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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I decided to add some solar panels to my camper that would allow extended camping without an electrical hook up. I have a severe case of trypophobia when it comes to the roof of my van, so I designed the solar panel mounting to use only the factory roof rack lugs. I already had a Fiamma awning on the right side and bought an additional set of awning brackets for the left side. They are expensive but very strong and saved me the time of designing my own attachments. The panel mounting framework consisted of 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" T61 aluminum angles and some machined adapters to fit the angled surfaces of the Fiamma brackets.

I used three 120 watt SLP120-12U Solarland panels purchased from Wholesale Solar that were included in the RV / Marine solar kit that they offer. The panels are 26-1/2" x 49" and covered nearly all of the available roof area. A single panel was mounted crosswise at the back behind the roof vent and two panels were mounted side-by-side forward of the vent.

A Midnite Solar MPPT controller was included in the kit along with some wire and connectors. All three panels were wired in series and routed to the back of the van and in through a hole in the bottom of the backup camera housing. Some clips were made to hold the wires in the rain gutter above the back door.

The controller wiring was very simple - two connections and a breaker for the panels, two connections and a breaker for the battery, and the battery temperature sensor. Setup was easy with a comprehensive set of options for various battery types and charging characteristics.

The system fired right up without any issues. The 360 watt maximum power rating will allow recharge my typical 100 amp-hour daily usage even with marginal sunlight available.

Here are some photos of the installation:













 

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I have a severe case of trypophobia when it comes to the roof of my van,
Trypophobia is a proposed phobia (pathological fear) of small holes, particularly irregular patterns or clusters of small holes.


I had to look it up.. and trust me, you do NOT want to do a Google image search on Trypophobia. Don't. Do. It. :eek:
 

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Nice job on the install. I googled trypophobia - and I too do not recommend googling it!

For the wire install - does it go panels to controller to battery? And did you connect directly to the battery, or did you just tie it into a fuse panel?

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I didn't know what is was either but I needed a word for "fear of holes" and Google came up with trypophobia.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
For the wire install - does it go panels to controller to battery? And did you connect directly to the battery, or did you just tie it into a fuse panel?

Thanks
The panels connect to the controller through a circuit breaker on the positive lead. The charging output from the controller is connected directly to the battery through another breaker. I didn't wire to the fuse panel because it is on the switched side of the main DC switch. I wanted to make sure the DC circuits were not energized by the solar panels when the main switch is off.
 

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I didn't know what is was either but I needed a word for "fear of holes" and Google came up with trypophobia.
Ok now I know who I am:eek:
Yes I do have a fobia (phobia) to holes in a roof.
This my phobia comes from diving. I learned WATER Founds Holes any time I get into a water:nerd:
 

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I also managed the solar panel install process with no mounting holes. Used the 3M VHB pads provided by Hein, with 80/20 aluminum for crossbars. The one required hole was for the paired wire from the combiner box. It is sealed with 3M VHB tape and a puddle of Dicor sealant; no worries there.

And also, those seem a bit low on output for that size panel. Mine are similar and rated 160w. Managed to squeeze four of them on the roof, but I did put the Maxxfan vent all the way to the rear.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Nicely done! I have a similar install, but used the Fiamma rack.

I would have liked to use the factory rack too but could only find it available on ebay for $1200. The cost of materials for my rack was about $370 not counting the existing awning brackets.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Got any pics of how it uses the factory roof lugs?
The forth photo in my post shows the connection of my rack components to the Fiamma bracket. The clip that grabs the little hat shaped pin on the roof is barely visible. Here is a drawing from Fiamma that shows this in more detail:

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I also managed the solar panel install process with no mounting holes. Used the 3M VHB pads provided by Hein, with 80/20 aluminum for crossbars. The one required hole was for the paired wire from the combiner box. It is sealed with 3M VHB tape and a puddle of Dicor sealant; no worries there.

And also, those seem a bit low on output for that size panel. Mine are similar and rated 160w. Managed to squeeze four of them on the roof, but I did put the Maxxfan vent all the way to the rear.
I considered adhesive but was concerned about the strength at high temperature. The strength is also only as good as the adhesion of the paint to the body. I originally used the 3M high strength double stick tape under the Fiamma brackets and it is indeed very sticky. I had to remove the brackets for this installation and it took some using a heat gun and wedges (would have been impossible if I used Sikaflex). Some paint did come off in the process. I just use neoprene pads under the brackets now because the entire rack structure reinforces the awning mount.

I chose the Solarland panels because they were the right size and conservatively rated. They are polycrystalline panels and may be a little less efficient than monocrystalline panels. These panels also have a 17 volt output at full power so I could wire them in series and not need a combiner box. Here is a link to the specs:

https://www.wholesalesolar.com/cms/solarland-solar-panel-specs-618308947.pdf
 

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I would have liked to use the factory rack too but could only find it available on ebay for $1200. The cost of materials for my rack was about $370 not counting the existing awning brackets.
I did get a "deal" on my rack (my conversion guy already had it for his van) but still a lot more than your DIY cost. Your solution is the best I've seen for mounting solar panels on the Promaster - well done!
 

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Nice work.

Would love to see any pics you might have of where/how you ran the wiring through the camera housing. Would love to hear any tips relating to the process as well, as I'm a few days away from digging into mine.
 

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Wow. Much cleaner than what I have on my van. I have no fear of holes and the panels will likely outlast the van. I put three Renogy 100 watt mono crystalline panels on my roof. Side by side lengthwise. So there is room for a 4th. if I can afford it later. I just used the regular brackets that raise the panel an inch off the roof and used self tapping 1" screws with sealing washers to put the brackets on the roof. I drilled 1" holes for each panel underneath to let the cables come into the van. Put grommets on two up front and made a heavy foam plug for #3 yesterday as we mounted it. Covered it on top with RV roof sealant. No wires on the roof exposed to UV that could deteriorate the insulation.


I upgraded to a 40 amp MPPT controller as well.

Love these panels. They'll stay at 14 volts to the battery right up to nearly full sun set! Renogy packs them for shipping really well too IME. Gensii uses terrible boxes that allow the glass to be shattered easily in transit. On the good side they processed my return that same afternoon. But Renogy uses the heaviest stranded wires. Best packing for shipping and they are excellent panels IME. Been using them since Spring. Glad to have the collection up to 300 watts now.

My wife is so happy with the electrical work I'm doing around the house, replacing old switches and plugs, she bout me a huge roll of insulation for my van! Its the mylar air bubble material. Making a windshield cover next and then the van roof gets finished!
 

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Nice work.

Would love to see any pics you might have of where/how you ran the wiring through the camera housing. Would love to hear any tips relating to the process as well, as I'm a few days away from digging into mine.
GaryBIS has a great write up on his install which includes details on getting the solar wiring into the camera housing. I copied his method without issue, although fooling with feeding wire through the cheap plastic camera housing wasn't the most fun.

I have had one of the threaded receivers in the camera housing cover break loose on me.. if that happens, the screw will just spin when you try to remove it. You can actually remove the entire housing (not just the cover) using the bolts that are accessible inside the rear of the van. 10mm deep socket if I remember correctly.

Link to Gary's writeup: http://www.buildagreenrv.com/our-co...romaster-van-conversion-solar-panel-mounting/
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
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I have had one of the threaded receivers in the camera housing cover break loose on me.. if that happens, the screw will just spin when you try to remove it. You can actually remove the entire housing (not just the cover) using the bolts that are accessible inside the rear of the van. 10mm deep socket if I remember correctly.
I had the same issue with the spinning nut, which was compounded because the back side was nearly inaccessible due to the camper interior. To prevent the problem in the future I made some stainless steel plates with hexagonal holes that locked the nuts into the housing.

My solar installation has been working great. On three recent camping trips I have never had to plug in, even with use of the microwave.
 
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