Mount a flexible solar panel without any screws!

Read how to mount a flexible solar panel on a bending fiberglass surface with glue or tape! The job is quite easy and the past 20.000 km on the road has proven that it holds.

Solar panel seen from above at a Campsite in Le Marche

When wild camping or camping by France Passion for a longer period you either need a really big leisure battery or some power supply to top up the battery! We have a 110 Ah leisure battery which is fine for a day or two but longer than that we need to either drive a decent distance (charging by the alternator) or be hooked-up to power on a regular campsite! The alternative solution described here is to install a solar panel big enough to top-up the battery (depending on your consumption!).

It is advised to make a rough estimate on how much power you need. The consumption, size of leisure battery and expected days without electricity hook-up will determine how much power your need from a solar panel.

On our van, see this post, the size of the roof limited our choice of solar panels. We ended up fitting a 100W square panel (which was a bit difficult to find as most panels are rectangular!) at the curved front of the fiberglass top! You´ll see lot of offerings on ebay of chinese solar panel brands. I would recommend a good quality panel as it not easy (read almost impossible) to replace in case of malfunction when mounting it with glue / tape!

The fiberglass top of our van does not have a flat spot for mounting a solar panel so we had to go after a flexible one. Mounting a solar panel on a curved surface was yet another challenge. While you can find plenty of flexible solar panels on ebay, etc. then I was a bit nervous on how much it could actually bend while still glued/taped in place. The solar panel we bought from Reimo was supposedly a very flexible one. We found it just flexible enough to follow the curved surface.

After doing a bit of research we decided to both glue and tape the panel in place for a bit of extra additional adhesive bond given the curvature of the roof. The tape would then hold the panel in place till the glue has dried up. If the roof is flat, then either tape or glue should provide enough adhesive bond (other RV/motorhome/campervan owners report success with just tape or glue).

3M is probably the best provider of special extreme adhesive tape. They have a lot of different types / tape models. From research I found that a lot of these were quite similar. You need a high-strength, double-sided acrylic foam tape that can stand harsh environment and high/low temperatures. Such a tape can be found here:

Both the 3M VHB RP45 and 3M VHB 5925 tape will work.

For glue I recommend using Sikaflex 252 or Sikalfex 11FC. We also to sealed of the edge of the panel using a flexible sealant. For this we use Dekaseal 8936.

Before fixing the panel start by:

  1. Clean roof surface, first with some universal cleaning product and then with alcohol or benzine.
  2. Also clean the back-side of the solar panel
  3. Mark-up where solar panel is to be fixed (important especially when you use tape).
  4. Depending on access to where the panel is placed, then either put tape and / or glue on the panel or the roof. As the access to the roof was a bit difficult in our instance, then we decided to put tape and glue on the panel itself.
  5. Put down the panel such that it follows the surface (no cavities).
  6. Apply pressure all round the panel such that tape/glue gets in contact with both panel and roof.

Important: Using tape, you can only put down your panel once as it will stick instantaneously – so get it right the first time. Unfortunately I got no pictures of the process but it is fairly simple!

On a site note: I also investigated the possibility of bringing a small portable windturbine… Yeah, perhaps a bit crazy but you can’t rely on sun light all days 🙂
I actually found a couple of options but decided in the end that it was a bit of an overkill… However, it would definitely take the price at most camp sites for the most advanced camper gear!

The best portable solution I found was small vertical wind turbines with basically a generator on a rod and blades that easily could be disassembled.

(If you found the post useful and are about to buy or install a solar panel to your van, doing so from one of the above links will help keep this blog running.)

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