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Old 25-05-2017, 16:29   #1
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Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

No, not your boiled eggs but your solar panels!

I'm currently determining whether I should install flexible or hard solar panels to the hardtop on my Catalina 350. The hard panels look, shall I say, ugly whereas the soft panels would be unseen on my hardtop dodger. I am an aesthetic so prefer the hidden soft version but I am also a realist and want sustainable performance. My marine electrician says the flexible ones will not go the distance in the tropics which is where the boat will be used.

Could I please ask those who have utilised both hard and soft panels to pass on your experiences/ thoughts, etc.

Many thanks in anticipation of your advice(s).

Alex
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Old 25-05-2017, 16:42   #2
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

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No, not your boiled eggs but your solar panels!

I'm currently determining whether I should install flexible or hard solar panels to the hardtop on my Catalina 350. The hard panels look, shall I say, ugly whereas the soft panels would be unseen on my hardtop dodger. I am an aesthetic so prefer the hidden soft version but I am also a realist and want sustainable performance. My marine electrician says the flexible ones will not go the distance in the tropics which is where the boat will be used.

Could I please ask those who have utilised both hard and soft panels to pass on your experiences/ thoughts, etc.

Many thanks in anticipation of your advice(s).

Alex
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Old 25-05-2017, 16:45   #3
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

Hard.You may as well fire your marine electrician since you are going to believe a forum over him!!!!!
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Old 25-05-2017, 16:52   #4
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

Before I installed my 4 hard panels (at the time about 4-5 years ago could not afford soft ones of the same wattage) I used one soft panel which I bought used. It was well worn already but showed decent current and was OK to keep the batteries topped up but not much more. After a few years of use it deteriorated significantly but I do not know its original age or use so can't say if it was a few years old when I got it or many years old.

Today I would probably go for the flex panels as the prices are way down compared to 4-5 years ago and IMO it does not make sense to anticipate 15-20 years usage as the technology grows exponentially and even in 5-7 years today's top of the line ones will be so-so and/or too bulky, not powerful enough, etc. On the other hand though, at the same time, the electricity demand is diminishing as LEDs etc are all in use so there may not be a need to get any more wattage 10 years from now. So I plan these things for 3-5 years ahead and then will see what happens.

My boat is due for a major electric upgrade anyway so I will probably get new soft panels at that time. The one good thing with hard panels is that they weather much better and after cleaning will look almost new which will help with resale. Which you can't say about the soft ones. At least not about the ones I've seen used.
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Old 25-05-2017, 16:54   #5
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

I've got cheapie flex panels. They won't make it to five years(unless the degradation stops immediately) I changed from hard and will replace the cheap flexible panels with good flex panels when it's time to redo the dodger.

That said, if I could mount 200 watts of hard panels without causing other problems I would still have hard panels. It's a boat, so it's a compromise.
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Old 25-05-2017, 17:00   #6
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

Since my panels are mounted on the hard top my only issue with them is the weight. That's why I would do the flex ones when upgrading my electrical.
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Old 25-05-2017, 17:05   #7
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

I have both. Different tools for different applications. My semi-flex are mounted forward on my cabin where solids would be hard to install. My hard panels make up my bimini. I've used my setup seasonally in the Great Lakes.

The semi-flex are high quality panels that have been installed now for four years. The hard panels are also quality builds, but only running for their second season now. So far, so good.
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Old 25-05-2017, 17:08   #8
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

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Hard.You may as well fire your marine electrician since you are going to believe a forum over him!!!!!
Not so. He is a top flight electrician and I take his advice seriously but we all have biases as I know as a once upon a time aeronautical engineer. I take advice from more than one source, weigh things up then decide.

A well known quote "I never learnt anything from somebody who agreed with me"
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Old 25-05-2017, 17:27   #9
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

I have both.

Hard, unless there is no way to make them work. Yes they will be visible, but they will only stick up a few inches. I use flex where I don't have the boom clearance for hard, but they are not as good.

The thing to remember is that soft panels use the same cells, but with the protective glass and frame removed. They develop micro cracks if flexed at all, and the plastic lens is not UV resistant like glass. Also remember that the plastic must be devoid of UV screens since they would reduce output.

Even cheap hard panels lass, and even the best flex panels have reported early failures.


This hard top has two rigid panels on it--just keep the mounting legs short (I use glue-on studs).

Does pretty really matter that much? The boat is a tool to take us places not jewelry.
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Old 25-05-2017, 18:03   #10
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

Flexible panels eventually "cup" in the sun, trap dirt, get scratched. they also get really hot if there's no airflow under them, significantly reducing output
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Old 26-05-2017, 09:18   #11
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

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Hard.You may as well fire your marine electrician since you are going to believe a forum over him!!!!!

Well, that wasn't very nice. There are a lot of dumb marine electricians, mechanics, painters, etc. and there is no way you can find out until they show their colors. The OP is just covering his bases.
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Old 26-05-2017, 22:15   #12
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

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Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
I have both. Different tools for different applications. My semi-flex are mounted forward on my cabin where solids would be hard to install. My hard panels make up my bimini. I've used my setup seasonally in the Great Lakes.

The semi-flex are high quality panels that have been installed now for four years. The hard panels are also quality builds, but only running for their second season now. So far, so good.
Not much tropical air and sun there, but how are the semi-flex holding up and how many seasons in use?
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Old 27-05-2017, 04:57   #13
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

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Not much tropical air and sun there, but how are the semi-flex holding up and how many seasons in use?
I think Iím into our fifth year now with these semi-flexes. So far I can see no deterioration to their output or appearance. Not the same as year-round usage down south, but they do get extensive use from May to Sept/Oct. No complaints so far.
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Old 27-05-2017, 06:24   #14
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

I think there is no problem to mix and match them. Place hard ones where they fit the space, fit soft ones where they fit across a curved space.

The big +++ of the soft ones is they are much lighter.

Cheers,
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Old 27-05-2017, 07:01   #15
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Re: Do you like yours Hard or Soft?

My third year on semi-flex and I lost about 25% of the output due to fogging. My thought with mount hard panels, where you're mounting them is the biggest question. If weight and looks are not a issue and the boat is suited for the hard panels & frame, I would do hard panels in a second. I mounted my semi-flex on a bimini and it works for me.
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