Solar panels on roof - Fiberglass RV


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Old 07-19-2018, 07:32 PM   #1
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Solar panels on roof

Hi all,

We're trying to develop a solar panel/PV system for our new-to-us Bigfoot 5th wheel. One concern for us is to roof of this 30-year-old trailer. Given that it doesn't have an AC, we're pretty confident there isn't much extra support in the roof. So:

Would you consider 2-4 15-lb "rigid" panels a risk to the roof's integrity or not? Ours has a luggage rack on the back but we don't know if that indicates integrity or is more of a decoration.

The other option is to use much lighter, "flexible" panels but they don't have the durability or life span of the rigid panels and cost almost the same.

Note that we'd like to have it mounted on the roof so when we're away from the trailer, we don't have to worry about someone taking it. That said, we'll probably make the brackets such that the panels can be removed and made "portable".

Any advice is welcome! Thanks!
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 07-19-2018, 07:57 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Steve and Rosemary View Post
Hi all,



We're trying to develop a solar panel/PV system for our new-to-us Bigfoot 5th wheel. One concern for us is to roof of this 30-year-old trailer. Given that it doesn't have an AC, we're pretty confident there isn't much extra support in the roof. So:



Would you consider 2-4 15-lb "rigid" panels a risk to the roof's integrity or not? Ours has a luggage rack on the back but we don't know if that indicates integrity or is more of a decoration.



The other option is to use much lighter, "flexible" panels but they don't have the durability or life span of the rigid panels and cost almost the same.



Note that we'd like to have it mounted on the roof so when we're away from the trailer, we don't have to worry about someone taking it. That said, we'll probably make the brackets such that the panels can be removed and made "portable".



Any advice is welcome! Thanks!


I installed a 150w 23lbs on my trillium 4500 also placed supports inside to help solidify the support of panel and renforcement of roof.Click image for larger version

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View my renovations on this link
http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/f...bec-81003.html
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Old 07-20-2018, 03:58 AM   #3
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Panels on the roof

I have both rigid and flexible panels in my system. The rigid panel is mounted on the topper of my truck. The flexible is on top of my Casita 16’er. The main reason for this was mounting issues. I didn’t really object to drilling holes in the topper, it was easy to reach and made properly sealing those holes easier. Holes in the roof of the trailer didn’t sound like a great idea so the flexible panel mounted with VHB tape was my decision. Both panels are 100w renogy. Power output from both is the same as far as I can tell. I have not heard anything about the longevity difference between the two, so time will tell on that possible issue. I saw the main advantage to having a panel on the trailer was the ability to have power going to the batteries while driving down the road. On the other hand the panel on the truck can be parked in the sun (up to approximately 30 feet) should I find a nice shady spot for the trailer.

p@
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Old 07-20-2018, 07:20 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Steve and Rosemary View Post
The other option is to use much lighter, "flexible" panels but they don't have the durability or life span of the rigid panels and cost almost the same.
Not sure where you got this information from, but I did extensive research on them and decided that the Lensun semi-flexible panels would be the way to go. They are extremely tough, you can even walk on them. They should easily last as long too. The cost though, was slightly higher.

I have had this system of 4 60W panels in place for 1 1/2 years now, and it has worked flawlessly, having my batteries topped up by midday most times.

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Old 07-20-2018, 08:03 AM   #5
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Not sure where you got this information from, but I did extensive research on them and decided that the Lensun semi-flexible panels would be the way to go. They are extremely tough, you can even walk on them. They should easily last as long too. The cost though, was slightly higher.

I have had this system of 4 60W panels in place for 1 1/2 years now, and it has worked flawlessly, having my batteries topped up by midday most times.
If you search youtube, you will find several reports of flexible panels on RVs having a short life span. I have a 100w flexible panel on my Parkliner that is still functioning after 3+ years, but I expect it is nearing it's end.

I'm putting rigid panels on my van because I want the panels to be good for 10 or more years and I don't think flexible panels would be.
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:03 AM   #6
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Ross, your Trillium reno is beautiful! I love the rustic look inside and the retro-modern look outside. Great job!

Thanks for letting me know that you put a panel up there with the help of some support. I guess that's where I'm lost -- to add support to a fiberglass roof, do we just have to add a piece of wood, glued to the fiberglass? I know nothing about this kind of modification, so any tips or instruction you can give would be much appreciated!

Thanks again and WELL DONE on that renovation. I bet you have loads of fun in that little trailer!
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:06 AM   #7
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Panel on roof

Pat, thanks for sharing what you did with your panels. I love the idea of putting a panel on the truck, but unfortunately, the 5th wheel makes it impossible for us to have a cover. That said, I'm still considering the flexible option on top of the Bigfoot. Out of curiosity, did you just tape your panel flat/flush against your roof? How long have you had it installed?

Thanks again!
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:09 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
Not sure where you got this information from, but I did extensive research on them and decided that the Lensun semi-flexible panels would be the way to go. They are extremely tough, you can even walk on them. They should easily last as long too. The cost though, was slightly higher.

I have had this system of 4 60W panels in place for 1 1/2 years now, and it has worked flawlessly, having my batteries topped up by midday most times.
Jim, thanks for your feedback. My "research" constitutes of, admittedly, mostly anecdotal information. Basically, it seems like the plastic material that covers the panels just isn't as durable as good old fashioned glass. That said, I was really wondering about feedback/experiences like yours because I always have to wonder how hard people are on their things and whether or not their expectations are unrealistic.

I've heard really good things about Lensun panels and they're at the top of my list. I'm just trying to decide if having the panels on the roof are worth the extra cost per watt.

Thanks again -- I really appreciate your input.
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:10 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Huck View Post
If you search youtube, you will find several reports of flexible panels on RVs having a short life span. I have a 100w flexible panel on my Parkliner that is still functioning after 3+ years, but I expect it is nearing it's end.

I'm putting rigid panels on my van because I want the panels to be good for 10 or more years and I don't think flexible panels would be.
You seriously need to look into the newer technologies employed. Earlier versions had lots of issues which I came across with my research. Not the same at all with these new panels which have a totally new surface. I just inspected mine yesterday when in the roof changing out the A/C, and they are as good as new.
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:13 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Huck View Post
If you search youtube, you will find several reports of flexible panels on RVs having a short life span. I have a 100w flexible panel on my Parkliner that is still functioning after 3+ years, but I expect it is nearing it's end.

I'm putting rigid panels on my van because I want the panels to be good for 10 or more years and I don't think flexible panels would be.
Huck, my doubts about flexible panels are definitely, in part, due to the reports on YouTube and elsewhere. I always have to wonder how accurate they are, though. That said, the price of the flexible panels is coming down and maybe getting 3 years out of them makes it worth the extra cost per watt. Of course, it'd be terrific if they'd last 10 years too!

Out of curiosity, what brand panel do you have? Did you glue/attach it flat to your roof? I was thinking of making some kind of frame and backing them with aluminum to make them a little more rigid to help preserve them. What do you think?
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:13 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Steve and Rosemary View Post
Jim, thanks for your feedback. My "research" constitutes of, admittedly, mostly anecdotal information. Basically, it seems like the plastic material that covers the panels just isn't as durable as good old fashioned glass. That said, I was really wondering about feedback/experiences like yours because I always have to wonder how hard people are on their things and whether or not their expectations are unrealistic.

I've heard really good things about Lensun panels and they're at the top of my list. I'm just trying to decide if having the panels on the roof are worth the extra cost per watt.

Thanks again -- I really appreciate your input.
Yes, the old plastic costing as you found out were prone to coping and scratching. The new coatings are not the same at all. I probably put in 20 times as much time researching to be certain I was doing the right thing, then I did put into the actual install of the whole system.
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:16 AM   #12
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You seriously need to look into the newer technologies employed. Earlier versions had lots of issues which I came across with my research. Not the same at all with these new panels which have a totally new surface. I just inspected mine yesterday when in the roof changing out the A/C, and they are as good as new.
Jim, the newer surface on those Lensuns are exactly why I had considered them. I'd like to raise mine a little off the surface of the roof using a custom frame that can be tilted. In order to make them a little more rigid, do you think adding aluminum to the backs of the panels would help? Do you think framing them is advisable or will the wind/turbulence during travel harm them?

Thanks again!
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:29 AM   #13
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I went with flexible for my portable panels because I have seen lots of hard panels with the glass shattered when used as portable panels.
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:30 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Steve and Rosemary View Post
Ross, your Trillium reno is beautiful! I love the rustic look inside and the retro-modern look outside. Great job!



Thanks for letting me know that you put a panel up there with the help of some support. I guess that's where I'm lost -- to add support to a fiberglass roof, do we just have to add a piece of wood, glued to the fiberglass? I know nothing about this kind of modification, so any tips or instruction you can give would be much appreciated!



Thanks again and WELL DONE on that renovation. I bet you have loads of fun in that little trailer!


Steve, all depends on the shape of your roof. Is it all flat, or is similar to mine. Adding only 23lbs was not a heavy load and since my roof is not all flat it is a bit stronger , so all I did was glued wood to fiberglass with pl .
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:34 AM   #15
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I went with flexible for my portable panels because I have seen lots of hard panels with the glass shattered when used as portable panels.
Thanks for your input Alex. Did you use the flexible panels and portable panels or did you glue them to your roof? Did you make a frame of some sort?

Thanks again!
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LUCINDA 1989 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | Steve, Rosemary, Maude Pod & Tripawd Hope
'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:36 AM   #16
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Steve, all depends on the shape of your roof. Is it all flat, or is similar to mine. Adding only 23lbs was not a heavy load and since my roof is not all flat it is a bit stronger , so all I did was glued wood to fiberglass with pl .
The Bigfoots are a little different than other FB trailers because they are kind of "framed out" inside and the whole thing is finished with wood paneling. The roof is definitely not flat so whatever we did would have to match the contours.

Being so out of my realm, what exactly is pl?
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'Glass trips: Moab 03/10 * The Swell 5/26/11 * Antelope Island 12/21/11 * Strawberry Res 6/12 * Whitney Res 6/14 * Uintahs 7/15 * East Fork of Black's 6/16 * St Mary-Ennis-Lava 6/18
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:46 AM   #17
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Huck, my doubts about flexible panels are definitely, in part, due to the reports on YouTube and elsewhere. I always have to wonder how accurate they are, though. That said, the price of the flexible panels is coming down and maybe getting 3 years out of them makes it worth the extra cost per watt. Of course, it'd be terrific if they'd last 10 years too!

Out of curiosity, what brand panel do you have? Did you glue/attach it flat to your roof? I was thinking of making some kind of frame and backing them with aluminum to make them a little more rigid to help preserve them. What do you think?
I have one of the old Renogy flexible panels that was recalled a couple of years ago because it was a fire hazard! Not all panels had the problem and I don't remember why, but it seemed to be a boat related problem. Mine never was a problem so I left it. Renogy sells a different panel now, so don't be worried about Renogy panels.

VHB tape (3M) is what I used for mounting the panel. In fact I plan on using it for 2 big, heavy rigid panels I am going to be installing on my van. The tape won't come loose, but your roof might.
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:47 AM   #18
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I don't have any panels on my roof, yet. I took the flexible panels and used spring clamps to attach them to a clothes drying rack I got from Amazon.

Here is a picture of my trailer set up:
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Old 07-20-2018, 09:03 AM   #19
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You seriously need to look into the newer technologies employed. Earlier versions had lots of issues which I came across with my research. Not the same at all with these new panels which have a totally new surface. I just inspected mine yesterday when in the roof changing out the A/C, and they are as good as new.
Granted it is only 1 person, but he reports 2 out of 4 100w panels failed within 2 years. Until the panels have been installed for a few more years and more people report on success or failure we won't know. The Renogy panel I bought was supposedly one of the best and it was recalled within 2 years of installing it.
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Old 07-20-2018, 09:36 AM   #20
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Did not mean to upset, just throwing out hundreds of hours of researching to share something I am quite confident about. If we were to wait 3 years to see the results of three-year-old solar technology, by then it would likely be outdated.
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