Videos/Installations 🙂
Love how flexible they are, and that you can walk on them. Technology is coming along way!
In 1986 I had a similar size panel installed on my cruising catamaran which was moored off of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. We needed to keep our batteries charged in order to start our 25hp outboard engine, navigation instruments and lighting. The panel had some flexibility and was mounted on top of our hard bimini. We had ten years of good service and it survived intense heat, tropical storms and one very bad hurricane. We hope to be land sailors in the future and very much enjoy following your adventures.
Thanks for sharing George, I wonder if you had an amorphous “Thin Film” panel? These are most commonly used for maintaining starting batteries.
Love the vid! I was wondering what size and type of charge controller do you have? I’m looking atgoing with the 500watts also but would like the option to add another 100 watts when I am able. Also would rather go with an MPPT controller but would love to hear your thoughts?
We are having some issue with the install of the charge controller that came with the kit. We plan to post another update soon as we have just received our new, much more expensive, Outback charge controller. Will update once it’s installed.
Hey! What kind of issues? We haven’t finished up the electricity in the fifth wheel rebuild yet, but we have the same kit for solar. Should be up and running in a week, any tips are welcome. Thanks!
Those panels look sweet! Gonna fit nicely on our airstream when the day comes to hit the road! Question: why did you guys opt for 5 100 watt panels and not 2 200 watt with 1 100 watt?
At this time the flex panels only come in 100 watt size (as far as I know).
Renogy solar has 100 watt flexible panels that are monocrystaline but are half the price. 500 bucks for flexible panel is way over priced and the payback would take forever.
A lot of people have asked about Renogy panels over the years and we don’t have any experience with the panels or the company. All I can offer is make sure the company you purchase from is a reputable company that will be around for 10+ years should you need to use your warranty.
I see Blackwell Horse Camp in the background! Spent a lot of my childhood there primitive camping and trail riding in the Hoosier National Forest.
Great eye! How the heck did you know with such a wide shot? We spent our Memorial Day weekend there and we had a blast! Great place for wild camping.
As always…that was a lot of fun!
Read AM Solars issues with these panels.
We have read the AM Solar testing, we’re very excited to see what happens with our panels over the next year. That is the one thing about installing the newest technology…you never know how it’s going to turn out till you try it.
I love them. I’m looking to do a “stealth” E350 van conversion as a “daily driver” (I’m a field engineer) as well as a weekend adventure wagon. I’m planning a complete electric system for everything except arctic situations, and I think these will conform to the surface of the van roof perfectly with zero detectability from ground level. I’m planning a big battery bank, and would love to have about 3-4 of these on the roof. Probably overkill, but I also do ham radio events and would adore having that much generation capacity on-hand. Go Big or Go Home!
There is no amount of solar power that would be considered “overkill” in my book! Just make sure you have a battery bank that can store all that power, at a minimum 1 watt of solar per 1 amphour of battery.
I got these panels for my Chevy van. They are certainly low profile but because of the rain channels on the roof I was unable to install. RV guy said wind would tear them off and trying to fill in the channels just wouldn’t work.
If you have figured out a way to make these work please let me know.
Huh, not sure why it wouldn’t work with the proper glue, but if you purchased GoPower! panels I would call them for advice.
My RV has no flat roof per-se, it’s very curvy. That attracted me to the flexible panels early on. There are the Uni-Solar roll panels, but they are 18’ long and that company went out of business. The new panels with the SunPower cells on them, like the ones you got, are REALLY great. VERY efficient, almost to the same size as rigid panels, but LIGHT, and that “can be walked on” thing is important if you don’t have anywhere else to put your foot.
I found them on Ebay originally, but the people producing them wanted me to buy 500. I then discovered Alibaba’s service AliExpress.com, like Ebay, only they represent people in the far east, building things. Got out my cardbord and measured where I had space to place panels without shadows and found I had 265 watts of roof (https://www.flickr.com/photos/israndy/14423627803/).
I did go with the new Blue Sky Electronics controller, but yours seems like it does all the same stuff. I probably paid less, but your bought from an American company that you could go back to with problems. When my panels didn’t have adhesive I just had to just let it go.
I think I will follow your lead with sealing the outside edge, it is starting to pull up. get it sealed while it’s not raining, but the 3M 777 Spray Adheasive has kept them in place for almost a year.
Props to AMSolar.com in Oregon for checking my work while we were travelling last fall and selling me a few parts I needed to complete the install. Finally got to cut the cord and leave the RV in the yard, only hook it up to power to run the AC or pre-cool the fridge. The rest of the time the batteries are solar charged full almost daily.
Thanks for the note Randy, one of the biggest issues with solar is finding a quality install location. Wish I could have installed myself!
I am wondering why Xunlight panels are not considered. Seems to be half the price per watt in general. Solar controllers can be purchased separately and are not all that expensive considering this is a DIY type project.
A lot of people have asked about other brands of solar panels over the years and we don’t have any experience with the panels or the company. All I can offer is make sure the company you purchase from is a reputable company that will be around for 10+ years should you need to use your warranty.
I have never understood all that lap sealant. Why? On any fine yacht it would be considered really ugly and unnecessary. Looks ugly on your roof too. Is it just a “feel good” thing? I know this is off subject, but I know you guys know what I’m asking. Thanks!
Fred it does look like crap, we totally agree! The company we used to install wasn’t the most meticulous and it shows. Unfortunately with Roy the RV we’re not allowed to install anything ourselves.
I vote “Yes” to Fleetwood adding one solar panel to coaches with the residential refrigerator option. If Fleetwood would run the wires, install the monitoring panel, and install one solar panel, then adding additional panels would be a snap. Maybe Fleetwood could provide new owners with a special deal coupon for additional panels. OK, now that you have had 500 watts up there, is that enough to keep your auto gen start from kicking in?
100 watts of solar is better than none…we’re really trying to get them to consider 200 watts 🙂
As for the AutoGen our 500 watts of solar and 464ah of battery does keep our autogen from kicking on most days.
Thanks Jason. I agree that 200 watts as a factory install would be a good idea. I hope your powers of persuasion work on Fleetwood. When you have a chance, could you post a picture of where the installers placed the monitor panel. I can see the monitor panel in the video, but I can’t tell exactly where it was located. Was it located with the other monitor panels? Maybe a picture after the new controller is installed. Thanks.
Jason – I took a closer look at the video and noticed that the solar monitor panel was installed beneath the wind controller for the awning. Makes sense. Also looks as if the installer constructed a mounting frame for the solar monitor panel so a large opening was not required. Good idea.
It’s probably more likely they will get in the habit of installing the wires in the walls, or open conduit.
Technology is changing so fast, and different people have different tech needs.
Frankly, In the past, when I built homes and did some remodelling, I found that simply installing large diameter (1″ to 1 1/4″) conduit from the attic to the basement, and putting at least one blank box with conduit, was a GREAT idea. It allows for future expansion for ANYTHING that will fit through the conduit, it can be changed easily enough, and it cost almost nothing to install.
I doubt RV companies will want to install solar panels and systems directly, as not everyone will know, or be able to use them. Not only that, the RV company will be most likely have to cover the warranty on those products. That would be too much.
However, we have seen RV companies accommodate future expansion. Things such as supplying wiring for a future roof top air conditioner, telephone and cable tv wiring, wiring for future entertainment appliances like speakers, gas connectors on the outside for use with a gas cook top, Washer and dryer connections for future install in a closet, and an electric plug in a kitchen upper cabinet for a future microwave, amongst other accommodations.
I’m going through a similar issue, right now. My RV has some solar panels, batteries, and a charge controller. The buyer wants a full system so he can be off grid.
I told him he will need to consult with an expert. There are many variables and choices in buying solar parts.
Yep Erik, you’ve got it. We’re recommending a conduit so all wires can be easily run through the walls and ceiling, this would save literally thousands of dollars on the install!
You guys are good!!!
Great to see you guys installing more solar. When my 57 Flxible Starliner is finished it will have 4x330w flexible panels up on the roof charging 1200AH LiFePo4 batteries. They are large at 1580 x 2756 x 3.5mm but there will be only 4.
Keep up the great life you guys have. We enjoy reading all about your adventures. and we can’t wait to hit the road early next year. http://aussiestarliner.weebly.com
Makin’ me jealous Larry! Lithium batts? Not fair 🙂 Safe travels.
I’m about to do a major solar installation on my RV, so I’ve been considering the various options prior to ordering. I’m familiar with the basics from having put them on boats in the past, but of course it always pays to re-evaluate tech purchases in case of new options. The flexible panels have some really desirable features, so I’d love to fit them.
AM Solar (they specialize in RV Solar) have been field testing some flexible panels (that look as if they may be the Go Power panels) and found some issues such that they decided not to offer them at this time. I’m wondering if you have experienced these situations and/or if perhaps Go Power has improved the panels. I would sure like these panels to be an option.
The issues found were as follows (paraphrasing):
1) During a spell of warm temps (90’s), each cell would distort and make a little “cup” shape. The cups would then collect water/dust ,and then after the water evaporated the dirt would remain and block the panels from gathering sunlight. The dirt would not just easily wash off, but would need fairly vigorous scrubbing to remove. The scrubbing would scratch the panel surface.
2) They worked as well as one would expect in high angle summer sun, but dropped off more than usual in low-angle winter light (i.e. noticeably more than rigid panels we are used to).
I would really like to hear that these issues (presuming these are the same panels or similar) have been resolved, so I wonder if you have experienced them at all or know that they have been alleviated somehow?
Debbie from Illinois
Oh my you guys! You made me nervous jumping around on the roof of your RV!!!
Glad you are happy with the solar panels. 🙂
I asked Fleetwood if we could do a jig up there and they said the roof would hold no problem 🙂
We love the idea of solar so much we ordered the weekender from GoPower before we took possession of our new motorhome. We ordered it from Amazon – big mistake. Amazon doesn’t not accept returns on these products. The solar panel that ships with the weekender is too large for our 25ft Leisure Travel Van Libero motorhome and now we are stuck with a $1600 science project for our kids. Measure measure measure before purchasing any new equipment. BTW: We live in Orlando, FL if you want a great deal on a never used GoPower Weekender Solar Kit.
Have you tried to list it on EBay or contact GoPower corporate? Who knows, maybe they can offer you a special deal?!? Worth a shot I guess, or maybe you’ll get really lucky and win their giveaway!
They look great, let us know after the summer if they handle the heat OK for you.
We will definitely be reporting out findings as we use these new panels.
Very nice! We don’t have solar now and may not get it on our current rig as we plan to upgrade in a couple of years. however, the next rig will definitely have solar on it, and these panels look like the ticket.
How much of a price premium do you pay for flexible over the more traditional panels? Also, How much extra (roughly) does installation add to the cost? (I know this varies from place to place, but a ballpark estimate will help for budgeting.)
We included the links to Amazon so the post wouldn’t be out of date as pricing changed. You can also find the flex panels in our Travel Store: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/store
I did see the Amazon pricing but because I didn’t see a similar kit in the traditional panels at first glance on amazon’s site, I wasn’t really sure how much of a difference over traditional panels there was. Based on that pricing, it looks like around $2,600 for the 500 watts of solar you had installed, plus the installation cost.
A quick look at some of the other panels and set ups available at amazon, it appears the flexible panels would be maybe twice the cost of a similar traditional set up. It would be interesting to find out whether the installation cost might be less expensive because of what seems to be the relative ease of attaching the flexible panels to the roof.
When it comes to installs that varies from rig to rig and isn’t something we are qualified to quote on considering we have only had experience with 2 different coaches and solar. You could call and get a quote from a couple of different service centers.