October 29, 2020

How to Install a Flexible Solar Panel on an RV

How to Mount Flexible Solar Panels without Drilling - RVWITHTITO

Mounting options for flexible solar panels vary depending upon the type of surface they are being mounted to as well as the type of vehicle or vessel you are mounting to. Panels mounted to the roof of a vehicle or RV will be subjected to high winds and require a semi-permanent installation to prevent the panel from being ripped off of the roof.

Drilling holes into the roof of your RV is one way to anchor down a flexible solar panel. I demonstrate how to do this in this article and video.

In this article I want to show you mounting technique that does not require any drilling. This technique also provides an insulated barrier between the solar panel and the roof that should improve cooling and improve the efficiency and longevity of the solar panel.

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How The No-Holes Technique Works

In this video, I’ll demonstrate how to install a semi-flexible solar panel using this no-holes technique.

This has technique has proven to be very successful. Many others have used this technique to install their flexible solar panels and have reported back with great results. I have three solar panels mounted this way and have driven thousands of miles through all kinds of conditions.

Materials You’ll Need

Here are the materials you’ll need before mounting the solar panels. Most of these materials can be found at your local home store.

  • Corrugated Plastic Sheet (size of panel)
  • 6 x 1” Stainless Steel Carriage Bolts (¼ – 20)
  • 6 x ¼” x 1” Stainless Steel Washer
  • 6 (or 12) ¼” x 20 Stainless Steel Bolts (double for locking)
  • 6 x ¼” x 20 Stainless Steel Wingnuts (optional if using bolts)
  • 4 x ¼” Lock washers
  • Aluminum transition strip (for front edge)
  • Lock Tight (optional)
  • 3M VHB Tape (Shop for VHB Tape on Amazon)
  • 4″ Eternabond Tape (Shop for 4″ Eternabond Tape on Amazon)

Eternabond tape is often used to provide a watertight seal on RV roof joints and has a variety of applications. It works on most surfaces and also comes in a variety of widths, lengths and colors which makes it perfect for a flexible solar panel installation. The only downside of using Eternabond tape is that it’s difficult to remove. It is possible though as I demonstrate in this video.

How to Make The Solar Panel Mount

Follow these steps to create the anchor points and install the flexible solar panel.

  1. Cut insulator plastic sheet to fit solar panel
  2. Drill ¼ inch holes through grommets
  3. Cutout the bottom of the plastic insulator under each hole with utility knife deep enough for carriage bolts to be flush with surface (don’t cut all the way through)
  4. Cut six 2 inch sections of aluminum transition as anchors for the bolts (one for each hole)
  5. Round edges and remove sharp edges of aluminum anchor pieces
  6. Cut 2 inch by ¼ inch notches by each hole for each aluminum anchor
  7. Cut front-edge lift cover to the width of the solar panel (smooth edges)
  8. Drill ¼ inch holes in all anchors
  9. Assemble insulator, bolts and anchors (leave solar panel off for now)

Installation The Solar Panel

Mounting the panel with Eternabond is an easy process. First, make sure you’ve picked the best location for your panel. Then clean and dry the surface very well as Eternabond needs a clean and dry surface to bond to.

Finally, position the solar panel grommets over each anchor point and secure them with washers and bolts.

One Year After Installation

One year after I installed three solar panels using this technique I removed one of the SunPower flexible solar panels to look for signs of wear and inspect the mounting hardware. You can see the results in this video.

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That’s it!

Now stand back and admire your fine work. I have a white rubber roof on my RV, so I chose the white color tape. This made for a very clean looking installation.

If you prefer to mount your flexible panel using screws, be sure to watch this video.

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