Fixed Solar Panels

Fixed vs. Portable Solar Panels: 6 Key Differences

If you’re in the market for solar panels, you’ve probably come across two types: fixed and portable. While one is more expensive than the other, you might be wondering which is the better option for your RV or otherwise.

Generally, fixed solar panels are more durable and less costly in the long run. They also produce more energy and allow for refunds. However, portable panels are easier to use and can be placed practically anywhere.

This article will focus on the key differences between fixed and portable solar panels in more detail.  

1. Fixed Panels Have a Higher Energy Output

As fixed panels are usually larger, they can harvest more solar energy, so you can get more energy output out of them. This is why portable solar panels are usually used to power smaller operations such as a campsite, whereas fixed panels are more suitable for entire homes or larger operations. 

When calculating the wattage you can get out of solar panels, remember that the size of the solar panels is proportional to energy output. That’s because as the solar panels increase in size, there are more photovoltaic cells. Fixed solar panels are generally larger, which translates to more energy output. 

Also, because portable panels aren’t fixed in the ideal position, they won’t get the most out of peak sunlight hours unless you make the effort to ensure they are. Fixed panels are generally placed on an RV’s rooftop—where they can get plenty of sunlight. 

At the end of the day, this all depends on your energy requirements. If the wattage you’re getting from portable solar panels is enough for your needs, then the difference between the two options (in terms of energy output) is only convenience and nothing more.

2. Fixed Solar Panels Have Limited Portability

Fixed solar panels can only fit onto the rooftop of your RV or other vehicles, whereas you can take a portable solar panel with you anywhere you go. Some models are foldable, so you can carry them inside your backpack, whereas others can hang on the side of your backpack.

In any case, this means you can leave your RV in a parking space and go for a hike with your portable solar panel to power your campsite. However, you can’t do the same with a fixed solar panel. In other words, you’d need to decide between having power or staying where your RV can go. 

In general, fixed solar panels aren’t a feasible option if you’re mostly going to need them away from a vehicle. That is if you need them for camping, hiking, or other uses where you’d be far from a vehicle or house where the fixed panels can be installed. 

3. Fixed Solar Panels Can Be Limiting Spacewise

The major problem with using fixed solar panels is that you’re limited in the space you can utilize to harvest solar energy. Typically, you’re limited to the size of your rooftop.

On the other hand, with portable solar panels, you can carry as many panels as you want. Once you reach your chosen campsite, you can lay them out on the ground utilizing as much space as needed.

If you already don’t have much space to use, this point won’t make much of a difference. For example, if you’re living out of your RV, then you’re likely only to use the rooftop anyway. 

Of course, the rooftop fixed version may be more efficient and generates an equivalent wattage. So, compare and contrast your options depending on the different models you have available. 

4. Portable Solar Panels Are Easier To Use

Portable solar panels are much easier to operate because they’re generally plug-and-use. There’s little to no installation involved, and you can usually connect several portable solar panels to each other with ease. 

Fixed solar panels, on the other hand,  require installation, which might mean hiring a professional. This also adds to the overall initial investment you need to make. You’ll also need to choose panels that are appropriate for use on the rooftop of your vehicle or wherever you intend to install them.

Overall, portable solar panels can be purchased and installed on the same day with no need for hiring anyone to help. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can still easily use your portable solar panels. That option isn’t available for anyone using fixed solar panels.

5. Fixed Solar Panel Installations Attract Tax Refunds 

Many governments in developed countries offer tax refunds or a point collecting system to people who purchase and install fixed solar panels as an initiative to encourage their usage.

For example, in the United States, you can expect a federal solar tax credit for installed solar panels. Other initiatives vary depending on the state you live in. However, these initiatives don’t apply to using a portable solar panel because it’s a smaller investment that the government doesn’t see as long-term. 

6. Fixed Solar Panels Are Costlier

Fixed solar panels are generally more expensive to purchase up front, which means they’re a bigger investment. However, because they produce more electricity and are more efficient, you’re getting a better return on your investment. Also, as mentioned earlier, having fixed solar panels enables you to apply for tax refunds or benefit from other governmental initiatives. 

Conversely, portable solar panels require a smaller investment up front but are more costly in the long run. Generally, they’re less durable, and you might end up replacing them multiple times over the years, which adds to their overall cost.


As you can see, there are pros and cons to both types of solar panels. While fixed solar panels are the better option overall, they may not be feasible for some people or in certain situations. In any case, whatever you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is a good step toward saving the planet.

If you intend to do a lot of hiking, opt for portable solar panels to power your campsites without worrying about where your vehicle is parked. However, choose fixed solar panels for a long-term investment that comes with better initiatives and more efficient energy production.


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