Attaching solar panels to roof of Bigfoot truck camper - Fiberglass RV
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Old 01-10-2021, 06:50 PM   #1
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Name: Richard
Trailer: Bigfoot
BC
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Attaching solar panels to roof of Bigfoot truck camper

Hi there. I have an 86 Bigfoot truck camper. This spring l wish to add 2 solar panels to the roof. What do l have to do to ensure l attach them properly without harming the integrity of the roof. I assume there are no studs on the one piece roof. I do have more than enough room for 2 panels, my question essentially is how do l drill attach panels to a proper depth, and then Dicor attachment points without creating a compromised roof. Thanks in advance.
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Old 01-10-2021, 07:47 PM   #2
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Name: Roger
Trailer: 1986 Bigfoot B17 dlx
British Columbia
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Dont drill use special 3M 2 sided tape wth smali ally angle brackets, I did this last summer then went from Vancouver Island to Alaska highway,& back, it did not move at all, you will find others who have done the same
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Old 01-10-2021, 08:57 PM   #3
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Thanks Roger🤠
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Old 01-11-2021, 09:06 AM   #4
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Name: Perry
Trailer: 2018 Escape 5.0
Lanesboro, Minnesota, between Whalan and Fountain
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For installing after the fact, many are going to flexible solar panels. We ordered our Escape 5.0 with only one 170 watt rigid panel. When I add two more panels next summer I'll be adding flexible. I don't want to drill holes to compromise the roof and don't want to deal with having to install rigid panels that will be up front in the wind.

From all my research, don't skimp on quality.

Jim Bennett's thread on Solar Installation is a great read.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 01-11-2021, 01:18 PM   #5
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Solar

The article by Jim Bennet is very enlightening.
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Old 01-11-2021, 01:28 PM   #6
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Name: Huck
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Virginia
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I have 2 large 300 watt solar panels I installed on the roof of my van with 3m tape. Check out these mounting brackets from AM Solar. They include the tape and the brackets. This company is a real pleasure to do business with. https://amsolar.com/rv-solar-panel-k...ng-accessories
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Old 01-11-2021, 06:55 PM   #7
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Montana
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Nothing wrong with drilling holes in the roof, so long as you seal them properly. Just like the roof vent. But yeah, more and more people are having good luck with adhesive-only. There are also horror stories from those type installs.

If you go adhesive, like VHB tape, just be sure to watch videos, read instructions, and do it correctly. It still feels to me like a very slight gamble attaching a rigid panel to a roof with no bolts through the roof. So if you're going to trust adhesive alone, remember adhesive only works if installed exactly to specs.

My rigid panel is on my roof with VHB tape only. I still go back & forth about adding a bolt or two.
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Old 01-11-2021, 07:32 PM   #8
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Name: Gordon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rogerfb View Post
Dont drill use special 3M 2 sided tape wth smali ally angle brackets,... you will find others who have done the same
You will also find at least one case where the 3m ( VHB ) tape held the panel onto the gel coat, but the gel coat under the tape separated from the underlying fiberglass and the solar panel, tape and gel-coat all flew off on the highway, never to be found (and hopefully without injuring anyone). That would not have happened if the panel had been bolted through the fiberglass. Yes, you need to consider leaks.. but since the mounting brackets can be considered permanent, making them leakproof is not a problem (think 3M 5200).

And remember that the panels work best and last longest when they have air flow on both sides, and dont overheat.
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Old 01-12-2021, 06:58 AM   #9
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Name: Perry
Trailer: 2018 Escape 5.0
Lanesboro, Minnesota, between Whalan and Fountain
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
You will also find at least one case where the 3m ( VHB ) tape held the panel onto the gel coat, but the gel coat under the tape separated from the underlying fiberglass and the solar panel, tape and gel-coat all flew off on the highway, never to be found (and hopefully without injuring anyone). That would not have happened if the panel had been bolted through the fiberglass. Yes, you need to consider leaks.. but since the mounting brackets can be considered permanent, making them leakproof is not a problem (think 3M 5200).
That's one of the reasons for flexible panels glued to the roof. You can scrape the glue off the roof down the road, but I don't want to deal with a hole (YMMV). Technology is constantly changing. I have three friends with flexibles and they are extremely satisfied.

Quote:
And remember that the panels work best and last longest when they have air flow on both sides, and dont overheat.
Today's flexibles no longer have that problem and are working great for many campers. Some install a thin layer of corrugated plastic underneath the flexibles for extra separation and redundancy.

As always, buy quality panels.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 01-12-2021, 10:03 AM   #10
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Name: Steve
Trailer: 2018, 21ft escapeó 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie
NW Wisconsin
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We have 2 factory solar panels on the roof of our Escape
If we were to do it again I would install flexible solar panels on the trailer roof using VHB tape ( Much lighter , more secure , less wind resistance, better aesthetics)
There are some interesting threads on the Escape forum showing VHB solar mounting tape failures and solar panel frame failures . ( Solar panel frame buckles from wind uplifting forces)
I will be reinforcing my solar panels in the Spring by adding aluminum angle iron and then praying to God the panels don’t fly off and hurt someone

In most circumstances we get as much output out of our properly oriented 100 watt portable solar panel
as we do out of our 190 watt factory installed roof mounted solar panel
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Old 01-13-2021, 07:34 AM   #11
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Name: Perry
Trailer: 2018 Escape 5.0
Lanesboro, Minnesota, between Whalan and Fountain
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steve dunham View Post
There are some interesting threads on the Escape forum showing VHB solar mounting tape failures and solar panel frame failures . ( Solar panel frame buckles from wind uplifting forces)
Reread that thread. Someone had drilled a hole in the center of the solar panel frame weakening it so it bent. I think many Escape owners looked at their panels to see if they had the same hole drilled in the same spot. I certainly did. There is one other person with that hole, and another with smaller holes. If I had seen that hole in mine it would have been reinforced before we left yesterday. Today we'll hit 28,000 miles pulling our camper down the road and I'm not worried about our panel bending.

OTOH, just from sheer numbers, sooner or later something will happen to a panel, rigid or flexible on someone's camper.

Enjoy,

Perry
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2018 Escape 5.0 TA - 2019 Ford F-150, 3.5 V6 Ecoboost,

Previous Eggs - 2001 Scamp 16' Side Bath, 2007 Casita 17' Spirit basic, no bath, water or tanks, that we regret selling, 2003 Bigfoot 25B25RQ, that we also regret selling
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Old 01-13-2021, 09:16 AM   #12
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Lightbulb

[QUOTE=Perryb67;802400]Reread that thread. Someone had drilled a hole in the center of the solar panel frame weakening it so it bent. I think many Escape owners looked at their panels to see if they had the same hole drilled in the same spot. I certainly did. There is one other person with that hole, and another with smaller holes. If I had seen that hole in mine it would have been reinforced before we left yesterday. Today we'll hit 28,000 miles pulling our camper down the road and I'm not worried about our panel bending.

OTOH, just from sheer numbers, sooner or later something will happen to a panel, rigid or flexible on someone's camper.

Enjoy,

Perry[/

I may just remove the front factory solar panel and replace it with a flexible panel or go with only the rear factory solar panel .
When we got our trailer , dual solar panels appeared to be the best option for us but now after 3 years of ownership it seems more like overkill
Our days of camping without hookups is slowly but surely coming to an end and with Covid , trying to find a spot in a state or county park is becoming a real PITA .
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Old 01-16-2021, 11:07 AM   #13
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Name: Dan
Trailer: 2014 Escape 15A being converted for off-road travel...
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Many years of using 3M VHB tape for a variety of projects including solar atop our Escape 15A. Key: Select the proper 3M VHB tape based upon your substrate and material including tape thickness. Follow 3M's prep protocol and you won't have a problem. And use one of the many good sealants around the perimeter of the taped "joint" to properly seal against moisture intrusion.

The only downside to 3M VHB tape: It can be more expensive than using drill-through anchors & sealant.
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Old 01-16-2021, 11:16 AM   #14
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California
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+1 for using 3M VHB (very high bond) tape. I used it to secure my panel to my Scamp trailer (aluminum angle brackets taped to the roof, the solar panel bolted to the brackets) - been up there now for 6 years, no sign of it coming loose.
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Old 01-16-2021, 11:32 AM   #15
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Name: Richard
Trailer: Bigfoot
BC
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Thanks so much for such great info.

I'm super impressed at everyone's response. One issue in Canada where l reside seems to be the quality of the UHB tape on Amazon, (have not researched anywhere else local).
Some users have suggested it is not the equivalent of the stuff that Americans can get rightly or wrong! Spring where l live is about 2 month away, by then l hope to figure out what I'm going to do. But....still need to know...how thick is the fiberglas on roof and does anyone know the thickness specs of what lies underneath. Cheers everyone🤠
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Old 01-16-2021, 11:41 AM   #16
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Name: Dan
Trailer: 2014 Escape 15A being converted for off-road travel...
Nevada
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I've had good success sourcing bonafide 3M VHB tape from reputable sellers on eBay. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to find exactly what I want but given the relatively short lengths I typically need for my projects, the time is worth the savings.

Start here for application recommendation: https://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/...gh-res-pdf.pdf

There is a plethora of information on 3M's site all things VHB tape included. Just takes a little digging around to find the best choice for your substrate and material you are intending to anchor.

Gel coat and anodized aluminum are perfect materials for a super strong bond via VHB tape. Solar panels don't last forever and needs sometimes change over time so I opted, per above, to not mount the solar panels directly to my trailer but rather brackets (I'm using 8020 profile) that get bonded to the RV then panels attach to the brackets. This way, if you get a bad panel and/or or your needs change downstream you have a much more adaptable system rather than trying to break the VHB bond to start over...hope that makes sense.
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Old 01-16-2021, 02:31 PM   #17
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Name: Gary
Trailer: Bigfoot
Maryland
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Hello... I have a 1994 Bigfoot 17' trailer. Love it & have had it everywhere. I installed an 80 watt solar panel about 15 years ago....using aluminum angle/brackets (purchased where I got the panel). I used 3M 5200 marine sealant. Commonly used for 'permanent' installation of hardware/etc aboard sailboats. It has an outstanding reputation.The 4 brackets (one for each corner of the solar panel) were bonded to the center forward section of the roof. The solar panel has been firmly attached with no problems for 75,000+ miles in all sorts of driving and weather conditions. AVOID drilling holes in your roof---not necessary. I have a short wire that runs forward and stows behind the rock guard....where I can plug it into the female plug from the small solar voltage regulator mounted on the rod between the propane tanks. Wires from there run a couple feet to the battery box. Keeps the house battery topped off.
a clean/neat install.
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