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

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Solar panels have been out in 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.

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.

9BB vs. 5BB solar panels

So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!

By the way, solar panels are just one part of an entire solar system build. Check out our comprehensive DIY solar guide for more information.

…Or better yet, download our FREE solar and electric ebooks for clear & intuitive build diagrams.

What Does “9BB” Mean For Solar Panels?

A 9BB solar panel has 9 bus bars that connect individual solar cells to other solar cells within the panel. 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 9 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

Prior to 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 5 bus bars are used to connect the individual solar cells together, instead of the 9 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

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

DIY a solar system within your budget with our FREE custom solar diagrams eBook. 

Also download our FREE electrical & plumbing eBooks

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 normal 5BB panels) to conduct electricity between each solar cell.

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

And 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 great, but for us camper van travelers, we are more excited for the fact that a 9BB solar panel has a smaller physical dimension compared to a similar 5BB solar panel of the same wattage.

In the below table, we compare 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% – 11.4% smaller than their 5BB panel counterparts.

9BB solar panels are more compact compared to 5BB panels

Solar Panel Type


Where To Buy

Newpowa 5BB 100W

44.5" x 20.1" = 894 Sq. In.

BougeRV 9BB 100W

39.2" x 21.3" = 835 Sq. In.

100W 9BB panel is 6.6% smaller

Renogy 5BB 200W

65" x 26.4" = 1716 Sq. In.

BougeRV 9BB 200W

54.7" x 27.8" = 1521 Sq. In.

200W 9BB panel is 11.4% smaller

Depending on your application, the space savings by purchasing 9BB solar panels may or may not be important. 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 important since roof space is so limited in mobile homes.

Increased Lifespan Of Solar Panel

Over the years, solar panels will experience 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 their more numerous bus bars that connect 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

Certainly the biggest downside of 9BB solar panels is their sales price. Although prices are always changing, at time of writing, 9BB panels can be anywhere between 5-25% more expensive than 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 the most popular solar panel suppliers on Amazon.

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.

As always, we recommend you compare the prices on Amazon vs. the discounted price you can get from the BougeRV website.

200 Watt Solar Panels

Where To Buy?

100W 9BB

180W 9BB

200W 9BB

100W 'Super' Flexible 9BB

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

Download our free eBooks for your upcoming solar, electrical, and plumbing projects.

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

Because of their increased cost, you may be thinking whether or not 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 but they also 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, then these newer solar panels may not be the best choice for you.

But in our opinion, if you are looking to install solar panels on your camper van or RV and your budget allows it, these 9BB solar panels are absolutely the best choice. That is because roof space is limited on mobile homes. And oftentimes you can only fit two, maybe three, solar panels on your roof.

Two solar panels on a camper van
Two solar panels on our Ford Transit roof

But having smaller solar panels may allow you to better fit your panels on your camper’s roof. Perhaps you can now fit three 9BB panels whereas you might only be able to fit two 5BB solar panels.

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

Lastly, with the abusive nature that solar panels experience while afixed on a camper roof, micro cracks are, unfortunately, a common occurrence. This leads to a degradation of solar panel performance over time.

By switching over to 9BB solar panels, you can combat the micro crack phenomenon and keep your solar panels performing at optimum levels for as long as possible.

Discount Code For BougeRV 9BB Solar Panels

We’re proud to partner with BougeRV, who provides some of the highest quality, cutting-edge solar panels on the market today.

The majority of the solar panels they provide are the 9BB variety and they supply solar panels that range from 100W to 200W of power.

Apply the discount code ASOBOLIFE14 to receive an exclusive 14% discount on all products from their website. Products also include:

  • Solar mounting kits
  • Solar wires, fuses,  & MC4 connectors
  • Solar charge controllers
  • Entry glands
  • And more…

200 Watt Solar Panels

Where To Buy?

100W 9BB

180W 9BB

200W 9BB

100W 'Super' Flexible 9BB

Get exclusive discount on solar, power station & 12v fridge from BougeRV

Conclusion: The Future Of Solar Is Here

We hope this post helped teach you what 9BB solar panels are and how they differ to 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 out a camper van solar system.

And remember, if you’re ready to DIY your own solar system, check out our DIY solar home page and download our free solar eBook with easy to understand diagrams.

If you have any questions regarding these new type of solar panels, please don’t hesitate to send us an email or leave a comment in the section below.

Happy travels!

Go back: DIY Van Build Guide

Thank You For Reading!

We’re Yuko and Eric! We both grew up in Asia ( Japan & Hong Kong ), we left our jobs and homes in 2018 and started traveling full time from Canada to Argentina in our self-converted camper van since end of May 2019. “Asobo” means “Let’s play” in Japanese. We named our site “Asobolife” because the life is always uncertain and we live only once so it’s important to always keep positive, playful mind and enjoy the moment you are in the present. We also want to use this website to share our road trip and van building experiences to inspire our readers. We hope you enjoy!

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