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Does anyone have any experience with solar panels on a pop top? I have a 76 chinook that I would like to put a couple small solar panels on but I'm concerned about the added weight causing issues with raising and lowering the roof. Any thoughts?

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Does anyone have any experience with solar panels on a pop top? I have a 76 chinook that I would like to put a couple small solar panels on but I'm concerned about the added weight causing issues with raising and lowering the roof. Any thoughts?

I don't have a pop top. I have an 85 Dolphin. Instead of mounting my solar panel, I carry it inside (it stores nicely hanging on the bathroom wall) then plug it in when I stop and set up to camp. I have enough cable on it to allow me to position it up to 30 feet from my unit. Since the goal is generally to try to find shade to park, this makes us able to achieve the maximum amount of charge and to move and position the panel for best effect.
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Panels are a bit heavy...but since my Chinook isn't a pop top, I can't tell you for sure if it would mess with yours.

I also went with a portable solar setup, so I can just set it up outside, then fold it up and store it inside when I move.

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Unisolar .

On ebay

I dont have the dimensions of a chinook memorized.

But the 9 foot 68 watt panel would fit. Other sizes would not but you can cut them

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Weight could/would be a problem in 2 ways (as I see it). Raising the roof and roof sag.

Does the Chinook not have some sort of 'spring assist' to raise the roof? Are they adjustable?

Sagging of the fiberglass can be avoided by using brackets that would transfer the loads from the center to the sides of the roof.

Since there are relatively few Chinook owners on this Forum, I'd check the Yahoo Toyota Chinook Group to see if anyone there has experience.

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This is one of the posts I just read there:-

You can only put so much weight on the pop-up roofs before they won't stay up.

The springs on mine are as tight as the adjustment will allow, they are maxed.

I already have to use two 2 x 2's at the rear between the ceiling and top of the divider on the right side, and the closet shelf-top on the left side inside of camper to prop-up the roof and I also use a strap across the front to hold the roof straight when the top is up, because for some reason it is crooked when it is up and I haven't been able to adjust it enough to get it to keep from sagging and stay straight.

Maybe the foam insulation the previous owner installed in the ceiling has something to do with that.

I also discovered that less than 1/4 inch of wet snow forces the roof down; usually to one side and can pop the E Clips on the pin that is hinge of scissors mechanism off and fill with snow/water on the other side before it also comes down; and it is quite difficult to put the props in when simultaneously holding the roof up with both my arms and back when the 1/4 inch of wet snow is on the roof!

I will leave roof down in snow from now on. I don't want it to have a catastrophic collapse under the weight of snow; even with the 2 x 2 props I think it is too risky.

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The panels are pretty spread out per square inch there is not much load. I have a 100 watt panel on a frame I built that allows me to elevate it and turn it, the entire contraption weighs 18#. I think the panel is like 15# I store it inside and put it out when I'm parked but I don't think it would be too much of a load on the roof.

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Does your roof mechanism look like the one below? I think I see a spring (on the left) attached to a cable (on the right) that helps the 'scissor' to lift the roof and hold it up. A shorter cable and/or a stiffer spring would lift and support more weight.

Hard to suggest anything else without your rig in front of me. It's all guesswork. :)

post-3557-0-94525300-1391036137_thumb.jp

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Unisolar .

On ebay

I dont have the dimensions of a chinook memorized.

But the 9 foot 68 watt panel would fit. Other sizes would not but you can cut them

Those look like the best bet but man they are pricey. I'm not sure it would be worth dipping into my travel funds that much for those. Would 68 watts even be that sufficient? I would be looking to run a 12V fan, the car stereo, a phone charger and maybe a laptop off of it (the laptop being the only significant power sucker I think) but 68 watts just doesn't seem like that much to me.

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The stick-on solar panels seem to have the advantage of light weight but the drawback of large size. Just clicked the first 100w panel that came up on EBay and it's ~19lb but 40"x26'4"x1.2" ($199).

http://www.ebay.com/itm/100W-Watts-100-Watt-Solar-Panel-Off-Grid-12-Volt-12V-RV-Boat-Off-Grid-/261329079202?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3cd86d4ba2

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You may know more about solar than me, so I apologize if this is stuff you already know...but you haven't given us much info so I'm giving a little tutorial here. Don't take offense!...but my understanding is that you typically don't run anything off the panel. You run things off the battery, and you connect the panel to the battery so that it recharges.

So what you should find out is how much power those things draw, and how often you'll just sit for days. Those things you mention don't drain a ton of juice. If your battery is good, and you're driving the truck every day, your alternator will recharge the battery. No need for solar.

If you're going to run those things and not move for a couple days, then a panel recharging the battery is a good idea.

My research has told me that 68 watts ain't much...

I bought a 90 watt panel for my Chinook. I haven't used it yet so I can't comment on anything more...

Just remember, depending on how you have things set up, the fan is probably coach battery. Car stereo is truck battery. Depending on where you're plugging in the phone and laptop, it could be coach OR truck battery.

Most solar set ups will connect to the coach battery and recharge it. So if the panel is charging the coach battery, but you're running the stereo off the truck battery and charging you devices through the cigarette lighter also coming from the truck battery, you're going to have a dead battery when you try to start the truck.

So...I have to just make a bunch of assumptions unless you can tell us exactly how you plan to do this!

You really should have all "camping" electronics drawing from the coach battery. A dead coach battery is no biggie. Dead truck battery kinda sucks...

My set up is a folding, portable 90 watt panel. I'm not hardwiring it to the camper. It folds into a case and stores inside. I take it out and put it on its stand, angle towards the sun, then hook the cables up to the battery.

My stereo, fan, and all recharging will happen off my coach battery, and so that's what I'll connect the panel to. I have a rechargeable portable stereo for when I'm parked.

Only time I'll use my truck stereo is when I'm driving. I don't want anything drawing on the truck battery while I'm camped.

So....there are a couple solar fridges that connect straight to the panel. But every other set up I know of uses the panel by connecting to the coach battery. Devices run off the battery, solar panel charges the battery.

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You may know more about solar than me, so I apologize if this is stuff you already know...but you haven't given us much info so I'm giving a little tutorial here. Don't take offense!...but my understanding is that you typically don't run anything off the panel. You run things off the battery, and you connect the panel to the battery so that it recharges.

So what you should find out is how much power those things draw, and how often you'll just sit for days. Those things you mention don't drain a ton of juice. If your battery is good, and you're driving the truck every day, your alternator will recharge the battery. No need for solar.

If you're going to run those things and not move for a couple days, then a panel recharging the battery is a good idea.

My research has told me that 68 watts ain't much...

I bought a 90 watt panel for my Chinook. I haven't used it yet so I can't comment on anything more...

Just remember, depending on how you have things set up, the fan is probably coach battery. Car stereo is truck battery. Depending on where you're plugging in the phone and laptop, it could be coach OR truck battery.

Most solar set ups will connect to the coach battery and recharge it. So if the panel is charging the coach battery, but you're running the stereo off the truck battery and charging you devices through the cigarette lighter also coming from the truck battery, you're going to have a dead battery when you try to start the truck.

So...I have to just make a bunch of assumptions unless you can tell us exactly how you plan to do this!

You really should have all "camping" electronics drawing from the coach battery. A dead coach battery is no biggie. Dead truck battery kinda sucks...

My set up is a folding, portable 90 watt panel. I'm not hardwiring it to the camper. It folds into a case and stores inside. I take it out and put it on its stand, angle towards the sun, then hook the cables up to the battery.

My stereo, fan, and all recharging will happen off my coach battery, and so that's what I'll connect the panel to. I have a rechargeable portable stereo for when I'm parked.

Only time I'll use my truck stereo is when I'm driving. I don't want anything drawing on the truck battery while I'm camped.

So....there are a couple solar fridges that connect straight to the panel. But every other set up I know of uses the panel by connecting to the coach battery. Devices run off the battery, solar panel charges the battery.

No offense taken! I know very little about solar. When I was asking if 68 watts would be enough, what I meant was will 68 watts charge the battery as fast as I'm drawing from it. I have it set up so that all camping electronics run off the coach battery (even the car stereo) so that I will never have to worry about having a dead truck battery. Although I do have a small docking station I can use if the car stereo is drawing too much power. I'm starting to think that I might just go with the portable solar panel since the only time I will need to use solar is when I'm stopped for several days. My only concern with that system is space to store it since my chinook has a very limited amount of it. I think I will start to research different portable panels. Thanks so much for your input, and feel free to point me in the direction of a good one if there is a particular one that you really like.

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Great, sounds like you're on the right track then.

I bought from this company http://offthegridrvsolar.com

After doing a lot of amazon searching and seeing terrible reviews for all the cheaper setups...this seemed like a good choice. But not exactly cheap.

I hear you on the storage thing. I decided it was worth the space it's going to take up for me.

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Yep. Mine will only be out either when I'm there, or if I'm so far in the boonies I won't see anyone, or I'm at one of the summer events I go to where you can leave a $3,000 guitar sitting in a stand outside all day and no one will touch it.

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Ya unisolar is the lightest per inch being very light qnd thin but on the opposite side they need to be large.

The weight of a 68 panel wouldnt affect a chinook its the perfect application really

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According to more than one person on the Toyota Chinook site, their poptop will drop under the weight of 1/4" of snow. That's nothing.

If I were you, I'd find some weight, pop up your top, and put a measurable amount of weight up there. See how much it takes to make it collapse, then start looking at panels.

Or it might just be that you need to make some blocks to stick under there to hold the roof up.

Don't listen to people who have never owned a Chinook telling you will and won't affect it.

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Those look like the best bet but man they are pricey. I'm not sure it would be worth dipping into my travel funds that much for those. Would 68 watts even be that sufficient? I would be looking to run a 12V fan, the car stereo, a phone charger and maybe a laptop off of it (the laptop being the only significant power sucker I think) but 68 watts just doesn't seem like that much to me.

I think if you delete the laptop it would

I have 136 watts but im going to cut it to 120 so i have twice that size for a laptop and cell phone.

The price has gone up shop around for one there might be one Somewhere cheaper

So far as weight compared to watts i think its going to weigh less than five pounds.

I actually dont think anything else would work

You can definitely put a stAndard panel on the side or on thd hood not on the pop top.

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"Bankrupt Energy Conversion Devices Inc and its subsidiary United Solar Ovonic, or Uni-Solar, have sold-off the majority of their assets in a bankruptcy wind-down plan confirmed by the court this week."

Gotta wonder if there's any warranty on the Uni-Solar panels for sale at the moment. :)

http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2012/08/most_of_bankrupt_energy_conver.html

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None they went out of business in 2009.

Then again how often are solar panels returned under warranty? Almost never. I really have never heard of one wearing out.

Dont spend a lot of money on warrantys for solar panels thats for suckers.

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