Van Rooftop Tilting Mount Concept

HaldorEE

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I am going to be mounting a single 300W, 24V panel on top of my E350 cargo van RV conversion. I have a set of 3 ladder rails mounted on the roof and have a luggage basket over the rear pair of rails. This leaves the section between the front and middle rail to mount the solar panel to.

Here are the ladder rails I have. I left off the ladder securing parts since despite how it looks this is not a tradesmans van.


ulw-300.jpg

The Solar Panel is 65" x 39" in size so I will mount the long dimension from side to side on the van. My thinking is if I park the van facing South and tilt the panel on the narrow axis towards the the front of the van, there should not be any shading. This also means I should be able to deploy and stow the panel without having to climb up on top of the van (something I really don't want to have to do.

To accomplish this I plan on using hinges, aluminum extrusions, and slides as shown in the attached document.

This is a very rough first pass at how I intend to do this, but I was hoping to get some advice from other inmates here about my ideas.
 

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HaldorEE

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Updated based on input from Hedges about large panels flexing.
 

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Roddy

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Hi, I am planning a van build as well and would like to have a tilting solar panel as well. Did you end up implementing this? I am assuming this is a manually actuated system right? I'm thinking of using cheap linear actuator from china to be able to move the the panels up and down. My concern is that I may not have enough room for the actuator to have enough leverage force to raise the panel. Does that make sense?
 

beton

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You will need a locking mechanism for both deployed (wind movement) and stowed (bounce). Several positions for deployed will optimise the output.
 

HaldorEE

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Hi, I am planning a van build as well and would like to have a tilting solar panel as well. Did you end up implementing this? I am assuming this is a manually actuated system right? I'm thinking of using cheap linear actuator from china to be able to move the the panels up and down. My concern is that I may not have enough room for the actuator to have enough leverage force to raise the panel. Does that make sense?
Not yet,

Still working on the van interior. I will finish this design when I get to that phase. I am not the fastest worker in the world, but this does give me lots of time to think things through before doing them.

I plan on using hitch pins to lock the panels in the down position. I don't see any reason to lock in the up position.
 

beton

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I can see the wind shaking it enough with the possibility of dropping down.
 

beton

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I spent 50 years associated with erecting concrete panels. The first 15 years included visiting problems that occurred during the process. I saw many panels that had fallen over because the pins in the braces had shaken out. This was dramatically reduced when locking pins were made mandatory and ceased when padlocks on the pins were mandated. (I can't see the pleasure someone gets by removing pins when the panel could fall faster than they could run).
 

Roddy

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I spent 50 years associated with erecting concrete panels. The first 15 years included visiting problems that occurred during the process. I saw many panels that had fallen over because the pins in the braces had shaken out. This was dramatically reduced when locking pins were made mandatory and ceased when padlocks on the pins were mandated. (I can't see the pleasure someone gets by removing pins when the panel could fall faster than they could run).
Thank you for your comments!

Yes, I thought about that and saw other campers doing that. I was thinking a latch mechanism similar to those found in ladders (Sping loaded arrow shaped metal latch).

working on the van interior. I will finish this design when I get to that phase. I am not the fastest worker in the world, but this does give me lots of time to think things through before

Excellent! Good luck with the build and if you come up with interesting ideas please do share them :) I will do the same. I was also thinking of adding a pair of gas spring to aid the actuators on the way up and let the weight of the panels help on the way down. That's probably the only way (I can think of!) when there isn't a lot of clearance between the panels and the roof.
 

HaldorEE

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The sliding element locks into the grooves on the sides of the 8020 extrusion so the panel can't lift off. This is what the sliding element looks like.

2RCN3_AS02.jpg

This is the hinge element that attaches the lifting 8020 #1010 extrusion to the sliding element. Any wind load that could break that hinge or the slide element is going to destroy the panel anyway.
0957410.jpg
The only way the panel can come back down is if the D28 round extrusion running from side to side on top of the van is rotated. Wind can't do that by pushing or pulling on the panel.

I will use hinge clips to secure the panel in the down position to avoid putting stress on the panel or tilt mechanism while driving. I am not concerned about wind loads when the vehicle is stationary. This is for a camping van, not a permanent installation. If a tornado heads my way, I will lower the panel (not that doing that would help any if my van gets hit by a tornado).


TiltPanel.jpg
 
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HaldorEE

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Here is the complete drawing as a JPG. The two 8010 extrusions attached to the solar panel are secured by end screws to the panel frame, plus double sided mounting tape between the extrusion and the underside of the panel is added to reduce flex in the panel due to wind loading.

The leading edge of the panel is secured by metal hinges to a 2" tall rectangular ladder rack tube (I am using a modified ladder rack for a roof rack on my van). The ladder rack provides very secure attachment for the panel and and tilt mechanism to the van, plus provides a wind break for the panel when driving. The round D28 tube at the trailing edge is secured to the middle ladder rack somehow (I still haven't completed that part of the design). When I want to tilt the panel up, I rotate the D28 tube clockwise (looking at if from the driver side, or counter clockwise from the passenger side) which rotates the bottom pair of 8020 extrusions up into the deployed position.

TiltComplete.jpg
 

HaldorEE

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Pics of the ladder racks after an idiot moment of mine. They are really solidly constructed.

20200909_121841.jpg20200909_121809.jpg
 

HaldorEE

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Brought the van to a complete stop and didn't fail. I feel a lot better about mounting my panel to them now.
 
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