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Old 08-18-2022, 07:43 PM   #1
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What is Best Way to Mount Solar Panels

I understand the complexity of adding solar panels and associated with retrofitting solar panels, associated electronics and batteries.

All I want to address at this point is the physical mounting of panels on a Winnebago roof. The roof construction of Winnebagos differs from most of the other motorhome brands. I am strongly leaning towards aluminum framed solar panels. There are many different mounts available, however the cost versus benefit comparison confounds me.

Mounting with VHB tape is highly rated, however this arrangement traps heat between the back of the panel and the roof. The trapped heat will lower panel output and increase internal cabin temperature. We spend most of out time in Texas. This year summer daytime temperatures were frequently at or over 100 degrees. During the heat of the day my dual compressor struggles to maintain 80 degree cabin temperature.

The more common mounting with “Z” brackets are more expensive than the VHB tape. The advantage is the air gap between the panel and roof reduces the temperatures noted above. The disadvantage is the need to penetrate the roof for each panel.

I have looked at rails as used on home roofs. They appear to be complex and expensive. The extra rails will add a great deal of wind drag on the highway.

I hope one of you can offer me some advice that will help me make a decision and move forward with this project.
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Old 08-19-2022, 06:16 AM   #2
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I used z brackets with vhb tape to the roof, five years and no problems with the six panels mounted

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Old 08-19-2022, 07:31 AM   #3
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You can use bracket to space them up, they are sold with the brackets, or you can get the ones that attach directly to the roof. We have installed both and have not experienced any issue with functionality. It's going to be up to how you want to see them. Tight against the roof, not worrying about hitting on anything, or raised up with brackets.
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Old 08-19-2022, 07:37 AM   #4
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Unistrut. check out rv w/tito on youtube.
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Old 08-20-2022, 01:55 PM   #5
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Winnebago Roof Construction

I appreciate the responses to my question.

I like the Unistrut system. While it is more expensive than the alternatives, the base plates should spread the load and might help hold the filon down when screwed through the luan plywood. Unfortunately, the cost of this system will be more than the cost of used or surplus panels.

I like the VHB tape but had not considered using it to mount the panels with
“Z” brackets. Mounting with VHB either with or without “Z” brackets, I worry that the Winnebago’s roof construction with filon bonded to luan might delaminate. I have visions of the filon being ripped off of the roof. Mounting with VHB directly to the filon has the advantage of lower wind resistance. Rather than “Z” brackets, 'I wonder if “C” channel could be used. Since I would prefer to not penetrate the roof, the tape should adhere to the panel as well as the filon roof. It would also eliminate the need to drill into the panel frame.

Since nobody else mentions the heat issues that I was worried about, maybe I am over analyzing. I had also been worried about removing VHB in the event of a failed panel. Research indicates it can be removed using isopropyl alcohol and an oscillating tool. I might go with VHB foam mounting tape. I know that I can use a sharp knife to split the tape which should make cleaning off any remaining residue easier.

When I actually do this, I will follow up with pictures.
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Old 08-21-2022, 07:43 AM   #6
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VHB Tape Selection

Which VHB tape would you recommend? There seems to be many types.
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Old 08-21-2022, 07:58 AM   #7
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I used square aluminum tubing 1inch by 1inch and bolted the panels though the tubing to the z brackets. This gave me extra space for air flow. The z brackets are mounted using VHB tape and a stainless screw and then covered with Dicor. At the front I mounted aluminum sheet to the panels and angled down to the roof. Used Dicor where the aluminum touches the roof with no screws. No issues in five years.
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Old 08-23-2022, 06:46 PM   #8
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Z brackets and tape. Works!
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Old 08-23-2022, 06:51 PM   #9
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We're at 7 years and 65K miles with 8 large panels using VHB and Dicor covering the foot of the mounts, no screws on a fiberglas roof. I think heat is an issue and the panels are secured to the mounts with a bolt and can be removed without difficulty.

Our install was done by AM Solar - they report many, many mounts done as above without problem.
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Old 08-23-2022, 07:26 PM   #10
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VHB and screws…

On your Winnebago, or at least on mine, the door skins and rear bumpers were attached to their frames with VHB. The shower enclosure was attached to the wall with VHB.

20 years later, some of these panels are peeling off… the vhb failed…

If it fails on your roof, at 65mph… stuff is flying off…
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Old 08-24-2022, 10:28 AM   #11
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I would highly recommend the panels mounts made by AM Solar. They are more expensive than most other choices but they allow for access under the panels. Their primary selling point is that they can be tilted but that was not as important to me as simply allowing access to the area under the panels.

On my last rig, I used Z brackets which worked fine but there was really so way to access the area under the panel without removing the bracket from the roof. I never had to do that but it always made me a bit uneasy.

When I install the AM Solar brackets, I used the screws along with the VHB tape and Dicor. The screws just gave me a little more piece of mind though you do run the risk of hitting something like wires in the roof. It's all a tradeoff.
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Old 08-24-2022, 09:10 PM   #12
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Looking at 1” Aluminum Tubing

The use of 1” aluminum tubing bolted to the solar panel frame and mounting to the roof with VHB tape looks like the cheapest reversible mounting that will permit air circulation. I could use the tape to attach the tubingnto the panel frame but removing would be pretty messy since the frames are so thin. I think the cost of bolts and nylon lock nuts is within reason. The aluminum tubing is far cheaper than the “Z” brackets. The 1” square tubing currently costs under $8/foot on the web. I hope it is cheaper locally.
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Old 08-25-2022, 01:49 PM   #13
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I used Z-brackets and 3M 5200 adhesive. Have had them in for 11,000mi without issue.
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Old 08-26-2022, 08:33 PM   #14
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Martin just to be clear I still used the z brackets under the square aluminum tubing. I also used plastic connectors to join the tubing ends and end caps. I believe the total length was 27 feet or so. 8 panels in a row. Strong enough to walk on the frame edges if needed.
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