Rock Guard mounted solar panel - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-21-2008, 06:11 PM   #1
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Burro rock guards are offset from the trailer body and the window. They also have a 1 inch deep rim. I used this to my advantage to help solved 2 problems I have had with my larger solar panels, which are.. lifting, and storage!

I had originally separated my array of 3 15watt panels and degrouped them because it was easier to move one at a time (Each panel weighs 10lbs) My config for this involved replacing frames with PVC which turned out to be a really bad idea. Nuff said.

I took the one unmodded panel and mounted it inside the RG on hinges, so it now folds OUT to deploy when the rock guard is opened.

First, I mounted hinges on the existing mounting holes in the panel frame. I then mounted the hinges inside the lip of the RG.


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This part was much easier than I anticipated, it took all of 15 minutes to do. The rim is aluminum and was easy to drill thru with a portable drill.

I used hex head bolts and nylock nuts. I had to add split locks to the topside as the frame of the panel actually slopes at an angle at the mounting hole. I used the washer to bite into the plastic and somewhat flatten the slope. Not perfect, but it works.

There is locktite thread lock on the bolt threads as well. The nylocks will keep the parts from rattling loose as will the locktite, however my main motivation was to make it difficult to get apart. A motivated soul could, but this will keep the casual nicker away.

Rivets would be the best answer for this and I may do it in the future.
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Old 03-21-2008, 06:19 PM   #2
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next, I had to make sure it would fold up into the guard correctly. I used the side that swings most on the outside so I could adjust the panel at many back and forth angles. This leaves the "Stop" side of the hinge on the inside at a perfect 90 degree to the window and guard.


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Fortunately, and by complete accident, its a perfect fit, and I don't need to secure it in any other way for travel. It fits snugly against the lower window frame, and the division frame prevents it from "flopping" onto the window itself. I was anticipating having to add a block to the frame to make it snug.


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(I may add some foam to prevent it rubbing the window frame, but we will see.)

Anyone that has accidentally left something fragile on their gaucho and tows knows that it quite the pleasant surprise to open the door and see it usually has stayed put. I expect that the closer to the hitch you are, the less bouncing there is. I feel pretty secure this will be stable.
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Old 03-21-2008, 06:22 PM   #3
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Unsecure the guard and let swing down. Secure the guard rails as usual, one side then the other. You have to support the panel with your hand to prevent one side of the guard taking all the weight, but it is not at all hard.


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Old 03-21-2008, 06:28 PM   #4
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Now the panel can swing freely. But it also needs support. Note the two blue and white poles in the above pic. They are telescoping paint roller handles/poles. They twist to lock and loosen.


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I mounted some of the original hardware from the array frame with hose clamps on the telescoping ends. The carriage style bolt then fits thru the original mounting hole and the wingnut goes on. The wing nut will be important during wind.. (More on the later)

Then the poles sit on the ground. They can be raised or lowered to adjust the panel angle. I wish I could go side to side, but I had a hard time finding hinges that had a ball and socket arrangement to allow that.


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Old 03-21-2008, 06:36 PM   #5
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Wind and dogs could easily upset this arrangement, so I ran another original bolt thru an un used pass thru on the coupler (Might have been for safety chain mounting as I recall)


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The poles have endcaps with pass thrus, presumably for hanging on a nail. I bought some hitch pins, cotter pins, and ran them thru the end caps. The large loop rides in the caps. I can attach the cotter pins to this bolt and let the caps rest on the loops.

So instead of straight poles, they make a "V" arrangement and are quite secure.

The next part of this project I have not decided on how to do yet. I would like this panel permanently wired into my controller, but have yet to figure out how to run the wiring so it is secure and doesn't look oogly . Thats tomorrows project, I guess.

BTW, set up time on this is about 2 mins
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Old 03-21-2008, 07:53 PM   #6
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Gina

Neat Idea!

This is exactly what I have been thinking about doing on the New Scamp.
The difference of course is that I have no Guard at all now and really nothing to guard but a little baby window.

This seemes like a decent way to get an easy to deploy solar panel without drilling the roof more.
The panel I already have really mimics the design of the Rock Guards I have had and seen and the location seems fairly immune to getting rocks on the road.
The other thing is that my panel and most I have seen are VERY RUGGED compared to plastic or glass panels that are made to protect and I think they will hold up well mounted here.

I have also considered using a panel over the back window as it would have a lot of the same advantages and be an awning for the bed area.

This gives me some more to consider,thanks for blazing the trail.

Ed
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Old 03-21-2008, 07:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
I took the one unmodded panel and mounted it inside the RG on hinges, so it now folds OUT to deploy when the rock guard is opened.
Neat. A Swiss-Army Rock Guard! Clever.
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Old 03-21-2008, 07:59 PM   #8
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Oh yeah,I see that your battery is on the frame under the panel?
If so then the wire to the battery must enter the trailer near there.
I imagine you can just follow it in with the panel cable to get near the controller?

We are having funn now!
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Old 03-21-2008, 08:06 PM   #9
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My controller is actually mounted inside the battery box. I bought a group 27 box for just this reason, but I have a g24 battery in it. The controller is lagged into the side of the box at the end where there is space designed to take up the longer length of the g27 battery.

It's not that big a deal to make one connection, I was just looking for a cleaner way to do it.
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Old 03-21-2008, 08:49 PM   #10
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If I understand correctly about the support poles......and if they go to the bolt on the coupler?

Why not find a heavy gauge coiling cord and coil it around one of the poles.
Speakon's on both ends and jacks on the Battery Box and the Panel end.

That way as you telescope the support poles the cord also extends.
Speakon's are certainly up to the task and waterproof to boot.

The coil cord can stay on the pole annd the whole thing is then plug and play.

Plus I would do it just because we can!
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Old 03-21-2008, 09:22 PM   #11
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My controller is actually mounted inside the battery box.
Great idea, I will check soon if I can copy your idea and mount solar panel on my Bigfoot*. I would offer a word of caution regarding controller placement inside the battery box. If you use flooded lead acid battery there is a potential of generating either water vapor or oxygen with hydrogen. Either of these gases can carry with them small droplets of sulfuric acid which can kill an exposed electronic device. I would suggest either moving the controller to another place or somehow protecting it from corrosive vapors.
George


*My dealer informed me today that my trailer is finished but Bigfoot has no drivers to deliver it to Oregon for the next 3 weeks. This will be 18 weeks of waiting, not the best way to satisfy customer.

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Old 03-21-2008, 09:25 PM   #12
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Just a thought... Not sure if this would be practical or not, but did you ever think of having a way to just flip the panel on top of the rockguard (i.e. complete 360į), and use the latter to hold it up instead of the poles?
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Old 03-21-2008, 09:27 PM   #13
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I switched from speakons to 1/4" phones for my smaller panels. It makes it easier to expand, and are easier to stow. I will do pics of that whole set up tomorrow.

I actually am using outdoor extension cords for a couple of reasons.

First, they are keyed (As are speakons, but it's easier to expand with multiplexes than it is to try to come up with speakons all the time)

Second, they coil smaller and are already insulated and consistent. I cut the female end off one, put lugs on and hard wired that to the input of my charge controller. The male end remains intact, with a 1/4" phone plug installed on the end I cut off.

Then I have a 1/4" junction box that I can install my 3 folding panels to. Plug extension cord into junction box via 1/4" and then plug the male end into the controller pigtail.

Here are the connections. (Mock ups, the ground lug is disconnected from the battery right now.. I have pranksters in the hood that turn my porch light on and a phantom load I can not for the life of me find!)


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If I add more portables, this gives me several connection options, all easily available in just about any hardware store.

The extension cords are 12g, which is OK, because the panels all have 18g for internal connections. 10g would be a waste and overkill.

I also have "dummy" plug installed on the female end attached to the controller to control outgassing from the battery from corroding it.
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Old 03-21-2008, 09:36 PM   #14
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George, the terminals get covered in non corrosive silicon when I have finished making connections etc. They have weathered much in the 1 1/2 years it's been in there + the several years it was in my 13 and very near the battery.

The controller is an ASC, it is pretty much encapsulated except for the direct connections.



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Daniel, that would be great, but it would be hard to do without double articulating hinges. That would make stowing a bit awkward. Doing it that way also doesn't give me the option of tilting it up towards the sun should it be coming from behind the rig.
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Old 03-21-2008, 10:24 PM   #15
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If I were doing it on my Scamp, I'd just mount the panel to the outside of the shield. I could leave it vertical or prop the shield to get it horizontal. I already have two layers of foam glued to the backside of the shield for thermal insulation so I don't get condensation on the inside of the window.

I might have to cover it with something, however.

That's a good installation, Gina!
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Old 03-21-2008, 10:29 PM   #16
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That would be the easiest, yes, but I had a couple of concerns with it being exposed like that.

I store the trailer in my driveway and it's a target for the pranksters. One rock, goodbye. The kids up here haven't progressed since 1971 and egging is still a treat for the backwards boys. It happens frequently to all the cars on the street, and to the big white target.

Second, I didn't want to put holes in the fibrglass guard itself. It's original, and even tho that isn't a big "Vintage" consideration, it's still kinda cool.

With it closed, you cant tell the panel is there and it is less likely to have someone go "I think I'll go home and get my wrench while she is at work".
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Old 03-22-2008, 10:08 AM   #17
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Gina, that's a brilliant mod that I will one day unabashedly steal. Very neat and inventive.
cheers
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Old 03-22-2008, 02:30 PM   #18
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Good job! Looks like a viable mounting place. If I do steal from some of your ideas I'll let you know and ask what the royalty payments are.

From my experience there is one weakness with the rock guard mounting hinge bar: there is evidently a lot of strain on the screws holding it to the shell. When the Burro mosies on down the road, dips, potholes and what not tries to tear the screws out. The result can be leaks which in my case show up on the inside window frame. You have added some weight, which in my opinion calls for some vigilance.

I have added some extra screws as well as put some molly-type devices in to hold machine screws. If I were you I'd keep a close eye out for the hinge bar working itself loose.

There is a fallback position to deal with this, but it involves cutting access holes near the end of the bar area and inserting a strong strip(s) of hardwood to give the screws much more to bite into. Or, brass threaded inserts in the wood could be used for S.S. machine screws. I'm slowly gaining the confidence in my fiberglassing skills to fix the resulting damage, but it's a bit of a pain.

In the meantime, if you should notice something amiss, a liberal coating of sealant would keep you dry until a more thorough fix can be done.
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Old 03-22-2008, 05:58 PM   #19
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Per, I have noticed that. It was loose before I did this and is on the schedule for re-enforcement and seal. Tomorrows project, I think.

My 13 leaked horrible from there, even tho I did not have the rockguard. That was one of the trouble points when I came up that one year. The new owner pulled the window and redid it all.

Here are the portables wired up and running. (Not real exciting, it's solar.. not much to see "Run") 54 watts total for now. will be 84 when I get the other two mounted on the roof.

The handles will be padlocked together, anchored on the center one. Anyone with a hack saw could cut th plastic handles, but again, it will be very heavy and awkward to carry away as they sit if link together like that. The casual will not bother.


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And the two lines, one from the RG 15 watt panel, and the line from the junction box, going into the battery box.
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Old 03-22-2008, 06:05 PM   #20
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and how they are connected in the box. Pretty simple and easily duplicated.

I think.... I have to take the 3 banger extendamo BACK to Radio Hack. The center one has.. no "Hot" pin! I have never seen this defect before, but it figures, if it's one in a million, I'll get THAT one.


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and I forgot yesterday, the RG closed with panel stowed. The point here was to make it look like there was nothing there, and I think it worked.


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The portables stow and fold and fit nicely in my front cubby. The harness and junction box get coiled and stowed in a bag with the extendamo and gets tossed on top of the pile in the cubby. Pretty easy and hidden. no more moving panels just to use the john on the road, or bringing them outside to store if I have full hook ups.
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