There are several ways you can mount a flexible solar panel, but the two most common ones are by using either a mounting rack or an adhesive.
Using A Rack Mount
Make sure to gather all the parts you need for the mounting. This includes the arms, the mount, the screws and other moving parts, and finally the manual.
Flip the solar panel to its back and connect the arm bracket to it using screws. Make sure the screws are tight on both sides. Place lock washers to ensure the arm brackets fit properly. Then, the mount goes between the arm brackets and screws using the hex and nuts that came with the kit.
When you’ve assembled the mount, place it at the back of the rig on your RV using screws. Once the hex bolts and washers are in place, tighten them using the screwdriver and wrench.
Find the right angle. While this sounds easy, keep in mind that you’ll be able to squeeze the maximum power out of your solar panel only if you take in the variables such as the placement of the panels on your RV, your location, the sun’s direction throughout the day, etc.
Connect the equipment. Now, most manufacturers use MC4 connectors, so anyone can connect the junction box and the battery. Still, there are different ways of doing this, so best stick to your manual’s specifics and follow them to avoid damaging your panel and the equipment.
Using An Adhesive
Gluing the solar panel directly to the roof of your RV creates an overheating problem. Also, heating and cooling may cause it to crack as the roof and the panel have different expansion coefficients. This is why this method is the best one I’ve tried.
Make a sandwich of thin aluminum sheets and polyethylene, of the same dimensions as the back of your panel.
Glue the panel to the aluminum sandwich using a marine grade adhesive.
Glue the whole unit to a twin-wall polycarbonate roofing product with about an 8mm air gap and then glue it to the roof of your RV using a polycarbonate-friendly adhesive.
This way the sandwich construction will act as a buffer for the expansion differences, while keeping the solar panel itself cooler, allowing it to work at its peak efficiency.
How Do You Clean Flexible Solar Panels?
The best flexible solar panels with a polymer top coating are pretty much self-cleaning, as the next rain will wash away any dust and debris. However, there are situations when your panels will get soiled by bird droppings or tree sap so you need to clean them yourself. Here’s how to do it:
Check for stain deposits on your panel and try to remove them with fresh water. This will remove dust, leaves, and even some bird droppings that reduce the efficiency of your portable solar panel.
For more persistent stains and grease, you need to use neutral soap and water. Make sure not to use any aggressive cleaners. Apply the soap and scrub carefully without using the abrasive side. You can also use denatured alcohol to remove grease.
Use a gentle brush to remove the buildup from the corners. Avoid using a pressure washer which can damage your panels.
If you allow contaminants to build up over time, or see traces of oxidation, you may have to polish the panel. Use either ReJex or Novus brand polish, the latter of which will also remove fine scratches. Always polish the panels by hand, as a power polish may burn the surface with too much friction.
When your panel is clean and dry, apply a coat of a plastic protectorate, such as Plexus or Novus Plastic Cleaner.
Keep in mind that dirty flexible solar panels can lose 20% of their power output, and this comes straight from the Solar Energy Power Association.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory sets the figure even higher, at 25%.
Are Flexible Solar Panels Any Good?
Yes, flexible solar panels are good because they can be shaped to fit different structures, so they fit many types of solar projects. They are also lightweight which makes them easy to transport and deploy as needed.
Can You Walk On Flexible Solar Panels?
Yes, you can walk on certain types of monocrystalline solar and thin-film panels. Monocrystalline solar panels that have a strong aluminum backing and extra-thick ETFE laminate layer are safe for walking, as are many types of super-flexible thin-film panels. Still, always check your products’ specifications.
Do Flexible Solar Panels Get Hot?
Yes, flexible solar panels get hot, especially if you install them onto the metal roof of your RV or an off-grid cabin. Excessive heat reduces their lifespan and also makes them less efficient. This is why you should consider using a mounting rack or gluing them onto a raised aluminum sandwich plate.
How Do You Attach A Flexible Solar Panel To An RV Roof?
You can attach a flexible solar panel to an RV roof either by using a raised mount or gluing it to the roof directly. In the second case, you should put aluminum and polyethylene sheets between the solar panel and the roof to reduce the overheating.
How Do You Fix A Flexible Solar Panel?
Flexible solar panels usually come with several options for fixing. Most have metal grommets in their corners, allowing you to rig them to a frame or roof side. Some monocrystalline solar panels and all thin-film have peel & stick backsides which allow you to paste them directly.