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Old 05-01-2024, 06:33 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Solar Roof Mount

I am trying to understand the best way to attach solar to my Blue Bird short bus.

I have seen a lot of people use unistruts. Some have drilled through the roof frame. Others have used rivet nuts. Then others use 90 degree brackets.


Then there is when I get the solar panels attached can they split in half and fly off from the wind pressure? I know some of these are hurricane rated but this is 60MPH for 12 hours a day. I really don't want anything flying off. I was against anything on the roof but it seems necessary.

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Old 05-01-2024, 06:54 PM   #2
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Post #36 of my build thread outlines what I did for the roof rack. I have a 6-window BB Handy bus with 2x 400w residential solar panels mounted up front and a deck in the back...panels are 1m x 2m ... have not had any problems with the mounting and have put over 4,000 miles on the bus in the last year...

https://www.skoolie.net/forums/f11/t...c-42584-2.html
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Old 05-01-2024, 07:40 PM   #3
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I used unistrut and grade 8 hardware to bolt through the roof into the flat sides of the U channel ribbing of the bus. My panels are rather large at 415W each.

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Originally Posted by nocoasty View Post

The rails are superstrut. I've got special panel mounts specifically designed for unistrut or superstrut. I much prefer this method over overpriced rails marketed for home solar installs. This stuff if inexpensive, readily available, and very high quality.




This is how they're bolted down, through multiple layers of metal, Grade 8 hardware and washers. I've bolted through the rib structure with carriage bolts before, but this method works just as well. The forces required to pull these through, to shear them off, or to stretch them would be a rather difficult task even if the bus were upside down on its roof... toes crossed we don't test that out.


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Originally Posted by nocoasty View Post




To be fair, there are people who legitimately use VHB to mount their solar panels with nothing else and there are people who use self tapping sheet metal screws to secure them. Not that I would suggest doing either, but if you're considering actually bolting something through the bus, you really can't screw it up.
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Old 05-02-2024, 03:44 PM   #4
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Is it better to mount them length wise front to back or side to side?

I have two fans in the top of my bus. At the rear I have 3 foot of space to the fan (first emergency exit). Between the fans (emergency exits) I have 8 foot. Then I have 7 foot at the front of the bus.

If I do length wise from front to back I can only put two panels but if I do side to side I can fit maybe 5.
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Old 05-02-2024, 06:55 PM   #5
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Personally, I prefer going side to side. Pack as much solar as possible. You shouldn't need any additional support, given you space your rails a good distance apart. Once we tightened our mounting brackets any "flex" we might have been concerned about was immediately resolved.
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Old 05-02-2024, 07:18 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nocoasty View Post
Personally, I prefer going side to side. Pack as much solar as possible. You shouldn't need any additional support, given you space your rails a good distance apart. Once we tightened our mounting brackets any "flex" we might have been concerned about was immediately resolved.

That is what I thought you did. How far apart did you put your rails?
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Old 05-02-2024, 07:28 PM   #7
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I'll go measure them really quickly. I'll measure rail distance and I'll measure my panels L & W for you.
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Old 05-02-2024, 07:46 PM   #8
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Rails are spaced 37" from one another. That distance allowed me to bolt through the section I showed a few posts ago, which runs the entire length of my bus (IC RE300) and left me with about 1&1/2" gap between the roof of the bus at the closet point at the center of the panels.



My panels are 68"L by 44&5/8"W, but I've mounted them Long side, side to side.


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Old 05-02-2024, 08:17 PM   #9
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That really helps.
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Old 05-03-2024, 09:00 AM   #10
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Glad to offer any assistance. Good luck with whatever install you choose to go with. I'll try to keep an eye on the thread if I can help in any other way.
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Old 05-03-2024, 09:41 AM   #11
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What are those slides called that go into the superstrut and have the bolt in them?
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Old 05-03-2024, 09:52 AM   #12
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I used a combination of these 2 products depending on which panel I needed to clamp and where I needed to clamp it.

I used this product to clamp the panels at the front and at the end.

I used this product to clamp between two panels.

Only caveat being the front/end clamps come with an bottom insert that didn't work for my application, so I needed more of the uni/superstrut insert from the middle clamps. You can buy extras from Lowes/Home Depot/Menards.

I also forgot to mention that I used the taller strut, not the smaller type, specifically because I wanted to space them wider and still have a decent gap between the high point of the roof and the lowest point of the panel.
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Old 05-05-2024, 12:53 PM   #13
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Did you go with the 6.5 or 7.5 length panels?
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Old 05-05-2024, 03:13 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heimlich View Post
Did you go with the 6.5 or 7.5 length panels?
I see in the picture you went with the 5 foot ones.
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Old 05-06-2024, 08:12 AM   #15
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Sorry! I've been in the shop gently bending, cutting, and flaring lineset for my minisplits over the weekend and didn't get back to this thread.

Yep, these panels are just over 5.5 in length. I ordered a set of 8 from SunGold Power and have been truly pleased with them so far. I could fit 8 total, and actually have all 8, but I only installed 6 for 2490W to start.
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Old 05-06-2024, 10:31 AM   #16
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've been looking into putting a couple of panels up on my bus roof and researching the same thing.

chuck cassidy is kind of active here and has this video i found pretty informative.

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Old 05-06-2024, 11:03 AM   #17
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I never liked the idea of drilling into the ribs of the bus. I like the above posters idea better drilling on the side of it. The rib is appealing though and had the idea of using a u-bolt at every rib. Has anyone seen this?
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Old 05-06-2024, 01:39 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heimlich View Post

If I do length wise from front to back I can only put two panels but if I do side to side I can fit maybe 5.
If you have an odd number of panels, you can only wire them in series; if you do that, will their combined voltage exceed the CC's input rating? Also, when wired in series the array is more susceptible to power reduction caused by shading/dirt/leaves/birdpoop/etc than a parallel-wired array.

John
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Old 05-06-2024, 02:02 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceni John View Post
If you have an odd number of panels, you can only wire them in series; if you do that, will their combined voltage exceed the CC's input rating? Also, when wired in series the array is more susceptible to power reduction caused by shading/dirt/leaves/birdpoop/etc than a parallel-wired array.

John
I've thought about that. Maybe I can use multiple input controllers or something. I see no way to get more than 5 panels.
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Old 05-06-2024, 03:28 PM   #20
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I found these U bolts to go over the ribs of the inside of the bus. They have a mounting plate on them too. So that will help with putting a layer of seam sealer and butyl.

https://www.mcmaster.com/2936T72/
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