Cruisers Forum
 


Reply
  This discussion is proudly sponsored by:
Please support our sponsors and let them know you heard about their products on Cruisers Forums. Advertise Here
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 04-08-2020, 17:04   #1
Registered User

Join Date: May 2013
Location: Potomac/Chesapeake
Boat: Hunter 36
Posts: 340
Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

OK, my next upgrade is solar and planning to start soon. I am going to try to do this myself as much as possible.

I haven't decided between flexible and rigid panels yet. I know already many of the pros and cons. My question is about installation. I have a 36' sailboat with a typical soft bimini top. I am looking at these Renogy 100w panels, and there is room enough for 2-3 of them on the bimini aft of the boom so that shadows from the boom shouldn't be a problem.

1. Rigid panels. I would love to do this, but how to attach them? In the stickied thread I see plenty of good examples of them attached via "jungle gyms" on the bimini top. I got it. But where do you get the frames from? That's a little frustrating. Every web site describes how to install these things except where to obtain a frame, as if the frame just magically appears. I could purchase piping from a hardware store, but that would require metal machine tools to put together and wouldn't match the shiny chrome bimini frame I have.

2. Given the above, flexible panels look like an easier option. Seems like most people sew velcro onto the bimini top and put the panels there. Easy. But I worry about them heating up. Why not instead attach the flexible panels with cords with just a little slack, so that the wind can flow underneath them and reduce the heat? Is there a downside to that? Yes, that could be a problem in a hurricane, but in that case, I would just put the panels away if there is a heavy storm coming.
Rohan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2020, 17:28   #2
Registered User

Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 46
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

I tried flexible panels for the same reasons you state.After a year I changed them all to rigid panels as they were producing less and less watts. This is the best I did for the boat, I only wish I had done it sooner.
alamoana is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2020, 17:34   #3
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Pittwater NSW Aust.
Boat: Jarkan King 40 12m
Posts: 245
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

Quote:
Originally Posted by alamoana View Post
I tried flexible panels for the same reasons you state.After a year I changed them all to rigid panels as they were producing less and less watts. This is the best I did for the boat, I only wish I had done it sooner.
I also started with flexible panels and have changed to rigid panels.
Bruce K is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2020, 17:36   #4
Registered User
 
Sailmonkey's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Houston
Boat: '76 Allied Seawind II, 32'
Posts: 8,006
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

We’ve got flex panels on the dodger....they’re attached with loxx fasteners. You don want to loosely tie these panels, if they’re allowed to “flutter” with the wind, they’ll die a quick death.

Stainless frames for panels are almost always customs. You can build yourself with a tube bender and some rail fittings, or hire a welder.
Sailmonkey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2020, 17:38   #5
Registered User

Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: canada
Posts: 3,135
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

The big issue is weight. A reg Bimini is not going to hold 3 rigid panels. The weight difference is huge to flexible.

the mounts on top is one thing. But you’re also going to have to streathen it a lot to the deck too.
smac999 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2020, 17:57   #6
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Vancouver B.C.Canada
Boat: Macgregor 26S
Posts: 302
Images: 1
Send a message via MSN to BugzyCan
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

The flex panels only last a few years, the solid panels way longer.

I added a 100w Renogy to my back rail and it was pretty easy. I just added a 2" wide aluminum bar, bolted to back of panel frame, and then used a couple of bar clamps that attached the panel to the bar.

The one I bought was a folding unit that has the charge controller built in, when it is on the rail, the digital display hangs down and is easy to read, so you can keep track of battery voltage and see when it is charging.
For your boat, you would need to add a top rail if there isn't one already. The mounts for the boat are simple enough, just screwed on, then you need a straight bar, and a top bar with curves at either end. Try calling around locally to see if anyone can bend that one bar for you. It would probably be a good idea to add a brace on each side as well, to strengthen it, unless you can add straps going to your bimini poles or something.
You could buy a cheap bender from Harbor Freight too, if you want to DIY.

It will make a fun project.
BugzyCan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2020, 18:10   #7
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Panama City FL
Boat: Island Packet 32 Keel/CB
Posts: 631
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

I have 2ea 100 watt Renogy rigid panels mounted on a SS tubular frame mounted above a bimini. I did the tubing bending myself with a home made bender. Solar wise has worked fine. The issue is not so much vertical weight as mass high up causing the bimini frame to sway horizontally pounding into a seaway. With some side struts I have improved the situation to the extent going to add a third panel this Winter. Handled winds up to 70 mph with no problems.

The common and special SS fittings are available from Sailrite and others. Any boat canvas shop that can make bimini frames should be able to make the solar bows.


Frankly
Frankly is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2020, 18:18   #8
Registered User
 
Svsumurun's Avatar

Join Date: May 2018
Location: Lake Erie
Boat: Pearson 365 ketch
Posts: 103
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailmonkey View Post
We’ve got flex panels on the dodger....they’re attached with loxx fasteners. You don want to loosely tie these panels, if they’re allowed to “flutter” with the wind, they’ll die a quick death.

Stainless frames for panels are almost always customs. You can build yourself with a tube bender and some rail fittings, or hire a welder.
We did exactly this as well , really happy with it .
Svsumurun is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2020, 19:16   #9
Do… or do not
 
s/v Jedi's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: in paradise
Boat: Sundeer 64
Posts: 11,185
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

Can’t you fit a single LG 60-cell 370W panel? This makes mounting 3 times less work.
.
__________________
This is just an answer/comment; not interested in arguing or dealing with the trolls
s/v Jedi is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2020, 20:00   #10
Registered User

Join Date: May 2019
Boat: Tartan 28
Posts: 98
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

I’m working on the exact same project, mounting a 160w renogy panel on my small half bimini over the helm. I added rigid struts to it last year to get rid of all the bimini straps so I think it will be fine. My plan is to use some 1” aluminum angle across the bimini frame (fore and aft), use some long stainless bolts through the bimini frame with some extra nuts to create a standoff, thereby raising the angle up high enough to clear the arch in the fame. I’ll then just bolt the panel to the aluminum channel. I’ll have to put some holes in the bimini canvas to allow the bolts to poke through the top. I’ll have my sailmaker put a grommet in the bimini cover to accommodate.
zemurray is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-08-2020, 22:53   #11
Registered User

Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Australia
Boat: Island Packet 40
Posts: 3,998
Images: 7
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

One of the things I have noticed about solar farms on boats is their tendency to grow. About 1989 I put one 40 watt panel on to trickle charge my cranking battery because the dock I rented did not have mains power. Now, whilst I am only in my second boat, I am on my fifth set of mounting hardware for nearly 900 watts of panels and now both the bimini and the dodger constitute panel mounts.

Go for the solid panels, the other things are for campers who want to charge their phones and insufficiently durable for permanently deployed service on a boat.
RaymondR is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 05-08-2020, 05:37   #12
Registered User
 
RickG's Avatar

Join Date: May 2013
Location: St. John, USVI
Boat: 2003 Beneteau 423
Posts: 473
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

Here is what we did:

Solar is two Panasonic rigid 330 watt panels fed into two dedicated Victron Smartsolar 100/300 solar controllers. The panels are mounted above the bimini. On the forward end, the panels are secured to two frames built out of 1” stainless steel tube put together with Sea Dog stainless steel elbows and hinged rail tees, mounted on existing grab bars on the bimini frame; extra bracing from the bimini frame forward to stanchions using 1” stainless steel tube and rail fittings. On the end the panels are bolted to the existing arch using stainless steel u-bolts. The forward panel mounts are shimmed with nylon spacers to follow the arch curve and drain rain to the aft outboard corner; we will add water catchment.

The hard panels actually made our bimini more rigid. Adding the bracing from a stanchion to the bimini frame stopped any kind of swaying. I mounted the aft section of the panels to the arch more for forward clearance than any need for additional rigidity.

Cheers, RickG
__________________
RickG & Sweet Christine
S/V Echoes - 2003 Beneteau 423
Coral Bay - St. John, USVI -- Grenada summer 2020
RickG is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-08-2020, 06:19   #13
Registered User

Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Brazil
Boat: Custom Swedish Vindö 50 (35 ft)
Posts: 649
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

Without pictures of your bimini, it's hard to give advice, but you can make a frame for the panels with inexpensive "L" profile aluminium that you buy in length. It's easy to cut and drill and makes a solid frame. If you are worried about dissimilar metals, you can isolate things with cork cut from wine corks, which also eliminates any vibration. As far as panels go, I think the best bang for your buck are the large 250w+, high-voltage panels made for residential use. Coupled with a decent MPPT controller you get amazing results. These bigger panels are also very cheap.

In my case, I was able to put one Canadian Solar 265w panel over my bimini in a frame made from aluminium "L" profile that is bolted to the top of the hard dodger and the stern arch to span the bimini. I already had 100w of solar on the hard dodger, but the new 265w panel basically provides all the power today (more than I can use, in fact). These higher voltage panels with an MPPT controller start providing power earlier in the day and go longer in the late afternoon.
Copacabana is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-08-2020, 06:48   #14
Registered User
 
Olorin's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: On the Boat
Boat: Fortuna, Island Spirit 400, 40ft. Catamaran - S/V One White Tree
Posts: 167
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

Seconding what Cocacabana said.

I have 1250 watts rigid panels on aluminum L-brackets I attached to my 2" diameter bimini frame with U-bolts. All done with a hacksaw and a hand drill. Next upgrade is to 2000 watts.

I am on a catamaran so, luckily, I have the real estate.

Good luck.
__________________
"And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over."
John Masefield
Olorin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-08-2020, 08:57   #15
Registered User

Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: Fort William, Highland, Scotland
Boat: Bavaria Cruiser 40
Posts: 872
Images: 16
Re: Questions about installing solar panels on bimini the first time

I have a 100w semi flex panel that I lay on top of our bimini and tie down to various points of contact on the frame and back stays on our boat. Works well, doesn't do any damage to the bimini and is easily removable at the end of sailing for storage or laying on the deck (and securing). Holds up to 50kts winds without a problem too. I plan to add a second 100w semi flex to the mix in the next year or 2 when my remaining fully flexible 32w panel gives up.
kas_1611 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
bimini, panels, solar, solar panels

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Lipari 41: Installing solar panels R2boat Fountaine Pajot 0 16-08-2018 05:52
Installing serial solar panels ErikElmgren Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 249 19-06-2017 22:28
Wire Sizing for Installing Solar Panels / Wind Generator Eddie Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 17 30-03-2010 19:06
Mounting Solar Panels on Bimini waterdog Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 7 23-03-2009 06:40

Advertise Here


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 16:01.


Google+
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.