Caravan Solar Panels
Tips for Installing Solar Panels on Caravans, Boats and Vehicles
Ensure the solar panels are firmly attached
When you are traveling at 100 Km/h then the wind force on the solar panels mounted on the roof of the RV will be great and the force is usually trying to tear the solar panel away because of the air gap between the solar panels and the roof.
This air gap is needed to aid cooling of the solar modules in the hot sun but the wind will be forced under the solar panels and cause air turbulence when the vehicle is moving which may cause the solar panel to vibrate. Therefore the mountings must be firmly attached or they will eventually work loose.
Adhesive is better than screws
When attaching a mounting frame a good flexible adhesive (like Sikaflex 11FC) will be a better option than screws because a screw only provides a single point of fixture whereas the adhesive, if applied correctly, will allow maximum adhesion between the the mating surfaces.
Prepare the surfaces before applying adhesive
Clean the surfaces with a suitable cleaning product before applying adhesive. Most sellers of bonding products will have a suitable cleaning agent just right for the job but if not then use a cleaning spirit to wipe off any dirt and grime. Check the surface for any loose paint or blemishes, if required rub the mating surfaces with a fine or medium grit emery to facilitate bonding, but first mask off the adjacent areas to protect the paintwork.
Use masking tape the protect adjacent paintwork
A good tip when applying adhesive is tape off the work area with masking tape to avoid messy overflow of the sealant onto the adjacent roof surface. If you have ever tried to remove dry adhesive from a surface you will know how difficult it is to clean off.
Don't skimp on the adhesive
Apply enough sealant to create a full layer of adhesive. Most vehicle surfaces are curved so apply enough to allow for larger gaps. Don't press the mounts into the layer just apply enough pressure to make full contact, too much pressure while the adhesive is still plastic may squeeze the layer too thin.Read the bonding product's application notes for detailed advice before applying it.
An adequate layer of the bonding adhesive is required to accommodate thermal expansion and will also absorb any vibration of the solar panels.
Mounting Pads look better and will minimise wind turbulence
The ABS plastic mounting pads are a good option because they provide a broad area for adhesion and the rounded shape of the mounting pads create a streamlined profile to minimise vibration due to air flow turbulence. The mountings and dry adhesive can be painted to match you colour scheme.