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Old 10-08-2019, 09:23 AM   #1
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Mounting solar panels on canvas dodger

Greetings all,


I am not certain if this is the most suitable forum for posting this question, but I suspect someone will let me know if it is blatantly incorrect.
I would like to get some advice about mounting flexible solar panels to a canvas dodger.

Specifically, I would like to know about how forum members have secured solar panels to their dodgers, and if anyone has recommendations about assorted options for mounting.

I am planning to use two, 160 watt flexible panels on my Euro trawler, and would like to mount them so that they can be removed for cleaning and service if necessary.
Also, what panels and wattage did you use, and are you happy with your system and charging capacity.


Thanks in advance for your comments.
Joe
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Old 10-08-2019, 09:56 AM   #2
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Seabum I was just working on my installation last night. I have secured the first of 3 120 watt panels to my canvas rear deck awning. I didn't want to sew in velcro flaps or install grommets. I saw a kit that was nothing more than m10 stainless bolts (3/4") 1.5 inch rubber flat washers, 1" stainless washers, nut, and nylock nuts. I marked my panels on the canvas and took a hot soldering iron to melt holes through the sunbrella at each panel grommet point. I then assembled each bolt as a mounting post in the following order: underside of canvas - bolt, 1" washer, 1.5" rubber washer; insert through canvas from underneath. On the upper side, place the 1.5" rubber washer on the bolt, then the stainless washer, then the nut, and tighten firmly. Next put the panel on the the post extending through the grommet, add 1" flat washer, and nylock stainless nut. Tighten. The rubber washers sandwich the canvas and it is extremely secure.
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Old 10-08-2019, 10:02 AM   #3
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Greetings,
Mr. s. Can't really help specifically but I watched this U-Tube video yesterday and was very impressed with the fold able panel. Well, everything except the price. $$$$$$.


Panel: https://www.canadianpreparedness.com...-fm16-14400-2/


Video:


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Old 10-08-2019, 10:20 AM   #4
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First, I wouldn't put anything other than lightweight flexible panels on top of a Sunbrella dodger/bimini. Amazon lists several but beware, my buddy bought 165 watt panels and they turned out to be only 100 watt. I suspect that 100 watts is the biggest you can get in flexible panels and the seller simply lied. Amazon has since taken that brand off of their website.

Then many years ago, I just sewed through the grommet holes into the Sunbrella bimini top to attach the panels. Worked great and if you ever need to take them off, just snip the thread.

I wrote several articles on solar panels that you can find in this forum's library section. One or more of them discusses sizing considerations.

BTW, since I wrote those articles, Victron has come out with a line of inexpensive MPPT controllers that compete well with PWM ones.

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Old 10-08-2019, 10:34 AM   #5
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Greetings,

I installed flex panels on my Bimini. Check out " Semi-flexible solar panels" thread. I posted my pics there of the attachment. There's numerous experiences on the thread that may help. Good Luck!
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Old 10-08-2019, 11:01 AM   #6
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Here are the panels I bought - ETFE covered for extra durability:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1


Here is the MPPT controller - it has very good reviews:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Old 10-08-2019, 11:13 AM   #7
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The aspect of having to leave the Bimini up all the time prevented me from further exploring that method of attachment. My shelter roof is too low to permit the Bimini staying up and I like to fold the Bimini back when running in good weather as the Bimini creates a wind tunnel at the FB helm when it is up.

I posted my installation pictures on TF a few months ago. I hang a pair of 160w panels from the upper rails. They can be lifted up to horizontal and fastened in place. The lifting takes about 20 seconds for each. They are completely out of the way as they are over the side decks, at the height of the rails up top.

My fridge and freezer and battery charging were well satisfied on our vacation this year.

My hydro bill for Sept (fridge on for a week, including at night) was $2.70 while away from the boat.
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Old 10-08-2019, 11:53 AM   #8
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For folks who have mounted solar panels on top of their Sunbrella have you noticed any additional wear from the panel moving back and forth in the wind?
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Old 10-08-2019, 12:03 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by NWSeadog View Post
For folks who have mounted solar panels on top of their Sunbrella have you noticed any additional wear from the panel moving back and forth in the wind?

No.


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Old 10-08-2019, 12:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeaBreeze View Post
Seabum I was just working on my installation last night. I have secured the first of 3 120 watt panels to my canvas rear deck awning. I didn't want to sew in velcro flaps or install grommets. I saw a kit that was nothing more than m10 stainless bolts (3/4") 1.5 inch rubber flat washers, 1" stainless washers, nut, and nylock nuts. I marked my panels on the canvas and took a hot soldering iron to melt holes through the sunbrella at each panel grommet point. I then assembled each bolt as a mounting post in the following order: underside of canvas - bolt, 1" washer, 1.5" rubber washer; insert through canvas from underneath. On the upper side, place the 1.5" rubber washer on the bolt, then the stainless washer, then the nut, and tighten firmly. Next put the panel on the the post extending through the grommet, add 1" flat washer, and nylock stainless nut. Tighten. The rubber washers sandwich the canvas and it is extremely secure.

this is the installation kit I was talking about. I recommend adding a second rubber washer and a third stainless fender washer. Works great!
https://www.amazon.com/Custom-Marine...KCPNM2Y93S7BVY
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Old 10-08-2019, 02:29 PM   #11
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https://www.sailrite.com/How-to-Inst...ls-on-a-Bimini
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Old 10-08-2019, 07:10 PM   #12
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No problem to put few on the frame of the Bimini, sail boats do it a lot


I was going to do it but decided for other reasons to fabricate a hard top but that's another story.


Just DO NOT use the flex panels they are not going to work with the sq footage you have
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Old 10-09-2019, 08:43 AM   #13
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Last year I needed to replace the canvas of my Bimini top and was quoted €900 for the work.

Instead I bought 3 330W rigid panels for €200 each and mounted them directly onto to the Bimini top frame, which I reinforced. Each panel is 1m by 2m by 35mm thick.

Now I seldom need to use the genny.

(The photos are not great but they are what I found.)
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Old 10-09-2019, 09:19 AM   #14
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looks great
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Old 02-23-2020, 03:13 PM   #15
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Flexible Solar Panels on Bimini

Greetings Everyone,
I see this post is a little dated but I thought I would share my experiences with flexible panels and a new approach I will be taking this spring to mount them on the canvas of my bimini. A little history...I have a Mainship Pilot 34 Express and have, for the past few years, used two 100W WindyNation panels attached to the bimini frame using only paracord and bungee cords. As the first set of bungee cords weakened in the direct sun they eventually failed and needed to be replaced. I have been very happy with the output of the WindyNation flexible panels, save the fact that they did start to delaminate at the edges when a windstorm caused the aformentioned bungee cords to eventually stretch/fail and the panels were stressed as they flapped about in the wind.

It is clear that a better system of attaching the flexible panels will be necessary as I am now considering replacing the two 5 year old 100W panels with a new pair of Renogy 160 watt flexible panels. I am very hesitant to put holes in the canvas to which to insert attachment hardware to which to secure the panels. I also do not want to commit to the cost of a custom job of sewing in velcro due to the fact that if I need to replace the panels in the future, and the panel sizes differ, I will likely be faced with the need to re-sew new velcro configurations at an additional cost. I considered adding a stainless steel tube frame over my bimini and using rigid solar panels. While that would be very sturdy and stable, it would add considerably more weight to the bimini, of which I am leery since it would be far more top heavy. The other limitation to this appoach is the relative difficulty of installing rigid panels and removing them, if necessary.

I recently saw a video posted on YouTube where a rep from SunPower solar panels used very strong (i.e. 50# pull EACH) rare earth magnets to affix the panels to the bimini canvas. This seems very promising to me. He recommended that the panels be oriented so they lay completely between the bimini structure. The disc shaped magnets have countersunk holes through which stainless machine screws can be inserted, which are then inserted through the panel grommets and secured with a small stainless flat washer and nut. The magnets lay flat, directly on the bimini canvas. The panels can be moved around freely to place them where you like prior to fixing them in position. To secure the panels to the bimini canvas you need only go to the underside of the bimini and place a comparably sized stainless flat washer to each of the magnets (typically 6) that are attached to the panels above. That is a very creative approach and is the one I will be using this spring.

Has anyone else used magnets to attach your flexible solar panels to your bimini canvas, and what can you share about your experience with this approach?



Thanks,
Jim Fisher
Grand Island, NY
Freedom, Mainship Pilot 34 Express
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Old 02-23-2020, 03:48 PM   #16
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Just use real panels attached to frame
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Old 02-23-2020, 05:43 PM   #17
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You canít attach the magnets by putting a stainless steel washer on the bottom of the canvas as S/S isnít magnetic. You could put a second rare earth magnet on the bottom of the canvas for the top magnet to stick to.

We made a sunscreen for our motor home windshield with RE magnets attachment. It was held in place by magnets attached to the inside of the windshield with 3M VHB tape. Then I sewed RE magnets into the sun screen. It held pretty well but one time when we were gone a windstorm tore it loose and ripped off one of the windshield wipers along with the sun screen. I donít know if I would trust RE magnets to hold the solar panels in place or not.
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Old 02-23-2020, 07:05 PM   #18
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Thanks for the responses. Here is a link to the youtube video. The installers reference using washers on the underside of the bimini. They must not be stainless, then. Will have to take one of the RE magnets to the hardware store with me to ensure that the washers will be attracted.
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Old 02-25-2020, 01:30 AM   #19
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I have a seasonal 160 watt Renogy panel that I will be using this summer. I too am really struggling with best attachment method on my bimini. I have rare earth magnets that I will be trying, 6 on top and 6 on bottom. They seem darn strong, but I worry about wind. I looked at the magnets with the bolt that you can run thru the panel grommet, but to me you are introducing an air space that may let wind get under the panel and take it away. I haven't seen these installed through. With the magnets on top of the panel in epoxy and the magnets below, the panel sits perfectly flat to the bimini. Plus if you place panel between the framing members, they sit down a bit in a trough for maybe less exposure to wind. I think I might still fastenines from grommets to the edges of the bimini just in case. If really windy I will take it down completely.

That's my current plan but it's all new to me so I don't have any real experience with this yet. I will say from my searching online, I don't see many people using magnets to secure their panels. Most are sewing into the canvas one way or another or using the bolts thru the canvas. That makes me hesitant to use the magnets, but I only need the panels from June thru September since I'm at the dock the rest of the year at shore power. I want to take the panels off during the off season and store them and not be looking at four holes in my canvas!
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Old 02-25-2020, 03:07 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JFisher View Post
Greetings Everyone,
I see this post is a little dated but I thought I would share my experiences with flexible panels and a new approach I will be taking this spring to mount them on the canvas of my bimini.
Jim Fisher
Grand Island, NY
Freedom, Mainship Pilot 34 Express
Jim, my advice is DON'T DO IT..! Why? Because I once did attach a flexible solar panel onto my bimini, and in no time, with just the inevitable movement with wind, etc, it started chafing though the canvas. The only type of this kind of flexible attachment of panels to a bimini I would now trust is the type where the panels actually zip into the bimini material itself and in effect, become part of the structure.
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