Building A Frame For My Harbor Freight Panels


The Harbor Freight Solar Panel Kit is a nice place to start.  But the flimsy included frame is not suitable for a permanent installation.  So I decided to build my own.  I have a small wire feed welder that made this a simple task.  It could have been assembled with fasteners if you don't have access to such equipment.


Seems that every different brand of solar panel has a different style of mounting.  The included frame simply slips together.  It's a fixed angle, and not suitable for mounting to a roof.  So I decided to make a supporting frame from 3/4" angle purchased at Home Depot.

Be aware of your surroundings when welding.  Those gas cans have been empty since the end of the last hurricane season.  The door has been raised some, and a fan is blowing the fumes outside.  The door also acts as a shield for those walking by.

This 14" cut-off saw from Harbor Freight was on sale for $59.  It's not deadly accurate, but does a decent job of making a miter joint.

One of my CCTV security cameras recorded my work, and the shower of sparks.

Notice my protective equipment, hat, welding visor, gloves, flip-flops.  Er, never mind.

I bought a small Mig welder made by Lincoln.  I haven't purchased the gas bottle yet, so this is simply unshielded wire welding.  Still, the welds come out fairly nice.


I'm still new at this, so I'm pleased with the joints as a novice.  Of course the weld has been ground down at this point.  But very little porosity in the weld.

Corrosion is a big factor here in FL, especially since I'm about 10 minutes from the beach.  I found that POR15 rust preventive paint works very well. 

The frame is all welded up, with brackets welded on to act as feet.  Good to have some air circulation under the panels.  It's upside down in this picture, allowing the paint to dry.

My generator is in the background with a heat gun attached.  Good to run it every few weeks and put a load on it.


I spliced all three panels together, and attached them to 10 gauge wire with weatherproof crimp connectors.  Once they have been crimped, a heat gun will shrink the insulation, and a small amount of hot glue inside the tubing will melt, creating a weather tight seal.  This connection will only be used temporarily.  I will put a junction box on the roof, allowing for quick disconnection and removal of the panels during a hurricane.  While they might last through a storm, it's easier to take them down than replace them.


These are mounted on the South side of my roof.  The silicone caulk used holds up much better than Black-Jack in my experience.  It's white when applied, but soon turns clear as it cures.

The clamps were only temporary. 

I've used this exterior rated mounting tape on several projects.  I thought I'd give it a try to see how well it works in this application.

I cut some aluminum angle, and applied the adhesive tape along one edge.  No adhesive touches the solar panels.  It adheres to the frame itself.

I put 4 pieces of aluminum angle around the perimeter.  We'll see how well this holds up.

Looking from the other end.



I may eventually use mechanical fasteners to hold the brackets into place, but the tape is working well for now.  Tropical Storm Fay thumped us for 4 days with rain and high winds.  Nothing budged.


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Last updated 10/06/08    All rights reserved.