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Friday, February 12, 2010

Solar Panel mounting

We use a two panel solar system to help us with our electrical needs when boon docking. Would I like more panels? Yes I would! But I don't really need them. My panels provide 260 watts of power at 22 volts and at 7 amps the way I have them configured.

The purpose of this post is to discuss my mounting system however so I will leave off with the technical stuff.

You see all kinds of systems on other rigs. What is important is what works for you. We chose not to mount our panels on top of our rig because we actually have two trailers. We have a smaller one that we use in the summer for quick fishing or photography trips to the mountains where we don't want to take our big Montana. The solar panels go along on those trips to help with the piece and quiet that you don't get with a generator. Even if it is a Honda! (I have an EU2000 for cloudy days or night time power needs)

If you look closely at my mounting system you'll note that it is simply a metal rack of several different parts to help brace it and hold the panels at an angle to the sun. This can be steep or not so steep depending on the suns height. The sun is higher in the summer than in winter and I can take advantage of that. Especially in timbered campgrounds where the sun may be difficult to see until midday.

Some of my parts came from the solar panel dealer, some came from Home Depot, and most recently, I found some laying along the highway. More on that later.

My mounting system is totally portable and can be carried inside a capped section of 4" PVC pipe five to six feet in length. It takes from ten minutes to a half hour to assemble depending on how long it's been since I last used it. Sometimes I forget how the parts go and have to figure it out again. That's when it takes a little longer. It was all built to match the existing holes in the solar panels.

One advantage to having a portable solar panel system is that you don't have to worry about which way to face your rig. Trailers and motor homes with panels mounted rigidly to the roof have to point their rigs the same direction all the time. I find that I want to point my rig different directions based on the view or the wind and so on. One disadvantage to a portable solar panel system is that it is more susceptible to theft or damage or unleashed dogs and the like because it is so close the ground. Much care must be taken when in RV parks to avoid objects thrown from lawn mowers, truck or car tires, and weed eaters to name a few.

I tend to re-point my panels at the sun during the day to keep them at peak power. Especially if I have the inverter on so I can have my satellite internet system up as I do now while posting this blog. Until recently I didn't have any wheels on which to do this. I had just made up my mind to buy a set for this purpose when we were driving along the highway a few days ago and I spotted a set of wheels from somebody's BBQ in the ditch. They had to have blown out of a rig with the BBQ and broken off. I stopped and tossed them in my truck for my panels. They are a little light for my use but as you can see in the picture they are just what I needed.

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