Some Options When Mounting Solar Panels
The wonderful thing about solar panels is that they provide clean, quiet energy just about anywhere you need it. This is better now there are portable solutions with quick-release mounts.
Panels should always be affixed to a rigid frame for safety and efficiency. But, what happens when the place you need your array changes? Can you up and move a solar array?
Here are some key points we’ll cover;
- Adjustable / Foldable Panel Legs.
- Quick Release mounts.
- Mobile Panel systems.
- Standard rack variations.
Typically, solar panels are mounted in racks and do not move. Some simple mounting systems and modifications can provide quick disassembly if required.
There are also mounting hardware designs out there that do provide an easy means of array disassembly.
While not exactly quick release, they are still quick and easy. Let’s investigate a few of these options.
Ways To Mount Solar Panels
Adjustable Panel Mount
If you need to move your panels regularly, a Renogy Adjustable Panel Mount Bracket may provide the flexibility you need.
The mounts are sold in pairs and are intended for a single, full-sized panel. The unit is an “A-frame” type of assembly. The top arm of the mount attaches permanently to the panel frame.
A fully adjustable link attaches the top arm to the base arm. It is adjustable from flat to 90º. Hand knobs are used to lock the unit at the desired angle. The unit is light enough to be moved with the panel when folded flat.
If the base of the mount needs to be permanently affixed, the link and upper arm can be disassembled in a matter of moments by loosening the included hand knobs.
This is a good option for campers and RVers.
- Fully Adjustable.
- Light Weight.
- Easily portable.
- Uses standard PV panels.
- Multiple potential applications.
- Not true Quick Release.
Quick Release Mounting Brackets
When I think of Quick Release, I imagine a lever or cam that is flipped to release. Solar mount manufacturers apparently don’t think that way.
The few quick-release panel mounts available require a tool to release. They are not true quick-release devices. They are merely very simple mounting assemblies with easily accessed retention hardware.
Smart Feet from The RV Solar Store and Omni Mount Feet from Zamp Solar both offer a simple method of mounting individual panels.
A tab is permanently attached to the panel frame. The FOOT is permanently attached to a rail or roof. A retained fastener is attached to the foot portion.
When the panel is put in place, a nut or bolt is used to attach the panel tab to the foot tab. The retaining fastener may be able to be replaced by a thumbscrew or wingnut.
This would eliminate the need for tools to install or remove the panel. These mounting designs are appropriate for nearly any application.
They could be used as permanent mounting devices, or in temporary applications.
- Multiple potential applications.
- Easy disassembly.
- Works with standard PV Panels.
- Foot must be permanently attached to roof or frame rail.
- Mounting tab permanently attaches to the panel frame.
- Not true quick release. Requires tools.
Mobile Solar Systems
Another option for campers and RVers is a portable solar panel system. Portable systems range from a few watts, for charging devices, up to 300 watts, charging deep cycle batteries, or running small appliances.
In most cases, the panels fold up into an easy-to-carry case. Dokio portable systems are just one well-rated portable kit.
They are readily available online. Power ranges up to 300 watts are available for about a dollar per watt. The kits come with foldable panels, a charge controller, and an assortment of connecting wires and adapters.
Panel assembly weighs in at about 20 pounds, and measures only 22″x41″. There are many such kits available from several reliable manufacturers.
A foldable solar kit may be just the thing you need for your mobile power needs.
- Easily available.
- Wide variety of watt ratings.
- Folds up for transport.
- Kits can include connections and charge controller.
- Reasonably priced.
- Limited use options.
- Not expandable.
- Quality can be questionable.
Turn A Standard Rack System Into a Quick Release Rack.
Many standard PV Rack systems have simplified their mounting hardware to the point that it takes only a moment to mount a panel.
The ProSolar RoofTrac rack system uses a top-mounted mounting clamp to retain panels. Just a few turns of the bolt releases the panel.
To eliminate the need for tools replace the bolt with a plastic or metal hand knob with a threaded stud. A few turns will release the panel.
The retainer and knob will remain attached to the rail.
- Uses standard panels and rails.
- Requires minor modifications.
- Quick, but NOT quick release.
Do It Yourself.
If none of the options we’ve looked at so far does what you need, you are not alone.
A quick Google search for “Solar Panel Mounting” or “Solar Panel Quick Release” will reveal that a lot of folks need a mounting system that is not available.
If you are handy, you may want to build your own PV Rack system. A wide variety of cam lock fasteners are available online and at your local hardware store.
Cam Lock fastener, Fast Lead screws, Lever Latches, all could be applied to solar panel mounting. Even simple spring clamps can be used to clamp a panel to a rail.
The ways to retain a solar panel are limited only by your imagination.
Solar Mounting Options
Mounting solar panels have evolved over several years. Ground-mounted racks and roof-mounted arrays have been the focus of this development.
Only in the past few years have solar arrays began to appear in mobile applications. RVers and Campers have started to apply solar to their gear.
Even in the mobile realm, roof-mounted and ground-mounted applications have been the norm.
These have essentially taken the home mounting technology and adapted it to mobile applications.
Over time, quicker, easier mounting systems will surely develop. For now, we may have to create them ourselves.