Another panel install, thought to share my experience

Gould

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Jan 18, 2021
Messages
291
There are a lot of similar threads here but thought I‘d share my experience.

The RV is a 2021 Grande Design Imagine 2970RL. A lighter unit but heavier than many and from what I can tell and have researched well built. My objective is 1200W of solar with Victron Multiplus and DIY CATL batteries for a total of 540ah capacity. I’ve been battling with the approach to the panel install mainly because of the low height of the trailer relative to a fifth wheel and how it would look aesthetically from the ground. In the end security trumped looks and I went the strut channel route.

I decided on the 3/4” high by 1.5” wide slotted channel with my main objective being to keep them as low as possible. I have also decided that for iteration one I would not be incorporating tilt. This will prove to be a poor decision that I’ll get into later. Keeping with theme of low profile and security I went with 1” x 1/4” 6041 angle aluminum.

Let’s start with a shot of the canvas - failed to take one before I started so here’s one from a few months ago. Grande Design does a fairly good job of keeping lanes of the roof unobstructed. Unfortunately the shower skylight is unavoidably off to the side and because this is the Imagine line, it is does not have the extra width you get with the Reflection so mounting beside the AC is a no-go. All panels have to be mounted along the side running north/south because of the arched roof line.

I went with the Longi 315W panels because it is the only panel currently available that is under 40” wide - it’s 39.2” - yes, I need all the width savings I can get!

The panel brackets are no different that we see all over the forum, two lengths of angle aluminum fit to the width of the panel. These are 66” long so I went with an additional bracket in the center. The difference in rigidity with the 3rd bracket and the 1/4” aluminum is incredibly. There is zero flex.

Now to mounting. With little room to spare I mounted the panel 3/4” inside the edge of the roof. This allowed just enough room to clear the vents and yet hang not over the edge. The strut was cut to 60” lengths so I was able to hit 4 trusses. To note, the top of trusses are 1x2 so lots of width to hit the target but very little depth so easily split. The install process went like this:
  • Lay 3“x3” chunk of Eternabond over the area the bolt was going
  • Pre-drill using 1/8” bit
  • Lay down layer of self-leveling Dicor ensure that the edges of the Eternabond were covered, avoiding the pre-drilled hole
  • Install temporary nail in pre-drilled hole so A.) confirm that you have indeed hit a truss and B.) you don’t lose the hole
  • Install 1.5” x 3” x 1/4“ chunk of plastic cutting board that we all have lying around they kitchen
  • Lay down strut
  • The strut will have a tendency to push the plastic blocks around with the Dicor down so start with the two bolts in the center
  • Mount strut using 1.5” x 1/4” lag bolt, fender washer, and lock washer (likely not needed but felt better using them)
  • Install bolt with a socket NOT an impact driver and stop at the sign of a crushed lock washer
  • I then covered the bolts and surrounding plastic with Dicor
  • I measured for the location of the outside strut and mounted it first. I then temporarily installed the panel brackets to position the inside strut and followed the same install process.
My decision to use 1” angle aluminum and not have pivoting made attaching to the strut a challenge. I literally had 1/8” to spare to slip my socket onto the bolt. Wiring will be difficult as well but there is room and the Longi panels have easily accessible MC4 connections to hopefully managable. I have two down and two to go. End of the day I’m happy, they’re very sturdy although they haven’t been road tested yet; we’ll see how they make out this weekend.
 

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DIDDLYV

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 1, 2021
Messages
91
Were the cutting board block under the strut channel basically to lift the strut channel off the roof to allow water to drain? Pretty good idea! I think my roof has enough pitch that it drains naturally but may steal your idea.
 

Gould

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Jan 18, 2021
Messages
291
That’s right, the cutting board was to lift the strut enough to allow for water shed. You can see that my roof has a pretty good pitch but even so, the strut is 5 feet long. that’s a long way for the water to travel. I was a little worried about the extra height but having lived with it for a few months now, I’m glad I did it. Makes blowing leaves and acorns out from underneath the panels a breeze.
 
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