Camper Upgrades – Part Four: Solar Power!

Yesterday I was able to install the solar panel on the camper. I’ve been wanting to add some solar panels to the camper so we can “boondock” camp (camping with no power available.)

I had originally purchased a small 25 Watt panel but soon realized that was probably not going to be enough. I came across a good deal for a 100 Watt panel so I snapped one up.

Then I needed to figure out how to mount it to the camper. One of the reasons I had the roof rack installed was so that I could put a solar panel on it, so I just had to design some sort of mounting system for it. Unfortunately just bolting the panel to the rack wasn’t going to work since it would block the roof vent. I also wanted it to be removable without too much work.

So I asked around and discovered that I had a friend who had a brother with a sheet metal shear and brake (used for bending.) Excellent. I designed up some brackets and bought some 18 gauge mild steel sheet. Then I went over to his house with some beer and we made some brackets.

Brackets with the primer coat on them.

Next I drilled a bunch of holes in them and primed and painted them. After the paint was dry I glued on some foam and rubber strips to keep the panel from bouncing around too much.

Yesterday I installed all the brackets and I was very pleased that they fit just about perfectly!

Rear supports.

The two rear supports are screwed into the back wall of the camper with special marine grade 316 Stainless Steel plywood screws – all the bolts I used are 316 Stainless Steel. The brackets are tall enough to give the solar panel a little slope so water won’t collect and the wind from driving down the road should exert a slight downward pressure on the panel.

Closeup of a rear support.

Here you can see the L bracket that supports the panel. You can also see the foam cushion. There is another L bracket on the top of the panel holding it down. The pins are there to keep the panel from shifting from side to side and could also probably hold it down by themselves.

Top view.

Here is the top view. You can’t really see the S shaped brackets that hold down the front of the panel. I should have taken more photos when we were bolting them to the cross bar.

The wiring is not quite done. I stuck a bunch of clips to the camper to hold the wires but I just cut it to length and brought it home to attach the plug. I’m not super happy with the way the plug attaches to the camper and may re-work that bit later if I can find a better way to do it.

The other update I did was to cut the tongue box down by about two feet and attach the end to it. I decided that it was too heavy and we don’t really need that much storage on the front of the camper.

Smaller tongue box.

So there we go. We will be going on a trip shortly and I’ll report back on how well the solar panel works out.

You can see all the other posts about our camper by clicking here.