solar panel mounting - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-19-2019, 07:54 PM   #1
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Name: George
Trailer: 83 Burro
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solar panel mounting

When I bought my 83 Burro, the solar panel was mounted by hinges to the fan cover. I didn't like this and added some 3M dual lock Velcro around it and a strap to hold the other end down. While driving in high winds, I saw the shadow of the camper in my rear window and noticed that the solar panel was sticking up. I pulled over. My strap was gone - and also 3 of the 4 screws holding the hinges on. Some Gorilla duct tape and a helpful truck driver who let me pull up next to him and use his steps to reach the fan got me home. I'm wondering how other people have mounted their solar panels. My first thoughts are to use VHB tape to mount the panel to the camper and also form some aluminum clips to help back it up. I don't like to drill holes in the camper for the aluminum clips, but it seems safer than just relying on the VHB tape.

How have you mounted your solar panels? What worked and what didn't?
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:02 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by GWMattson View Post
... I don't like to drill holes in the camper for the aluminum clips, but it seems safer than just relying on the VHB tape...
Asked and answered in the same post. VHB tape is good, but mechanical fasteners are better (and simpler for those who do not do their homework when it comes to proper use of VHB ).

Every time this comes up I am reminded of the problem with solar panels mounted with VHB tape to the roof of a Fiberglas trailer. The tape held fine to the gel coat.. but the gel coat came off the fiberglass underneath it and the panel flew off.
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:24 PM   #3
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I agree Gordon. Even if the VHB tape works, what it's mounted to can fail. I was doing some other searches and found that solar panels need airflow underneath to keep their temperatures down. Maybe mounting to the fan cover (to keep the panel off the roof) and securing the other end better is a good idea.
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Old 09-19-2019, 11:19 PM   #4
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I think the biggest problems with solar panels mounted on the roof are:
1. The panel is likely to blow off at high speeds (greater than 60 mph)
2. To be effective you have to park the trailer in the sun.
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Old 09-20-2019, 01:42 AM   #5
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Mechanical hardware is reliable. Tape (and epoxy) depends on proper cleaning and gelcoat application being done properly. Choice is yours.


Mine is now mounted with bolts, and I use hundreds of yards of 3M Industial grade VHB tape with a peel strength of 20 pounds per square inch every year on my products.


It was originally mounted with epoxy from the factory, but after a few panels going skyward (taking the gel coat with), they sent out a modification kit to every owner where they had ever installed a solar panel. Free, and even paid to install the kit regardless of warranty status.
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Old 09-20-2019, 06:22 AM   #6
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I didn't have to take that decision, as the previous owner mounted the small 30W panel with SS bolts through the roof. Last spring I upgraded to a 150W panel and used the same mounting points, yes there are holes in the FG but at least I know the panel will not fly off.
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Old 09-20-2019, 09:24 AM   #7
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Suitcase style for the win. First I can place it the sun while the camper is in the shade. Secondly I can use it on either one of my campers. Third no holes.

If I ever permanently mounted a panel, I’d do it on my pickup camper shell. Not worried about leaks on the shell and I just own one tow vehicle. I’d probably buy a separate battery but it’s not a big deal.
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Old 09-20-2019, 10:11 AM   #8
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Solar panel mounting

First off, I decided against a suitcase as it was one additional and large item to transport and hook up and keep from getting stolen, although I appreciate being able to reposition a panel for best performance.

So for mounting to the roof, anything other than mechanical fasteners as a primary means was ruled out as I didn't want to worry about becoming a statistic and a cause of someone else's accident. The 4 strut approach that Escape uses was not feasible as the 270W/24V panel was a bit larger than the 160W/12V panels and the curved surface did not allow for convenient and unobtrusive mounting that way. So I installed two 1 1/2"x3" aluminum rectangular tubes front to rear running along each side. Two mounting holes on each side were located in the overhead cabinets where they were hidden and backed up with 3" dia plywood backing plates and lots of adhesive sealant over under around and thru the fiberglass hole and between the roof and the rect tubing on top. Then I attached two 1 1/2" alum angles horizontally across the trailer to the 1 1/2"x3" rails and then mounted the panel to the angles using the manufacturer's std mounting brackets. No drilling new holes in the panel's frame so warranty is still in tact. The 1 1/2" angles also help protect the panel from tree limbs when backing up. This was definitely over engineered and required a lot of stainless steel fasteners which I check annually (none have loosened in two years and 15-20k miles. But I can sleep and tow without worry of leaks or accidents because of the solar panel.
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Old 09-20-2019, 10:43 AM   #9
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I can’t project the future. But the last few times I have camped seems like every other camper has a solar panel sitting out in the open. So my fear of theft is low.
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Old 09-20-2019, 07:32 PM   #10
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Bruce, I like your idea. You really designed it well. I decided to go the portable route though. I took the panel off tonight and designed a stand so it could be placed on the ground. I'll make a case for it too. Yes, I'm worried about theft. But I also don't like holes in my roof.
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Old 09-21-2019, 06:27 AM   #11
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well, i put a 100w renogy flexible panel on the roof of my casita attached with vhb tape. i spent a lot of time prepping the surfaces that it was being attached to. after the vhb tape i ran white gorilla tape around the edges of the panel as insurance and to prevent highway air somehow getting underneath and causing lift. after 2 years everything is still firmly attached and i check it often. the one advantage of having a panel on the roof of the trailer is that since it's permanently wired to it's controller it's charging the batteries while underway (assuming there's sun).

i also have a 100w renogy rigid panel mounted on the roof of my tow truck. i connect to it's controller with cables and connectors. if i wind up in a shady site i can pull the truck to the sun (sometimes). and yes, i can use both at the same time. if all else fails i still have a honda generator mounted over the propane tanks as a source of amps.

all of this is primarily a result of having a 12v/120v fridge. a small norcold that uses the danfoss compressor (very efficient). there's a pair of 220ah agm golf cart batteries that have so far been able to keep up with my power requirements. and then there's my tendency toward overkill and a lot of free time on my hands.

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Old 09-21-2019, 08:40 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by patrick crawford View Post
...after the vhb tape i ran white gorilla tape around the edges of the panel as insurance and to prevent highway air somehow getting underneath and causing lift. after 2 years everything is still firmly attached and i check it often. ..
My understanding is that without air circulation under the panel it will run hot and end up being both be less efficient and with a shorter life span - losing efficiency faster than if it had air underneath. With the rapid progress in PV panel technology the life span might be a moot point if you end up replacing them in 5 years (or less) with something more state-of-the-art then. And the fact that they are always deployed mitigates the loss in efficiency to some extent.

Still I think the best option for some people is to not put all your eggs in one basket. Split it up. Use both roof mounted and portable. For myself, a portable unit is best. The camper is usually in the trees or under a carport and while driving the tug is charging the camper battery, so I dont have much use for a roof mounted panel.
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Old 09-22-2019, 06:22 AM   #13
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Quote:
My understanding is that without air circulation under the panel it will run hot and end up being both be less efficient and with a shorter life span - losing efficiency faster than if it had air underneath.
i spoke with renogy regarding that and was told the efficiency loss was negligible and he pointed out that the flex panels were made to be mounted on curved surfaces which made the use of a frame problematic. and you're right, with the advances in panel technology i'd imagine i'll be ready for an upgrade when/if the roof mounted unit dies.

we'll see....

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Old 09-23-2019, 10:22 PM   #14
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there is a new class of soft foldable solar "suitcase" panels that are light in weight, slim and smaller in overall dimensions. They are much easier to store that the big ridged portable panels.


What they are made from are the flexible solar panels that have been joined together with durable, tough fabric materials. There are a number of companies offering them now include Renogy. But Renogy does not seem to have them on their own website but they do sell them in their Amazon store.


Here is a youtube video review on 5 different of this type from various companies. From the cheaprvliving youtube channel




No doubt I will one of these days be getting one to add into my travel gear as I have limited roof space on my FGRV
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:20 PM   #15
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Surface High Bond Tape

I mounted a flexible 100 watt panel to the curved roof of my Happier Camper. Since I was installing it myself I used a surface mount high bond tape, around the perimeter, rather than VHB tape under the panel. This allowed me to get the panel in position, tack it down with painters tape, and then install the perimeter tape by myself. This installation has held up well now for about 1 year. The panel never works at full efficiency but it is never at the optimum angle to the sun. (After experiments I think this is having more impact than heat buildup behind the pane) I have since supplemented it with a suitcase type 100 watt panel, with a 30' 10 gauge cable, so that I can add power when the trailer is in the shade.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:42 PM   #16
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Sikaflex 291 I believe. I attached all my flexible solar panels to the. Top of my airstream. Not one mechanical fastener. Amazing stuff. You don't need as much as you think you would need. Fastened the zip tie mounting blocks with it too.
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Old 09-25-2019, 06:11 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by patrick crawford View Post
......

all of this is primarily a result of having a 12v/120v fridge. a small norcold that uses the danfoss compressor (very efficient). t

p@
Your Norcold might not have a danfoss compressor, in fact it might even be an Engel. Norcold was purchasing Engels and relabeling them as Norcold.


So some of their units have the swing motor compressor used in the Engels and are even more efficient than the Danfoss compressors are. Here is a link to the chart showing which of the Norcold models were made by Engel.

https://www.engelcoolers.com/norcold


The Sawafuji Swing Motor is a true reciprocating compressor; it has only one moving part. It doesn't get any simpler. The piston is connected to an electro dynamic device which is powered by the use of magnetic fields. With this technology there is no need for bearings, cranks or con-rods, so less moving parts means less chance of failure. With only one moving part there is a very low friction loss which means this is a highly efficient compressor.
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