Flexible solar panel kits are a type of off grid energy system.
A simple 100 Watt, 18 volt, 1 panel set up has proved very useful for users looking to charge 12 volt batteries across a range of applications.
Camping, RV’ing, boats, home and even remote cabins can use flexible solar panels to drip feed/charge DC batteries from the sun’s light.
But, if you’re new to this type of technology, what do you look for to get started?
That’s what this guide is for – to give you an idea of what you’ll need (apart from the panel) to get up and running!
Flexible Solar Panel Kits: A Starter’s Guide Of What Should Be Included
Below is a list of what should be included in a kit (whether you buy it all together or separately) to get your flexible solar panel set up:
1. The Panel
Flexible solar panels come in standard sizes of 50, or 100 watts.
Generally, 1 x 100 watt flexible solar panel will be enough to charge 1 x 12 volt DC battery – as long as you are getting plenty of sunlight during the days.
From a compatibility perspective, you want to make sure the panel is at least an 18 volt panel, as a a standard 12V re-chargeable battery needs roughly 13.6 volts to charge.
If you want more information on how to estimate the amount of Watts and number of panels you will need for your battery set up – you can read more in this guide.
It’s worth noting with a flexible panel – they come with pre fabricated metal ring mounting holes that you can apply most types of fixings through.
2. Junction box and connectors
The junction box is usually built into the panel and comes with diodes on either end. Check that the junction box is sealed and waterproof.
The connectors are usually MC4 connectors (but can be another type).
MC4 connectors make it easy to connect from the panel to other connectors when you are connecting more than one panel together (as long as you have male and female connectors).
You can also connect from the panel to a solar controller if you are just using one panel.
3. Solar controller
Without getting technical – a solar controller balances/regulates the charge coming from the panel/s into your batteries.
There are two types of solar controller’s – the PWM type, and the MPPT type.
9 times out of 10, for a basic solar panel setup with 50 or 100 watt panels, you’ll be fine with the cheaper PWM controllers.
They usually are rated for somewhere up to around 400 Watts, or 4 x 100 Watt flexible panels – but check with the controller you get what the Watt, Amps and Voltage ratings are.
Two other things with the solar controller to look out for:
They usually come with some type of LCD display to measure the panel performance. You may choose to get a separate display device to track panel and battery health and performance, as these controller displays can be basic
You may choose to have several panel connected together that funnel into the one connector, OR, you can choose to have each panel connected up to their own solar controller
4. Cables – trey cables or extension cables
Cables are pretty self explanatory – they connect the controller to your batteries, wherever they are located.
Make sure you look at the length of the cables that come with the solar panel (if they come with any).
Also, look at the distance between where your panels and controller are located, and where your batteries are that you want to charge.
You want to have long enough cables to span this distance.
Batteries are not a part of what you usually get with a solar kit, but they are the end part of the system where the solar power travels to.
We are talking RV batteries, camper trailer batteries, marine batteries, cabin batteries etc.
Usually, they are 12 volt batteries assembled in a bank of batteries – so, you need to make sure that the total voltage of your solar panel bank is enough for the total voltage of your battery bank.
6. Setup tools and accessories
You will need basic tools and accessories like:
A solar panel assembly tool (like the Renogy assembly tool), or a tool suitable for the fixing you choose
Fixings or adhesive of your choice – people have used zip ties, silicon, metal fixings – it depends on what you are fixing or hanging the panel to
7. AC Inverter (optional)
If you want to convert the DC energy your solar panel produces into AC household energy for household items – you’ll need an inverter.
8. Regenerator (optional)
A regenerator is a box or device to store the DC energy from your solar panel.
The panel sends energy to the regenerator – which stores the energy – so that you can use it whenever you like, for example, at night or when it’s a cloudy day.
*NOTE: you should always read the manufacturer instructions to make sure you are using the solar panel in the way it was intended