As I started digging into solar options for powering our coach when we’re off-grid, I realized that the panel layout has to be designed around the layout of your roof. Things like air conditioning units, satellite dishes, antennas, roof vents, skylights, they all limit the space needed for the panels.
I also realized that due to the massive drop in power output from any shadow which could fall across the panel, people also put a lot of effort into designing the layout around any potential shadows that their rooftop items may cast on the panels.
Being the inquisitive person that I am, my first thought was “why don’t people just elevate the panels once they’re at the campground?” After looking around on the internet, I found nothing related to lifting the panels so I thought I’d see about rolling my own from aluminum angle and channel.
Most RVers who want to get the maximum output from their panels carry spacer bars which allow them to tilt their panels to face the sun at a 90 degree angle.
My thought is to create an “L” bracket to also allow spacing the bottom mount up above any potential shadow-casting obstructions. To minimize side-to-side flex, these brackets can also have a cross-member welded across the middle, or a cross-member could be fashioned that could be bolted on/off for simple storage. I prefer the welded option as this adds rigidity to the frame.
If we’re adding an additional 12” of base height or so (depends on how the L-bracket is built), then we’ll also need an additional 12”+ of wire out of the panel, something that diehard power mongers will hate, but I figure it’s better than longer wires from having to locate the panels farther forward on the roof due to shadows!
Once I settle on some panels, then I’ll go about figuring exact specs.
Rough costs per mount, based on an AmSolar OM100 panel dimensions of roughly 22” x 51”. I picked this panel simply due to low cost and small size, YMMV based on your particular panel.
(2) baseplates. $39.82
22” – 2”x2”x.25” 6061 T6 aluminum angle. I probably way oversized this, but I’m not a mechanical engineer by trade and I figure this is holding a lot of weight and taking a lot of lateral force while the coach is in motion. Better safe than sorry.
Also, if you have 2 panels end-to-end, you can use a piece of 2”x2”x.12
(2) Upright spacers
(2) Long arm of L bracket $24.36
22” – 2” x .25” 6061 T6 aluminum flat bar stock.
(2) Short arm of L bracket
12” – 2” x .25” 6061 T6 aluminum flat bar stock.
(2) Cross braces between L bracket and upright spacers