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Old 10-23-2017, 09:13 AM   #1
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1995 30' Excella
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review of the Harbor Freight 100W solar kit?

Hello,

I've searched the forum for info about the newer Harbor Freight 100W system but found nothing. Does anyone have experience with it? Generally, HF stuff is considered to be of lower quality, but this is not always the case. The reviews of this system elsewhere have been uniformly positive.

It is a complete kit (less batteries) at ~$150 with a discount coupon. It has 1) four 25W amorphous panels with stands included, or they can mounted on rails, a 2) a 10Amp charge controller with USB and 12V outlets, and 3) the cabling is ok-to-good quality. i think if the trailer has been outfitted with LED lighting to reduce power consumption, that this system might have a very good price to performance ratio.

Here is the manual that describes the system:

https://manuals.harborfreight.com/ma...3999/63585.pdf

Any opinions?
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:39 AM   #2
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The first thing I notice on the attached document that the solar panel frame is made of some type of plastic. I would not want anything but an aluminium frame for support, as the plastic will warp in the sun.

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Old 10-23-2017, 09:52 AM   #3
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One benefit of buying from HF is that if you are not satisfied with the product it can be returned within a reasonable time.
I generally figure that if I get one use out of one of their cheap tools I have pretty much got my monies worth. Their new series of small generators are getting pretty good reviews so maybe they are improving their product quality.
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Old 10-23-2017, 12:20 PM   #4
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Re the plastic frame, the heat is one issue (I'm in temperate Michigan), and maybe coating of some UV protectant would be good to slow down degradation. I think the stress points would be the mounting holes, and looser or cushioned attachment might be good.

Also related to longevity, what about roof mounting? While many people put solar panels on the roof for convenience, I've wondered if the performance is significantly degraded when they're even slightly dirty. How are roof mounted panels kept clean?
If I were to set up the panels so that assembly is simplified, it may be better to store them in the trunk when not in use. They would be easy to clean and only exposed when needed.

By the way, I have a HF 3200w generator with the 'Chonda' engine (Honda knockoff), and it has performed ok. I might even convert it to tri-fuel, and divert an unused natural gas line (BBQ or swimming pool heater) to it if the pipe flow rate is sufficientr.
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Old 10-23-2017, 01:40 PM   #5
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The real issue with the HF solar panel is that it is very thin glass, and the silicon that forms the solar panel is vapor deposited on it. It's NOT designed to be mounted on a moving vehicle and subjected to the stresses it would receive...I would bet the glass will shatter easily from vibration, stress, and wind. They are really designed to be mounted on the ground or to a house.

That said, you could use them portable, which may be useful. I have some, and use them mounted on a house to charge some batteries. For that, they will work OK.

Note also that amorphous panels do not usually have as long a service life as a mono-crystalline panel.

Sadly, the older versions were made with an aluminum frame, and were a bit more sturdy.
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Old 10-23-2017, 02:19 PM   #6
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Thanks for the insightful comments.
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Old 10-23-2017, 03:33 PM   #7
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My brother just returned that same setup. It was purchased just before Hurricane Irma came through to charge his single battery travel trailer. We've had good luck with other solar items from HF so we thought we'd give it a try. After draining his battery down from one night of use and with solar hooked up all day, it would not bring the battery back to 100% charge. The controller was indicating 14.2v being supplied, but I assume very little amperage.
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Old 10-23-2017, 07:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffcharb View Post
My brother just returned that same setup. It was purchased just before Hurricane Irma came through to charge his single battery travel trailer. We've had good luck with other solar items from HF so we thought we'd give it a try. After draining his battery down from one night of use and with solar hooked up all day, it would not bring the battery back to 100% charge. The controller was indicating 14.2v being supplied, but I assume very little amperage.
You mentioned that the battery was 'drained'. The instructions say that a battery must have a minimum voltage of 12.6V for the solar system to work. What was the drained battery's voltage? Was the battery possibly killed by discharging it too far/too often?
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Blarney View Post
You mentioned that the battery was 'drained'. The instructions say that a battery must have a minimum voltage of 12.6V for the solar system to work. What was the drained battery's voltage? Was the battery possibly killed by discharging it too far/too often?
That should be your answer right there. Batteries are often discharged to below 12.6 ~12.2 is 50% and 12.7-9 is OCV or resting voltage.
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Old 10-24-2017, 07:43 AM   #10
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That should be your answer right there. Batteries are often discharged to below 12.6 ~12.2 is 50% and 12.7-9 is OCV or resting voltage.
I see that I misquoted the the instruction manual. It does not say that the voltage must be 12.6 for the system to work. On page 9, it shows 12.6V in a graphic and says' Minimum battery voltage where normal charging can resume.' In a later section about error codes (p.10), it says that if the battery voltage is between 10.2-10.8V, that 'the controller will shut off and enter low-voltage protection state.' I think this means that it will charge at a battery voltage above 10.8V, but at a reduced rate. Also, there is a setting for the maximum duration of charge output until automatic shutoff.
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Old 10-24-2017, 10:17 AM   #11
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Look at the Eco Worthy panel on Amazon
For a little over $200 you can get a complete fold up 120Watt system that works great ,,,if you watch Amazon, you will see they put them on sale from time to time

The whole thing folds up like a suitcase , includes everything you need to keep your batteries going
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Old 10-24-2017, 02:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Blarney View Post
You mentioned that the battery was 'drained'. The instructions say that a battery must have a minimum voltage of 12.6V for the solar system to work. What was the drained battery's voltage? Was the battery possibly killed by discharging it too far/too often?


We didn't check the voltage but it was low enough his fantastic fans wouldn't work. Hooked up the genny and the converter brought it back up overnight.
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Old 10-24-2017, 02:23 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffcharb View Post
We didn't check the voltage but it was low enough his fantastic fans wouldn't work. Hooked up the genny and the converter brought it back up overnight.
Was the solar panel connected to the batteries overnight? If so, does the HF solar panel system have a blocking diode to prevent the panel from draining the battery during the hours of darkness. In modern systems it would be unusual if it didn't, but with a drained battery it sounds like there was a constant current draw from something and it could have been the solar panel.
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Old 10-25-2017, 10:57 AM   #14
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Quote:
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We didn't check the voltage but it was low enough his fantastic fans wouldn't work. Hooked up the genny and the converter brought it back up overnight.
Was the fan, or some other light or appliance that draws power, left on inadvertently, (maybe the light inside the refrigerator )? That would siphon off current that would have been used to charge the battery.
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Old 10-25-2017, 02:15 PM   #15
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100 watts isn't much. During late fall and winter my 400 watt setup needs about half the day to recharge the batteries to 100% after a normal days use. Longer if cloudy. Sometimes not even.
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