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If solar panels can be mounted on RVs, caravans and boats, why not a jeep? The idea is not as crazy as it seems and if you look at the facts it is very possible. There are also several benefits to using solar power for your jeep, and you can install a solar panel fairly easily.
The easiest way to mount a solar panel on a jeep is to bolt it on the roof rack. A flexible solar panel can also be installed on the hood with VHB tape, or you can mount the solar panel on the bed rack by bolting or with adhesive.
How Much Solar Power Do You Need?
There are two questions that need to be answered before you buy a solar panel. One, how much solar do you need and second, can the roof rack support the solar panel weight?
Calculating how much power you need is somewhat similar to that of an RV, but there are major differences. Some people live in an RV or spend several weeks there, so solar power requirements are high. Most jeep owners spend anywhere from a weekend to a couple of weeks on an adventure trip, so it is less demanding. Let us look at a hypothetical scenario.
Suppose you plan on a two week trip. You want to run a portable fridge or freezer, a few lights and charge your phone. With a dual battery system on your jeep, 2 x 100W solar panels should be enough to run everything. 2 x 100S solar panels is 30 lbs. total which a roof rack can support easily.
If you opt for a larger freezer you will need more power. But the dual battery on your jeep should be enough for the lights, stereo and a few other accessories. The solar panel will come in handy if you want to use a fridge to conserve the battery. If you rely mostly on the battery, even a 60W solar panel will be enough for a compact fridge, lights and mobile charging.
Keep in mind you are not limited to what your jeep roof rack can support. There are portable solar chargers for your phone and briefcase style solar panels you can carry. If you need more power, there are portable solar generators available too. You could for instance, equip your jeep with a 100W solar panel for running the fridge and lights. You can also carry a portable charger for your phone or a briefcase style solar panel.
How to Mount Solar Panels on a Jeep
Decide how much solar power you need and where you want to install it, the roof, hood or bed rack. Bolt the solar panel on the rack or use adhesive to stick it on the hood and you are ready to go.
Let us take a look at each installation process. All the hardware will be in your solar mounting kit. You can also purchase any required bolts, nuts and screws in any hardware store.
Mount Solar Panel on a Jeep Roof Rack
This installation guide is for roof and bed racks. There are different types of solar mounts, but the installation is easy and pretty much uniform across different manufacturers.
Method 1: Bolt on the Rack
If your jeep has a rack, bolt the panel on it. If not, or you want to replace it with a new rack, here is a guide. You have two options, bolt the frame or use brackets for mounting. Your solar mounting kit should have all the nuts and bolts needed. Vehicle roof racks have similar features so you should have no trouble getting the solar panel installed.
Method 2: Use VHB Tape
VHB tape by 3M is the best way to mount a solar panel on a jeep hood. This is not your regular double sided tape. VHB is so sticky and durable it is used to hold windows on buildings. It is waterproof, UV proof and works on a variety of surfaces.
To use VHB tape, follow these steps.
- Clean the mounts and solar panel with alcohol.
- Connect the solar panel to the mount with VHB or screws/bolts.
- Put VHB on the mount bottom, careful not to remove the upper cover of the VHB.
- Place the solar panel with mounts attached on the roof rack. Peel the VHB covering off.
- Set the solar panel on the desired location. Press with some force. Wait for three days to dry.
Bolt on is the easier method of the two, but VHB works well too. It really depends on personal preference, though the one advantage of bolt is it is easier to remove.
Mount Solar Panel on a Jeep Hood
A flexible solar panel is ideal for the hood. It is smaller than a rigid panel and can conform to the shape of the hood. Flexible solar panels are also available in various sizes so it is easy to find one that matches your requirements.
Remove the protective covers off the VHB tape and apply on the solar panel. Place the solar panel on the hood of your jeep. Press it with some force and let it dry for three days.
Just like when using VHB on a roof rack, make sure the solar panel and the hood are clean. This will make it easier for the adhesive to stick. Keep in mind that VHB is a semi to fully permanent. You may be able to remove it but it’s going to take a lot of effort.
Benefits of Solar Panels For Jeeps
While solar panels on boats and RVs are common, it is not yet the case with jeeps. If you are still wondering if it is a good idea to go solar with your jeep, the answer is yes.
Keep Your Battery Full. Whether you have a 65ah or 200ah battery, one thing is for sure. You will drain its power the more accessories you use. Lights, stereo, device charging, running a fridge etc. All of these will drain the battery faster than you may expect.
With a solar panel you can keep the battery almost or fully charged. You could run the fridge off solar, saving precious energy. You can do the same thing with accessories and other devices. Solar is renewable energy so as long as there is sunlight you can keep using it.
Prolong Battery Life. There are many types of batteries, but what they all share in common is the more you use it, the shorter the life cycle will be. By using a solar panel you can minimize the use of the battery and save money down the line.
Use More Devices. Combining solar power with your jeep’s battery gives you more power. You can use as many accessories and components as you want without worrying about draining the battery.
Backup Power. In case the battery dies out, you have emergency power available. You can use the solar panel to charge your phone and make an emergency call. It is always wise to be prepared, and having a backup power source is essential.
Features to Look For in a Jeep Solar Panel
There are custom solar panels designed for jeeps, but any portable solar panel will do. Which type you choose depends on what you are looking for. The panel weight, size and output are the most important factors, but there are a few more things to consider.
Durability. Going on an off road adventure means exposing the solar panel to the elements. Putting on a cover when it is not in use is a good idea, but the panel itself must be durable. Marine grade construction is ideal. If your jeep goes through mud, sand, rocks etc. the panel should have multiple layers of fiberglass, polymers or similar materials. The more durable the design, the better.
Lightweight. Jeep roof racks can support up to 100+ pounds or more, but a heavy solar panel will affect the jeep aerodynamics. Fortunately there are light solar panels around. Flexible solar panels in particular are a good option.
Warranty. Solar panels have long warranties but how comprehensive is the coverage? How will the warranty be affected by what it will go through? You should do some research first to see what elements are covered and what may lead to it being voided.
Feedback. What has the response been from other jeep owners? Is the solar panel capable of withstanding heavy use? Does it cope well with offroad conditions? How does the manufacturer respond to criticisms or problems?
Buying a solar panel for jeeps is similar to buying one for home or RV use, in that you need to do research. The more you go over the details, features and specs, the more likely you will come across a panel that serves your needs.
With solar panels becoming more flexible and portable, you are no longer limited to using it at home or RV. You can go solar on your next offroad adventure and harness renewable energy anytime. Whether you are boondocking or cruising, you can be confident of always having power.