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Old 03-16-2019, 11:04 AM   #1
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Harbor Freight 100 watt panels

I saw a coupon for $149.00 100 watt Harbor Freight portable solar panels incuding a controller. Anybody know if it is any good? Harbor Freight sells good stuff usually in my experience
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Old 03-16-2019, 11:37 AM   #2
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For solar I would research quality before price...

I've been down that road, the only tools I buy from HF are the ones I bought in an emergency and thrown away.
My livelihood has depended on tools, I relate to them differently.

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Old 03-16-2019, 12:04 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Jfarthing View Post
Harbor Freight sells good stuff usually in my experience
Well, I guess that depends on your definition of "good." If you mean cheap enough to justify purchasing for a specific task and then not needing it again so any further use is a bonus, then yes. ;-)


And I'm not saying I don't do that all the time!


In fact, I was checking these very panels out just yesterday. I think if you want to power some LED lights and charge your devices, these inexpensive panels could fit the bill. But if you need reliability and efficiency for keeping house batteries charged for "real" use, you'll be better off investing in good panels and especially a better controller.



The Harbor Freight panels are more like "hobby" panels (which can be great for the appropriate applications).
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Old 03-16-2019, 01:16 PM   #4
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There are different technologies offered in solar panels. In order of quality, they are:


1) Monocrystalline. These are cut from a solid ingot of grown silicon, are very durable, and have the best output. They have a uniform blueish color on their individual cell surface. Sold by AMSolar and other reputable vendors, this is high-quality stuff. Usually supplied in rigid, aluminum-framed modules with sturdy low-iron glass panes over the panels.



2) Polycrystalline. These are cast, and have a random pattern of bluish and silver crystals on their individual cell surface. Not as efficient as #1, nor do they last as long. These are often used in large home solar installations because they are a lot cheaper to make, and it's hard for the usual homeowner to determine what their construction is. Similar mechanical construction to #1 above. Midrange stuff.



3) Amorphous. These are vapor deposited on the BACK of a sheet of very thin glass. Usually a uniform grayish color. Look like a set of stripes running the length of the glass. They have the least efficiency, lowest output and the shortest life of the three types. They are also fragile and easily broken, since the glass is not separate from the silicon. This is what is typically in the inexpensive Harbor Freight kits...


4) Flexible. Personally would not even consider "flexible" panels for serious use. They have to be made of plastic, and realistically, plastic and other flexible transparent polymer materials go bad in a hurry in direct sunlight. Typically they turn an opaque brown is a few years of direct sun exposure, they do not take heat well, and the output rapidly deteriorates as they age...this technology is not ready for prime time yet, IMHO.
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Old 03-16-2019, 03:30 PM   #5
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I RETURNED MINE; they DISCHARGED a friends cell phone. NO, the wires were not reversed. Could not get good output on a sunny day.

No questions were asked, it was as though HF knew of the problem.
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Old 03-16-2019, 03:50 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Airtandem View Post
No questions were asked, it was as though HF knew of the problem.
HF has a no questions asked policy about everything. That's part of why they're an attractive alternative for expensive stuff.
I use their breaker bars and torque wrenches.
I have their Hydraulic table, a floor jack, and some jack stands. All have been flawless.
..and plenty of free items when there's coupon.
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Old 03-17-2019, 09:40 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by rmkrum View Post
There are different technologies offered in solar panels. In order of quality, they are:


1) Monocrystalline. These are cut from a solid ingot of grown silicon, are very durable, and have the best output. They have a uniform blueish color on their individual cell surface. Sold by AMSolar and other reputable vendors, this is high-quality stuff. Usually supplied in rigid, aluminum-framed modules with sturdy low-iron glass panes over the panels.



2) Polycrystalline. These are cast, and have a random pattern of bluish and silver crystals on their individual cell surface. Not as efficient as #1, nor do they last as long. These are often used in large home solar installations because they are a lot cheaper to make, and it's hard for the usual homeowner to determine what their construction is. Similar mechanical construction to #1 above. Midrange stuff.



3) Amorphous. These are vapor deposited on the BACK of a sheet of very thin glass. Usually a uniform grayish color. Look like a set of stripes running the length of the glass. They have the least efficiency, lowest output and the shortest life of the three types. They are also fragile and easily broken, since the glass is not separate from the silicon. This is what is typically in the inexpensive Harbor Freight kits...


4) Flexible. Personally would not even consider "flexible" panels for serious use. They have to be made of plastic, and realistically, plastic and other flexible transparent polymer materials go bad in a hurry in direct sunlight. Typically they turn an opaque brown is a few years of direct sun exposure, they do not take heat well, and the output rapidly deteriorates as they age...this technology is not ready for prime time yet, IMHO.
A year ago I installed 3 semi-flexible on our trailer . They are monocrstalline with a fiberglass back.They are not pet plastic and about solid 1/4 in thick . Have a Victron MPPT controller and so far doesn't seem to be any degrading of the panels output . Lensun panels . Pat
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Old 03-17-2019, 03:34 PM   #8
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The problem will be with the controller more than the panel. Efficiencies of conversation of Sun light to power controls the size of the panel. 100W panel that is 25% less efficient than another will be 25% larger with some adjustments to be made for the effect of temperature and low levels of light.
A 100W panel is a 100W panel until you start working at the extremes, the biggest factor is the controller.

The manual does not give enough information to let one judge how well it will work with the batteries. It looks like it will be okay, just make sure the wire between the controller and the batteries is large enough to keep the voltage from dropping too much to effectively charge the batteries. Looks like it will be good as a trickle charger and a not very deeply discharged battery charger.

There are a lot of good reasonably priced controllers on the market.

Thanks
Matti
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Old 03-17-2019, 09:11 PM   #9
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I would NOT recommend getting Harbor Freight watt solar panels. I buy a lot of stuff there- they're great for expendables and hand tools- but I got one of their 25 watt panels for my '61 Tradewind and after about a year it died- just stopped working altogether. And it looks like their 100 watt unit is just 4 of the 25 watt panels hooked together. And the warranty is only 90 days.

After mine died, I replaced it with this [URL="https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01HHDC6NQ/"]
Mighty Max 100 watt panel, which sells for $84 and has a one-year warranty (and which I extended to five years for another ten bucks or so). So far (17 months now) it's worked flawlessly and kept my oversized solar 12v battery fully-charged.
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Old 03-17-2019, 09:46 PM   #10
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Harbor Freight 100 watt panels

I would spend a little more and make sure you get an mppt controller. You can also get high quality 100 watt Renogy mono crystalline compact panels for $115.

You might look at a thread- Touringdan’s 200 watt simple portable solar system dated 7/14/18. It works great.

Dan
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Old 03-17-2019, 11:25 PM   #11
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The problem will be with the controller more than the panel. Efficiencies of conversation of Sun light to power controls the size of the panel. 100W panel that is 25% less efficient than another will be 25% larger with some adjustments to be made for the effect of temperature and low levels of light.
A 100W panel is a 100W panel until you start working at the extremes, the biggest factor is the controller.

The manual does not give enough information to let one judge how well it will work with the batteries. It looks like it will be okay, just make sure the wire between the controller and the batteries is large enough to keep the voltage from dropping too much to effectively charge the batteries. Looks like it will be good as a trickle charger and a not very deeply discharged battery charger.

There are a lot of good reasonably priced controllers on the market.

Thanks
Matti
Victron controllers are also sold by AM solar.Just did boondocking at Quartsite with heater running a good deal of the time . We have 2 6 volts wired in series
That are almost 6 years old now . Batteries came back to 100% next day 12-1 with cloud cover . By 10:30 -11 with sun . Watching batteries very closely but really don't seem to discharge a lot yet. We don't have a inverter installed . No need for one . We like to be comfortable and are camping . Brought our generator and also have a portable but never needed them . I do agree though about Harbor Feight , electrical items are not very good . Would never buy their solar panels . Pat
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Old 03-18-2019, 06:35 AM   #12
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Big fan of most HF stuff.
I’ve looked at their solar panels many times, and 100w for $150 just is not good value.
Better panels with a longer life/warranty are out there.
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Old 03-18-2019, 08:16 AM   #13
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Big fan of most HF stuff.
I’ve looked at their solar panels many times, and 100w for $150 just is not good value.
Better panels with a longer life/warranty are out there.
Agree with this position, I think the value is not there on this one.

For what it is worth: I went with 2x 150W monocrystaline Renogy panels (portable) and a Victron MPPT controller.
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