In this post, we are going to look at a very economical way to get flexible RV solar panels installed on your RV roof with little equipment, small budget and a quality, long-lasting result. (So easy, your wife won’t need assistance from the neighbor).
This is becoming a big thing with the lightweight and cheaper freight of flexible panels (also called marine panels), more people are going for it. When installed on the roof, unlike conventional panels, it adds zero wind resistance. The issue is how to fasten it.
There are some tips and tricks you may find useful. Please remember there are NO GUARANTEES. Everything you try is at your own risk.
Now that we have that bit out the way, let’s get to the real stuff:
Roof Preparation before Solar Panel Installation
Firstly, you need to have a good layer of metal/paint/sealant on your roof. Whatever you stick to the roof is only as strong as the weakest point. If there is a layer of faded UV-eaten paint on the roof, the glue will hold to the paint, but will the paint hold to the roof is the question.
So you may need to scrub or water blast the roof or somehow get the top layer in a good condition before sticking the panels on.
What Glue or Sealant works best on Flexible Solar Panels?
One of the best ways is to use silicone. Get a small tube first, put a fair blob onto a clean spot on the roof. Let it dry properly, that means at least 1 day in the hot Aussie sun or 2 to 3 days in the NZ cold wet windy weather.
Now try and rip it off. If it comes clean off the roof without too much effort, you will need to look at another kind of glue. If you need a PitBull and a blow torch to get it off, you should be just fine using it for the panels. I used Parfix Roof/Gutter/Concrete silicone from Bunnings at $7.20 a tube.
Tools needed to get the Installation done
- Silicone gun
- Utility knife
- Masking tape
- Mild soap/water mix
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Where the Solar Panel meets the RV Roof
Lets assume the roof is ready and you found the right sealant/glue. It is a good idea to put down masking tape on the roof which you can remove afterwards to give a neat finish to the job.
Lay the panels out on the roof in the positions where it will be fastened. Don’t remove the plastic scratch cover from the panel yet. (especially for when the seagulls come for inspection!) Put a strip of masking tape around the panel with approx 1 to 1.5cm spacing.
Bottom side: Put a proper bead of silicone in the center of the panel about 20cm long. That will be enough support for the panel in the center.
- Now put a proper bead right around the panel (approx 1 cm in from the edge).
- Place the flexible panel carefully in its proper position inside the masked square (Note: There is no second chance, you have to place it in the right spot the first time else the silicone will turn into a BIG MESS, trust me, I am speaking from experience).
- Press down carefully where the beads have been placed. Keep pressing until the sealant appears all around the edges forming a perfect moisture seal.
- Now put another bead around the edge to fill the 1cm gap and smear it with a finger until it is flush with the panel surface and angles down to the roof at the edge of the masking tape. This ensures a leak proof seal.
- Use mild soap/water mix, wet a finger and run it carefully over the silicone for a smooth finish. Now, all that’s left is the wiring and you have free sun power.
A Picture of the Panel Installation
An amateur video for those who prefer watching to reading (Like myself)