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Old 09-13-2014, 10:19 AM   #1
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Mounting Solar Panel

I've got a solar panel I think I want to permanently mount on the roof of our 2003 Discovery 39'. PO simply hung it on the rear of the coach when he needed it, which is fine I suppose, if your pointing in the right direction every time you park.

The panel is large-ish, maybe 18" x 36" and I'd like to simply "glue" it in place (silicon? or?) but the weight may be to great. Might need mechanical fasteners as well which means - roof penetrations

Any advise on standard practices permanently mounting these bad boys would be appreciated.

Also, is it normal to wire a switch in-line to disable when on shore power or going down the road (alternator charge)?

cheers...
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Old 09-13-2014, 10:35 AM   #2
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Hint: After about 80 degrees (consult your specific panel manufacturer for the exact optimal operating temperature), a solar panel will produce less electricity the hotter that it gets (panels like it cooler, not hotter). To compensate for this, you will want to raise the solar panel off the roof by at least one inch so that there is a pretty good air space (to allow trapped heat to escape) from under the panel. One-and-a-half inches is even better. If you flat-mount the panel to the roof and do not allow for cooling, your panel will work, but it won't perform to manufacturer's specs. \ken
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Old 09-13-2014, 10:41 AM   #3
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Sorry, ardbark, I missed your second question. We installed a panel cut-off switch, but simply for safety and maintenance reasons. A good charge controller will properly monitor and manage battery condition and charge appropriately while driving down-the-road. We leave our solar "on" all of the time. \ken
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Old 09-13-2014, 11:01 AM   #4
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Sorry, ardbark, I missed your second question. We installed a panel cut-off switch, but simply for safety and maintenance reasons. A good charge controller will properly monitor and manage battery condition and charge appropriately while driving down-the-road. We leave our solar "on" all of the time. \ken
Thanks for the quick reply Bumps. My bad, I should have searched the forum before posting, looks like several active threads going on solar right now. I've zipped through them, plus the links to external edu sites. Much of the info is about engineering the system and right sizing for personal needs. I was just wandering how to mount it on the Disco roof. Seems that putting it on legs to create air space below is basically building a sail. Would necessitate some pretty significant capture hardware to keep it from blowing off.

I inherited this system with the coach. PO simply used it to maintain the batteries when in storage. Sometime down the road I'll dig into it to see which controller, wattage on the panel, etc I actually have and do the full engineering review. For now, we are heading out for the rest of Sept in a couple of days and I just wanted to re-locate the panel off the back of the coach. As usual, it won't be that easy to do it right

Maybe for now a tri-pod would make more sense for the panel.
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Old 09-13-2014, 11:05 AM   #5
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A portable panel solution is a great strategy. And not a bad way to back-up a permanent system when in low-light situations (you may want to do that ANYway!). Good luck with your adventure. Safe travels! \ken
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Old 09-15-2014, 02:44 PM   #6
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... I was just wondering how to mount it on the Disco roof. Seems that putting it on legs to create air space below is basically building a sail. Would necessitate some pretty significant capture hardware to keep it from blowing off.
Hey Ardbark,

While it's true that it would seem like mounting the solar panels on the roof with an air gap under them would result in them flying off at highway speeds, there's not that large of a surface area facing the wind. We have had three panels mounted on our RV roof for the past 10 years using simple mounting brackets at each corner of each panel... with the panels raised about 1.5" off the roof... and they haven't budged! Ours are mounted so that the panels are longways along the roof... so the short side is facing forward. Less air resistance that way.

You can use any number of mounting systems: from simple brackets to tilt kits... depending on your need. Here's a link to a bunch of different ones you can check out... maybe something there will work for you.

http://bit.ly/solar-panel-mounting-brackets
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Old 09-16-2014, 06:42 AM   #7
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Hey Ardbark,



While it's true that it would seem like mounting the solar panels on the roof with an air gap under them would result in them flying off at highway speeds, there's not that large of a surface area facing the wind. We have had three panels mounted on our RV roof for the past 10 years using simple mounting brackets at each corner of each panel... with the panels raised about 1.5" off the roof... and they haven't budged! Ours are mounted so that the panels are longways along the roof... so the short side is facing forward. Less air resistance that way.



You can use any number of mounting systems: from simple brackets to tilt kits... depending on your need. Here's a link to a bunch of different ones you can check out... maybe something there will work for you.



http://bit.ly/solar-panel-mounting-brackets

Bcbounders, are your panels mounted to a cross member in the roof or just screwed in wherever it was convenient?


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Old 09-16-2014, 10:12 AM   #8
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A quick point - make sure the mounting brackets are aluminum, which will not rust. We have 3 good-sized panels on our roof from the previous owner. 2 of the panels are mounted with what could have been galvanized unistrut, which are now seriously rusted. I need to replace them. The third panel, a newer installation, is mounted with aluminum angles, which are nice and neat and clean. I'm not sure if the brackets are fastened to a cross-member, but I'll probably find out they aren't when I replace the rusty ones. They don't have the 1 1/2" clearance completely - more like 1" at the edges and really close at center because of the roof curvature.

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Cortez, Colorado
1996 Bounder 34J
1995 F53 Ford Chassis w/460, ~48K miles
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Old 09-16-2014, 11:31 AM   #9
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Bcbounders, are your panels mounted to a cross member in the roof or just screwed in wherever it was convenient?


1997 Tiffen Allegro Bus 37', Cat 3126
@rssnape... we did our best to try and get at least one or two feet on each panel into a cross member. But we couldn't anchor ALL of them that way. But since we have a fiberglass roof with wood decking beneath it... even without snagging a cross member, there's plenty of "bite" for the screws.

10 years later, and the panels are still rock solid in their mounts.
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Old 09-16-2014, 11:39 AM   #10
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I made 4 brackets out of 1" angle Aluminum 1/8' thick for each 100w panel. Cut a piece to mount thru two of the predrilled holes on the panel and a second piece about 6" long to mount on the roof. Attached each bracket to the roof with #10 SS screws 1" long bedded in ProFlex.
Attached two bracket to the long side and drilled a single hole thru the angle aluminum and secured with a 1/4-20 x 1" SS bolts with a lock nut. They are very secure on the roof, allow for the concave roof and provide good ventilation under the panel. Much cheaper and a stronger mount that the Z brackets sold by panel suppliers.
I also used a 30 amp marine breaker that I mounted in the DS electrical compartment fuse panel. I connected the supply lead to the house disconnect solenoid. Be sure to use a breaker rather than a switch so you can turn it off as well as protect your installation.
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