Unless you’re using a foldable solar panel for camping, such as Flexopower’s popular BAJA 105 and NAMIB 150 products, you may be tempted to save boot space by mounting your solar panel on your vehicle’s roof, or, on the roof of your off-road trailer / caravan.
This is especially true for campers using large-size solar panels that won’t fit in the boot- or load-bin area of their vehicle.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with mounting your solar panel on your vehicle’s roof; panels such as the Tacoma-130 (which are popular on trailers and campers) feature a semi-flexible design that’s purposefully made to follow the curvature of a vehicle’s roof.
However, a panel-killing problem may exist in how the panel is mounted.
Because roof-mounted panels are subject to aerodynamic fluttering, any gap between the panel and the roof itself will likely cause your panel to flutter its way to an early death. Sadly, many campers make the mistake of thinking that their solar panel is securely strapped down and that no movement is possible.
The reality, however, is that wind turbulence can’t be tampered down, and after prolonged exposure this wind-fluttering effect will gradually cause the cells to disconnect. The result is a continuous loss of power until the solar panel eventually fails outright.
Here’s a real-life example…
Some time ago a Flexopower client installed three Tacoma-130 panels on his off-road trailer. After just 2 road trips, all three panels stopped working at exactly the same time with zero output!
Flexopower replaced all three panels under warranty, however, 6-months later the same customer reported that the three newly installed panels had failed again!
An inspection of the installation quickly revealed that there were noticeable gaps between the panels and the roof. The panels were all adequately secured to the roof structure, however, the side edges were not quite sealed against the airflow. The resulting air ingress caused all three solar panels to flutter.
To confirm this effect, Flexopower mounted a camera on the vehicle’s roof, where it became clear that the panels started to flutter at approximately 40km/h. Naturally, things got worse as the vehicle’s speed was increased.
So what’s the solution? Firstly, it must be said that any semi-flexible panel will fail if subjected to wind fluttering. The air gap between the panel(s) and the roof should be sealed on all sides of the panel, not just the front.
Give Flexopower a call on (011) 658 0500 for more solar advice in terms of…
- What size solar panel you need?
- Should you use a semi-flexible panel, or a foldable unit?
- How much dual-battery power is enough