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Is it Safe to Mount Solar Panels to a Roof Rack?

Question:

I have a 2012 Ford E350 Extended Van. Im looking at rain gutter roof rails. I want to hang/attach solar panels from the rails. I am planning on having 4 rails. What safety concerns should I be aware of? Max speed? Are the MaxxTow ladder racks safer compared to the Rhino-Rack system?

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Expert Reply:

Depending on the type of solar panels you have, there shouldn't be any real safety concerns when mounting the solar panels to a roof rack as long as the panels are properly mounted. The manufacturer will typically specify the type of mounting bracket that is appropriate for installing the panels. Most solar panels are designed to be mounted to the roofs of passenger vehicles or motorhomes, so they won't have any speed restrictions when they are being used in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.

I recommend going with two of the Buyers Products Ladder Rack # 3371501310 over a roof rack like the the Rhino Rack Vortex Aero Crossbars # RRVA150S-2 and Roof Rack Legs # RL210S2 you were looking at. The Buyers Products rack will be the more cost effective option for putting four rails on your van, and there are less components to install, so overall it is the easier option. They also have a 600 lbs weight capacity, which is much sturdier compared to the 165 lbs weight capacity of the roof rack crossbars. You should check the installation instructions of your solar panels first to make sure they are able to be installed on the roof rack.

Check out the videos linked below for more details on these products.

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