Saturday, 4 August 2012

Fitting roof bars to a Hiace Hitop camper van / Solar power update

I finally got my roof bars fitted for the kayaks! (and routed the solar panel cable through the roof). I ended up doing it all myself, as the guy I had tried to organise to do it didn’t come through in the end. I actually think I have done a better job though, and my roof bar solution looks much more in keeping with the van than the one that had been suggested:
To get there I first had to find a set of bars that have flat feet and holes for roof mounting. This turned out not to be so easy, as most roof racks are vehicle specific these days, and have all manner of clamps and devices to mount them. After a bit of investigation it turned out that a Renault Kangoo van has threaded holes in its roof, and so I was able to get the bars and feet made for it.
After removing the head cloth and plywood ceiling, I mounted two alloy channels on the inside of the glass fibre roof to give support and strength, placing them above the roof bulkheads for extra support:
Here you can also see the roof insulation which explains why it stays so toasty up there on cold nights.
The feet where then mounted on the roof, having drilled right through the roof and the alloy channels, sealed with marine silicone sealant, and bolted in place with 3/8 fasteners:
You can also see the solar panel cable going through the roof here too, through a rubber grommet, and also sealed in. It was great to get it all finally finished and a neat job well done!
All I have to do now is test it out with the boats – hopefully this sunday will be the day. Obviously its quite high up, but with the use of a ladder it will be possible to secure the boats up there. Using a trailer may be easier to load, but makes it more difficult to manoeuvre, and also increases the cost of ferry crossings quite a bit. I am already thinking up a solution to loading a kayak single handed – lets see how that goes!
I’ve been using the solar panel for about a month now, and its surpassing my expectations. If I use lights and the computer in the evening for a few hours, it always reaches full charge again in a couple of hours in the morning with the battery monitor flashing. I have also fitted a battery voltage gauge to show me the battery condition:
The solar charge controller:

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