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What Are 9BB Solar Panels? Are They Worth It for Camper Vans?

Solar panels have been on the market for years now and have helped provide reliable off-grid power for homes, outdoor camping enthusiasts, camper vans, and RVs. And every few years, new advances in solar panel technology allow us to harvest solar power at greater and greater efficiency.

These days, you might have noticed “9BB” solar panels are becoming increasingly popular on the web. Whether you are looking to buy 100w, 150w, 180w, or even 200w solar panels, you will have a choice of buying ‘standard technology’ solar panels or the new ‘9BB’ technology panels.

9BB vs. 5BB solar panels

In this post, we will explain what 9BB solar panels are, why they are more efficient than older panels, and whether these new panels are worth the extra investment. And because we are a camper van conversion blog, we also discuss whether these 9BB solar panels are worth it for van life.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, this site earns from qualifying purchases. Though we may earn a commission, the price you pay always remains the same.

What Does “9BB” Mean for Solar Panels?

A 9BB solar panel has nine bus bars connecting individual solar cells to other solar cells. The more bus bars a solar panel has, the more efficient the panel is at conducting electricity, and the panel experiences reduced loss of power. 9BB panels are an upgrade to the previous 5BB panels.

A ‘bus bar’ is a metal strip that conducts electricity throughout the solar cells and these strips almost always run vertically to connect the various solar cells together.  Refer to the below image to visualize the nine bus bars per solar cell.

What is a 9BB solar panel? Indicating where the 9 bus bars are
Showing where the 9 bus bars are on a 9BB solar panel

9BB vs. 5BB Solar Panels

Before the newer 9BB solar panels, 5BB solar panels were the most popular and most power-efficient panels. Of course, 5BB signifies “5 bus bars”. This means only five bus bars connect the individual solar cells together, instead of the nine that are used now.

In the below image, you can see the visual difference between a 9BB and 5BB solar panel. The 9BB panel has more vertical lines (bus bars) connecting each solar cell.

9BB solar panels vs. 5BB solar panels
Showing the different in 9BB and 5BB solar panels

But how much more efficient are 9BB solar panels compared to their 5BB counterparts? From our solar partners at BougeRV, they’ve reported an efficiency increase of 25% by switching from 5BB to 9BB solar panels.

9BB vs. 5BB solar panel efficiency difference
9BB vs. 5BB solar panel efficiency

Now that you know the basics of what a 9BB panel is, let’s discuss some of their benefits and drawbacks and whether or not they are worth it for you.

What Are the Benefits of 9BB Solar Panels?

Higher Production Efficiency

The largest benefit of 9BB solar panels is their increased efficiency at converting sunlight into power to charge your battery bank. This is because 9BB solar panels have an additional 4 bus bars (when compared to standard 5BB panels) to conduct electricity between each solar cell.

Better conductivity means less power loss as electricity travels throughout the solar panel, which ultimately translates to higher solar power conversion efficiency.

As mentioned above, 9BB solar panels are up to 25% MORE efficient than the standard 5BB solar panels.

9BB solar panel high efficiency graphic
High efficiency 9BB solar panels

Smaller Physical Footprint

A higher conversion efficiency is excellent, but for us camper van travelers, we are more excited about the fact that a 9BB solar panel has a smaller physical dimension compared to a similar 5BB solar panel of the same wattage.

The table below compares the dimensions of 5BB and 9BB 100W and 200W solar panels.

And as you can see, 9BB solar panels can be anywhere from 6.6% to 11.4% smaller than their 5BB panel counterparts.

Depending on your application, the space savings by purchasing 9BB solar panels may or may not be significant. But if you happen to be selecting solar panels for a camper van or RV, then you’ll know that every square inch of savings is essential since roof space is so limited in mobile homes.

Increased Lifespan of Solar Panel

Over the years, solar panels will experience a loss of production capabilities. It’s not uncommon to see solar panel manufacturers provide a 25-year warranty for only up to 80% of their original output.

Total solar output declines over time because of micro-cracks that form within the solar cells. Once a micro-crack forms, that part of the solar cell can no longer convert sunlight into power.

9BB solar panels experience less degradation over time when compared to 5BB panels because they are less affected by micro-cracks. This is due to the numerous bus bars connecting each solar cell.

Micro cracks in a solar panel
Micro cracks in a solar panel

When a micro-crack occurs in a 9BB solar panel, only 1/9th of the solar cell (11%) is affected. Compare this to a 5BB solar panel, where a microcrack will affect 1/5th of the solar cell (20%).

What Are the Downsides of 9BB Solar Panels?

Higher Price Point

Undoubtedly, the biggest downside of 9BB solar panels is their sales price. Although prices are constantly changing, 9BB panels can be anywhere between 5-25% more expensive at their 5BB solar panel counterparts.

However, due to their higher conversion efficiency, smaller physical footprint, and greater resistance to normal wear and tear (microcracks), we think spending the extra money for higher quality and more efficient 9BB solar panels is worth it over the long run.

To help you find the best price for these 9BB solar panels, refer to our table below. We help you compare prices for four of Amazon’s most popular solar panel suppliers.

We also negotiated a fantastic 14% discount from our partners at BougeRV if you purchase solar panels on their website. Apply the code ASOBOLIFE14 to receive this discount.

Do you need to know how much solar you need for your camper van? Check out our solar calculator to learn more.

Are 9BB Solar Panels Worth It for Camper Van Life?

Because of their increased cost, you may be considering whether 9BB solar panels are worth the investment. After all, converting an entire camper van isn’t cheap, and money isn’t unlimited.

If you can afford the higher price, 9BB solar panels are worth the extra cost. Not only are 9BB solar panels more efficient at converting sunlight into power and degrade at a slower rate compared to 5BB panels due to their nine-bus bar construction. This gives them a longer life span.

But due to their increased price compared to 5BB panels, these newer 9BB solar panels are not an obvious choice for every circumstance. If you are on a tight budget or do not care for the more compact dimensions of a 9BB panel, these newer solar panels may not be the best choice.

Check out our step-by-step solar panel layout guide to help you plan your solar panel arrangement on your camper van’s roof.

Conclusion: The Future Of Solar Is Here

We hope this post helped teach you what 9BB solar panels are and how they differ from the traditional 5BB panels. By now, you should know some of the benefits and advantages that 9BB panels offer and why we think they’re worth it when building a camper van solar system.

If you have any questions regarding these new types of solar panels, please leave a comment in the section below.

Happy travels!

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