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Old 02-10-2018, 01:50 PM   #1
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mounting Solar panels on a TPO roof

Hi, has anyone installed solar panels on a 2015 Thor Challenger 37GT?

Here is my dilemma, I’m trying to find the roof trusses and have not been able to. According to the schematics from Thor, the trusses are 1 1/2” X 2” 14 GA tube and 1 1/2 X 1 1/2 18 GA Angle. It says “All dimensions to Leading edge except last part.” The trouble is if you look at the schematics, they show 3 different sections, top, middle and bottom. but the middle section in the drawing, is on the bottom in the MH. It has the air ducts lights and so forth that IS the bottom layer. I can’t tell from them where the trusses are. The description part gives the patterns of what is what however the drawing itself you really can’t make out what is what. Plus I don’t think this if for my exact rig, some of the things don’t line up the antenna and Satellite are in the wrong location.

I have use a stud finder with no luck, too many false readings and where it shows a truss does not measure out to 16” centers. I have tapped and tried that way but not very reliable.

As best I can tell the roof is made up with a 1/4” sheet of leon, (looks like plywood but they call it something else not sure I spelled it right). One top and one bottom. In between is styrofoam, trusses and elect.. Also when I pulled a light down the wire for the light goes into an alum tube, but I don’t think its the truss (looks like 1” X 1”) Do they run elect. into the trusses? If so when I screw down the mount am I running a risk of hitting the wire?

I made my own brackets for the panels so I can tilt them if needed. The brackets that will mount to the roof are 3” X 1 1/2” X 5” long Channel Alum, and will mount between the panels with 2 screw mounts in each one. Between the brackets measures exactly 48" center hole to center hole, to match up to the 16" center trusses, at least that was the plan. (If I start out on a truss the rest should be on a truss) Here is a pic, I have a roll of eternabond tape and dicor sealant to put down under, around and on top of anything that screws or fastens to the roof. (by the way these tilt brackets I made allow me to tilt in 5 degree increments between 50 and 75 degrees and will tilt in either direction.)

Question, if I went from a known truss such as at the A/C, and measured back every 16” how reliable would that be?

If I missed a truss and used expanding anchors would that 1/4” be enough to hold the panels with all the wind at Hwy speeds and wind gusts?

How can I tell for sure that I’m in a truss?

How should I test the hold of the panels, short of 95 mph down the hwy!
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Old 02-10-2018, 02:42 PM   #2
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Even though we had the schematics for our Hurricane the mounts for our panels didn't measure out to 16" between, so we just drilled into the roof panels (the TPO membrane and the plywood underneath) to mount them. We measured, drilled, and then used lots of Dicor when mounting them. Where the wiring went into the roof, we used Eternabond tape and more Dicor. We also used dabs of Dicor to "mount" the wiring between panels.

We have driven over 20,000 miles with our RV set up this way with no issues and no leaks of any kind.
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Old 02-10-2018, 02:46 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jpmihalk View Post
Even though we had the schematics for our Hurricane the mounts for our panels didn't measure out to 16" between, so we just drilled into the roof panels (the TPO membrane and the plywood underneath) to mount them. We measured, drilled, and then used lots of Dicor when mounting them. Where the wiring went into the roof, we used Eternabond tape and more Dicor. We also used dabs of Dicor to "mount" the wiring between panels.

We have driven over 20,000 miles with our RV set up this way with no issues and no leaks of any kind.
Thanks, what kind of anchors did you use?
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Old 02-10-2018, 03:09 PM   #4
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here's the 1/4" LUAN panels most manufacturers use on the roof...
https://www.lowes.com/pd/1-4-in-Laua...X-4/1000068895


also, another thought about Solar panel mounting, as I've done:
don't mount the panels each directly on the roof, instead build a simple aluminum 'frame' that each rests in, and the whole system can then be tilted together. One frame, and it can be built to mirror your roof truss measurements... if built from 'L' or 'U' channel, then your panels can easily rest inside the frame, and a simple zip tie thru each end can then 'anchor' them, versus a screw or permanent 'mount' for each....

just some thoughts... mine aren't anchored to the roof deck, but are mounted with simple zip ties on a set of aluminum channels that are themselves anchored to the roof deck with simple 'L' brackets, shallow screws, and silicone caulk.

I don't believe that solar panels, with their typical size and weight, are going to easily 'move around' while driving, at least ours haven't, in many, many miles. This makes also for a less permanent mounting system, and one that allows me to 'tilt' them if I'm parked for a good while, when dry-camping, or even to take them down to the ground if I need to. I ran my wiring down the rear ladder, thru the rear hatch, thru the chassis framing, and thru the fan outlet in the Inverter bay and into the neighboring Battery bay.... get 10amps for several hours on good days, whether traveling, or parked.
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Old 02-10-2018, 03:11 PM   #5
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mounting Solar panels on a TPO roof

Quote:
Originally Posted by tinman01 View Post
Thanks, what kind of anchors did you use?
Basic 1.25" screws that came with the mounting kit. We purchased the Renogy 400W kit from Amazon. Ours are all flat mounted, no angle brackets. The mounts are Z shaped, four to a panel.



Once everything was screwed down, we covered the mounts in Dicor as well to prevent corrosion and leaks.

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ID:	8982Drone view of our roof. Plenty of room for more solar!
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Old 02-10-2018, 05:43 PM   #6
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Tinman, I'm actually going to use the same setup on my chateau super c. Soon as the weather breaks here in the N.E. I wasn't counting on using the roof structure, cause of locations of panels. I'll probably scan the roof with the stud finder, but ultimately using nutserts, 1/4 with 4 in each channel PC's.
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Old 02-10-2018, 05:58 PM   #7
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The Thor drawings weren't any good for our 2016 Axis. I made my own brackets, used #12 1 1/4 SS screws. Also put screws and brackets in with an adhesive sealant and then Dicor over that. Brackets are hinged so I can tip the panels in 4 directions. Almost 10 K miles with no problems.
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Old 02-25-2018, 12:38 AM   #8
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Mounting solar panels complete!

Finally got the solar panels mounted!

I figured out why I couldn't locate the trusses at 16" centers, its was because they are not 16" centers! Well I contacted Thor again and they sent me plans for my roof, the ones they originally sent me were wrong. The trusses are not 16" centers most are 31.5" some are 15.5" some are 37 15/16" a real mess! However, it did give me the total measurements and I went from where I knew there was a truss. Everything seems nice and tight and the screws seem to anchor down nice and tight, so we shall see.

I installed the charge controller yesterday and have everything from the roof down hooked up and connected to the batteries (I installed 40 amp breakers before and after the CC so I can isolate the panels). Tomorrow I'll wire the solar panels. Yes I know I kind of did it backwards but I was working around the weather and completed what I could. Now all thats left is the panels themselves. A few MC4 connectors and we should be up and running.

Thanks for all the great advice it really helped!
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Old 02-25-2018, 01:52 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scrubjaysnest View Post
The Thor drawings weren't any good for our 2016 Axis. I made my own brackets, used #12 1 1/4 SS screws. Also put screws and brackets in with an adhesive sealant and then Dicor over that. Brackets are hinged so I can tip the panels in 4 directions. Almost 10 K miles with no problems.
How many panels did you install? And are you running the original two 12v batteries or have you added some?
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Old 02-25-2018, 02:10 AM   #10
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Are you going to put a remote tilt on those so you don't have to climb onto the roof?
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Old 02-25-2018, 10:17 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mo_Mike View Post
How many panels did you install? And are you running the original two 12v batteries or have you added some?
I installed four 100 watt panels with a Rover MPPT CC and an additional four 6v Trojan's for a total of six batteries with a total of 675 Amp hours. I also changed out the inverter with a 3000 watt pure sine AIMS inverter and rewired the coach for the microwave, coffee pot and bedroom plugs are on the inverter.
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Old 02-25-2018, 10:27 AM   #12
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Oh how I wish! I don't know how often I'll actually tilt them. When I see how my usage goes I may tilt more and start looking at some way of auto tilt, I know I won't get as much of a charge with out tilting but I wanted them to have the capability to tilt for maintenance and cleaning. Plus I'm not as agile as I used to be, so unless I really need to I don't plan on too many trips up the ladder! LOL

One thing that drove me crazy (I know short drive) was when I would put it in the shop they would leave it sit for a long time without disconnecting the batteries and they would go dead, way past 50%, so now I will have a charge going to them and hopefully avoid that.
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Old 02-25-2018, 12:46 PM   #13
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very, very nice.... I'm envious!

let us know how it goes on your next 'off grid' journey : )
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Old 02-25-2018, 01:09 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by tinman01 View Post
Finally got the solar panels mounted!
Thanks for all the great advice it really helped!
Congratulations! Please keep us informed as to how it does the job!
(You're giving me courage...)
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Old 04-16-2018, 03:11 PM   #15
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Tinman01, Thank you for all the info on your install. I would appreciate hearing updates on how things are working and any more detail you can provide.

Does your new Inverter also have a charger?
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Old 04-16-2018, 06:44 PM   #16
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Solar update

Hi, just thought I would give a update on my solar install. I tried to list everything with a link at the end of this post with the first item being THIS FORUM! and all the helpful advice I received.

Here is the system I installed:

Four 100 watt - Renogy mono panels mounted on my roof with a Rover MPPT 40 Amp charge controller. They are mounted with 1 1/2” X 6” long Aluminum angle mounted at each corner. Each bracket is screwed in to the alum trusses which vary in distance from 15 1/2” to 27” to 40” (to what ever they felt like i guess) This puts the mounts with in 8 inches or so of each end of the panel to be able for the mount to line up with the trusses. I used 1” alum angle mounted to the panels and on 2 of the panels I have vents under them so I used 1/8” X 2” flat alum bolted to the 1” angle on the panels, to add extra height to clear the vents. For the tilt brackets I used 3/4” 18” long Chanel Alum (2 per panel). This gives the capability to tilt in either direction in 5 degree increments from 50 degrees to 75 degrees, depending on my location (and willingness to climb up on my roof! LOL).
Everything is sealed with Eternabond tape under each of the 1 1/2” angle mounts as well as Dicor self leveling sealant over all screws and brackets. All cabling is held down with the Eternabond tape and enters through at the same place as my Sat TV. Again all sealed with Eternabond and Dicor.

I have added four additional Trojan T105’s for a total of 6 - 6 volt batteries (wired in series and parallel for 12 volt system) totaling 675 Amp hours with about 337 usable.

This feeds an Aims 3000 watt Pure sine Inverter going to a sub panel feeding the Refrigerator, Microwave, coffee pot, kitchen plugs, bedroom plugs and TV’s.
I put in a Victron battery monitor and remote panel for the inverter next to my control panel inside the coach.

I took the storage bin just behind the coach batteries for the extra batteries and put in a sealed tub from (Home Depot) that I vented out to the original battery compartment. The Sub panel is riveted to the side of the battery tub as well as the inline fuse for the Solar and all rivets and screws are sealed and rubber coated so there is no chance of gasses leaking out or something shorting out against a screw or rivet.

The solar panels each have an inline 10 amp fuse which runs down to the new battery compartment and hits a 40 Amp fuse before and after the MPPT controller, there are battery disconnects between the batteries and inverter and batteries and coach system, giving me the capability of disconnecting the whole system at any point should I ever need to trouble shoot it.

The Inverter runs almost everything, even the Microwave and induction hot plate with no problems. Although with hind sight, I wish I would have went to the 4000 watt 240 volt inverter instead, only because I could have had two separate 120 volt legs just to separate things out a little more, but this works with no trouble so thats more of a want than a need. Coming from the inverter to the sub-panel I used a 20 amp 12-2 wire (the yellow wire) and from the sub-panel to the outlets just 15 amp 14-2 wire. The only things not run on the inverter are my Air conditioning, hot water heater (its gas or elec.)and the Converter.

When I’m on shore power the converter, inverter and solar all charge my batteries back up very quickly.

I have left the shore power off just to see how long and how the panels are doing but I have only had one day of sun, however I was still at 100% at the end of the day and the next day with a cloudy sky it was at 86%.

The first day of testing I had clear sky and lots of sun and was pulling in about 365 watts out of the panels.

My wife retires on July 11th this year and although we will keep our house, at least for the 1st year, I'm sue looking forward to going full time!

Here are links to most everything I used:

This Forum!

Solar panels - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Solar panel wiring to MPPT Controller - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Inline fuse for solar panel - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Inline 40 Amp breaker to MPPT - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

MC4 Crimping tool - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Eternabond Tape - https://www.amazon.com/EternaBond-RS...70_&dpSrc=srch

Eternaclean spray cleaner - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

MC4 connectors - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

MC4 branch connectors 4 into 1 - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

MC4 tool - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Inverter - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Battery cable crimper - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Heat shrink for connectors - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Battery cable connectors - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Battery Cable - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Sub panel - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Victron Battery monitor - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Vent and hose for battery - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Battery disconnect - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Circuit breaker - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Dicor self-leveling sealant - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Screws for mounts - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

400 Amp catastrophic Fuse - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Battery tub from Home depot

Batteries from local golf cart dealer
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Old 04-16-2018, 11:04 PM   #17
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Nice job, now we need a separate solar install thread that has links to each owners install thread.

Incorrect drawing for the trusses I see; no wonder I never found mine.
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