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Old 08-12-2020, 01:22 PM   #1
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Solar panel flew off last trip! What's next?

So I had a Renology solar panel on my 16' Bambi. I stopped to fuel up and the guy behind me said "You know you have some wires dangling down?". I looked, and there were the wires that were connected to the panel. I looked up on top best I could and saw that the panel was ripped off the roof.

The method I used to put this panel on a few years ago was recommended almost everywhere I looked. No drilling into the roof. I don't remember the exact components, but it was some kind of 3m tape and then covered with Silkaflex. I remember putting a lot of care into installing it. Cleaning and prepping all the areas very carefully.

There were 4 brackets and two were completely gone (no doubt still attached to the panel somewhere), and two left on the roof partially pulled off, but you can see the panel ripped out of the brackets.

Luckily I was on a pretty lonely road most of the trip and there was nobody behind me. It is possible I hit a tree branch or something, but I highly doubt it.

Now I'm spooked about adding another. If it comes off and hits someone behind me, it could be catastrophic. Should I get the same make and model and modify the installation? Should I get a flexible panel? How to foolproof install? Will another panel work with the Renology controller or do I need a new one? I've read a few posts about people actually drilling into the roof to install the flexible panel along with Silkaflex under the entire panel. I don't want to drill into the roof, but will if safety is an issue. Also, any merit in getting a detached panel that I just set up at the camping site? Is it likely to get swiped?

Thanks in advance,
Sam
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Old 08-12-2020, 01:28 PM   #2
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Wow, first one I've heard of coming off. Sorry about your experience. Mine two panels have been on for about 4 years. I tug on them anytime I'm on a ladder near them. Still very tight.
The only thing I could suggest as possibilities is:

1) area wasn't prepped properly
2) 3M makes a lot of different strengths and materials for their VHB tape. If you bought the 3M stuff that the big boxes sell, it was probably 10 - 30 PPSI tape. I special ordered 100 PPSI off the internet.
3) water somehow got under the sealer job you did and caused degradation of the tape material

That's all I can think of off the top of head.
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Old 08-12-2020, 01:32 PM   #3
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This is very rare. This is a very common install method and this is the first case I've heard. Doesn't sound like there was any damage to your trailer? That's a bit of luck anyway.

I would reinstall the same way, avoiding flexible panels.

Did you use the correct VHB tape...like Rich said the Big Box stuff isn't the right stuff. It's 4941 that you want. As far as the rest, sounds like you properly cleaned and sealed the mount with Sikaflex. It's important to avoid water getting under that. Lastly, depending on the type and size of the mounting feet, some people double up two feet back to back to to add more surface area if you use smaller feet. Look at Troutboy's solar install thread to see what I mean, that's what he did.

This is a good lesson to all of us to get up on a ladder and regularly inspect those mounts and sealant.

Any brand of panel will work with your controller.
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Old 08-12-2020, 01:51 PM   #4
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Great feedback Rich and Peter, thanks.
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Old 08-12-2020, 08:48 PM   #5
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I definitely remember special ordering the 3m to the one specified. VRB definitely sounds familiar although I don't remember the number. But I was so leery about "sticking on" the panel brackets, that I followed the instructions to a T. 100%. Cleaned, prepped, etc.

I will try the double bracket method and maybe even rig up something to strap the panel down while traveling now that I'm so spooked about it.

What are the negatives of the flexible panels? At least if it flies off, it would be less likely to harm or kill someone.
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Old 08-12-2020, 09:05 PM   #6
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The flexible panels degrade pretty rapidly under UV, get hot due to no airflow underneath and are less solar efficient. They typically last 2 or 3 years. Some manufacturers have discontinued.
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Old 08-13-2020, 10:07 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pcskier View Post
It's 4941 that you want.
I have installed the 5952, and all panels are still very solid (with a Sikaflex covering of the feet). Anybody compare 4941 with the 5952 VHB tapes?
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Old 08-13-2020, 10:23 AM   #8
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4950 or 5952 vhb?

I used the vhb 4950 tape with sikaflex covering bracket feet. Is there a difference between the 4950 and 5952??
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Old 08-13-2020, 10:55 AM   #9
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For Safety Sake at least include 4 loasy rivits, there shouldn't be no argument there?
The lift under a raised panel up on a few feet that are glued down would be considerable. Sharp edged an Heavy flying through the air.....yeah good thinking.
I have 4 flexable panels I used automotive trim 3M plus 4 corner rivits. They have been on roof 5 years, they developed a white cataracts after a year but I have kept them coated in very light boiled Linseed oil and have not degraded since. Still pump a surprising amount off juice 135w each. Mine are curved across the roof, plus two on the ground with a very heavy back board that I can reposition as needed, 5 years and thoes 2 flex panels have not deteriated and as they are mounted someone would struggle to nick them :}
Would I add the same flex panels ? only If they are manufactured in US or Euro! and I'd mix dif batches and manufactures to limit posible common fault issues.
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Old 08-13-2020, 11:10 AM   #10
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Check roof for any holes created by the departing solar panel.
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Old 08-13-2020, 11:11 AM   #11
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Nobody seems to have remarked that there were still two brackets on the roof. That the VHB tape was still holding. Itís possible your bolts holding the panel to the brackets came loose and when they did the thing became a sail and ripped the other brackets off. My panels have been on with the VHP tape for years.
I donít know how you secured the brackets to the panel. But you should have been using at least Nylok nuts and or Loctite on the nuts.
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Old 08-13-2020, 11:20 AM   #12
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I guess I assumed the front two were gone and the rear 2 were deformed and torn.
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Old 08-13-2020, 11:32 AM   #13
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That's really bizarre! I have installed literally hundreds of panels and have not heard of a single one coming off the roof! I would definitely re-mount a new panel using the same VHB tape (I use 4950) and Sikaflex again.

Just be sure that you increase the bonding area if the SikaFlex around the panel mounting feet just to be on the safe side.
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Old 08-13-2020, 12:11 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilroy View Post
Nobody seems to have remarked that there were still two brackets on the roof. That the VHB tape was still holding. Itís possible your bolts holding the panel to the brackets came loose and when they did the thing became a sail and ripped the other brackets off. My panels have been on with the VHP tape for years.
I donít know how you secured the brackets to the panel. But you should have been using at least Nylok nuts and or Loctite on the nuts.
Might be on to something here...
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Old 08-13-2020, 12:14 PM   #15
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That's really bizarre! I have installed literally hundreds of panels and have not heard of a single one coming off the roof! I would definitely re-mount a new panel using the same VHB tape (I use 4950) and Sikaflex again.
thanks for chiming in Lew, can you comment on the tape differences? I was told 4941, you use 4950, and there are many others. Is there a simple answer as to which is 'strongest' or is it more nuanced than that, i.e. different tapes are made of different materials based on purpose, that can impact strength, plus the mounting surface material makes a difference? I've tried to research on 3m's site but they don't make it very simple/cut and dried.
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Old 08-13-2020, 12:23 PM   #16
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I installed my four panels with just Sikaflex. I've only got about 6K miles towing with them but it seems to be holding up just fine. After removing many Sikaflex bedded objects I trust Sikaflex more than tape so I forgo the tape.
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Old 08-13-2020, 01:58 PM   #17
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Ditto . . . had to remove a wood keel on an old runabout many years ago. Used a very sharp knife to cut into/through the Sikaflex which was bonding the keel to the hull. First tried pulling the keel off by brute force . . . no go! Fortunately there was a thick layer of Sikaflex, so the knife blade was able to get between the hull and the keel.

Amazing stuff.
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Old 08-13-2020, 02:08 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilroy View Post
Nobody seems to have remarked that there were still two brackets on the roof. That the VHB tape was still holding. Itís possible your bolts holding the panel to the brackets came loose and when they did the thing became a sail and ripped the other brackets off. My panels have been on with the VHP tape for years.
I donít know how you secured the brackets to the panel. But you should have been using at least Nylok nuts and or Loctite on the nuts.
Ditto on the good point here! I zoomed in on the two remaining brackets and there is no damage to the bolt holes. The brackets aren't even bent. That seems to suggest those bolts came off and the other two brackets tore free from turbulence.

Bummer!
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Old 08-13-2020, 02:18 PM   #19
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Look closer....I see four brackets, foreground vertical. background bent 90*

If in fact that poster did lose a panel, turbulence under the panel caused by the domed roof of the AS may have contributed.🤔

Bob
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Old 08-13-2020, 02:22 PM   #20
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Look closer....I see four brackets, foreground vertical. background bent 90*

If in fact that poster did lose a panel, turbulence under the panel caused by the domed roof of the AS may have contributed.

Bob
I dont think that is OPs unit in that pic????
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