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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Solar Panel Installation – Part Two

If you missed the first half, go here:   Solar Panel Installation - Part One
We had awful weather this week, 8 inches of snow, blowing, cold and miserable.  During the last week, we cut out a section of wall and installed the Trimetric Monitor gauge and the 500amp shunt used to monitor the battery condition.
The gauge is mounted in our kitchen, and the shunt is mounted under the bed close to the batteries on the negative line.  Special wires come back to the wall panel.
Voila! It works!  This is like “Command Central” for seeing how many volts you have in your batteries, how many amps are being used, how much is being charged etc.
(that was during the week)
Now it’s Saturday morning and the snow has all melted.  Mr. Zoom Zoom (my nickname for Steve)  got all the gear together bright and early to finish the solar panel installation.  
Never mind the fact that I hadn’t had my second cup of coffee.
Never mind the fact that it was still only 34 degrees!  
Never mind the fact that at noon or 1 pm it would be in the 50’s or even 60-?

Let’s all sing together that James Taylor favorite:  Up On A Roof…………….
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And I gingerly crawled up the ladder to assist.    I HATE heights….ack!
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First step was to hook the four panels together into pairs of two.
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Now they had to be wired up together and then joined to the two 8 gauge cords
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Next comes the flip over and install the brackets to the roof… ohhh drilling holes in a roof can be VERY SCARY!    Once a hole is drilled, you can’t  UNdrill it!

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We used some rather unique fasteners.   Before you get too excited seeing “plastic”, calm down.  It’s only temporary nylon guides that hold the metal toggle into place … read on:
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Ahhhhh  now look at that !  (about four hours later)
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Well, not quite.   Now Steveio had to hook up the wires in the solar controller and 30 amp fuse box.  Then hook the Trimetric gauge back up to the shunt and it *should* work…..

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Weeeeeheeeeeee it all works!   And even in cloudy afternoon sky in April we are pulling 20 amps.  Ain’t that something?   Now it is time for a nice long nap… so I dozed off with the doggies inside the motorhome.  Snoozing in the driveway, now cool is that?


  1. I'll have to ask Stevieo how many beer job this is, I like you Karen don't like roof jobs,After being a Naval Aviator how can that be, I just like my feet being planted on the ground now. You are sure lucky he is so handy, and from the photo's does professional quality work.Good jo Steve. Sam & Donna.

  2. looks great - i assume whatever rig i end up with that i too will be installing solar... so look for me to someday beg for advice...

  3. Karen, did you mean that you were getting 20 AMPS, not 20 volts from the panels on the cloudy day?

  4. Wow! Great Looking Job Steve! A true Craftsman at work! and great photography! Karen you could write a how too book on just about anything!

  5. Oops thanks yudamann5~ I meant amps.... not volts. I will go back and fix it. Good proofreading for me!

  6. Karen & Steve, this is a great article and well done on the presentation. I am curious about the toggle bolts. Did you drill through the roof structural supports or just through the roof? If not through the supports, how confident are you that they will not work loose while traveling? What does the toggle look like on the inside ceiling?

  7. Good question Yudaman (cute name)

    Steve said the bolts used were 1/4 inch bolts and the roof structure is 1/2 inch and a bit more.. and the metal toggle is in the pics shown in his hand at about 2 inches long heavy metal bent in a C beam shape. The bolts screw down into the hole, into the threaded toggle that is suspending temporarily by the nylon strips. Once it's all securely screwed into place, the nylon has no effect.

    It is all metal support configuration with a metal bracket on the top, metal bolt in the middle and metal toggle holding widely spaced 2 inches across from underneath.

    These toggles are used in industrial applications for holding large heavy objects even in drywall and hold very well.

    Hope that helps....

    (compared to the average wood screws we see on some brackets for solar applications, this setup ain't going anywhere.. haha)

  8. Karen, thanks for the response on the toggle bolts. So they do not go through the roof "joists", but through the roof deck material. And the toggle portion does not penetrate the finished ceiling and remain exposed in the room beneath, correct? In other words, the toggle is snugged tight against the underside of the roof deck and is hidden by the finished ceiling, correct?
    yudamann outer banks nc

  9. Hey Yudamann, yes, you are correct.

    The bolts go through the plywood roof surface (but first through the surface fiberglass then some kind of luan panel under that and finally through the 1/2 inch plywood) The toggle is in a space between the top roof plywood and the lower interior plywood. Nothing shows on the inside, there is quite an air space in our Safari with insulation in between. There is about 3-4 inch air space near the sides and about 6 inch air space in the center as the roof is somewhat crowned.

    Actually during installation, two of the brackets ended up being screwed right into ceiling joists so we had to switch gears on those 2 and use some heavy duty lag screws.

    And as a side note, for the past 32 years, Steve is a Facilities Repair Worker at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay and does much of their remodeling, installing and retrofitting any and all structures inside and out on the campus classrooms, offices and dorms. Even the chancellor's house and the Lombardi Cottage. So he uses this kind of stuff all the time. Sure is a handy guy to be married to!

  10. I have 4- 80 watt refurbished solar panels and have a 3000 watt inverter...what is you inverter?

  11. Robert, I have 2 ea. 80 watt panels, yet to be installed. Inverter is 2 KW. Controller is MorningStar, but I need a new display as I had to leave the original in the last rig we had to cover the hole in wall [wish I had installed it as surface mount]. I plan to install systems over the summer. I am thinking of hinge-ing my panels along one side to allow one to flip over and cover the other to offer protection from falling limbs as we live in woods. I would still need a plywood cover over the bottom of exposed panel, but just while storing, not traveling.

  12. Hey Robert... ours is the original inverter that came with our coach, it's a Heart Interface Freedom 20, 2000 watt inverter. Still works, so "If it ain't broke don't fix it" huh? LOL


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