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2015 159" EXT
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Discussion Starter #1
My van is a 3500 PM 159" Extended high top (my apologies if that is redundant--not sure if the 3500 indicates that it's extended, high top, etc.) Has anyone out there considered options other than the roof for solar panel placement? I have the Renogy 400 Watt Monocrystalline Starter Kit however, my inner hippy really wants a rooftop deck for star-moon gazing.

Before I forget, I should mention that I will have 2 MaxxAir fans! I plan on using solar for fans, frig, lights, laptop, plus occasional movies and vitamix, etc. Unsure if shore power will be a real option for me. I have two Renogy 12V 100Ah Rechargeable Gel house batteries and hope to have a battery isolator installed soon. The batteries will likely be switched out at some point with lithium.

Here's what I'm wondering: I considered creating a way to attach 1-2 panels on 80/20 with wheels that I could slide out and charge up whenever necessary. I've pretty much nixed that idea because:
1) I'm sure I would end up in situations where I would need electric but didn't have time or it wasn't the right place to roll out the solar strollers.
2) Gotta be realistic...I'm probably too lazy for that. Hauling those things in & out seems labor intensive-- unless someone here knows better? Maybe It wouldn't be difficult since some people use suitcase solar?

My other thought was that maybe a deck could be somehow fitted over the solar panels whenever I wanted to climb up there. It would need a lightweight material that could easily be hoisted up yet sturdy enough to stand/sit on, won't slide around, AND doesn't damage the panels.

If someone should have ideas, I would appreciate your input. Once you have sorted out this dilemma, we can then move on to how I will then squeeze a tiki bar, dance floor, and hot tube up there. :LOL:

TIA for any constructive and helpful ideas, thoughts, comments you can throw my way. Much appreciated!
 

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The roof is not very strong to begin with. If you don’t have a deck you will dent it anyway. How about the 80/20 running along the sides and a deck that runs over the solar panels and exposes a deck under neath itself when deployed? You are unlikely to use it much anyway (I’ve been there) and that van is long enough to have those panels pushed up front. That way a 3-4 foot sliding deck on top of another give 6-8 feet for the hot tub.
 
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Discussion Starter #3
The roof is not very strong to begin with. If you don’t have a deck you will dent it anyway. How about the 80/20 running along the sides and a deck that runs over the solar panels and exposes a deck under neath itself when deployed? You are unlikely to use it much anyway (I’ve been there) and that van is long enough to have those panels pushed up front. That way a 3-4 foot sliding deck on top of another give 6-8 feet for the hot tub.
Thanks for the speedy response! I like your idea of sliding a deck in place (if I read that correctly?) I work crazy long hours and haven't had the chance to measure out how the panels will fit with 2 fans. It would be great to have 1 fan with all 4 panels up front then 1 fan with a mini-deck in back. You may be right about usage but I do have a daily sunrise and sunset ritual plus monthly shooting star and full moon gazing so it might be worth it.

p.s. love your build and truly appreciate all the time you take to offer thoughtful advice and responses to so many on this forum. I've always keep an eye out for your posts- you offer great advice and are very knowledgeable. AND... at one time, I was sort of your neighbor! I lived in Tucson up the street from La Encantada for 20 years.
 

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Ouch not an easy way to dance up there!
 
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Discussion Starter #7
How about a sliding solar panel assembly over the deck when "stowed" and slide out over the slider door thus giving shade there .
I love that idea. Absolutely no clue how to implement it but very cool brainstorming!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
FWIW, this is what 400W and one Maxxfan occupies on a 3500ext.
Hmmmm....I keep staring at your pic but, for the life of me, can't see where your tiki bar/dance floor/disco ball carrying drone is located?

Questions: Are those Renogy panels? What did you use to attach them--- the metal doohickeys they came with or another mounting system?

p.s. kudos on your super clean roof and panels! Your van must have a garage, zero rain or pollen, etc.?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
There's a dude named Red on YouTube who often installs 2 fans with solar. I had hoped to hire him but struggle to get my van to and from any builder. It adds $1000s to the build with rental car and missed work.

I need to get on top to measure everything out but somehow have tweaked my back. May still attempt a rooftop measure today. Prayers and good vibes requested.
 

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Installing a fan and solar are probably two of the simplest jobs a newbie can do. Basic tools, a ladder and read RD’s $500 solar thread! You can even do it for less than that since he wrote it up prices have dropped quite a bit.
There is nothing, repeat, nothing high tech about drilling a hole in your roof and cutting out a 14" square. Solar requires a bit of 3M height strength double sided tape and a stainless steel lag screw (at the most) for extra security. The wires will run right down thru the back up camera mount.
I (and I’m sure a lot of people here) would be thrilled to get a $1000 for doing it😏
 

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Hmmmm....I keep staring at your pic but, for the life of me, can't see where your tiki bar/dance floor/disco ball carrying drone is located?

[SSS] It was in the shop that day getting a new playlist and restocking its beer fridge.

Questions: Are those Renogy panels? What did you use to attach them--- the metal doohickeys they came with or another mounting system?

[SSS] They are from Go Power!, but same size as Renogy 100W, probably from the same manufacturer. Mounting hardware from AM Solar, bolted to bigger delron pads I fabricated, which are stuck to the roof with just 3-M VHB tape.

p.s. kudos on your super clean roof and panels! Your van must have a garage, zero rain or pollen, etc.?

[SSS] Old photo. It's not that clean now! Pollen season is in full swing.
 

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check the load specs for the roof, its like 300# total or something. if you want a rooftop deck to do it right i think you'd have to transfer the load to the cargo floor somehow...
 

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Now that I thinks of it . . . . 80/20 has bearings / sliders a part of their systems . Would be easy to do .
And afox is right , you'll almost max out the load rating with all the hardware alone .
 

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2018 3500 EXT Camper Conversion in CT (TX for now due to Covid)
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I have two fans and 400 watts of solar on a 3500 EXT
62930


I don't know if you can tell, But I have a fiamma roof rack with the panels mounted on Aluminum angle (1 1/2 angle 1/8 thick) suspended under the cross rails with 5/16 stainless U bolts. This makes it such that the top of the panels are about 1/2 inch below the roof rack bars. This is so the roof rack can still be used to haul stuff (light stuff, maybe a sheet of plywood or a ladder, a lightly loaded roof box, etc if I ever have the need) You could lay some boards and plywood across it and use it as a deck if so inclined.

Based on living and using the van for about 8 months, and in my prior class B dodge van, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I would have benefited from a better view on top of the van versus beside it or a few feet away. And at least one of those was a sporting event.

400 W of solar and two vent fans will require some kind of mechanism to either slide the deck over the panels or vice versa, but the default should be that you can travel with the panels deployed, because my guess is that you will use those more than the deck.
 

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There is this solar panel rack I came across while browsing this forum which might give you some ideas.

I thought it was a pretty interesting product. The only problem I see is that it adds to the height.

 

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That looks decently diy with the high load drawer slides. Could mount the panels topside of the deck, opposite their design, to have panels not obscured and then slide out to create a walkable deckspace when desired
 

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Orion Designs from Vancouver. That sounds like Orion from the Sprinter forum! If it is you can be sure it’s good!
 

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The heavy duty slides are jawdroppingly expensive (the cheaper knockoffs are not actually heavy duty - the internet is allowed to lie to you - and not worth your panels falling off), so the diy wouldn't cut cost a ton. I'd see if they can be reversed to top mount for this particular application though.

Another option would be to hinge them off the deck. Bonus, depending on the layout (ie. wouldn't block each other or face different directions when raised) this could get better sun when stationary also
 

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The more I think about it, maybe you can do both. Install 200 watts of solar on the roof, leave room for a deck, and have the other 200 watts as something you can take out and plug in when the occasion calls for it. Most of the time you would have 200 watts, which would be enough, and the other times you can pull out two more panels and set them in an optimum location (or on the deck). If you are moving from location to location you can use the alternator to charge so 200 watts of solar would be enough, and if you are stationary for a few days it would probably not be too burdensome to take out a couple of extra panels to hook up. I move almost every day so my needs are a lot different than many others.
 
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