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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm trying to figure out a few things—well, many things, but these for the moment:

1a. How much solar can the roof hold along with one MaxxAir fan (and maybe a small roof fan/vent over a maybe shower)? I want as much solar as possible. It would be nice to be able to run a small mini split, like one of the Cruise N Comfort units, for a couple of hours off grid. (But that would not be on the roof.)

1b. Can residential panels be used for RV applications? I found some high-wattage, mono-crystalline panels from LG and Panasonic.* Three of the Panasonic or three of the LG (not both) might fit crosswise but would pretty much cover the roof with the inclusion of the length of the MaxxAir fan (23").

*https://www.ecodirect.com/LG-SolarLG350Q1C-A5-350-Watt-Black-Frame-NeON-R-p/lg350q1c-a5.htm (350 W, 66.9" x 40")
https://www.ecodirect.com/Panasonic-VBHN330SA16-330-Watt-Mono-Solar-Panel-p/panasonic-vbhn330sa16.htm (330 W, 62.6" x 41.5")

1c. Is there a rack or roof-rail system that anyone can recommend that would support the three panels (about 120+ pounds)? Is that a reasonable amount of weight? I read somewhere on the forum that the addition of some kind of structural supports between the roof ribs might be a good thing...

Thanks for any input!
 

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3x300 watts is a very large array that I'm not sure you really need considering that if your batteries are mostly charged (from driving, perhaps) then they won't accept/demand near that much wattage to bring them up. So a large array isn't really doing that much more for you until you are boon docking for a lot of days. Which you might indeed be planning. In that case it might be better to deploy some flexible panels and adjust their location and angle for maximum gain. Rather than loading up the roof with a bunch of panels that are not likely to be in the most beneficial position.

Never-the-less, You'll have to do some planning so here is a drawing that will help.
http://www.impact3d.com/Ford_Transit_8020_crossbar_layout.pdf

Here is a fairly simple to assemble and install 2 panel system based on Grape 180watt panels. (formerly 160watt).
These panels appear to hold up well to mobile use. This is front vent layout and we also have a rear vent version.
www.impact3d.com/Ford_Transit_2xGrape160W_layout.pdf

All the best,
Hein
DIYvan
 

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Discussion Starter #3
...a large array isn't really doing that much more for you until you are boon docking for a lot of days. Which you might indeed be planning. In that case it might be better to deploy some flexible panels and adjust their location and angle for maximum gain. Rather than loading up the roof with a bunch of panels that are not likely to be in the most beneficial position.
Thanks, Hein! Yeah, it might be that we will be boondocking for a week or more straight, or we might be driving every day and boondocking at night. I want to keep all options covered, avoid a gas generator, and have everything balanced.

I see solar arrays of mostly 100 to 400 watts, but if the wattage is balanced system-wise with the right battery array, and the life of the batteries can be prolonged by charging them correctly using charge controller (MPPT, PWM?), inverter, etc., am I wrong to want all the power? I'm studying (struggling) to understand how to balance the system, and though I'm more of a creative type than an engineer, I want to grok it (see what I did there? Hein, Heinlein, grok?).

We usually don't drive more than six hours a day on our extended road trips. My concerns are having enough oomph to run the air conditioning for (a) 30–60 minutes for our dog in case we need to leave her in the van while we eat at a restaurant or run a errand, and (b) a few hours for me and my husband, Mike, in case we go to more humid and hot climates, like Florida to visit friends. (I lived in Miami and the Fla Keys for ~12 years, and while I used to loved the swelter, I'm now used to dry Cali weather, and I think my older self might not be as adaptable to the heat.)

I understand the positioning of the panels on the roof might not be the most productive, and it would be nice to have room for a Bomar hatch or another big fan, but...

Is the the weight load of three panels on the roof the concern? Or the drag they would cause while underway?

Even if we mostly won't need that much wattage, the array might shade the roof from the sun and cool the van.

And is it possible to mount three 68" x 40" panels on the roof of a long tall Transit, plus a MaxxAir Fan? (I'm thinking of mounting the fan in the very back over the bed, with a hole in the floor, á la Orton, to help with the flow.)
 

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I'm trying to figure out a few things—well, many things, but these for the moment:

1a. How much solar can the roof hold along with one MaxxAir fan (and maybe a small roof fan/vent over a maybe shower)? I want as much solar as possible. It would be nice to be able to run a small mini split, like one of the Cruise N Comfort units, for a couple of hours off grid. (But that would not be on the roof.)

1b. Can residential panels be used for RV applications? I found some high-wattage, mono-crystalline panels from LG and Panasonic.* Three of the Panasonic or three of the LG (not both) might fit crosswise but would pretty much cover the roof with the inclusion of the length of the MaxxAir fan (23").

*https://www.ecodirect.com/LG-SolarLG350Q1C-A5-350-Watt-Black-Frame-NeON-R-p/lg350q1c-a5.htm (350 W, 66.9" x 40")
https://www.ecodirect.com/Panasonic-VBHN330SA16-330-Watt-Mono-Solar-Panel-p/panasonic-vbhn330sa16.htm (330 W, 62.6" x 41.5")

1c. Is there a rack or roof-rail system that anyone can recommend that would support the three panels (about 120+ pounds)? Is that a reasonable amount of weight? I read somewhere on the forum that the addition of some kind of structural supports between the roof ribs might be a good thing...

Thanks for any input!
You might find more info if you explore the forum a little, There are people here who have put as much as 1,000 watts worth of solar on the transit roof.
this thread is just one of several examples:

http://www.fordtransitusaforum.com/camper-vans-conversions/11586-building-annie-campervan-conversion-4.html

(Shower vent) One of these might actually fit under a solar panel if it is near the side edge of the roof.

https://www.inlad.com/roof-vents-by-flettner
 

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Thanks, Hein! Yeah, it might be that we will be boondocking for a week or more straight, or we might be driving every day and boondocking at night. I want to keep all options covered, avoid a gas generator, and have everything balanced.

I see solar arrays of mostly 100 to 400 watts, but if the wattage is balanced system-wise with the right battery array, and the life of the batteries can be prolonged by charging them correctly using charge controller (MPPT, PWM?), inverter, etc., am I wrong to want all the power? I'm studying (struggling) to understand how to balance the system, and though I'm more of a creative type than an engineer, I want to grok it (see what I did there? Hein, Heinlein, grok?).

We usually don't drive more than six hours a day on our extended road trips. My concerns are having enough oomph to run the air conditioning for (a) 30–60 minutes for our dog in case we need to leave her in the van while we eat at a restaurant or run a errand, and (b) a few hours for me and my husband, Mike, in case we go to more humid and hot climates, like Florida to visit friends. (I lived in Miami and the Fla Keys for ~12 years, and while I used to loved the swelter, I'm now used to dry Cali weather, and I think my older self might not be as adaptable to the heat.)

I understand the positioning of the panels on the roof might not be the most productive, and it would be nice to have room for a Bomar hatch or another big fan, but...

Is the the weight load of three panels on the roof the concern? Or the drag they would cause while underway?

Even if we mostly won't need that much wattage, the array might shade the roof from the sun and cool the van.

And is it possible to mount three 68" x 40" panels on the roof of a long tall Transit, plus a MaxxAir Fan? (I'm thinking of mounting the fan in the very back over the bed, with a hole in the floor, á la Orton, to help with the flow.)

I'm curious if you came up with a solution that will work for you. What did you end up with?
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
I purchased the rail mounts from Hein (which now seem to be half the price I paid—sigh—https://www.ebay.com/itm/Ford-Transit-Roof-Rail-Pad-and-Bracket/132480085278?hash=item1ed86dad1e:m:mBnv1pnElFOsUnl6NKySEFQ&var=432302822596) and two 120” 80-20 rails from Numatic Engineering in Burbank: https://www.numaticengineering.com/. They purchased the rails for me and had them shipped to their business. I drove there to pick them up to save on shipping. As for panels: https://www.ebay.com/itm/2-200-25-Watt-12-Volt-Battery-Charger-Solar-Panel-Off-Grid-RV-Boat-400-25-W/264077583855 with free shipping. They're 59" x 27", 200 watts. A good price: $185. They may be more expensive now. Put together in the U.S. I bought four of these, because they'll fit perfectly on my extended high-rood Transit along with the MaxxAir fan, and I'll get 800 watts of solar. The module efficiency is 17.3%–20.5%. Also, the guy who sells them on eBay—fred480v—is easy to communicate with, a super guy. I'm now deciding how to mount the panels to the rails. Hein sells these spacers: https://www.ebay.com/itm/133043008166. But I want a more elegant solution, so I'm thinking of doing it this way (https://www.fordtransitusaforum.com/ford-transit-general-discussion/60450-roof-rack-situation-5.html#post872809), though my husband thinks sheer might be an issue.
 

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Hello Maidel and thank you for your reply. We have not doubled the price on what you purchased. You are referring to the price for just the pads as being roughly half of the pads with the brackets. Our price for both options has always been the same.

We started using the two 8020 plates instead of the angles because getting to the hardware with the angles would be next to impossible with all 4 panels closely spaced per your mockup. I was able to use the angles to install two similar panels on a van with our rails but had to use a long rod taped to the wrench to hold the nuts. The panels are spaced further apart than what is needed for 4 panels on your van. These panels have been secure for over two years so apparent problems with shear.

There are some other options with some different 8020 plates. But in that case you would have to assemble all the panels together before placing them across the rails.

I look forward to helping you complete the installation.

All the best,
Hein

 

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You may try test fitting the panels oriented in the other direction to see how all four will fit. It would be about ten inches longer, so might not offer any advantage. Here's a shot of two of those panels mounted this way, bolted to aluminum angle using stainless hardware. If the leading edge of yours goes significantly over the crest of the down slope at the front in either configuration the aluminum angle across the span might offer added strength against sail load there.

Solar3LR.jpg

More detail HERE
 

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Not identical to what you are trying to do, but we installed a panel array similar to what you are doing on a sprinter.

In that case I used some one piece lengths of 8020 (1530) as the rails.

The reason for the 1530 was to loft the panels above the roof hump of the van without needing additional adapters.

We mounted the rails first into the gutters and then put the panels on.

It was slightly non trivial to pull off but it works very well. The main challenge was that it took 3 people to mount each rail due to the required alignments.

The customer installed the fans themselves and painted the roof white for heat reduction.

https://squareup.com/store/WirlNet-com/item/watt-nominal-solar-system-hardware-for-pauline-h
 

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I mounted 2 Grape Solar panels (180 x2 =360watt ) Long ways on roof
this allow for mounting close to roof and less air drag /noise -

there is room on roof for 4 panels (720 watts) depending on Vent location-

Grape solar are sold by Home depot and they deliver -free - Nice
 

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Here are cardboard mockups of the solar panels on the roof with my already installed MaxxAir fan:
Looks quite similar to what we did with our solar.

Except our panels (Kyocera KD-140SX, now obsolete) are only 140W each and just about 59"x26", and we made our own rails out of barn door channel. Nobody like Hein was around with pre-manufactured mounting HW for the Transit back in 2015.

 

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I mounted 2 Grape Solar panels (180 x2 =360watt ) Long ways on roof
this allow for mounting close to roof and less air drag /noise -

there is room on roof for 4 panels (720 watts) depending on Vent location-

Grape solar are sold by Home depot and they deliver -free - Nice
For comparison, the eBay panels linked by the OP:

  • Higher output @ 200 Watts / panel,
  • Cost $60 less for a set of 4
  • Delivered for free. (I received mine in two days after ordering, amazing) :D
  • The seller has 99.6% feedback and 13,600 transactions on eBay.
  • Panels are ASSEMBLED AND TESTED IN THE USA
  • 25 year warranty.
Nicer!
 

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I put 5 100 Watt Renogy slim design panels on top of our van. They sit on a 1/8" X 1.5" aluminum angle frame bolted to 80/20 15 series black anodized aluminum rails. 3 are up front running north and south and 2 more surround the fan in the rear.

The ones in front are about 1/2" wider than the rails. The ones in back are even with the rails on both sides.

They sit about 1/4" from the roof of the van in the center.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
You are referring to the price for just the pads as being roughly half of the pads with the brackets. Our price for both options has always been the same.
Hein, I mentioned that I thought you'd halved the price from what I originally paid, not doubled the price. But I was wrong. I see that I was looking at the option for the pads alone without the brackets.

You may try test fitting the panels oriented in the other direction to see how all four will fit.
Thanks for the great idea, Travelin. I'll check it out.

In that case I used some one piece lengths of 8020 (1530) as the rails.
harryn, Another great suggestion.

I already purchased four of the excellent panels Travelin suggested a few months ago (800 watts! to run a Cruise N Comfort 12v VES system, among other things), as well as the 120" 80-20 rails, so I'll try any suggestions that might successfully join them together.

Thanks, all.
 
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