Intro: Pole Mounted X/Y Static Adjustable Solar Panel Bracket
The motivation for this project was to get a solar collector that powers a pump on a gold fish pond off the ground.
The project is to make an adjustable (but static, non-motorized) X/Y Mount for a flat panel Solar Collector. This bracket does not 'follow-the-sun' and is fixed to set angles depending on where it is located, what direction the sun shines during the day, and the season of the year. For my application morning to early afternoon sun is only available so I adjusted the bracket's angles accordingly.
Before deciding to make this a DIY project I did do a Google-Search for such a thing and did not find what I thought was a satisfactory solution. I knew a 2-Way X/Y adjustable bracket was a pretty simple thing and when searching for what I was calling a C-Bracket I came across just what I needed. The bits in question are used to mount 4X4 Posts together. One bracket is called an "End-Cap" and is just a plane C-Bracket and the other bracket is called a "Base/End-Cap" and is just two C-Brackets at 90-Degrees to each other. I was originally thinking of gett four C-Brackets and bolting two of them together to get the 90-Degree part but the "Base-End Cap" bracket does that for me.
All that remained was to get a couple of carriage bolts long enough to go through the C-Brackets and enough washers and nuts to fit it all together.
Once the X/Y bracket is completed all I had to do was to fasten one side of the X/Y bracket to the pole that the solar panel was to be mounted on and the fasten the solar panel to the other side of the X/Y bracket.
Step 1: Materials for the Bracket
(2) End Cap C-Brackets For A 4X4 Post
(1) End Cap / Bottom Cap Bracket For A 4X4 Post
(2) Five Inch (5") by One Quarter Inch (1/4") Carriage Bolts
(2) Fat Washers - (With Hole Big Enough To Accommodate The Square Bit Of The Carriage Bolt)
(6) Regular Washers (these are for a 1/4" carriage bolt)
(6) Nuts (these are for a 1/4" carriage bolt)
At the corner hardware store these all together come to about $20.00
When I was in the hardware store purchasing these parts I did fit it together enough to validate that I had the right number and sizes of all the pieces.
Step 2: Assemble Carriage Bolt and Fat Washer and End-Cap / End-Base-Cap
Assemble the fat washer on to the carriage bolt. You can see in the picture that it fits snug up against the head of the bolt and the entire square part of the bolt fits in the fat washer's hole
Assemble the end-cap and the end-base-cap together. You can see in the picture that the end-cap is assembled with its edges OUTSIDE the end-base-cap.
Line up the big holes in the end-cap and the end-base-cap.
Assemble the Carriage Bolt / Fat Washer assembly to the End-Cap / Base-Cap assembly by pushing the carriage bolt through the big holes you lined up above.
Step 3: Assemble the X-Axis
Once you have the carriage bolt inserted into the X-Axis back bracket you can add a washer, a nut, another nut, and a washer to the carriage bolt.
Screw the nuts far enough on so you can push the bolt all the way through then add a final washer and a final nut.
You first tighten the nut next to the head of the carriage bolt then the other nut inside the bracket, finally you tighten the nut outside the bracket to complete the assembly of the X-Axis bracket.
Step 4: Assemble the Y-Axis Bracket
To assemble the Y-Axis Bracket you follow the same steps as you did to assemble the X-Axis Bracket.
Step 5: The Pole
I had a scrap piece of 4X4 so I purchased a 'Post-Anchor' from the local home improvement store and cut off a short piece of the scrap 4X4 and inserted it into the post anchor clamp and used a big concrete block to tamp it into the ground. I removed the short piece and inserted the 4X4 and clamped down the bolts on the anchor.
What sort of location you choose to attach the X/Y mount is up to you. I did set a 4X4 pole because there was no other place to put the solar collector that collected sun and was close enough to the fish pool.
Step 6: Attach the X/Y Bracket to the Pole
This step is very straight forward. The only bit I can see that could cause a mix-up would be if you mounted the first bracket (The X-Axis Back Plate) to the pole in the wrong direction.
Also removing the back plate from the fully assembled X/Y Axis Bracket is necessary before attaching the first back plate to the pole.
Once the back plate is attached you reassemble the X/Y Axis Bracket and it is then all ready for the solar panel to be attached.
Step 7: Attach the Solar Panel to the X/Y Bracket
You follow the same steps to attach the solar panel to the Y-Axis Back Plate as you did to attach the X-Axis Back Plate to the pole.
What type of solar collector you have and what you have to do in order to attach the Y-Axis Back Plate to it will vary depending on your collector.
In my case I put together an 'H-Shape' out of an old scrap piece of 2X4 and bolted it to the top mounting holes in the solar collector. I attached the Y-Axis Back Plate to the short section of the H-Shape, using the same process I used to attach the X-Axis Back Plate to the pole.
The only thing you could mix-up would be to mount the Y-Axis Back Plate in the wrong orientation. I actually did this and was 'saved' by the four holes in the back plate being in a square so I did not have to drill new holes and only had to unscrew the back plate and rotate it 90 degrees.
Once you have the Y-Axis Back Plate attached to the solar collector you reassemble the X/Y Axis Bracket in the same way as you originally assembled it.
You get a very good feel for why you have so many washers and bolts when you consider just how much you have to tighten everything to get the whole assembly to be rigid.
I used a wrench to tighten everything completely just after I pointed the collector in the direction that would capture the most sun. As time and the seasons go by you can revisit the bracket and change the direction it points.
Step 8: The Completed Project
Here is a picture of the completed project. It does pump water around the goldfish pool.
A good follow on project would be to use ball bearing sleeves (vs Carriage Bolts) and carefully balance everything so that a clock work could be attached to allow the solar collector to follow the sun. If you do a "Google-Search" for this solution you will find mechanical and electronic projects to accomplish such a thing.