It took us a pretty long time to wrap our heads around how we were going to build our solar racks, but after looking at a few example racks in person and spending a few hours in Lowe's looking at different parts, it all eventually clicked. In the end, it looks SOOO simple - and it was probably our fastest project from start to end. We're still deciding on what to use to prop up the panels once they are tilted. We've got a few ideas. We just need to test them out.
There were a few things we really wanted/needed from our racking system:
We used a combination of unistrut and galvanized steel pipes to build our racks. After staring at the pipe fittings section at Lowe's for a bit, we found our perfect piece to hinge our rack. Here's what we used.
We also used:
Connecting the Rails
We wanted a 15' rack. The unistrut only came in 10' lengths so we got 3, cut one in half and then attached the shorter pieces to the 10' pieces with the straight bracket.
Connecting the Pipes to the Rails
The pipes are mounted on the bottom side of the rack. We attached them to the rails using pipe clamps. These slide right into the tracks of the unistrut and you stick the bolt and nut in and tighten them down. They're really easy to adjust.
Once we got all the pipes attached, properly spaced, and tightened, we used ropes to pull the rack up onto the roof of the bus. We lined up our hinge legs and snapped a line across the bus. We marked the holes for each leg and drilled through the roof.
We originally used wood behind the bolts, but decided that it would probably crack/mold and the bolts were too close to the edge. We ended up switching out the wood for large square washers instead.
We cut rubber to fit under the hinge leg and then put butyl tape between the bus and the rubber. We put neoprene washers between the top of the bolt and the hinge foot. Then we put a galvanized steel washer on top.
Galvanized Bolts + Galvanized Nuts = Success
Attaching the Top of the Rack to the Top of the Bus
We wanted a quick release, yet secure, way to attach the top of the rack to the bus. We attached L feet to the roof. Then, we attached a pipe fitting to the pipe that has a hole that lines up with the L foot. We'll insert a locking pin through both holds and this will secure the rack to the roof. Right now, we only have 2 installed. We might install 2 more. We need to take it out for a test drive.
We found an awesome solar consultant who is going to help us with the actual install of our panels and solar equipment. We'll run all our wires so that FINALLY we can install our ceiling.
This week I'll also be working on rebuilding our couch. The first two tries haven't been totally successful. I'm feeling great about all the progress we've made this Summer and excited to move on to the next stages.
Questions? Comments? Feel free to share below!
Hey there! I'm Karli
I bought a bus in October 2015 and have been working on converting it since with the help of my boyfriend Craig. We don't have any timeline for the project. We are working on it when we can and hope to get on the road someday for a grand adventure! I'll be blogging about the process along the way and sharing the details of our successes and failures to help future skoolie builders!