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I have a bit of a dilemma. Based on some of the wisdom of this forum I opted to install my solar panels with the dead simple, stick it and screw it method. No roof rack, just 4 panels with Z brackets held down by VHB tape and screws, then sealed with lap sealant. After the sealant had set, I took the van for a test ride. I was shocked with how much the roof bounces in the center when going over rough road. I'm in Michigan, and rough roads are unavoidable. I'm worried about the wear and tear this bouncing/flexing will have on the panel mounts and on the ceiling once its installed. I'm curious if anyone else who's installed panels this way had the same issue.
Or, if you've installed 4 panels without a rack, did you lay them out in a way that better distributes the weight?

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If you look at the promaster body builders guide, it recommends attaching roof loads to the specific mounting points with the nubs sticking up.

Virtually all of the van brands recommend doing it this way and evenly distributing the loads across all of them.

You don't need a rack, but rails are a good idea.

As far as your current situation - how close are the existing attachment points to a cross rib in the ceiling?

The way that I have mounted panels on sprinters and transits is to use a piece of 8020 the length of the van rail area and then mount the panels cross wise. I am in the middle of looking at parts for the promaster but van tech makes an adapter for those nubs. I still not sure if this roof nub design is brilliant or idiotic.
 

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Thanks Harry. The nubs also confuse me. They seem secure, but are a pricey starting point.

Here's a photo with the approximate position of the internal ribs and Z brackets. The current mounting points are as close to the ribs as space would allow.
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TThis is the first ive heard of the problem and many of us here mounted our panels directly without racks and without using the nubs. I do think it’s more common, though, to run the panels crosswise and not have the attachments in the middle of the crown that you have.

We don’t even have screws, just tape, and nothing has budged in 5 years, >100,000 miles.
 

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Thanks for the reply MsNomer. Do you have any reference photos of your layout? I may go and re-install mine running crosswise to put the load further from the midline of the roof.
 

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This is another thread that I found on installing panels using the "nubs mount" locations. It is based on the Fiamma awning mount approach.


It is interesting just how large of surface area those mounts provide vs other offerings on the market. The promaster body builder guide has limited details on these mount points compared to Ford (practically a user guide to making the mount). I don't really like any of these mounts for solar panels but it is an interesting reference point. I am just about to give up and make my own, but who knows if that would really be any better.

If you are going to switch to a cross wise direction, perhaps consider to get some panels that are long enough to reach the roof rail location and attach them there.

One of the more complicated aspects of building up a van is the regional use portion. A setup optimized for AZ vs OR vs MI vs FL can be very different, but still correct for that area's roads and weather conditions. I grew up in NW OH, so I know very much how the weather can tear up the roads - esp. in MI and IA.
 

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I think once you install roof foam insulation and roof ceiling, that should stiffen up the roof panels. Before installing the insulation on my van, there was a lot panel noise. But with insulation (poly-iso foam glue up with expanding foam) mostly quiet and when i hit it with my palm from the outside. It sounds solid and no more rattle/hollow sound.
 

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We've also had no problems with ours using just VHB mounts on the roof, but the feet on ours are all along the outside edges of the roof. We have four panels ganged together in two pairs, with four feet per pair. I can share the details if you like.

I agree with @Uvan. We also used rigid foam board (poly-iso) glued in place with Great Stuff foam. That combo gives the roof a lot more rigidity. I've never sensed the roof "bouncing". I don't think it could.

PS - there are other advantages to our crosswise orientation as well. It's easy to wash them all from one side of the van (pole and squeegee). It leaves the roof nubs free and clear for a future awning install.
 

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My results were similar. Polyiso quiets and firms it up.
 

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Running braces underneath the brackets (between ribs inside or full length outside) would distribute the load better (and give screws more 'meat' to sink into). Either metal stock or wood would work. This may be overkill of the foam board is rigid enough to reinforce it.

Brackets for the posts seem simple enough to fabricate from 2 overlapped sections of angle or channel with a slot cut, slid around the post from both sides and then bolted together. This appears to be the base concept of some of the commercially available brackets.
 

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Here is another thread on the subject of roof rail / solar panel mounting using 8020 rail. The used the vantech mounts.

 
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