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Old 25-08-2017, 05:12   #1
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Mounting solar panels on bimini

I've got everything I need, read and looked at pictures over the last 6 months of hundreds of installs yet I still have a lingering question....... why wouldn't you mount the panels directly to the stainless steel piping? The attached picture shows a similiar installation but has those white nylon bar clamps. I also have seen clamps, bars, gidgets, gadgets and all manner of items used to secure the panels to a frame.
It would seem to me the fewer pieces and parts you have the fewer points of failure you'd have to worry about.
It is my plan to drill the stainless steel piping and run a bolt through it with appropriate nylon washers and secure the panel directly to the piping. Is there a reason I shouldn't do that?
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Old 25-08-2017, 05:23   #2
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

Because it'll look awful.

Why not instead purchase some flexible panels and attach them directly to the bimini, then it won't look like a "jungle gym" made with an erector set. Less expensive too.
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Old 25-08-2017, 05:33   #3
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

What kind of Bimini frame are you planning to build upon? The picture you attached appears to be a T-Top on a center console fishing boat. Those are usually more substantial than a 'standard' bimini top. Are you sure your frame could support all the extra weight and possible windage?
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Old 25-08-2017, 05:40   #4
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

When I first mounted my solar panels, I had them directly mounted on the pulpit in the rear and on the bimini frame on the forward mount.

Here was the problem. The first hurricane, I realized I couldn't get my bimini down. I remounted it with a frame that was completely separate of the bimini after that and was much happier.
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Old 25-08-2017, 05:51   #5
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

Drilling holes through the tubing will seriously weaken the tubing necessitating the use of heavier more expensive tubing to compensate. If there is any flex in the tubing with holes drilled in it, it will crack at the holes due to the fact that most flex will occur at the weakest point versus spread evenly over the entire span. If you ever replace the panel you will most likely have holes in the wrong places and need to drill more holes. Clamps definaitly.
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Old 25-08-2017, 06:24   #6
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenomac View Post
Because it'll look awful.

Why not instead purchase some flexible panels and attach them directly to the bimini, then it won't look like a "jungle gym" made with an erector set. Less expensive too.


I sailed on a 42 foot boat that had large Solbian semi-flexible solar panels mounted directly to the cloth top of the Bimini, with a "flush" mount on the cloth, and it looked smooth from the side, nice, non-obtrusive, and simple. I was greatly impressed.


The photo up top does appear like a "jungle gym" of extra pipes and clamps and on an any moderate sized boat (36 feet), especially those with older styling (lower freeboard or CCA influenced) I suspect that will look "heavy" or "clunky" to the eye and detract from the appearance of the boat.

Hope that helps.
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Old 25-08-2017, 06:51   #7
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

The following is a snap of the solar panel mounting on the Bimini of our sistership, Ocean Angel:



As you can see from the photos, the panels are mounted on the Bimini supporting rails/tubing with pin connectors that slide over the tubing and are locked in place with set-screws. Ocean Angel has been sailing the EC for the last 7 years without any difficulty with this arrangement. For more on the boat and their cruise, see (click on) Sailing with Ocean Angel.
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Old 25-08-2017, 08:26   #8
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

I would recommenced using the Gemini split jaw mounts/ side mount fittings. That way you will not need to drill the stainless Bimini tubes. This will provide a low profile light weight attachment.
https://www.emarineinc.com/1-inch-GE...Jaw-Side-Mount
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Old 25-08-2017, 08:36   #9
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

I installed my three solar panel exactly the way you are proposing. Make sure your bolts are long enough so you can place spacers between the bottom of the solar panel and Bimini fabric. Other wise the fabric will rub against your panels and ware a hole in the fabric. I also installed a few extra support rails to the Bimini frame, not too sure if needed but i did it anyway.
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Old 25-08-2017, 08:49   #10
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

+1 for flexible panels right on the cloth Bimini. Has worked great for me. Simply tied them through their grommet holes with strong line to the frame. Works great and low profile. In the photo you can barely see mine, but they're there.
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Old 25-08-2017, 09:15   #11
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

I'd check the panel efficiency and reported longevity for a flexible panel vs a rigid panel ....as well as cost of each before I made my decision. When we bought ours, it was not a contest, and we installed rigid panels....but on a radar arch over the transom. Minimal shading, out of the way, and no hassle....plus lots of new space for antennas, safety gear (MOB pole, Life Rings, web line on roller for shore tying), etc. Also...we use our bimini frame for an outside-the-cockpit handhold in a seaway, so strength is a consideration--if you drill it, be sure to use a thru-bolt that completely fills the drilled hole.
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Old 25-08-2017, 09:15   #12
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

The "flexible" panels are great, but don't last nearly as long and usually cost a lot more, e.g. Solbian

Make sure to not allow them to flex at all once in place, a slight curve is fine but it must be a rigid mounting surface.

Metal backing plates are usually available from the panel vendor.

Another issue can be the cells get hotter which lowers output.
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Old 25-08-2017, 09:19   #13
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peregrine1983 View Post
+1 for flexible panels right on the cloth Bimini. Has worked great for me. Simply tied them through their grommet holes with strong line to the frame. Works great and low profile. In the photo you can barely see mine, but they're there.
I did the same thing with a few additions. Between teh panel and the cloth bimini is a thin 1/4" layer of aluminum/vinyl faced bubble type insulation. The aluminum foil side was glued to teh back of the panel. this helps cushion the panel to prevent chafing of the cloth and at the same time allows some give over the poles. Before i did that strong winds would get under the panels and make them vibrate which I'm sure was not good for cloth or panel. I also made Sunbrella strips to help seal up the edges, and a rool back flap to cover the panels when not needed. I have rigid panels over the dinghy davit that supply power 100% of the time sun is available. To prolong the life of the flexible panels they are covered when not needed. I worried about potential overheating under the Sunbrella so a thin layer of silvered Mylar helps keep them cooler when covered. Perhaps this is overkill but so far it works. To remove the bimini for hurricanes i just untie the 6 tiedown points, unplug the panels and store them below. Hope this helps.
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Old 25-08-2017, 09:21   #14
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

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Originally Posted by CCR2580 View Post
I installed my three solar panel exactly the way you are proposing. Make sure your bolts are long enough so you can place spacers between the bottom of the solar panel and Bimini fabric. Other wise the fabric will rub against your panels and ware a hole in the fabric. I also installed a few extra support rails to the Bimini frame, not too sure if needed but i did it anyway.
Then watch as the OP's weakened bimini turns into a pretzel on the first windy day. Great suggestion.

For those suggesting a "jungle gym" mounting apparatus like an arch.... by the time you add the attractive multi-purpose stainless jungle gym, your cost will exceed the cost of adding just flexible panels to the bimini.
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Old 25-08-2017, 09:32   #15
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Re: Mounting solar panels on bimini

Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
The following is a snap of the solar panel mounting on the Bimini of our sistership, Ocean Angel:



As you can see from the photos, the panels are mounted on the Bimini supporting rails/tubing with pin connectors that slide over the tubing and are locked in place with set-screws. Ocean Angel has been sailing the EC for the last 7 years without any difficulty with this arrangement. For more on the boat and their cruise, see (click on) Sailing with Ocean Angel.
Looks like a prison cell, how do you get out of that thing?
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