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Old 07-30-2020, 08:13 AM   #1
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Solar Panel how to attach to the roof

Hello, we recently bought a Que and I would like to install a solar system. I am looking for the best way to safely attach solar panels to the roof. I am thinking about installing some strut channel and attaching the panels to it:

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Superstr...S-10/100164315

How would I go about finding a safe place to drill into something solid under the roof? Are there any better ideas? I would like to make sure the panels are on safely and can be removed if needed.
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Old 07-30-2020, 03:27 PM   #2
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I use a 100 watt panel on a homemade aluminum frame. The frame folds flat and I store it on the bed in transit. I can elevate it and turn it for max solar gain and lock it to the safety chains when I'm away. The controller is mounted on the panel frame and it is connected to the battery with 30 amp Anderson power poles and a #10 SJ cord. That picture is standard electrical strut there is all kinds of hardware that will fit the strut and I hate to say this it will probably will rust . You can run wires to the roof through the stink pipe the current loading will not be real high but the run length will require at least a #8 wire. Mounting it to the roof is something I wouldn't want to do but maybe someone else has an ideal on that. I can tell you this a 100 watt panel should supply all the power you need to keep your battery up I can keep two 80 amp batteries charged with a day of sun light.
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Old 08-01-2020, 12:06 PM   #3
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I am not the Que expert, but I did help a Que member and he wanted to mount solar on the roof of his Que. He had other water damage issues but he had a post with a lot of Que pics of the roof.

I found the post, https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...ent-17596.html

The problem, all the pics are no longer linking in.

From my foggy memory of that post, Sunline used the same rubber roof setup with the corrugate backer board as the main roof membrane. The roof rafters is what I am not sure what the Que used. While the wall studs and even some of the floor may be aluminium, they "might" still use wooden rafters like the travel trailers/5th wheels did. This practice of wood rafters is common even on other brands of aluminium walls and floor campers.

If you are going to mount on the roof, you have to find the rafters to attach the solar panel mount to and ideal know the materiel they are made out of so you can fasten it. There is no structure on the Sunline travel trailer roof if it never had the full walk on option at the time of ordering to hold the mounting screws other then the rafters.

Does you camper have at least one crank up roof vent to allow air to get in and out? Can you post a pic on the inside what it looks like? If it is a simple crank up vent, and does not have a large fan in it like a Maxx air or Fantastic fan brand fan in it, it is easy to take the inside shroud down and look at the ceiling rafters to help give a clue what they are made of, wood or aluminum.

The Uni-strut you linked from Home Depot, I have a gut feeling it will rust in time leaking rust all over the roof. They do make solar aluminium roof mounts. We do have some members who have done roof mount on their Solaris travel trailers, Here is one with pic. EMAN did his install https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...-t30-8032.html

To seal to the roof, you need buytl sealing tape made for rubber roofing to seal between the roof and the bracket you are attaching. Then once it is all screwed down, into a rafter, you use Dicor Self Leveling roof sealant around the edges and over the screw heads.

A heads up, your Que roof most likely is "not" a direct walk on roof. Meaning there is no plywood under the roof membrane. To work on the roof where you cannot reach from the sides, you need to put a tarp, cloth, old carpet etc on the roof to protect it from abrasion and the small manageable size piece of 3/8 or thicker plywood down to span over the rafters. You need to spread your weight out as the roof membrane system will not hold all your weight.
Here is how I service the roof. Using 2' x 4' long pieces of plywood.




Hope this helps

John
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Old 08-01-2020, 02:51 PM   #4
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Thank you!

Thank you Mainah and JohnB, that's a lot of information for me to think about! I do have a crank-up roof vent, I'll take it apart and post some pictures.
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Old 08-04-2020, 06:46 AM   #5
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Update, I took out a roof vent but there is wood all around it and I can't see what's behind it. If I push down of the roof I can feel some supports, so I think I can find them if I want to screw something down. They seem to run side to side about a foot or so apart. I found some aluminum strut channel:

https://www.mcmaster.com/3230T36/

Would that be OK to install on the roof? I feel that if attach a couple of those I will have a solid place to mount the panels.

Thanks!
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Old 08-04-2020, 11:01 AM   #6
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If you saw wood all round the vent area, that is a good indicator they used the standard wood roof truss system like they do on the regular ravel trailers as I suspected.

The rafters are "normally" spaced on 16" centers. But, they can be closer when a cut out in the roof comes up to good up the 16". Then you may have an extra one. You need to find those rafters by feel. You can tell they are a lot more solid when you find the rafter and they go left to right the full width of the camper. They are only about 2" to 2 1/2" wide.

Here is a pic of a standard Sunline travel trailer roof rafter setup on a 2004 camper. The older Sunlines where a little different, they did not have trusses. I am in the process of restoring this camper.






Your aluminium strut and if you can get stainless or aluminum hardware will get rid of the rust issue. I see no issues there.

The only thought is, will leaves and things get stuck in the channel facing up? Maybe make sure the channel is tucked under the solar panel and not outside it to help debris from collecting.

I did a quick web search for RV solar panel mounting, I kept coming up walk on roof applications where they just screw the bracket to the roof as there is plywood or OSB under the rubber. There may be someone who sells different roof hardware rails for campers. I'm not much help on the rails themselves, but can help on the roof and sealing to the roof.

H'mm, we do have a club member who did roof mounted solar on his T1950 and his was not on a walk on roof. Tod Osier is his screen name. See here https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...tml#post141555

I'm not sure how he managed to mount them. You can try PM'ing him. He may be on a summer camping trip, he has great summer adventures.

Hope this helps.

John
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Old 08-04-2020, 11:12 AM   #7
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I am not the most knowledgeable person on here but what if you could select a location that is open the entire width of the roof and then mount brackets to the sides where the gutters are mounted but below them and then come off of those to mount your cross braces over the width of the roof instead of fastening directly to the roof surface? Similarly to a roof rack.
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Old 08-04-2020, 11:17 AM   #8
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JohnB this is fantastic, thanks!
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Old 08-08-2020, 12:34 PM   #9
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roger66ogden, thanks for the suggestion, the gutter is metal and this would probably work fine, but I am going with something a bit different. The awning is already attached to the gutter, so the same system should work great to install crossbars, I will keep it in mind.

I found that Home Depot sells square aluminum tubes: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Everbilt...2537/204273939 I bought a couple of these and I am going to install them. They don't have pre-drilled holes, but they are easy enough to drill into. I am planning on using stainless steel lag bolts to attach them to the roof, I googled it and found that I have to worry about galvanic corrosion between the stainless steel and aluminum. Will Dicor be enough to prevent that, or is there anything else I should do to prevent corrosion?

My plan is to install the square tubes with some spacer nuts underneath. Then I can screw the panels into the tubes, and I'll be able to remove the panels to service or upgrade without disturbing the roof sealant.

Please let me know if you see any holes in my plan!
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Old 08-08-2020, 10:23 PM   #10
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Suggestions to help your plan.

* Before putting the spacers to the roof, and bolting through the spacer, use butyl sealing tape between the spacer and the rubber to create a positive roof water seal. Clean roof well before applying sealing tape. Suggest 1" wide x 1/8" thick. You can get it narrower, 3/4" wide x 1/8" and add extra strips to make it wider if needed. Key is, the entire bottom of the spacer is covered with the butyl before pressing it to the roof. Trim excess butyl away from the edge with a plastic scraper. Then use Dicor self leveling sealant around the exposed edges. Do this on "any and all" roof penetrations.

Here are 2 brands I recommend for the butyl tape for this project on the roof.

GSSI MB-10A butyl sealing tape. 1" x 1/8" x 50ft roll. https://www.bestmaterials.com/detail.aspx?ID=19987

Dicor Dicor BT-1834-1 butyl sealing tape. 3/4" wide x 1/8" x 30 ft https://www.amazon.com/Dicor-BT-1834.../dp/B001FCB4JS

Dicor 501LSW Self-Leveling Lap Sealant - White https://www.rvupgradestore.com/Dicor...-p/38-8896.htm Amazon most likely has this too.

On the stainless and bare aluminum corrosion. This reaction https://www.langleyalloys.com/us/kno...ainless-steel/

Coating the metal to create an isolation effect is an easier way on bare aluminium. I have used stainless screws on baked on paint on aluminum trim without issues, but it was not bare aluminum like your tube is.

Here is one way too isolate or an idea to build on.

Create your spacer at the roof to lift the sq tube off the roof at the truss fastening points. Ideally get it up off the roof approx 1/2" or more so things do not collect under it. A nylon spacer would work or an aluminum one.

At the sq tube, drill a 1/2" hole through the sq tube at the lag bolt point. Then use a nylon spacer plug 1/2" OD the 1" long to fill the sq tube top to bottom. Drill a hole in the center of the spacer plug the size of your lag. Then use a nylon flat washer on top of the tube with a stainless flat washer on top of the nylon washer. Then the lag bolt through all of it. The nylon is creating the metal isolation and the stainless bolts/stainless washer which creating the bolting strength.

Consider the round spacer plug/washer idea for the panel mounts also so you can bolt the panels to the tube. Just put a stainless nylock nut on the bottom of the sq tube in the space above the roof. I would not trust self taping screws into the thin aluminium to hold the panels to the sq tube. Too thin.

If you can reach in the ends of the tube for the panel mount brackets, then maybe us a nylon/stainless flat washer and nut inside the open ends of the tube. Maybe long needled nose pliers to hold the nut until it get tight.

Check out Home Depot or other hardware store for nylon spacers and or washers etc. Like these

https://www.homedepot.com/b/Hardware...s/N-5yc1vZc2fd

https://www.homedepot.com/s/nylon%2520washer?NCNI-5

Or outdoor rated nylon to help with the UV issues. Like maybe here https://www.mcmaster.com/nylon/wear-...rs-and-strips/

Hope this helps. I like the tube idea a lot better then the aluminium uni-strut. Good idea. Leave the ends of the sq tube open to let air in and water out.

Let us know how this comes out.

John
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Old 08-16-2020, 06:55 PM   #11
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JohnB, thank you for all the great information! I am still working on mounting the rails, finding those roof supports has proven to be a challenge, but I'm getting there.

I have one more question, I want to mount the second panel over where the antenna mast rotator is, so I would like to remove it, what is the best way to do this? I am thinking of just cutting it off the parts that stick up with a sawzall, but this would cut through the rod in the center that's connected to the rotator. What should I do to prevent water incursion through that hole? Or should I remove all the bolts holding it down and remove the whole thing? If I do that, I'm afraid I will have even more holes.

I have all the wiring figured out, I mounted the solar charge controller in the closet and managed to route all the wires neatly. The system is working nicely so far, there should be plenty of DC power for everything that uses it. I am going to install a USB wall plug to charge phones and ipads.

Thanks!
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Old 08-16-2020, 08:26 PM   #12
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Sawzalls have their place, but that's more for rude & crude stuff than any sort of lasting finish job.

I'd remove the entire assembly and patch it with something like Eternabond tape.
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Old 08-17-2020, 11:57 AM   #13
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Tinstaafl you are right. I guess there is no such thing as a free lunch.
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:17 PM   #14
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Make sure you use inline circuit breakers on your wiring. You will need a 10amp breaker between the panels and the controller and probably a 20amp or 30amp breaker between the controller and the batteries depending on the size of your controller.
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:37 PM   #15
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264SRinPA thank you, I installed circuit breakers as well!
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Old 08-18-2020, 12:19 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ibirman View Post

I have one more question, I want to mount the second panel over where the antenna mast rotator is, so I would like to remove it, what is the best way to do this? I am thinking of just cutting it off the parts that stick up with a sawzall, but this would cut through the rod in the center that's connected to the rotator. What should I do to prevent water incursion through that hole? Or should I remove all the bolts holding it down and remove the whole thing? If I do that, I'm afraid I will have even more holes.
I'm assuming your Que has the Wineguard Batwing antenna? I have had many of them off. They are not that hard to remove.

Here are the basics.

1. Go inside to the crank handle. Crank the antenna all the way up. There is a small Allen hex set screw that you unloosen in the plastic handle. Once the screw is loose, the whole handle will come off. Heads up! The handle holds a spring that wants to pop the handle off at you. Keep the parts and spring. You will need to figure out what to do with the hole in the ceiling long term. Look up and you will see a aluminium hex shaft up in the ceiling.

2. Up on the roof, get a stiff blade putty knife with a 1" wide blade. Hand file , sand or grind off every edge on the blade making it sort of radiused dull on every edge. Run your finger all over it, there are to be no sharp edges.

3. Using a heat gun, warm the Dicor over the top of the screws holding the roof mount down. Dig under the softened Dirco caulk and get to the screws. Unscrew all the screws.

Like under this caulk


Looks like this with the screws out


4. Then keep warming the caulk all around the edge from the metal flange to the rubber and "gently" lay the putty knife flat to the roof and scrape up into the Dicor between the metal and the rubber all the way around. You are getting the heavy bead around the perimeter off.

5. Next is to lift off the entire roof flange. Warm the whole aluminium flange and start at one end working the putty knife under the flange and lift some. Not a lot of lift at once, work your way around. With enough wiggle, warming, and lifting on the flange, it will come up off the roof.

6. Here is a pic of the flange all cleaned up. I did not have a pic of a just taken one off pic, but you can see what the hex shaft and bottom look like. This one is ready to re-install.


7. Pull on the coax cable until you find the union connector. You will unscrew the coaxial cable connector that was in the attic. You need to tape off the end that will stay in the roof as that wire has 12 volts in it when the wall power amp is turned on. You can screw in a coax connector to insulate the center hot wire and then tape over the connector. Then stuff the cable back into the attic. Make darn sure you never want to use it again as that hole you poke into, is not very big to ever fish it back out.

8.The roof hole will look like this. (less the moisture meter)


Tips:

- Keep the heat gun moving, waffing it back and forth. Do not hold it in one place to burn the rubber.
- Keep the heat blowing in the direction you are pushing the scraper. The heat is ahead of you.

- Don't dig down into the rubber, it will tear. Skim over the over surface with the putty knife. If you put a tear in it, it can be fixed.

- You can heat and skim off most all of the old caulk with heat and a scraper. The left overs, you use mineral spirits on a rag and wipe the little bits of left over off. Do not soak the rubber, do not over pour the mineral spirits onto the roof, only apply to the rag and with a finger under the rag, wipe the rage on the rubber. The mineral sprites will dissolve what is left of the Dicor.

Once the rubber is cleaned off, intermediately follow up using rubbing alcohol or Naphtha cleaner to take the oil film off the rubber. You have to work quick with the mineral spirits, use it to clean and be done with it. If you let is sit soaking on the roof for approx 5 to 8 minutes, the rubber starts getting affected. Do it in small steps in small area if needed. Use Nitrile gloves with the chemicals so your skin does not soak up the chemicals. https://www.harborfreight.com/5-mil-...nytrile+gloves

- Sunline would have a piece of 1/2" OSB under the antenna to hold the screws. This will create a good solid backer to press against when patching up the holes in the roof.

If I did not scarce you to death with how to take the antenna off, we can talk about how to patch the roof.

Hope this helps.

John
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Old 08-23-2020, 01:40 PM   #17
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Thanks for the suggestions on how to remove the antenna mast rotator. I can definitely unscrew it and replace it with some kind of plastic plate, but now I'm thinking that I may want to keep it in case I want to install a new antenna or maybe a Starlink antenna once they become available. Here is what it looks like now:



The two rails are solidly connected to the roof and the first panel is attached to the rails. If I don't remove the antenna mast, then the second panel will be too far forward, so I am thinking of turning it sideways and installing another short rail to attach it on the right side. Or maybe I'll just remove the antenna mast and worry about it later. Either way, I think I am close!
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Old 08-23-2020, 06:22 PM   #18
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If you still want an antenna, maybe look at a King Jack or Winegard Air 360
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Old 08-24-2020, 01:23 PM   #19
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You are gaining! The rail mounts look good.

Heads up, where you cut the antenna cable. You need to caulk the cut end of the cable or water will wick down the wire.

And yes, the Jack antenna if a fraction of the size if the older Wineguard and it even will attach to the old Wineguard arms if you want it too. Some of the new campers do not even have the up and down arms with the Jack antenna. Not sure if it matters or not. I converted one to a Jack, but it used the old Wineguard arms the same length as original. They can be cut if needed.
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