So, you’re almost ready to leave the van life but you haven’t yet connected the solar panels to the roof of your van. You’ve probably heard of people using tape to connect solar panels to the roof of their fans, but does this work?
You can mount solar panels to the roof of your van using VHB tape. Our step-by-step guide will take you through the basics of attaching the panels to your van using this tape.
We’ve also got a few tips and tricks as well as some important safety problems you need to look out for. Some of the key point’s I’ll cover are;
- Why VHB tape
- Solar Preparation
- How to mount
Now let’s get those solar panels mounted to the roof of your van so you can start your next adventure.
Testing VHB tape and Solar Panels
The first thing you should do before mounting solar panels with VHB tape is to test all of your equipment. Nothing is more frustrating than getting over solar panels fully wired and mounted only to realize that there is a problem somewhere in your system.
Test out each part individually to make sure that you can quickly spot any defective components in your solar energy system.
Once you’ve got all of your components tested, you need to know which type of VHB tape is the right one for you.
Which VHB Tape Should You Use?
There are two types of VHB tape commonly used to mount solar panels to your van. 4950 VHB tape is one of the most widely used.
This is a strong tape that can be effective in mounting solar panels to the roof of your van. However, 4950 VHB tape is designed for metal-to-metal applications.
Depending on the mounting hardware for your solar panels and what material the roof of your van is made out of, 4950 VHB tape might not be the right one for you.
So, what’s an alternative to 4950 VHB tape?
VHB tape #5962 has better cohesion across a range of materials. This type of VHB tape is also a little thicker which can give it more durability in the rough weather conditions that Vans have to travel through.
GM recommends using 5962 VHB tape alongside their 111 protomer for the best results.
Now here’s the next step for mourning solar panels with VHB tape.
Dry Fit Your Solar Panels
We can’t stress this enough, but you need to dry-fit your solar panels before you get ready to take them down.
The dry fit is where we fully assemble our solar panels and make sure that they’re going to fit in place exactly where we want them.
It’s better to do this now than to wait until the last minute to find out that things don’t line up.
Just imagine that you spent the whole day prepping your solar panels for VHB tape and stuffing in the roof of your van only to find out that your mounting brackets are too big for your van.
Now we’re ready to mount our solar panels with VHB tape.
Mounting A Solar Panel With VHB Tape
Let’s walk through step by step process for the basics of mounting a solar panel with VHB tape. Keep in mind that the model of the van, your solar panels and their mounting brackets, and the specifics of your setup can change a few of these steps.
Steps for mounting with VHB tape;
- Your first step is to assemble all of your solar panels and their wiring components.
- Next up is our dry fit. This is where we will be staging the solar panels on top of the van and finding out where we are going to run all of the wires into the van.
- Use this moment to mark off and drill any holes for wires and power cables heading into your van. This is important. Once we have the solar panels mounted, you won’t be able to drill underneath them to run any cabling.
- Next we need to prep the surfaces to be ready for VHB tape.
- Use a scouring pad to scuff up both of the underside of the solar panel mounting brackets as well as the areas on the roof of your van and where the brackets will make contact. This is an essential step that can’t be skipped. This scuffing allows the VHB tape to adhere much more strongly than if you just attached it.
- Wash off the solar panel mounting brackets and mounting locations on the top of your van with acetone or rubbing alcohol. Make sure to let these areas fully dry before attempting to tape down your panels.
- Peel off the cover on one side of the tape and attach it to the solar panel mounting bracket.
- Position your solar panels on the roof of your van and make sure everything lines up.
- Peel off the other side of the VHB tape and stick the solar panels down on top of your van.
- Allow at least two days for the tape to fully adhere to both the solar panels and the van before you take it out for a test drive.
Tips for Mounting Solar Panels With VHB Tape
The most important tip that we can give is to do this project with a friend or two.
Solar panels can get heavy and you will be working at height so make sure you’ve got someone helping you position the solar panels while you take them down.
Should You Use Screws And VHB Tape?
You can use screws in addition to VHB tape.
Many people prefer VHB tape because that means they do not need to put additional holes in the roof of their van.
However, adding mechanical fasteners greatly increases the strength of the connection between your roof and those solar panels.
You don’t want those solar panels flying off while you’re cruising down the highway.
You can find a happy middle ground and use a few mechanical fasteners alongside VHB tape. This gives you the most secure connection well drilling the fewest holes into the roof of your van.
What To Watch Out For When Mounting Solar Panels With VHB Tape
VHB tape degrades over time. Unlike mechanical fasteners, your VHB tape needs to be regularly inspected to make sure that it’s still intact.
There are a few weather conditions that can rapidly degrade VHB tape.
Hot desert sun, humid environments, and lots of rainfall can weaken the bonds that the VHB tape has with the solar panel and the van.
Regularly inspecting your VHB tape and solar panels is the best way to make sure that nothing’s going to come flying off on your next big trip.