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Old 09-30-2016, 01:56 PM   #1
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DIY Installation of Renogy 200w Rigid Solar Panels for W

Since the W floorplan is becoming popular, I just want to share a no-drilling method I used recently for my W. I learned this method mostly from discussions on this and other subforums. I'm happy to report that in a ten-day dry-camping test, the system performed well, and panels are very firm on the roof, after 1,200 mi driving on highway and bumpy road in mountains.

Material with link:
Renogy 200w kit
30A ANL fuse between battery and controller
MC4 in-line fuse between panels and controller
Sticky Feet
3 M marine sealant. Perhaps should have gotten the fast cure version.
3 M VHB tape
Eternabond tape
Miscellaneous items: Ring terminal (6AWG), Dicor, Touch n' foam

1. Prepare panels. Attached sticky feet to back of panels. Used six feet per panel. Adjusted them to the lowest position. Marked on roof for position of feet.
2. Prepare roof. Avoided early morning and late afternoon when there was condensation on roof. Cleaned thoroughly with 50% rubbing alcohol. Let it dry for a couple of hours. Some people sanded the roof slightly to remove dimples. I opted not to do that.
3. Install panels. Attached panels to cleaned, marked positions. Placed a piece of plywood on top with some weight to press the panel down on roof.



4. 24 hours later, applied 3M sealant around and on top of the feet. Let the sealant to cure for 5 to 7 days. Maybe a fast cure sealant is better here. Finally, applied Dicor on top and around 3 M sealant.
5. At this point, I added two home-made brackets for front and rear end using 3M VHB double sided tape bought on Amazon. The vertical position of bracket is adjustable. Although others haven't used this type of brackets, I feel more comfortable after using them.





6. Pulling cables. Important: before pulling cables, mark the ends with a masking tape for connection to positive or negative ends. Also cover the ends with electric tape so you donít accidentally short the batteries or panels while making connections later.
7. Remove refrigerator vent cover: remove caulking and unscrew. Cut wires to join three grids. Tape cable for protection against sharp edge.



8. Wire cables from top vent down, open the access panel from side, have a helper to pull the cables out, to the outside first
9. Locate the copper propane line (front corner to the right), remove caulking carefully to expose the hole. Wire the cables down the propane hole to the the space below the vent next to water heater.
10. While pushing the cables down the propane hole, one person catches and pulls the cables from inside, below the water heater.
11. Bring the cables up to water heater compartment, find the drainage pipe in the back, follow the pipe and wire the cables to the space below sink. Zip tie the cables to the drainage pipe later.



12. Remove drawer from below the sink. Find the hole behind duct where a bundle of wires go through to connect to battery. This is the hardest part for me because the space is very tight. Be careful not to tear the duct or accidentally disconnect any wires.



13. Working from both above and below coach, remove foam caulking carefully. Use a blunt stick (I used a chopstick) and carefully poke through. Be careful not to touch the duct.
14. Working from underneath the coach, push battery cables up through the hole.
15. Locate a position for the controller. Find the beam behind for strong support.
16. Drill another one-inch hole ~ 2Ē below controller for cables.
17. Connect battery cables to controller: working underneath the coach, wire cables to battery compartment through an existing hole.
18. Once the cables are inside the battery compartment, first cut the positive cable and attach the 30A ANL fuse. Connect the cables to battery. Cut the cables to length and connect the other ends to controller. Follow the mark and make sure cables are connected correctly. Now the controller should power up.
19. (optional) Before connecting panel cables, check the panels with a multimeter and make sure each panel is working and producing 12V or more.
20. Connect panel cables: first add a MC4 in-line fuse to the positive cable (on the roof), then join positive cables of both panels using branch connector, repeat for negative cables. This is a parallel connection for 12V. Cut the cables to length. Connect the free ends to controller. Now the controller should display the state of charge.



21. An easy way to make sure both panels are working properly: cover one panel at a time with a piece of plywood and if the controller shows approximately half of amperage then it is working.
22. Fasten cables to roof or battery compartment (outside) with Eternabond, or to pipes with zipties. Fill holes with Dicor or Touch n' Foam.

Here is the finished look. The feet covered in Dicor are visible on the side, so are the two extra homemade brackets at ends. The cables are taped down. I had checked multiple times during the trip, and panels and cables are firmly attached, no worries I'm still finding out what the max output the 200w panels have. At times I saw over 8 amp and 17 volt, in line with what Renogy tech told me. But I wonder what others get.

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Old 09-30-2016, 02:39 PM   #2
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Thanks for the pictures and thethorough explanation! I'm not sure I got it all - I'd probably get more of the details if I was doing it myself.

One question I had... I'm wondering why you used Dicor over the various feet on the roof? Given that there were no surface penetrations, I'm not sure of the purpose...

Thanks for the whole thing!

Dave
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Old 09-30-2016, 02:45 PM   #3
2015 Forester MBS 2401W
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveJordan View Post
Thanks for the pictures and thethorough explanation! I'm not sure I got it all - I'd probably get more of the details if I was doing it myself.

One question I had... I'm wondering why you used Dicor over the various feet on the roof? Given that there were no surface penetrations, I'm not sure of the purpose...

Thanks for the whole thing!

Dave
As I understand it, Dicor protects the sealant from damage by UV etc, and it provides some adhesive strength as well.

Let me know which part you are not clear about. I've numbered the steps (as I usually do as a lab scientist )
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Old 09-30-2016, 04:30 PM   #4
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Nice write up. Will copy if we move up to a w, although wife pushing for a super c diesel to travel around country in.
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Old 09-30-2016, 04:49 PM   #5
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Nice! Another vote for the sticky feel no drill method. Re: Dicor, I covered mine for 3 reasons. 1. to seal the panel side of the bracket and the epoxy fiberglass interface from wind driven water that might make its way to the vhb tape/ roof fiberglass interface. 2. Cosmetic, the Dicor has a nice smooth finish. 3. Extra Uv protection . Dicor has a track record of resisting uv on the roof.
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Old 10-01-2016, 04:16 PM   #6
2015 Forester MBS 2401W
 
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Forgot to emphasize that this is a relatively straightforward installation, much easier than I expected, given that I'm not considered handy.
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Old 10-03-2016, 08:09 AM   #7
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Hello HomeOnWheels,
Nice setup. I have some questions. I'm new to solar so please
tolerate my ignorance.
First how do you integrate the solar panels with the battery(s)
when you are running on shore power or is this strictly for "off the grid" locations?
Secondly if for example I have a generator and I turn it
on there is an automatic switch to cut out the shore power. Does
this work the same?
Thirdly I'm a little concerned about not screwing the panels to the
roof considering the "tornado effect" which is streaming over and
around the vehicle when speeding down an Interstate at 60mph.

Thank you in advance for your input.
Ian
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Old 10-03-2016, 01:47 PM   #8
2015 Forester MBS 2401W
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian Walker View Post
Hello HomeOnWheels,
Nice setup. I have some questions. I'm new to solar so please
tolerate my ignorance.
First how do you integrate the solar panels with the battery(s)
when you are running on shore power or is this strictly for "off the grid" locations?
Secondly if for example I have a generator and I turn it
on there is an automatic switch to cut out the shore power. Does
this work the same?
Thirdly I'm a little concerned about not screwing the panels to the
roof considering the "tornado effect" which is streaming over and
around the vehicle when speeding down an Interstate at 60mph.

Thank you in advance for your input.
Ian
The solar feeds directly to batteries. It works even if the coach is on shore power, generator is on, or engine is on. Its controller reads the voltage of the batteries and control the state of charge. For example, the solar will charge at max output if it reads ~13.2 V or below and go into float mode with < 1 amp if the batteries read 13.2 v or above.
This is based on my understanding. I'm a newbie as well.
Regarding no drilling, there have been discussions, e.g. here
There are concerns with drilling method as well: leak, roof not thick/strong enough etc. As others, I'm pretty confident with this method as well. Of course I get up there from time to time to check out things, I'll keep an eye on the panels.
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Old 11-28-2016, 07:36 PM   #9
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Hi Rich, I have a question about your cell signal booster installation. I couldn't ask the question in your original post because that thread is too old. Can you explain how you wired the cable from antenna to inside? Is it permanent installation or you only put it out at camp site?
Thanks!
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Old 11-29-2016, 05:26 AM   #10
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Hi Jeff,
My cell booster is permanently mounted. I have a weboost 4 G M , it works great with lte despite the manufacturer suggesting the 4gx or Rv models. There are a lot of steps and considerations to this project but really no harder than the solar. I may need to start another thread with photos. The short version is as follows: The cell booster is mounted in the closet, it was the most convenient spot to be able to check unit , run power and have the pick up and transmit antennas meet. I added a new 14 ga wire to an open slot on the fuse box and ran it to the space on my unit under the closet. This gives power to both the cell boost and my wifi ranger. I added 2 12 v switches to the outside of the closet to turn each on and off. You will need to determine the best place on your model. The roof antenna was used withou modification ( it is sized for lte), glued to a 3 inch aluminum cake pan painted to match the roof. 3 inch gets me above my panels and you must use a metal ground plane for the cell, it also needs to be 9 inch dia based on the lte frequency. 3 by 9 cake pan on Amazon , alum so no rusting. I ran the cable down the fridge vent and drilled a hole in the upper closet , ran cable and resealed.
The pick up antenna is located on the shelf above the passenger visor with enough slack for holding it against the phone for better signal when needed. This self works well to just place the phone on for hot spotting when parked. Also just sitting in the passenger seat places phone within the required 18 inch range. I purchased 25 foot very low impedance/resistant cable on Amazon with connectors attached to run down the coach pillar then under coach to come up same hole as your solar cables back into coach.
There are many considerations that affect how well the system will work.
You must use a ground plane sized for the wavelength.
The pick up antenna and transmit antenna need maximum separation to prevent reverberation, the booster will reduce transmit power automatically but you loose the boost. ( that's why I did not use the Rv version with the larger directional antenna, these coaches are small)
You will need to run a power line to the closet area and a switch.
My booster works very well in remote areas. We had 2-3 bars lte in Devils garden at arches this summer(one bar, no data without booster on), I think the cell tower was 20-30 miles away in the la salle mountains. The booster will nearly always bring us from 3G to lte. The more remote ,the better since the booster will reduce power if area signals are already strong. Expect little boost if your phone is already showing lte. I'll try to take some photos this weekend. If you are ready to start this project I will look up the links for the low imped cable on Amazon.
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