fastening to the roof - Fiberglass RV
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Old 11-30-2022, 02:59 PM   #1
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Name: skip
Trailer: Bigfoot
Boca Raton
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fastening to the roof

Well it's taken 2 years but we finally got our Bigfoot 21. Now the work begins.
What is the best way to fasten things (solar panels, satellite dish, etc,) to the roof? What about the best way to get all the wires from the roof to inside? I want to remove and re-caulk all the penetrations so I'll be caulking like crazy.
I know that I'll be asking more questions in the future so thanks for everyones' help.
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Old 11-30-2022, 04:29 PM   #2
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This is what I used to bring the wires to my solar monitor. The manufacturer calls it a Cable Clam. This type of item is not hard to find at your local marine store. I through bolted it to the hull with stainless bolts and fender washers, and appropriate sealers applied between all parts. This was back in '13 and no leaks.


Not knowing the construction of your BigFoot I can't advise on the other, but someone will be along shortly to help you.


Enjoy your new trailer.
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Old 11-30-2022, 04:54 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply Bigfoots are fiberglass shell, insulation, and an inner shell so I can't just bolt it on as you suggested (did it that way on our boat). Don't know if I can just use stainless steel screws into the outer shell.
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Old 11-30-2022, 08:01 PM   #4
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On my Scamp I made brackets with VHB tape holding the panel down, and added 1 through bolt fastener as an extra security measure through an existing rivet hole. I ran the wiring down our roof mounted fridge vent since it was on the roof.
On Escapes, I believe they just used VHB tape in the past, but when one or two flew off (the gel coat gave out, not the tape) Escape started bolting the panels to the roof. Our factory installed 19' Escape has the solar wiring running down the top fridge vent.
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Old 12-01-2022, 08:39 AM   #5
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Just a little bit outside of the box, but why would you "roof mount" your satellite antenna? I made a mast from a 6 ft. section of a chain link fence post and couple of post mounting cups, which I just slide the antenna itself into a slide-in mount I made on the top of the pole. I can set the pole up either on the rear bumper, or in another mast holder base cup on the tongue, if satellite interference in the rear would be a problem.)

If you don't weld, it can be done by anyone with a welder in about 20 minutes.
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Old 12-01-2022, 09:48 AM   #6
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Only want to penetrate the fiberglass when there is no other way possible. We bought fiberglass campers for their lack of seams.

Both our 2003 Bigfoot 25 RQ and our current Escape 5.0 ran the solar wires down the refrigerator vent, so no cutting/drilling/extra penetrations involved. That much I do remember about our Bigfoot.

Escape has also had problems with the front mounted panel not being properly attached to the roof. That panel actually bent up in front from being too far forward, mounted side to side (east/west), catching the wind and bending/breaking the aluminum frame where GoPower had decided to provide a hole that if not used would cause the frame to fail in that spot.

I originally wanted to add 100-200 watts to the front of our Escape 5th wheel, but added three 100 watt Renogy panels when I realized once I was up there it was easy to add 300 watts. Our panels are mounted using VHB tape. In the past, Escape just plain botched the install when they mounted the panel on the roof with too little VHB tape and/or improper preperation. I also don't trust the VHB install of AM Solar with their minimal square inches of attachment area.

AM Solar uses only 2 1/2 square inches of VHB tape per mount or 10 sq/in per panel. That's hardly any VHB tape in my mind. Our front panel that's protected by the 24" wide fire escape hatch uses 54 sq/in per panel, the middle panel that's protected by the front panel 46 sq/in and the rear panel protected by the first two panels and the MaxxFan has 21 sq/in of VHB tape.

I would rather have overkill on the VHB tape than penetration of the hull with screws or bolts or an entrance gland.

For us, with 465 watts of power on the roof, we no longer have to nurse our batteries, and since the solar install have installed a 1,500 watt inverter so we can use our 750 watt toaster and charge our drill batteries. We usually are charging our phones and laptops every night (about 1ah per phone/laptop) with no problems running our furnace. Last winter in Arizona the batteries were charged by 11am every day at the latest.

I could go on and on (already have), but I won't penetrate a roof if not needed.

Food for thought,

Perry
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Old 12-01-2022, 11:25 AM   #7
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I really like VHB tape, but not for solar panels. I don't want the risk of killing somebody on the road.
I don't know the distance between layers on your trailer, but neoprene well nuts may be the best solution for you. You can use any bolt length with the right thread pattern. If you go to a hardware store, they'll probably label them expansion nuts. They won't come out until you want them to and they can't leak.
Good luck.
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Old 12-01-2022, 12:38 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon in Idaho View Post
I really like VHB tape, but not for solar panels. I don't want the risk of killing somebody on the road.
Anything not correctly installed or used can kill someone. I wonder how many have been killed by VHB attached solar panels. Probably zero. You have a much higher chance of a bicycle comming off the rear of the camper crashing through your windshield killing you than a solar panel. I can't even begin to count the number of poorly mounted bikes on campers I've seen over the years. I also personally know of a $5,000 trike on a poor camper mount that went sailing down the Interstate.

The panels I've heard of detaching were incorrectly installed and/or the people had a poor knowledge of physics. If you do not understand how to correctly use VHB tape you should not be using the product. There are many, many VHB installed users who do and have no problems with the physics involved.

Having read many articles on VHB tape here, the Escape Forum, Will Prowse's DYI Solar Forum, Good Sam forum, etc., I got a grip on how to and how not to use VHB tape. If you haven't already read the link to my install read it, and if you have read it, read it again and try to understand the physics involved. I'm not willing to drill into my fiberglass to use well nuts if I don't need to use them. I don't. Others do.

Food for thought,

Perry
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Old 12-01-2022, 01:44 PM   #9
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I'm with you, Perry

Careless or casual installations are a menace to us all. I watched a canoe slide off a vehicle once. Scary.
However, if there's the slightest chance of failure on something this important, whether by me or a product, I won't do it.
My first solar panels were by Renogy and well nuts were their recommendation. I had one panel removed for a while, and all I had to do was tighten down the bolts. No leaks. Ever. Easy.
If both these attachment methods cause you to cringe, remote panels and cables are the way to go.
Speaking of cables, I ran mine through the aluminum side wall of my escape hatch using rubber grommets for the heavy 10 ga. wires. Very convenient.


Carry on, everyone, and be as safe as you can.
Gordon
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Old 12-01-2022, 05:50 PM   #10
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Name: skip
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Boca Raton
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Thanks for all the replies. Now! What is VHB tape and how do I learn the correct way to use it?
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Old 12-01-2022, 07:38 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariaandskip View Post
Thanks for all the replies. Now! What is VHB tape and how do I learn the correct way to use it?

VHB: very high bond. Good stuff. You might call it double-sided tape. I think Perry has already given you a great start on learning how to use it.


I would like to point out something: your fiberglass shell already has some major holes in it, assuming you have a door and windows. Maybe you could order some uncut halves of the trailer and fashion a door in the floor and live in an igloo.

I know, this is a little tongue-in-cheek but, the integrity of your hull is already severely compromised, so what's the big deal with a few holes in the roof that are easy to plug?
For the record: my scamp is one of the first 140 made. It's 50 years old and still giving faithful service. I named it Opportunity because of the 3 solar panels oriented in 3 directions on the roof, much like the Mars rover, and also because it gave me an opportunity to explore autonomously. I put lettering on the side of my Scamp that says: "my battery is low....and it's getting dark" Opportunity's last message from Mars. Watch the recent Prime documentary if you can. It's excellent. R.I.P. Oppy.
Goodnight everyone, be kind.
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Old 12-01-2022, 09:00 PM   #12
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Name: Daniel A.
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After installing my satellite dish, the wires and cables were sealed with Flex Seal and there has never been a leak.
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Old 12-07-2022, 11:47 AM   #13
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VHB tape worked for me on my Bigfoot truck camper. I wiped the areas with acetone before installing the tape, then went around the brackets with Dicor after pressing into place. Five years of trips on Interstates with no signs of failure. Screws don't hold that well in fiberglass anyway. When I reinstalled my roof vents, I slipped galvanized metal between the fiberglass and ceiling to give the screws something to bite into.


To be on the safe side, I also loosely attached each solar panel to the roof rack with 1/8" steel cable.
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Old 12-08-2022, 04:41 PM   #14
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Trailer-top Holdfasts

Speaking of outside the box...why don't trailer manufacturers install two or three roof anchors at the factory when they are easy to install?

Nearly every SUV sold today has racks on the roof for cargo. It's kind of pathetic that wanderers have to struggle, experiment, and uTube to be able to settle on an anchor method for things like solar panels.

There is a lot of variability in the quality of roof top installations. Some of this is owner experience and knowledge but materials and weather also play roles. There are some who can successfully fix solar panels to their trailer roofs with tape, but as a general rule I'd have a hard time recommending it.

I've seen videos where owners have comforted themselves because they ran a length of parachute cord from an eye of their solar panel and looped it around their roof vent for the gray or black tank. I've seen these vents just crumble from solar degradation, as I'm sure you have.

I'd be happily comfortable following a trailer down the freeway with a heavy glass panel taped on the roof if there was also a steel cable holding a leading edge to an inboard anchor fast. There are many of these holdowns available in the marine market. They are stainless steel, flush overlay, and have a central threaded socket which holds a plug until they are needed.

Until then let the experimentation and head-scratching continue. Over time the trailer builders have picked up on many ideas advanced by users, so perhaps this will be one of them.

(Have you noticed that many companies that work on residential roofs and gutters are installing anchors near the ridge top to give their workers a safe point to clip into when they are working on the roof? Same idea really).
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