Since Boris the Bus is turning 40 soon (he’s a ’71 VW bus), we thought it was time to pimp him out with some new gear – like solar panels! Although they don’t create enough power to charge the bus, they create enough energy while we’re on the road to charge lights, fans, iPhones, and iPads – because that’s what camping’s all about. We can go without running water, but go without Facebook or Twitter? I don’t think so.
solar panel kit from Harbor Freight. It was on sale for
$159 for a set of 3, which is a great price. Mike is demonstrating how heavy the were – they’re mostly made of glass.
glued onto Ikea bed slats with silicone, which are in turn glued to the roof with Liquid Nails. The slats are also bolted to the roof for extra strength. Metal brackets are a safety mechanism in case the glue fails.
Mike’s Instructions for Mounting Solar Panels on the Bus
I thought about using brackets, etc. to hold the panels down on my fiberglass top, but nothing seemed like it would be super strong since the roof is so thin and flexible. I ended up using liquid nails in combination with some drywall anchors to mount a few IKEA bed slats that I got a while ago for things just like this. The anchors I used sort of flowered open on the inside, and gave me a threaded socket in the surface of the roof to bolt into. You can see in the picture I routed the edge of the slats so I get better gas mileage. ;)
Once I had the wooden slats bolted and the glue dried, I used silicone indoor / outdoor caulk to attach the panels to the wooden slats. The slats gave me the strong, non-flexing surface for the panels to mount onto, as well as provided material for me to screw little metal brackets into as a safety precaution should the silicone fail. I picked silicone for the panels because it can be cut & scraped off if I should break a panel or something like that. I’m not really that concerned if the wooden slats ever come off of the roof. Before I put the panels on, they looked like roof rack rails, and they seem to help stiffen the roof.
The whole thing is rock solid, I can shake the bus by the panels and there are no rattles, etc. I’ve gone on a long trip with
these like this, and it worked like a charm.
My only problem is it adds a lot of weight to the pop-top, but since mine wasn’t really staying open on it’s own anyhow, I figured I’d beef the system up when I get around to actually repairing it so it can handle the extra weight.
On a side note, I’ve used 3M VHB or Very High Bond tape, and it’s crazy strong. You do need quality surfaces for it to adhere to.
Posted on The Samba