Putting A Panasonic Solar Panel On An Auto-Sleeper

My first job will be to drill the holes so the solar panels can be bolted together when they are on the roof. I find the easiest way to match up the holes is to clamp the two panels together and mark accordingly.


Three holes are required, per side, so the first mark will be in the centre and then half between the centre and the outer edge.


I make the marks in pencil and then use a set square and a scriber to mark across the framework; doing both at the same time.


I then measure from the outer edge, on both panels, and mark accordingly.


A sharp centre punch and a light tap with a hammer and the job's ready for drilling.


The holes are drilled three times, these panels are double skinned so I started off with a very small drill and worked my way up to the correct size for the bolt.


Do they all line up? I would think so and no elongating the holes.


The bit that matters; if this doesn't line up everything will be out of square. Need to order some angle so I can do the cross supports.

Next job is to try and find a way to stick the framework on the existing tubular framework that comes as standard with the van.


Fairly straight forward; the tubing is 7/8ths in old money or 22mm so it's going to be motorcycle handlebar mirror clamps at the rear of the solar panel. At the front they are slightly bigger, 1 inch or 25mm; not a problem there. Old British bikes and Harley Davidsons use inch handle bars so they'll be the clamps I'll be using. The other problem, if you look closely, at the front the tubes go slightly inwards, I have opted to use rose joints as they can be moved to line up the bolts. Another reason that I'm using rose joints is I fully intend, at some point, to make a mechanism up so that I can tilt the solar panel forward to get maximum efficiency or certainly better efficiency from them being laid flat.


This is the anchoring kit; consisting of one handle bar clamp, one rose joint and one wing mirror mounting.


Here we have them in situation. Ran a string line through, just to make sure they lined up. Please remember, at the far end, the bolt will be going though a rose joint and that is why a space has been left.

Measuring up the roof, where the tape ends is where the solar panel will stop.


As you can see, I don't have a lot to play with and I don't fancy moving the chimney but I will have to raise it just to make sure that, when the heating is on, it doesn't affect the solar panel.


If all my measuring is correct the solar panels should almost be touching the cross rail, which means I can secure the solar panels with another two wing mirror clamps.


Chimney extension fitted so that's another job out the way.

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Made the cross members, two lengths of 40mm aluminium angle. I prefer to put the solar panel on the angle iron and mark it.


I then move the next one into position and mark the end again. Removing both panels so that I can now make permanent marks


Once this is done I then measured 200 in from both ends and made the mark using a set square.


I use the set square the opposite way round when doing inside lines.


Marked up the centre of the angle iron; this is done on the outside edge otherwise you have to take into consideration the thickness of the material.


After centre punching and drilling the pilot holes I clamped the work together and drilled the other angle iron. I then removed the clamps and drilled the correct size.


Clamped the angle iron to both solar panels, making sure all faces were flush and drilled accordingly.


After bolting both panels together I had to try it out. This photograph was taken round about 16:30.


Taken at the same time.


Four more holes to be drilled and then I can put it on the roof. Works very well, to say I'm delighted would be an understatement.

Rose joints were used for the front brackets.


Here we have the pair, all made up and ready to go on the roof. Once these are fitted the next job will be to measure up the angle iron and drill the holes accordingly.


Angle iron bolted in place, I have had to offset the solar panels so they miss the chimney. This has given me an overhang on the nearside of three and a half inches but, as the awning is on the same side, I believe it won't be an issue or look unsightly.


Close up. This should give you some idea on how it shall pivot.

Panels on the roof: a bit dodgy but managed to achieve it by myself.


All the holes lined up so it was just a matter of popping the bolts through, a dab of Locktite and nipping the nuts up.


As you can see, haven't got a lot of room to play with but still, got it on there. Had to tie it down due to heavy gusts of wind.

Time to finish the framework that holds the solar panel to the tubular frame that runs round the top of the Auto-Sleeper.


As always, my preference when clamping to a tube is motorcycle handlebar clamps, unfortunately, the only ones I had lying around were inch and the tube is 7/8ths. So I had to make up spacers, simple enough job, find a piece of tube that has the correct outside diameter.


A piece of television aerial aluminium tube, cut the thickness of the clamp and then cut in half.


A nice snug fit.


Next part of the job was to cut a piece of angle, drill a 13mm hole for the bolt to go through and two pilot holes, ready to drill when I want to assemble it.


Here we have it loosely set up.

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The first part of fixing the solar panels to the roof has been completed.
Part 2 - the tilting will be done later.


Secured the bracket to the frame. I had to opt for the angle bolted outwards due to lack of clearance for the bolt on the inside.


This end was far easier, just a matter of cutting the angle to length, rounding the edges off and drilling a hole that would accept an M13 bolt.


Looking up, doesn't look too out of place. The opposite side is obscured by the awning.

Had to re-route the cables and this time make a proper job of it.


As you can see, now neat and tidy. Went in through the back of the fuse box and then followed the wall along, finally ending up at the Ring unit.

Took the van out yesterday and absolutely no road noise at all from the solar panel.


Not sure a spoiler is required as I think it is reasonably well tucked behind the upper sleeping area.


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Full Member
Great project and a brilliant write up. Thanks Rae.


Full Member
Hooray Rae.
Nice photo's, still don't know why I couldn't see them before!


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