Easy No-Drill Solar Install - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-27-2014, 06:21 PM   #1
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Name: Mike
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Easy No-Drill Solar Install

I thought I'd share my solar install with you all since this seems to be a topic that comes up a lot. First, the background...

Most of the solar installations I've seen on campers involve big, heavy, metal-framed panels that are designed to go on the roof of your house. Mounting them on a fiberglass trailer is tough because the roof is curved, there isn't much space, and nobody wants to drill holes for wires and mounting brackets.

The flexible "peel and stick" panels are easy to install, but most people avoid them because they're underpowered. UniSolar used to make a 68 watt panel, but in order to generate that much power, it had to be NINE FEET LONG because the design was so inefficient.

The latest design is the semi-flexible panel. You can bend them up to 30 degrees, which will easily fit the contours of a fiberglass trailer. Best of all, they are just as efficient as traditional glass-top panels. I found a 70 watt panel made by ApolloFlex, which measures 21x31 inches and weighs 3 pounds. In terms of wattage per square inch, you'll have a hard time beating that. If you're interested in one of these, you should also check out Grape Solar, Solbian, Ganz, and Solara.



Anyway... on to the actual installation. I have a Scamp 13, and it looks like the ideal spot for it is right here in front of the AC unit.




To attach it to the roof, I'm using a product from 3M called VHB Tape (short for Very High Bond). It looks like double stick tape, but it's A LOT tougher. It's waterproof, weatherproof, and has a shear strength of 4 pounds per square inch. 3M claims that this tape is "strong enough to replace screws, rivets and studs".





According the specifications, I have enough tape on here to hold several hundred pounds. My panel only weighs 3 pounds, so I figure this is enough.



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Old 04-27-2014, 06:27 PM   #2
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Did I mention surface prep? Obviously, you need to clean the top of your trailer. 3M recommends using "3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner", and then scuffing the surface to make the tape stick better, but that's overkill. I'm using soap, water, and a scotch brite pad.

And now we attach the panel. Pay attention to the orientation of the wiring, and make sure the panel is straight because once it touches the trailer, it's not coming off.



Awesome! Now we need to run the wire. This is a no-drill installation, so we're running the wire on the OUTSIDE of the trailer, and bringing it in through the factoring wiring inlet, here.




Just loosen the screws, insert the wire for your solar panel, re-caulk, and tighten the screws. The wires feed through to the storage compartment under the sofa, so this is where we're putting our charge controller.



The battery leads feed in through this hole too, which makes the installation easier. Black is positive and white is negative. I'm using an MPPT controller to boost the amperage. And I'm attaching that with VHB tape too, because why the heck not.



Now we have to do something about the loose, dangling cable on the outside of the trailer.



There are several ways to address this. You could use VHB tape to attach an exterior wiring conduit. You could attach some cable tie anchors. Or you could do what I did and just make the cable removable. If you think about it, there are really only 2 scenarios when you need solar power when you're boon docking and to maintain the battery when the trailer is in storage. The rest of the time, you can disconnect it and run on shore power.

These are the connectors I used to make the cable detachable. They're quick disconnects, made by Minn Kota for trolling motors. You can find them at Walmart.



Hopefully this will be helpful to those of you who are looking into solar power.
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Old 04-27-2014, 06:58 PM   #3
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Looks Great!

how about a link to where you bought your panel?
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Old 04-27-2014, 08:11 PM   #4
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I found a link for the apolloflex solar panel...ouch 589 for a panel is steep, thats like 1200$ for 70w...

Cool product but out of my price range......got my 90w with controller and wirering for 190$... Yes my install will be harder...but not 1000$ harder.... Not saying you did bad...good for you if you can afford it, if i could i would also.

I would place the wires around the window , then. Straight down to the entrance... You can get rubber cable pass for cheap, just stick some of that vhb behinds it.
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Old 04-27-2014, 08:14 PM   #5
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Thumbs up

Well done Mike!
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Old 04-27-2014, 09:07 PM   #6
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how about a link to where you bought your panel?
I got it at altEstore for $629. And I wish I had shopped around a little more because right after I bought it, I found a higher wattage panel for half that price at Home Depot of all places. It even has a quick disconnect for the wiring.

$298 - 100 W Semi-Flexible Panel by Grape Solar
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Old 04-27-2014, 09:15 PM   #7
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Most popular wiring routing method I've seen is down the fridge vent. Hope your cleaning method works for you, I use many industrial 3M VHB tapes in my biz and am not familiar with that retail packaging. Is there a part number?
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Old 04-27-2014, 09:22 PM   #8
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I would place the wires around the window , then. Straight down to the entrance... You can get rubber cable pass for cheap, just stick some of that vhb behinds it.
I thought about that, but the Scamps have that big aluminum ring that joins the top section to the bottom section and I'd need a way to get the wire around it. I thought about going over top of it, or drilling through it, but I couldn't think of a way to do it cleanly.
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Old 04-27-2014, 09:31 PM   #9
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I use many industrial 3M VHB tapes in my biz and am not familiar with that retail packaging. Is there a part number?
It's 3M VHB 5952. But I found a million different part numbers and I'm not sure what the differences are. Do you have any recommendations? I'm curious as to which one is the strongest.
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Old 04-27-2014, 09:54 PM   #10
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It's 3M VHB 5952. But I found a million different part numbers and I'm not sure what the differences are. Do you have any recommendations? I'm curious as to which one is the strongest.
5952 is an upper level descriptor of a family of 3M tapes. There isn't really a "strongest" as applications vary (temp, UV, material surface energies, etc.) It is a closed cell tape (meaning it won't absorb water) with a wide temp range, so SHOULD work well for your application if the bonded surfaces were properly prepared.You can view links to the relevant documents if you use the "documents" tab here: **3M™ VHB™ Tape 5952

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Old 04-28-2014, 02:34 AM   #11
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These are fantastic products. I've encountered flexible panels on boat decks and it is impressive to be able to walk on them.

I considered using these lighter style solar panels, but my roof is rubber. Some of these tapes are impossible to remove with destroying something . I was planning to use this tape for attaching paneling in my other camper to provide a thermal break.

Flexible panels are great fit for fiberglass camper's. They are light, which is exactly what you want on a fiberglass egg camper. And of course they flex and then to follow the smooth curves of an egg camper.

The downside is the cost. However, it is reasonable for what you get.

I would not be nervous about drilling a hole to bring the wires it though. Some people have a hard time drilling holes in waterproof fiberglass. It's not all that bad an idea, you could use a cable gland with duplex round wire. My preference would be to bring it through the roof and through some cabinets and keep the wire entirely hidden.

I like the connectors also. I just bought two small 3 watt solar panels to top up the batteries on my excavator. It's a 24 volt system so I cut the wires and spliced them to hook the panels up in series. The connectors that they came with where the same ones you used. I really like them, I think they work well for lower current connectors. Plus they can't be hooked up wrong. Is it possible to fix these connectors to the wire of your choice or are they all molded fittings?
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Old 04-28-2014, 04:05 AM   #12
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Thanks for all the good info.
What brand of Controller did you use?

AM Solar wrote a review of the Grape Solar flexible panel.
Flexible 100 Watt Solar Panel | Solar Panels
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Old 04-28-2014, 10:13 AM   #13
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Mike, I would think you could run the wire through the airconditioning housing using a cable gland with duplex round wire, then it's just a short tunnel under the rat fur to the upper cabinet, and from there you have several options to get it to the lower cabinet and onto your present mounting location....but your's is a nice solution also. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 04-28-2014, 11:46 AM   #14
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What brand of Controller did you use?
It's a Genasun GV10-PB-12V. Nothing special about this controller. I chose it because it uses MPPT and it was $65.

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