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Open Roads Forum  >  Do It Yourself Modifications and Upgrades (DIY)

 > Drilling holes in trailer roof to install solar: worth it?

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OregonMan

Oregon

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Posted: 02/13/21 09:30am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hi guys, so for a while now I've been wanting to install solar on my travel trailer. Problem is I'm not very handy, a little on the heavy side and drilling holes through my trailer roof just doesn't sound great.

Do you think it's possible to get the same amount of power generated from solar using the flexible foldout panels? Would it be possible to just use these during the day as we need them, then stow them away, without having to install a bunch of panels on the roof?

I feel like solar tech is improving quickly. Don't want to screw up my trailer and spend a full day working on this if in 2 years Tesla comes out with some amazing portable solar generator. Thanks for any feedback.

agesilaus

North Florida

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Posted: 02/13/21 09:40am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Some folks are using super strong 3M tape and say it works as well as screws


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midnightsadie

ohio

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Posted: 02/13/21 09:43am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

my .02cts no ,for what you think your going to gain its not worth the possible leak down the road. by a bigger better battery.

jdc1

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Posted: 02/13/21 09:44am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Drilling a few holes couldn't be any worse than cutting 14" X 14" AC holes, 1'1/2" vent pipe holes, holes for TV antenna cable or skylite holes.

Terryallan

Foothills NC

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Posted: 02/13/21 09:53am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

OregonMan wrote:

Hi guys, so for a while now I've been wanting to install solar on my travel trailer. Problem is I'm not very handy, a little on the heavy side and drilling holes through my trailer roof just doesn't sound great.

Do you think it's possible to get the same amount of power generated from solar using the flexible foldout panels? Would it be possible to just use these during the day as we need them, then stow them away, without having to install a bunch of panels on the roof?

I feel like solar tech is improving quickly. Don't want to screw up my trailer and spend a full day working on this if in 2 years Tesla comes out with some amazing portable solar generator. Thanks for any feedback.


I believe your flex panels are the best idea. Panels permanently fixed to the roof will get dirty and not be effective. I use a small pannel to keep the battery charged while I dry camp. And in the winter I hook it to the battery to keep it charged.
I would go that way if I were you.


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TurnThePage

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Posted: 02/13/21 10:12am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I mounted panels to my plywood roof with screws over 15 years ago. No leaks ever. I'm not all that handy either. I ensured that I was hitting the cross members and not just the thin plywood. I squeezed a little caulk in each hole before screwing into it and left a layer of caulk between the brackets and the roof, and then used good self leveling caulk over the top of the whole thing.


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Lwiddis

Near DVNP, California

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Posted: 02/13/21 10:44am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Sure, the foldout panels will produce the same amount of power. Early morning, set up panels, move as necessary for sun. Take panels in for trip to town for lunch to prevent theft. Return from town, set up panels a second time, move as necessary for sun. Late afternoon, put panels away for a second time that day. Not fun. My roof panels were working earlier than your’s and later than your’s with no effort.


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ktmrfs

Portland, Oregon

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Posted: 02/13/21 11:08am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

OregonMan wrote:

Hi guys, so for a while now I've been wanting to install solar on my travel trailer. Problem is I'm not very handy, a little on the heavy side and drilling holes through my trailer roof just doesn't sound great.

Do you think it's possible to get the same amount of power generated from solar using the flexible foldout panels? Would it be possible to just use these during the day as we need them, then stow them away, without having to install a bunch of panels on the roof?

I feel like solar tech is improving quickly. Don't want to screw up my trailer and spend a full day working on this if in 2 years Tesla comes out with some amazing portable solar generator. Thanks for any feedback.


Second question first. In reality portable panels tilted to reasonably align with the sun will outperform flat panels on the roof by a noticeable margin. I have 3 160W panels on the roof and 3 200W portable panels. Even Two of the Portables always outperform the roof.

Now flexible panels that can't be tilted, laying flat on the ground are likely to give the same performance as fixed roof panels.

Downside it portables need to be stored, don't work when driving down the road, take time to set up, and can grow legs.

Upside is you can park in the shade and put the panels in the sun. Roof panels mean parking in sun.

Now for the roof question. I used brackets to attach the panels to the roof. brackets are screwed into the roof. for installation I drilled for the screws, then put dicor in the screw holes, placed the brackets on top, screwed them in and then covered the base of the bracket and screw head with dicor. basically how other roof items are attached. Then ran the cable down through the fridge vents, attaching the cable to the roof with cable clamps using VHB to the roof.

* This post was edited 02/13/21 02:32pm by ktmrfs *


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SpeakEasy

Western New York

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Posted: 02/13/21 11:19am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Look at it this way concerning the holes in the roof: If you drill a hole that is narrower in diameter than the screw you're using, the hole will be completely filled with the screw. I've been putting screws into boat decks for most of my life for one reason or another. You drill the right-sized hole, fill it with appropriate caulk or sealant, drive the screw in, cover it with sealant, and you're good to go. On a trailer roof, the last step is Dicor self-leveling sealant. I did my solar panel on my trailer roof that way. (On two of the four brackets I made sure to drill into a framing member of the roof. The other two brackets there was no framing member where I needed to be.)

Make sure you know the way your roof is constructed so that you don't go deeper than you should and so that you don't use screws longer than you should. If you can't be 100% certain of this part, then don't do it.

There is no way I'd be willing to drive down the highway at 65MPH with a solar panel attached to my roof without screws.

Concerning the portable ones - If you're anything like me you will hate the inconvenience of having to set them up all the time. With a roof-mounted panel they are up there working for you all the time without you having to even think about it.

-Speak


It's just Mrs. SpeakEasy and me now (empty-nesters). But we can choose from among 7 grandchildren to drag along with us!



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Ed_Gee

Central Oregon coast

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Posted: 02/13/21 11:26am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

One consideration - portable solar panels can 'disappear' sometimes if you're not around..... not to mention the hassle of setting up or putting away everytime you come and go. 3M VHS tape is proven to be a good way to mount solar panels on roof. However, if you're not physically or skillfully up to it then maybe you should either use portable panels or drive over to Springfield Oregon and visit AM Solar.


Ed - on the Central Oregon coast
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