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Old 02-10-2014, 01:17 AM   #1
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Roof Racks and Solar Panels

I plan to install my panels at the top of my rack to avoid shading caused by the rack. I'll surround the edges with 1/4" aluminum for some protection and a wind screen at the front will provide more.

But I'm worried about going through low limbs and brush.

Have any of you who have panels on top ever stopped to put some tarps over the panels when you know they're about to get scratched on, ,or have any of you not done so but wished you had?

Just how tough are these panels, anyway; and what's the overall risk level?

JC
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:03 AM   #2
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Re: Roof Racks and Solar Panels

Fairly tough if they are glass panels. My antenna snapped back and broke one though. I have thought about a cover for them when I really need it, just never got to it. Call it more bed padding you can store under the bed when not covering the panels. I don't know about wind while driving down the road. That might be a problem. I'm more worried about while in camp and pinecones falling.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:56 AM   #3
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Re: Roof Racks and Solar Panels

My panels are abused on almost every trip by tree branches. With the high top they drag almost everywhere i go where there are trees. No damage yet. If I were to do it over I would put the panels at the back so if needed I could walk the front and cut branches/obstructions if needed.

Considering a lightweight sliding or rolling aluminum panel that can be moved into place if there is an issue. Working on the design now. It would be at the rear of the rack for normal use and slide forward when needed.
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:48 PM   #4
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Re: Roof Racks and Solar Panels

Or keep them inside and mount them as portables. I use mine that way. Could probably figure out a quick mount way to put them on racks for most use, and then stow away in suspect terrain...like at home here in Oakland where they're prone to walk off.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:44 PM   #5
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Re: Roof Racks and Solar Panels

Well, now y'all have gone and dun it. You got me thinking; and that can be a dangerous and expensive situation.

Fiamma sells a Sport model that's about the width of our vans. Carefree in Colorado makes window awnings. Both have been known to do some special order work. That Sumbrella fabric they use is pretty tough stuff. It would shed a lot of the smaller branches.

I'm thinking of hanging a can (that's what awning people call the tube) off the back of my rack with enough fabric to reach the front of my rack, about 123". That'll have to be custom made because of the thickness of all that fabric. If I can't get them to do it, maybe I can get the p&p and have a can made locally. I can get the awning fabric from multiple sources.

When I see the forest creatures approaching, I can stop, pull out the awning, flip it upside down, and lay it across the rack/solar panels, hooking it somehow at the front. I'm planning to make a padded insulating liner for the Penthouse in various pieces. I can get some of these out and slip them under the rack cover, providing some padding. A few pieces of elastic cord thrown over and quickly hooked on the sides of the rack would keep it from flapping if I wanted to leave it up there and gained a little speed.

In its normal life, this rear awning could be pulled out and tied to a couple of extra tarp poles I have, giving me shelter and cover in the rain while I was messing with whatever out the back. Satisfies the requirement to take nothing in the van that doesn't do at least two things.

This rig can also be pulled out if I know a big hail storm is coming and if I'm deep in the trees where the panels aren't working, anyway, and the squirrels are throwing pine cones at me.

I'm gonna contact Carefree. I'll let you know what they say.

JC
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:57 PM   #6
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Re: Roof Racks and Solar Panels

Unless you're going through deep forests, I think the odds of breaking solar panel are pretty small (whipping antenna notwithstanding). I wouldn't be surprised if a custom awning was as expensive as a replacement solar panel. I think a branch would be more likely to poke a hole into awning and then proceed to rip it to shreds as you kept driving.

I am very curious to see what you come up with though.


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Old 02-10-2014, 08:55 PM   #7
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Re: Roof Racks and Solar Panels

If you are really determined to do this, have you thought to mount the panels onto a solid backing of some kind and put hinges on it? That way if things get bad from overhead branches, flip them over and keep driving. That would also solve the problem of them being in the wrong place on the roof. Build it so the PV's are down one side of the roof rack so when they are flipped over you can walk on the back panel of the PV's and have access to the whole roof.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:35 PM   #8
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Re: Roof Racks and Solar Panels

Great ideas all. Thanks. So far, no one's reported having the glass scratched by trees. That's my biggest concern because a bad scratch that couldn't be polished out would act as a shading object and ruin the panel.

Can't flip them; thought of that before. Too many panels; no where to flip them to.

Based on Herb's reminder about the cost/replacement factor, I think I'm going to start out with nothing special. I'll be carrying some decent tarps, anyway. When I find the need, I'm going to put one up there using cord/rope/straps and just see how it does in the branches. I'll already be carrying some padding to slip under it. Will just be a PITA to put it on and tie it down.

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Old 02-10-2014, 09:51 PM   #9
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Re: Roof Racks and Solar Panels

FWIW, I think most of the better brands of solar panels are made with tempered glass, which is fairy strong with respect to an impact to the face of the panel. Tempered glass doesn't do nearly as well with an impact to the edge of the glass, though that shouldn't be an issue with the frames that come around solar panels.


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