Thor Solar Panel Installation

  Improving an existing installation

Event Report 201806

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The Experience

We returned to San Diego after our 2 month road trip to Leadville, CO.  Our experience on the road showed us that we needed additional solar panel capability to fully charge Thor's house batteries.  I elected to get panels at West Marine as they have never failed me (yet).  In addition to the solar panels, we attended to tire duty and hosted our friend Vince in San Diego.

The photos below are what we saw.

Oh Rats!  More likely squirrels, but whatever it was it left droppings glued to the intake manifold and a nest against the firewall.  A cleanup was in order before I could use my pickup for a trip to West Marine.

I cannot recall why I did not install two panels initially but I am guessing that it was either time, money or motivation.  Likely some combination of the three.  The previous installation method was a combination of through-bolts and construction adhesive to connect U-channel strut to the roof of the camper.  The panel mounts were then bolted to the strut.

These are marine-grade 165 watt panels.  Note the Z-mounts connected to the lower flange of the frame.

  Above, the mechanical installation is complete with the electrical connection next.

Our tires were at end of life, but I had a set of new rubber in the side yard.  We dismounted the old rubber.

The inner wheels were cleaned, inspected and prepared for mounting of new rubber.

New 395/85R20 tires have very deep lugs.

Disposal of 4 used tires is an issue if for no other reason than the weight and volume of the tires.  Lifting these tires is hard and hard on the back, so we used Thor's tire crane to assist with the disposal of the carcasses.

We rolled the dead tires to beneath the crane and used a rope sling to lift the tire.

I drove the pickup under the crane and lowered the tires into the bed.  No muss, no fuss and no bad back.

I have had a number of falling incidents off Thor's stairs, usually after a few cocktails.  The stairs are usually not level or flat and are somewhat wobbly.  While I appreciate wobbly in some things, stairs are not one of them so we decided to fabricate a removable, adjustable hand rail that can be dismounted from the stairs before stowage.

I had my eyes on a plasma torch for some time, but they are quite pricey.  I found one for sale at Walmart for under $300.  Online order, arrived next day and works fine.  While this is not an industrial-quality unit, it is more than sufficient for my needs.

Surprise, the pin-out of the plug does not match any 240V plug in your house.  We fabricated a mapper cable that translates the pin-out of the torch to the dryer's outlet.  We used by hydraulic crimper to insure that the connections were snug.

After some web research I located cast aluminum railing components called "Speed Rail".  I went to the steel store and got some fittings and pipe as well as some 1/4" plates.

The plate was cut and then welded to a finger of 1"x1/4" strip that acts as a fork and goes between the stair's folding components.  A tapped hole in the fork allows for sandwiching the stairs rails to provide a stout connection.

An example installation of the rail.  The complete rail exceeded our expectations.

My mog buddy Vince came in from Texas so we took him around town on a walk-about.  We flashed on a Segway tour and Kathleen found a tour that was based close to the Embassy Suites at the Embarcadero.  There was a polished sculpture in the hotel's atrium.

We got our safety briefings and headed out on the Segways.  First stop was a nearby park with a nice view of some of downtown's highrises.

Sad I did not note the name of the park but there were plenty of folks sleeping in the bushes.

Our path took us along the trolley tracks.

The convention center was just across the road..

Interesting sidewalk sculptures.

We past the entrance to the Gaslamp Quarter.

The guide gave us some info about Petco Park, but I was not very interested.

An interesting sculpture on the waterfront.

A view of Petco Park (stadium) and a portion of the waterfront park.

Our path took us along the waterfront at the harbor.  In the distance we could see the Dole Pacific off-loading hundreds of containers of bananas.

Vince and Kathleen take in the sights.

There were some really high-dollar yachts docked at the quay.

A sculpture at the convention center.

We came past our starting location on our way over to the Midway.

USS San Diego memorial plaque on the waterfront.

The linchpin of the San Diego waterfront, the USS Midway museum.

The solar panel installation was about the amount of effort that we expected and other than the rat's nest under the hood of the truck was no big deal.  The tires went on easily enough (for a really big tire).  We enjoyed Vince's visit and really liked the Segway tour.

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