If you are struggling to install your campervan solar panels then you are not the only one! Installing large panels that a breakable onto the roof of your conversion dream is rarely a stress-free experience. It’s always worth taking extra time to make sure it’s done correctly.
In this guide, we will provide you with the ultimate guide to installing your solar panels.
The type of solar panel
Before you even begin installing solar panels it is important to understand which type you are trying to install. There are two main types of panels – rigid and flexible. As expected from their names a rigid solar panel is a solid panel, this tends to be the most common choice due to their low cost and high durability.
Despite being more expensive, flexible panels are the better choice for unusual roof shapes, mainly retro campervans.
Type of roof
If you haven’t installed anything connecting to your campervan roof or given it a deep clean then there’s a good chance you haven’t fully seen your roof. On most vans roofs aren’t always a smooth surface perfect to work on, they are often uneven with ridges running across them.
The best way to understand the roof you dealing with is simply to take a tape measure and a camera map out the groove and see the space you have to work with visually.
How to mount solar panels
Once you understand the type of solar panel and the roof you are working with the next thing to do is consider how you want to mount your solar panels. This can be done in two ways: Z-brackets or corner mounts. Both of which offer their own benefits and downfalls.
The z-brackets are the most secure fixing, offering a lower profile and taking up less space, they are also the lower cost choice out of the two. However, they do have the risk of water ingress.
In comparison, the corner mounts are easier to install, however less secure and increases the size of the solar panels.
Installing your solar panels
Please take into consideration that z-brackets will add roughly 20mm to the width/length of your solar panels. To install your solar panels using z-brackets you will need 4 brackets per panel.
Step 1 – To start the installation process fit the brackets to your solar panel frame, you will need to drill a small hole for the bolts to fit through.
Step 2 – Position your solar panel on the roof of your van where you want it to be installed and mark with a pencil through the bracket holes to the van roof. Make sure the panel does not move when doing this.
Step 3 – Remove the solar panel and drill through the van roof using a 5mm metal drill bit for each bracket.
Step 4 – Lift the panel back onto the roof and lay a generous amount of sealant underneath the brackets.
Step 5 – Attach the solar panel to the roof with the bolts and penny washers from the roof side, with another wafer and locking nut from the inside of the van.
Corner mount solar panel installation
Please take into consideration that corner mounts will add 60mm in each direction to the size of your solar panel.
Remember corner mounts will increase the size of your solar panel by 60mm in each direction.
Step 1 – To begin installing your solar panel using corner mounts bring all your panels and corner mounts onto the roof and position them where you want to install them. Make sure that the corner mounts are not uneven.
Step 2 – Once happy with the position mark where the mounts will be positioned, remove the panel from the roof and clean the area where the mounts will go with rubbing alcohol.
Step 3 – Using adhesive sealant attach the mounts to the roof, leaving it dry and per product guidance.
Step 4 – Once set for the correct amount of time bring the panel to the roof and position the on the corner mounts. When done drill through the mount to secure the panels.
Cable entry into campervan
Once you have installed your solar panel onto your campervan roof, the next task is to bring the cable into your van.
Step 1 – Bring your solar entry gland onto the roof of your van and adjust it to the best position. Try and minimise cable length from your panels to the gland, but make sure it is flat to get a good seal. Once you have found the best place mark this location.
Step 2 – Drill a 10mm hole in the centre of your gland location and file the edges of the hole. Add a coating to protect it from corrosion.
Step 3 – Once the coating is dry, add the rubber grommet to the hole to protect your cables.
Step 4 – Route your cables into the entry gland and through the rubber grommet to the inside of the van. Use the adhesive sealant to secure the gland to the roof of your van.
Running the cables from the solar panel to MPPT
Don’t forget that your solar panel cables will then need to run to your MPPT. Make sure to consider this when choosing the length of the cable run as this will need to cover both the horizontal and vertical distance needed to reach the MPPT.
At Nomadic Leisure our Victron Energy Solar Panels are your gateway to a more sustainable future on your outdoor adventures. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or just starting to explore the great outdoors, our solar panels offer a reliable and eco-friendly source of energy that will keep you powered up wherever your journey takes you. Our Victron solar panel range caters to various power needs from 5w to 150w.