Stage 4 – Completing external skin roof-work : Attaching Solar and Roof lights

We bought a 200W Solar Panel kit that included 2 x 100W Panels, wiring and a basic, but hopefully adequate, Solar Charge unit. We got this off eBay for about GBP 220. We also decided to install two skylights to add light into the bus and to encourage air flow and provide ventilation.  We bought a very basic Fiamma Skylight/Vent for GBP 50 on eBay for the lounge area and an Omnistor 12V fan vent for the bedroom for about GBP 65 also on eBay.

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  1. Installing Solar Panels

When installing the solar panels the temptation will be to glue them or bracket them directly to the roof, to avoid wind disturbance underneath, but if you are going anywhere warm – DON’T DO THIS! The air underneath the solar panel that is trapped in there can’t circulate and can become extremely hot, which can seriously damage your panels.

Instead when installing the panels make sure to use brackets (ours came with some) to lift the whole solar panel aluminium frame off the roof.  You can either try and attach these brackets to the bus steel frame, or the aluminium roof skin, and some people even just use the Sikaflex as they have faith in it’s adhesion properties. In the end we went with Sikaflex on the brackets and bolting the brackets to the aluminium roof.

Attach the brackets to the panels first. Mark out where you want the panels to sit (bear in mind cables coming through the roof) and drill through the roof – making sure your holes won’t affect anything inside the van/bus. At this point it is important to bear in mind that the thin aluminium roof could easily cut the solar cables, so smoothen the edges of the aluminium with a small needle file. We were also concerned that this still may damage the cables so decided to make a little scrap wood block to ensure no movement or rubbing could take place on the cables. To deal with this we got a wood block and drilled a 45 degree angle hole through it and fed the cable through here to ensure they could not rub on anything. We then threaded the wires through the block, Sikaflexed this down, and covered all of the wires and block in Sikaflex. We then used Gorilla Duct Tape to tape down the wires from both panels to the roof just to stop them flapping around in the wind. The solar cables have water proof attachments but I also duct taped over these just in case.

Essential Equipment for this stage: Solar Panels, Solar Cable, Cable Connectors, Ladder (or precarious Stool on Chair on Table arrangement, Electric Drill, Sikaflex, Needle file, Spanner, Bolts, Scrap Wood, Gorilla Tape, Pencil

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  1. Installing Sky Lights and Fan

When cutting the roof vents find the middle of the roof panels, measure half the required width both sides of the middle and mark it out. Ensure the square it is precisely located before doing any cutting. This is probably a good time to remember the old phrase: Measure twice – Cut once! We always mark waste-lines (diagonal lines next to our measured cut-line) whenever marking anything out, so we know which side we are removing.  Next drill a hole in the middle of each drawn line on the ceiling large enough to get your jig saw (with metal blade) through the aluminium panel. Cut from the centre of each line into the corners to ensure that you have an accurate square. The panel can vibrate a lot on the last cut so a bit of tape on each line will hold the metal square in place whilst you finish your last cut. Then simply cover the underneath of the skylight (the ribbed area that will sit on the roof) with 221 Sikaflex, climb onto the roof and place the vent on and through the hole. Screw through the holes in the vent with the provided screws and this will pull the vent tight to the roof skin. Smooth of the Sikaflex that has splodged out of the gap inside and out of the bus so that it is sealed and water tight. Cover all screws inside and out of the bus with extra Sikaflex just for good measure. The inside cover can then be added whenever the internal ceiling is completed. {Caution: most vents have a maximum roof thickness of around 50mm, in our case our roof was thicker than this, forcing us to have to raise the ceiling around both vents to reduce roof thickness – not something we had initially wanted to do at all.}

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Essential Equipment for this stage: Electric Drill, HSS Drill Bit, Jigsaw with sheet metal blade, Sikaflex, Self-tapping metal screws, Ladder

 

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