Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

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Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby regentswift » Mon Apr 15, 2013 2:43 pm

Has anyone used the solar panels from Harbor Freight?

http://www.harborfreight.com/15-watt-12 ... 96418.html

Any experience that you could share?

I'm thinking of setting one of these up with a 12v battery for my swamp cooler and lighting. I don't have anything super serious to plug in (no AC units or refrigerators). Just want to make sure that my tent stays cool. :)

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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby 171/348 » Mon Apr 15, 2013 2:52 pm

I bought one of their solar cell phone chargers last year. To say it didn't work would be kind.
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby some seeing eye » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:10 pm

Retail panel prices are up. You can do a lot better on Craigslist today, in my town I see $1/watt on new monocrystalline panels. Then add the right mppt charge controller for your battery. Many solar threads on hear for searching.
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby Sham » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:30 pm

I would say that virtually everything you buy at Harbor Freight, should be suspect of being total, utter garbage. I did buy a carabiner there once that worked pretty well.
You can also get American flags there that are made in China. (my personal favorite)
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby PhoenixFemmeFatale » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:03 pm

Shambala wrote:I would say that virtually everything you buy at Harbor Freight, should be suspect of being total, utter garbage. I did buy a carabiner there once that worked pretty well.
You can also get American flags there that are made in China. (my personal favorite)


Really??! Unbelievable! It never even occurred to me to look at where American Flags are made!.... Jeesh- learn something new everyday... :|

As far as harbor freight goes, we bought a camper leveling kit there - worked just fine like twice and then shattered on the third use... Guess third time WAS NOT a charm in this case.
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby happydragon » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:20 pm

I have two of the harbor freight sets, they have survived two burns, SD Decompression a couple years running, and several other family campouts. I use one set to charge the house battery for my travel trailer, the second set powers a second battery that is just used to power external lighting and charge batteries for cameras, etc. They have worked great. A freak wind gust while I was transitioning the trailer into storage mode last year blew the panels off the trailer roof, even cracked and beat up they still are solidly charging the batteries. Guess your mileage may vary.
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby regentswift » Mon Apr 15, 2013 7:15 pm

happydragon wrote:I have two of the harbor freight sets, they have survived two burns, SD Decompression a couple years running, and several other family campouts. I use one set to charge the house battery for my travel trailer, the second set powers a second battery that is just used to power external lighting and charge batteries for cameras, etc. They have worked great. A freak wind gust while I was transitioning the trailer into storage mode last year blew the panels off the trailer roof, even cracked and beat up they still are solidly charging the batteries. Guess your mileage may vary.


Do you have the same panel that I posted? If you don't mind me asking, do you use a controller with it? If so, what kind?

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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby Zhust » Tue Apr 16, 2013 9:28 am

I'm tempted to do a head-to-head comparison test, but it would require money and effort. I find Harbor Freight stuff to be, at best, hit-and-miss. I am sometimes tempted by the solar panels on sale, but shopping around, I find a better deal-per-watt if I buy fancy branded panels from a solar power online store.

I've been scaling my own system down to a minuscule level: I presently use four 5-watt panels to charge a single 12V 10AH sealed lead-acid (SLA) battery. I can keep a dozen AA batteries charged and run two strings of LED lights all night. Size, weight, and reliability are the factors most important to me. Oh, and price, which was really cheap (some guy sold me the panels for $20 for all of them, and I guess except for the charge controller which is a Morningstar SunSaver 10A.)
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby NoAngel » Sat Apr 20, 2013 10:53 am

The Harbor Freight panels, like everything else they sell, are total junk. 15 watts isn't going to charge much, by the way. You can buy a good panel with 4 times the output for something like 150.00 and it won't be much bigger than the HF panel. A bunch of the contractor electrical supply co's are now carrying panels and prices are way down. Try Platt Supply and check ebay. Last I checked an 80 watt outback-panel was selling for less than $200.00 (US made too). Buy a cheep charge controller and you're good to go with plenty of charging capacity for a decent sized deep cycle battery.
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby maladroit » Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:07 pm

I got a 30W panel for $60 shipped on eBay last year. There are some good deals, $1/watt including charger is possible. Your batteries will be another story.
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby maladroit » Sat Apr 20, 2013 9:56 pm

Continuing that other story...I found a Craigslist ad selling some 220Ah 6V batteries for $40 each. They were a few years old but not used much, and well kept.

Since you're only out there for a week, you can actually calculate how much power you're bringing with you (assuming you charged at home). It's safe to pull 100-150Ah from a 220Ah deep cycle battery. So at 12V, that 1200-1800 watt-hours of energy you're bringing. If you draw 40W continuously for 10 hours a night (kind of a lot just for some lights), that's 400 watt-hours per day and 2800 watt-hours for the week. That means you have a deficit of 1000-1600 Wh to make up somehow. Call it 200 Wh per day. Estimate 8 hours of good sun...that means you need to be getting 25 watts from somewhere. A 30W solar panel should be able to manage it if kept clean, and it'll actually charge somewhat for an hour or two either side of the 8 hour window. It's not sustainable if you're out there for more than a week, you'd need a 60-100W panel to go indefinitely.

You have to treat your batteries like hamsters. Don't use them for a week and throw them in the garage and expect them to be OK next year. They require regular feeding (charging) and watering.
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby theCryptofishist » Sun Apr 21, 2013 9:30 am

And they have to have a wheel that they run around.
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby nixiebunny » Mon May 06, 2013 12:26 am

Good solar panels can be had from these folks, among others. Nicely built, sturdy, reasonably priced.
http://www.instapark.com/solar-power-panels/
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby clocksnmirrors » Mon May 06, 2013 3:08 am

the harbor freight panel you listed also is sold three to a 45 watt kit. i bought two kits for a total of 90 watts.

google harbor freight coupon. i was able to print several 20% off coupons so the kits ended up costing me $151 per kit. it seems there are better deals out there but i was satisfied.

the charge controller that comes with only handles 4.5 amps so i bought a separate 10 amp controller off ebay for $48. also got three 85 amp hour batteries from advance auto.

today's the day i hook everything up. i'll let you know how it works out.
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby 171/348 » Mon May 06, 2013 1:54 pm

Clocks?
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby clocksnmirrors » Mon May 06, 2013 4:46 pm

171/348 wrote:Clocks?


:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

fear not

i have faith that harbor freight won't let me down
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby MartyZion » Tue May 07, 2013 4:07 pm

A few burns back we did a demo as part of the AEZ tour where we contrasted the output of a the Harbor Freight triple panel 45watt setup versus a single 45watt monocrystalline panel. In direct sunlight the single 27"X25" crystalline panel (which sells on ebay for about sixty bucks) produced twice the amps of the combined three HF amorphous panels. They were about equal in overcast and lower light conditions. Considering the longevity and smaller form factor of the mono panels, I would look into an alternative to the Harbor Freight solution. That said, they are better than nothing and will produce enough charge to power some led lighting and consumer electronics. A optimally working HF triple panel system maxes at around 3.75 amps so if they function at 100% it still takes about 9 hours of direct sun to charge a 35 amp/hour battery. Spend a little more on a real charge controller and crystalline panel setup and you'll be able to support more than one battery.

If you plan on using them for other than the burn, bear in mind these cheap HF panels lose 30-40% of their rating during a burn in phase of 6 months to a year. My older demonstration setup had aluminum frames which were easy to stake down. The newer HF panels seems to have plastic ones.
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby oscillator » Mon May 13, 2013 6:55 pm

You get what you pay for.

Used the HF PV panels in the past, not impressed.

Try this instead: http://www.emarineinc.com/products/85W-Solarland-(Kyocera-KC85T-Replacement).html

More output, a smaller footprint, will last you many years.

Get a >10amp charge controller, a ~60aH deep cycle battery, fanless inverter, and you are off to the races!
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Re: Harbor Freight Solar Panels?

Postby happydragon » Tue May 14, 2013 7:27 pm

I have what I guess is an earlier version of this kit:

http://www.harborfreight.com/solar-pane ... 68751.html

Looks like they have changed the design of the panels and the mounts since I got mine, but I use the the controller that came with the set, a 12v deep cycle marine battery and an inverter on the one that isn't directly hard wired into my trailer.



regentswift wrote:
happydragon wrote:I have two of the harbor freight sets, they have survived two burns, SD Decompression a couple years running, and several other family campouts. I use one set to charge the house battery for my travel trailer, the second set powers a second battery that is just used to power external lighting and charge batteries for cameras, etc. They have worked great. A freak wind gust while I was transitioning the trailer into storage mode last year blew the panels off the trailer roof, even cracked and beat up they still are solidly charging the batteries. Guess your mileage may vary.


Do you have the same panel that I posted? If you don't mind me asking, do you use a controller with it? If so, what kind?
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