Saturday, March 3, 2012

Solar Vent Installation

Over at Captn Pauley's, he has just installed some vents and has some excellent information regarding vents. Take a read and pop over for more info.
Here is his installation.

The vent installation is quick and easy. My daughter and I installed one vent in less than an hour.

The first step is to cut the hole needed to mount the vent. The nominal three-inch vents I purchased called for a 3-3/4 inch diameter mounting hole. This hole can be made by using a hole saw or with a saber saw. Hole saws these diameters are not stocked in your local home improvement store. I purchased mine on line from Jamestown Distributors (, one of my favorite on-line tool suppliers.

I made an “X” of masking tape in the approximate center of the mounting area and then measured the center exactly, marking it on the masking tape.

If you use a saber saw to cut the hole, mark the diameter with a compass and then drill a clearance hole in the center to start the saber saw cut. Cut slowly and keep to the line as accurately as possible.

Using the hole saw, I first removed the outside hole cutter and drilled a pilot hole. After re-installing the hole cutter, I centered the hole saw in the pilot hole and proceeded to cut the finished hole. I was careful to keep the hole saw level with the surface of the hatch and cutting evenly.

The next step is to take the vent apart to access the base and mounting holes. The top cover, including the solar cells, motor and battery, are removed by taking out three screws. These screws have small O-rings around the heads; don’t loose these as they seal the seals and motor.

Removing the top cover leaves the vent base and its three mounting holes. I placed the vent base, centered in the opening, and drilled the three mounting holes through the hatch. I used 10-24 stainless steel machine screws through the base with nylock nuts on the bottom side.

Here is a hint, after you drill the first hole, place a screw in it. Then drill the second hole and place a screw in that hole. That keeps all the holes in alignment.

With the mounting holes in the hatch drilled, I turned the vent base upside down and applied a thick bead of sealant around the mounting spigot and the mounting holes. My sealant of choice in this application is BoatLIFE LifeCaulk. After poking the three 10-24 screws through the holes, I placed a neoprene rubber washer on each of the screws.

These rubber washers are key to getting a god seal around the base of the vent. They allow the vent mounting screws to be tightened but prevent squeezing out all the sealant. A thick sealant line is necessary for a long lasting installation as it accommodates the different rates of expansion and contraction between the hatch and vent.

Once the vent base was properly mounted, all I had to do to complete the installation was to fasten the top cover back in place, making sure the O-rings around the mounting screws were still in place.

All told, installing a solar vent like this took about an hour start to finish. I got them both installed just in time for our current heat wave. Both fans are busy moving air through the cabin around the clock.

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