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Old 05-08-2013, 11:38 AM   #1
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Solar panel support question

Down to just putting my solar panels on. But, I have a unique problem to solve. My solar panels will not be on the roof. Imagine a toy hauler ramp that hinges from the back top of the camper and comes down on top of the ramp (on my toy hauler) when traveling. That is how I'm adding solar to my camper. It hinges on the back of my toy hauler.

Here's my problem. The total assembly will be around 120-130 lbs (stainless steel and aluminum frame plus 4 solar panels). I'll only be supporting half that by holding up one side with two poles that supposedly can handle 150 lbs each. So maybe 70ish lbs with no wind. But it will be 4 panels wide and I'd imagine that much wind at all could change that dramatically. The only solution I have been able to find so far is linked below. I'd have to modify the poles of course but I'd much rather have something more heavy duty for the job. The poles will be anchored to the back bumper of a FR Cherokee 25RR at the bottom and the top will connect to the outward end of the panels.

FastCap 3rd Hand Support System 57-to-144-Inches, 2-pack #3HAND5 - Amazon.com
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Old 05-08-2013, 12:15 PM   #2
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I don't have one of them, but think the extension piece can pull out of the base piece without grabbing the lock handle. In other words, I think wind could still lift the panels.

Hopefully someone who owns one will confirm.

what about a pipe in a pipe with lock pins? Holes could be drilled at predetermined positions base on desired height.

or even an repurposed manual awning arm?
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Old 05-08-2013, 01:22 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RPAspey View Post
I don't have one of them, but think the extension piece can pull out of the base piece without grabbing the lock handle. In other words, I think wind could still lift the panels.

Hopefully someone who owns one will confirm.

what about a pipe in a pipe with lock pins? Holes could be drilled at predetermined positions base on desired height.

or even an repurposed manual awning arm?
A pipe with some holes drilled is a damn good idea. I should have thought of that. I would just need to find a pipe that would fit inside of another piece of pipe. I'll be honest, I was hoping for something somebody had already made but I have "something" that will work and be strong enough if I can't. Thanks RPAspey.

I'll be so glad when I finish my solar project. When I post the pics people will know why. I feel like I should have a boy scout badge for machinist or something.

Hey, while I have your ear. How should I fuse the positive side of my solar panels going back to the charger? I have made an aluminum frame to anchor and support the weight of the solar panels. Starting to worry I'm turning the back of my camper into a lightning rod. Bunch of metal back there.
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Old 05-08-2013, 05:15 PM   #4
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There are different ways to fuse, I went overkill. each panel, 8 amps at Imp, has a fuse, rated at 10 amps. then, the main conductor has a set of fuses rated at 30 amps. The last set is as much for gross failure of the charge converter as it for a means of disconnection.

You'll want to verify that your panels can be "grounded". I read somewhere that there was a batch of panels made that had the negative side tied to it's frame. If the panel frame was grounded, as it should be, the panel would destroy the charge controller. Most charge controller need the panel's output to be isolated from the charge controller output. Of course if the battery negative on the camper is tied to it's frame, so if the panel frame is tied to the camper frame you'll have the two together. Again this only applies to a few solar panels that have their frames tied to it's negative output.
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Old 05-09-2013, 09:11 AM   #5
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I'm pretty sure the panels are ok. The positive and negative leads come from the top center of the panel and are away from the frame. For the camper the negative IS connected to the frame.

Which begs another question. Since the negative is connected to the frame can I ground the solar panels (via frame for solar panels) to the TT frame if the negative is connected to it?
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Old 05-09-2013, 09:45 AM   #6
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yes, as long as you checked that the panel's negative output isn't connected to the panel frame. All you have to do is examine the junction box, if it doesn't touch the frame, and no wires connect the two, all is good. If the box touches the frame, open it and verify no connection to the negative output.

I would definitely run a ground wire panel frame to panel frame, then onto the camper frame. Even though you might have a metal framework for your panels, the hinged area is the ground weak point, assuming the hinges are attached to a metal frame part on the camper.
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