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post #1 of 23 Old 11-27-2018 Thread Starter
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Flexible solar panel mounting

Looking for ideas for mounting flexible solar panels on bimini of our Catalina 350. Not new to solar (we have rigid panels I installed on our other boat), but unsure how I want to mount the flexible panels and would like ideas on what works for others.

I've seen the video that Sailrite did. Looks like a nice professional install (and a lot of work). I've also seen the install that Mainesail put up on his Compass Marine site. That is another nice install where velcro is used. Velcro looks like it would work well especially with the fold over closure that Mainsail used. My only issue with velcro is that any time I've ever used the self stick variety, the adhesive failed. On the fabric, we would obviously use sew on velcro, but on the panels themselves, I don't see any other option other than the self stick kind. Is there a self stick velcro that actually stays stuck? Maybe I've just bought the wrong stuff in the past.

Any thoughts appreciated.
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post #2 of 23 Old 11-28-2018
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Re: Flexible solar panel mounting

we went the sailrite route and sewed a frame into our bimini for a 160W panel. We used snaps on the panel and frame to hold the canvas frame flaps down. Seems to be working very very well. Just did about 700 miles of California coasting (down and back) and it held up fine. simple and light weight. plus we can take it down and fold up the bimini if we want or need to. but then we have a machine and someone who can operate in.

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post #3 of 23 Old 11-28-2018
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Re: Flexible solar panel mounting

I've not done it, but I would want them to be both secure in the wind, but easily removable for a storm. Tricky. I wonder if zippers could be fashioned, by a local canvas shop. I bet there would be a clever way to secure one side to the panel.

When I considered installing them on my coachroof (which I didn't ultimately do), I was going to make a backer for the edges of the flexible panel, so they would reach existing mounting holes for deck hardware and not need to drill new ones. My concern was the panels will eventually go bad, or fail, and need to be replaced. I couldn't be sure the new ones would be the same size, same mounts, etc. The concept might be worth considering, with however you mount them to your canvas too.


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post #4 of 23 Old 11-28-2018
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Re: Flexible solar panel mounting

what is the physical size of the flexible panels?

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post #5 of 23 Old 11-28-2018
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We bought a bunch of these snaps from Sailrite that you have to press a middle button for them to let go to attach our new panels to our Bimini. To do this you drill some holes in the flexible panel along the edge and punch some holes in the corresponding spots on the Bimini fabric. You would end up with a neat and secure installation. However, my wife convinced me to first tying it on securely and see if I need to go through the process of a perminent installation. On our installation, our 2 panels will lay on top of the Bimini on either side of the back stay which divided the Bimini. Tie them together and then tie the outboard ends to the Bimini's poles and I should achieve the same result.

I really liked the concept and look achieved by Sailrite buttons but I can appreciate not having to do extra work!

These are the fasteners I was going to use: https://www.sailrite.com/Loxx-Pull-I...Assemblies-Set.

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post #6 of 23 Old 11-28-2018 Thread Starter
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Re: Flexible solar panel mounting

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Originally Posted by Gladrags1 View Post
We bought a bunch of these snaps from Sailrite that you have to press a middle button for them to let go to attach our new panels to our Bimini. To do this you drill some holes in the flexible panel along the edge and punch some holes in the corresponding spots on the Bimini fabric. You would end up with a neat and secure installation. However, my wife convinced me to first tying it on securely and see if I need to go through the process of a perminent installation. On our installation, our 2 panels will lay on top of the Bimini on either side of the back stay which divided the Bimini. Tie them together and then tie the outboard ends to the Bimini's poles and I should achieve the same result.

I really liked the concept and look achieved by Sailrite buttons but I can appreciate not having to do extra work!

These are the fasteners I was going to use: https://www.sailrite.com/Loxx-Pull-I...Assemblies-Set.

Tod
Thanks for the link to the fasteners. Agreed that Sailrite's plan is a very nice one, especially when you want to remove the panels for winter storage, etc. Reaching all the edges for a velcro fastened panel might require some heavy duty stretching and contortion. The plus side of the velcro is that it gives you a little more wiggle room for mistakes and is easier to work with as far as the installation goes.
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post #7 of 23 Old 11-28-2018 Thread Starter
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Re: Flexible solar panel mounting

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what is the physical size of the flexible panels?
2 x 160 watt 59" x 26" and one 100 watt 48" x 21". The 160 watt panels are going lengthwise on each side and the 100 is going beam to beam orientation between the split backstay (one of the advantages of a "fat" boat :-). I'm going with flexible panels this time as I didn't want the expense, looks, and hassle of building up a frame for rigid panels, though the longevity would likely be better. Price on the flexible panels keeps coming down and quality seems to be better than it was even a year or 2 ago. I will end up doing a little reinforcement of the bimini frame, but that's not a big deal.
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Re: Flexible solar panel mounting

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2 x 160 watt 59" x 26" and one 100 watt 48" x 21". The 160 watt panels are going lengthwise on each side and the 100 is going beam to beam orientation between the split backstay (one of the advantages of a "fat" boat :-). I'm going with flexible panels this time as I didn't want the expense, looks, and hassle of building up a frame for rigid panels, though the longevity would likely be better. Price on the flexible panels keeps coming down and quality seems to be better than it was even a year or 2 ago. I will end up doing a little reinforcement of the bimini frame, but that's not a big deal.
Sounds excellent. My 25yr old alum framed panels are still ticking. I would consider replacing but in the same location... but the size needs to be very similar to the ones I have... alum frame may not be an issue as long as I can lash the flexible one. Mine are narrower and shorter... I could go longer but not wider.

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post #9 of 23 Old 11-28-2018
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Re: Flexible solar panel mounting

Just another thought.....I used the Dual Lockô velcro type product made buy 3M that I purchased from ITapeStore in the US. It can be purchased in different widths and sold by the yard. I used 1 inch wide. They are expensive but when mated are amazingly strong.

As the name implies, there is no hook or loop. Just a universal mating surface. And the product is UV resilient. I bought enough of the sticky-one-side to line a good portion of the underside of the panels about 1 inch from the edge. I also purchased enough of the sewable product(not sticky) to have a canvas person sew on my Bimini to match the bottom side of the panels. This way the products used to secure the panels are not exposed to the weather.
I then placed a thin stainless cable through the grommets of the 100 watt panels and looped to a backstay to deter thief.

I noticed some flap installations here in the Pacific Northwest had a few problems. One the Velcro deteriorates in the weather. Two they collected water, dirt and pollen.
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post #10 of 23 Old 11-28-2018 Thread Starter
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Re: Flexible solar panel mounting

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Just another thought.....I used the Dual Lockô velcro type product made buy 3M that I purchased from ITapeStore in the US. It can be purchased in different widths and sold by the yard. I used 1 inch wide.

I noticed some flap installations here in the Pacific Northwest had a few problems. One the Velcro deteriorates in the weather. Two they collected water, dirt and pollen.
Thanks for the idea. How has the adhesive held up on the panels, and how long have you had it on? Any issues with the sewn on fabric side shrinking in length?
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