Welcome to the sixth entry in January’s Medium Mod Contest. One Medium Mod will be published in every Email Alert in January. At the end of the month, we’ll hold a reader vote to determine January’s winner. Click here for information about the 2022 Mod Contest, including how to enter.
Bill Moore, Cottonwood, Arizona
Single Axis Powered Solar Panel Mount
2017 Chevy Silverado 3500
2017 Cirrus 820
Angling a solar panel towards the sun can produce much more power.
We built an aluminum frame from 1/8-inch 2×2 6061-aluminum angle. The panel was attached to the base with a stainless steel piano hinge. The base has six legs that are attached to angle at the front and back of the panel.
Two perpendicular angles are attached to these roof-mounted angles. Two 38-inch 12-volt linear actuators are attached to the perpendicular angle and then to yet another piece of angle that was attached to the bottom of the panel opposite of the hinge.
The main reason for the legs is to elevate the panel and give an angle for the actuators to function. The actuators are controlled by a wall-mounted controller on the inside of the camper and are in view of a control panel that monitors the panel’s output. You raise the panel and monitor the output. Once power starts to drop off you stop and reverse it back to max.
At 7:45 am in July in central Arizona, a 350-watt panel sitting flat produced around 80-watts. At a near-vertical position, it produced 330-watts. That not only powers the camper (minus the air conditioner) but keeps the batteries full.
I bought the aluminum angle from Coast Aluminum in Phoenix. The REC 350-watt panel and wiring are from Northern Arizona Wind and Solar. The piano hinge, actuators, and controller are from Amazon.
Due to a lot of trial and error, this mod took around 80 hours. To build another identical mount would be about 8 hours. It cost me $800. In my opinion, the skill level of this modification is high.
Disclaimer: The modifications above are submitted by Truck Camper Magazine readers. It is your responsibility to make sure that any do-it-yourself modification project you undertake is safe, effective, and legal for your situation.
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