Adding Mounting Tabs To A Harbor Freight 15W Solar Panel

 

I've been using these Harbor Freight 15 Watt solar panels for a couple of years here in sunny Florida.  They're holding up well, despite the intense sun and frequent heavy rains.  The only real downside is the difficulty in mounting them.  The included cheesy frame is fine for a temporary ground setup, but wasn't intended to mount it to a roof.  Did I mention that we have tropical storms and hurricanes?  I welded up a frame to drop the panels into, but that took specialized tools, and a LOT more effort.  That previous project is here.

I wasn't sure if I could safely drill into the side frame of these panels without cracking the glass.  The frame does have screws in the end panels already, so I carefully noted their location and size.  As long as the screws weren't too large, and kept in the center of the groove, shouldn't be an issue.

 

The panels have a screw in the end pieces of the integral frame.  This groove is on all sides of the frame.  Drilling holes in the middle of the groove just misses the delicate glass layer of the solar panel.

I wouldn't recommend going any larger than a #6 screw.  These are self-tapping, making for a quick installation.

Making the mounting brackets was simple.  I cut a piece of aluminum angle on a bandsaw.  Could be cut with a hacksaw also.

The aluminum angle was purchased at my local Home Depot.

I put the bracket against the panel, and made the top of the bracket flush with the top of the panel, then marked where the groove in the solar panel's frame would be.  These holes need to line up with the groove.  Once you drill the first one, a stop block on a drill press makes drilling all the rest very quick.

To offset the bracket from the end of the panel, I used a lid from a jar.  I didn't want to hit the existing screws in the end panels of the frame.

Slide the bracket up until the top is flush with the top of the solar panel, then used a cordless driver to spin the self-tapping screws.

An installed bracket.  Screws line up perfectly with the grove in the frame.

With the panel upside down, you can just see the ends of the screws poking out of the matching groove on the inside of the frame.  Note the clearance between the screws and the glass.  No problem.

The installed bracket keeps the panel off the roof to allow some airflow under the panel.

A hole in the bottom of the bracket allows the panel to be bolted to the roof with stainless steel fasteners.

A hole was drilled at each mounting tab through the shingles and plywood below.  Make sure the bit is only large enough for the root of the screw to clear.  The screw threads need to cut their own way.

I've had zero leaks from using 100% silicone caulk.  After the hole is drilled, I fill it with a generous dab.

Using a nut driver attachment, the bolt was seated without stripping the plywood.

The extra silicone caulk is smoothed over the bolt head.

Mounting the Harbor Freight panel in this way is much faster/easier than the frame I had built for my previous HF solar kit.  The single panel to the left installed in this article powers an attic fan.  More details on that project, at this link.

 

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Last updated 07/01/10    All rights reserved.