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Are Harbor Freight Solar Panels Any Good. Harbor freight solar setup

Are Harbor Freight Solar Panels Any Good. Harbor freight solar setup

    Harbor Freight Solar Panel Review

    Solar panels can be the perfect option you are looking forward to in order to bring a new way of generating energy to your home. Not only is it a much-needed source of reliable energy, but it also reduces, sometimes greatly, your energy bills and has very low maintenance costs. Nonetheless, finding the right solar kit in the vastity of options might be overwhelming.

    In our article, we are going to talk about Harbor Freight solar panels. It is a discount tool and equipment retailer and sells a variety of solar kits and other products related to solar power. We are going to honestly review the most popular to give you an idea and orient you towards the best choice.

    Harbor Freight Solar Panel Kit

    Let’s first FOCUS on Harbor Freight solar panel kits. The company is currently selling two of these products: the 7 Watt and the 100 one.

    Description

    This product is the retailer’s top pick and is recommended by 97% of their customers. It is a portable and reliable solar energy kit that delivers 100 watts of free, clean, and quiet energy. The cells work perfectly well in different weather conditions, including in both sunny or cloudy circumstances. Such advantage comes from the fact that the cells are in amorphous silicons, so you can be sure they will give you the best output regardless of the sun’s presence or absence.

    The kit is also very simple to set up and then maintain. The reason being, it comes with a set of tools such as mounting hardware, a 12v light kit, battery terminal clamps, and a universal power adapter. These tools make it easier not only to place the panel in the desired place but also to keep it in good condition.

    To guarantee the best performance, the panel uses technology such as solar charge controllers or blocking diode technology, which prevents your panel from losing charge during the night. This happens because it allows the flow of current to the battery but blocks the opposite flow of current, i.e., from the battery to the panel.

    Pros and Cons

    • Weather resistant works in both cloudy and sunny conditions.
    • Very easy to put up, as well as to maintain.
    • Comes with mounting hardware and a USB port for charging your devices.

    Are Harbor Freight Solar Panels Any Good

    In my Harbor Freight solar panel review, I found that the 100-watt kit is a good investment. It’s affordable but still has enough power for off-grid living because it generates more than most people need in their household appliances.

    I have reviewed a Harbor Freight solar panel. There are several reasons why I chose this model. It is affordable and portable, which was important because it has to be powerful enough for my needs.

    A 100W system will meet all of the requirements that you need from an off-grid solar power generator kit. We shall discuss the cost, the system, setup, and installation in this guide. If you are interested in getting hold of this product, start reading us.

    Why should you buy a Harbor Freight Solar Panel?

    The entry-level solar system I purchased worked great. Though it was a bit more affordable than other options, the quality of components isn’t as high, and there are fewer bells and whistles.

    If you want an efficient product at a low price point, then check out what marketplaces have to offer. It does what you need to save money on electricity without compromising too much quality or value.

    Solar system setup is user-friendly and intuitive. Even on the first install, I found this solar system to be easy. The panels were plugged in where they should have been, and I could wire them up without too much difficulty.

    The kick-out stand on the back of these panels isn’t very sturdy. If I were using them in a permanent setup, I’d change this.

    They pack away into a manageable space and can be set up within minutes, making it great for mobile usage! And I’d change this if it were a permanent setup.

    The panels pack away easily into manageable space for mobile usage and can be set up in just a few minutes, though.

    The system passed my test by powering lights and appliances for an entire day. I used the battery at night because it had been fully charged during the day, which gave me a reasonable amount of power despite its limitations as a 12 V battery.

    I want Harbor Freight solar system because when I’m camping or out in the country, there are times where all you don’t get electricity like usual – but now, thanks to technology, your problem is solved!!

    Are Harbor Freight solar panels worth it?

    Let’s start by saying I’m not a professional mechanic. If you are, then Harbor Freight solar panel kit is most likely too simple for your needs. However, if you’re just starting in the world of solar power and looking to get more involved with it, this is an excellent place to begin! It comes equipped with everything except an inverter (which can be bought separately), so basically, all that’s left after putting together the pieces are some batteries sold independently – but worth considering buying when building up my system!

    Harbor Freight 100w solar kit review

    I had been shopping around for a solar kit to power my shed, and this was the cheapest I could find. It only cost 149 when it normally retailed at 299! If it didn’t work out, then I wasn’t going to be too bummed about losing that much money on such an inexpensive item.

    The frames that hold the four panels can be used independently, but bolting them together is not mandatory. They are easier to handle individually than as a single unit deploying, and stowing frequently might make sense if separated.

    The package lists wires but doesn’t specify their length. Each solar panel has a 3-meter wire attached that terminates in an automotive connector known as SAE. This connector type is not compatible with rooftop solar installations because it isn’t covered by either specification: J928 or J1239.

    The 4-to-1 module has a 3-meter wire and a small barrel connector that fits into the controller. The solar panel’s four panels connect to form one 1 square foot unit, with half of it consisting of long wires on both sides which attach to two separate 12-inch cables coming from each other (6 inches in length).

    The battery hub can be 3.5 meters away from the controller, and each panel is up to 3.5 meters apart on its line of sight with the said central 4-to-1 hub; a 1-meter cable connects them in one package (for convenience).

    The kit came with two LED light bulbs, each of which was about an arm’s length. The wires were also really long and ended in a standard socket type that you would plug into the wall, but instead, it had DC voltage like what is found on batteries. This seemed extremely strange to me because I’d never seen something like this before.

    The simple 10 Amp charge controller is designed for primary solar charging. It has adjustable voltage thresholds that can prevent your battery from overcharging or discharging, and the manual claims there is also an overcurrent protection feature. Still, it doesn’t appear to be possible to adjust this limit either way.

    How long will harbor freight solar panels last?

    Want to know how long do Harbor Freight solar panels last? The answer is 5 to 10 years. This brand manufactures portable and affordable systems that are adept at generating an adequate amount of energy, but most importantly, they can last for this period!

    Are Harbor Freight solar panels Monocrystalline?

    I saw this on a random YouTube video that I came across. It was about Harbor Freight releasing their new 100w Monocrystalline panel, unlike the 25w kit they had before.

    A new 100w Monocrystalline panel from Harbor Freight is now available. It’s a single panel, not like their quad kit that was released months ago.

    Final thoughts

    The best thing about these 100 W Harbor Freight solar panels is that they are a quick and easy entry point into the world of off-grid power. This isn’t the strongest system you can buy, but would you expect it to be at this price? They are sturdy enough for their purpose, too, so if portability is your goal, then I recommend them wholeheartedly! If all you need right now is something cheap with good performance, then look no further – here’s what we think might just fit in perfectly.

    You May Read Also

    The Jackery Explorer Input And The Adapter You Need

    The input on Jackery Explorer power stations is called an 8mm connector. This is a round connector which also has a positive and a negative part to it.

    Since we know that the SAE connector has a positive female pin and a negative male pin, we need an adapter that has the opposite.

    This adapter includes what is called an SAE reverse polarity adapter, which will reverse the positive and negative. You do not need to use that to connect the panel to an Explorer power station.

    Note that if you have the newer Explorer 1500. you are going to have to use the adapter included by Jackery to connect the adapter above to the power station.

    Thats because Jackery has created a proprietary 8mm input for the Explorer 1500, and even though its called an 8mm input its slightly different from the regular 8mm connector used by other manufacturers.

    When you have the adapter, you simply connect the solar panel to the adapter, then connect it to the power station.

    Are Harbor Freight Solar Panels Waterproof

    The junction box on the back of the panel is water-resistant, and the SAE connectors should withstand rain as long as theyre connected to another SAE connector or has the cap on.

    I would ask Harbor Freight to be sure though, since it might void your warranty if its damaged due to rain and/or dust.

    Im Not Sure Whether The Polarity Is Correct Or Not

    You can use a multimeter to check the polarity of the wires. This is also helpful when troubleshooting a setup thats not working correctly.

    A digital multimeter like this one by Kaiweets works, just set it to four oclock and stick the red test lead in the supposedly positive SAE connector on the panel/adapter.

    Then do the same with the black test lead. If it shows a positive voltage on the little screen, you know its wired correctly. You can test it the opposite way to understand what it looks like if the polarity is reversed.

    Are Harbor Freight Solar Panels Any Good

    In general, Harbor Freight solar panels rate as highly as comparable solar panels on the market. Some even prefer harbor freight solar panels to more expensive options.

    Its a fair question to ask considering Harbor Freight is known for discount tools more than anything.

    It is important to note that the solar panels Harbor Freight sells are NOT meant as a home energy solution as they mainly offer 100 Watt panels which are more suited to charging devices or powering small appliances.

    Most people that use these set them up as supplemental power for a shed or garage or perhaps as an off-grid solution to help power a few things at a cabin or while camping.

    The Solar Panels That Could

    When it came time to add solar to my rig I begin researching and pricing out what I felt would be affordable and most of all effective. My solar was going on my truck camper and I really didnt want the panels to just sit there when not in use and get piled up with snow.

    I then begin to look at many of the suitcase styles but really didnt find anything I felt would last and after reading reviews I found many had issues. So where could I find a quality panel and yet portable. In my research I stumbled across the Harbor Freight 100 Watts Solar Kit.

    At the time I was looking to purchase this kit was on sale for 149.00 and so I thought to myself if it fails I dont have much into it and it was a lost I was willing to take. The 100 watt solar kit, Harbor Freight item #63585. was just the ticket to fit my need. Please Note: The manual, posted online as a PDF, fails to describe a few useful details which well cover here.

    Every product picture showed the four panels lined up in a row. But in fact the four panels are capable of standing separately as each panel is in their own frame and has their own folding stand. Bolting them together is optional. If the panels are to be deployed and stowed frequently, leaving them separate might make sense as the panels are much easier to handle individually.

    How Long Do Harbor Freight Solar Panels Last

    The lifespan of a solar panel is typically 20-25 years, but this can vary depending on the quality of the panel and how well it is maintained. Harbor Freight solar panels are made with high-quality materials and are designed to withstand exposure to the elements, so they should last for many years.

    However, it is important to note that the panels should be cleaned regularly to ensure they are able to absorb sunlight and generate power efficiently.

    Additionally, the panels should be inspected periodically for damage, such as cracked glass or loose connections, and repaired as necessary.

    Harbor Freight Solar Panel Specifications:

    Most of the solar panels that Harbor Freight sells are 100 Watt models. Here are the specs for the 100 Watt Harbor Freight Solar Panel:

    • Peak Power Output: 100 Watts
    • Open Circuit Voltage: 21.60 Volts
    • Short Circuit Current: Amps
    • Operating Temperature Range:.40° to 185° F
    • Dimensions: 26.77 x 19.88 x 0.98
    • Weight: 12 lbs.

    Harbor Freight #63585 100 Watt Solar Kit

    Seeking more power than what a 1.5 watt solar panel could provide, its time to step up to the 100 watt solar kit, Harbor Freight item #63585. The manual, posted online as a PDF, fails to describe a few useful details which well cover here.

    Every product picture showed the four panels lined up in a row. But in fact the four panels are capable of standing separately as each panel is in their own frame and has their own folding stand. Bolting them together is optional. If the panels are to be deployed and stowed frequently, leaving them separate might make sense as the panels are much easier to handle individually.

    The package content lists wires but not their length. Each panel has a 3 meter long wire permanently attached. This wire terminates in a connector common to Harbor Freight solar products but its exact type specification is unknown. It is definitely not the MC4 connector common in rooftop solar installations.

    harbor, freight, solar, panels, good

    The four panels connect into a 4-to-1 module. The four wire side are half a meter long, and the unified side has a 3 meter long wire towards the controller. A final half-meter long adapter has the unknown HF solar automotive connector on one end and a barrel connector on the other. The barrel connector fits into a corresponding jack on the controller.

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    Adding a Harbor Freight 45 Watt Solar Panel to My Storage Building: Earlier this year we bought a 10′ X 20 quot storage building and had it delivered to the backyard. The storage building is great – I’m slowly moving things from my garage to the building, I’m doing this slowly because at the end of the day I don’t.

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    What You Need To Know

    Before we get into the specifics, there are some things we need to know before we connect anything.

    Solar Charge Controller

    The job of a solar charge controller is to take the voltage and amperage generated by a solar panel and regulate it. Then it sends the regulated electricity off to the battery.

    Portable power stations have built-in solar charge controllers so you can connect solar panels directly to them.

    The Jackery Explorer is not going to charge if you use two charge controllers. Therefore, we should not buy a solar panel that has an external solar charge controller.

    If you have already bought a panel that included a solar charge controller, you can simply not use it. If its hardwired to the solar panel youre going to have to either bypass it, or buy a different panel.

    Input Ratings

    Not all solar charge controllers are the same. They have different input ratings, meaning that they accept different voltages and amperages.

    The input ratings can usually be found in the manual of the power station, or by the port on the power station.

    Most Jackery Explorer power stations can handle voltages between 12-30V, and a typical 100W 12V solar panel like the most popular one from Harbor Freight outputs around 18V which makes it compatible.

    If you combine two or more panels, youre going to increase either the voltage or the amperage but we will get to that later on.

    While its OK to exceed the amperage to a certain point, you should never exceed the max input voltage.

    Check Inventory For This Product At A Store Near You

    Protect your 12 volt lead-acid or gel cell battery from overcharging and deep discharging with this 30 amp solar charge controller. The charge controller reduces overall system maintenance and prolongs the life of your battery. This solar charge controller or “charge regulator” is capable of handling a solar cell array voltage of 15-25 volts.

    • Handles up to 30 amps of solar
    • Prevents battery back-drain through panels at night
    • Reduces overall system maintenance
    • For use with solar arrays typically 15-22 volts, 25 volts max
    • Easy-to-read display
    • Multiple electric protection: low voltage, overcharge and discharge protection

    How To Connect A Solar Panel Bought At Harbor Freight To A Jackery Explorer Power Station

    Solar panels can be bought at a lot of different places nowadays, the popular hardware store Harbor Freight is one of those places.

    A Harbor Freight solar panel is not compatible with a Jackery power station directly out of the box though since it requires additional adapters.

    Related Product: Extend the cable between the solar panel and the power station with an SAE extension cable by iGreely

    In this article I am going to tell you what these connectors are called, and how you go about connecting the two.

    The Harbor Freight Solar Panels What Connectors Do They Use

    Most solar panels sold by Harbor Freight today use SAE connectors. This is a two-conductor DC connector that is easy and quick to connect/disconnect, which makes it a great connector for a solar panel.

    SAE connectors have one male pin and one female pin. One is positive and one is negative, but which is which depends on the wiring and adapters used.

    The panels from Harbor Freight that use SAE connectors I have looked at have a positive female pin and a negative male pin. This is important when we search for the right adapter.

    A positive wire is often red and a negative wire black. The wires are not different from one another other than the color, which is only made this way to make it easier to connect and follow the wire.

    You might find a connector with a small or – on it, with a cable color that makes it look like its the opposite of what the connector says.

    This is nothing to worry about, as long as you can follow the wire and make sure that the positive output ends up with a positive input.

    How Long Will It Take To Charge My Explorer Power Station

    It depends on how big the power station is in watt-hours. A 100W panel will generate around 70-80W, but if your power station has a max input of 65W you need to do a calculation based on that.

    For example, the latest Explorer 500 has a battery capacity of 518Wh and maxes out at around 70W.

    The way to calculate how long it would take to charge the Explorer 500 with a 100W solar panel is then: 518/70=7.4 hours.

    We also need to consider the fact that the charge controller will start out charging the battery fast, then slow down as it is getting closer to a full charge.

    Therefore, I would add another hour or two to the estimate to get a more accurate number, resulting in 8-9 hours for a full charge.

    How Much Can I Go Over On The Amps

    While I personally dont recommend going over 150% of the maximum amps with an Explorer power station, Jackery do not recommend going over on the amps at all.

    For warranty reasons you should stick to what the manufacturer says.

    Some charge controllers are more sensitive than others, but I havent had any problems using 200W of solar with my Explorer 500 for a couple of years.

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    TIPS FOR INSTALLING THE THUNDERBOLT SOLAR KIT. The Thunderbolt solar kit comes complete with three 15 watt solar panels for a total of 45 watts. It also includes all of the parts you will need: a mounting frame, controller box, cables, connectors and even a couple of 12 volt lights that plug directly into the controller box. Day 1. Sharing my first day using the 100W Harbor Freight Solar Panel Kit. This is the new July, 2017 version of the Harbor Freight Solar Panel Kit. The k. Montgomery County is the first place in Maryland to implement the “20 is Plenty” program, but D. YouTube.Drivers are issued citations if Jul 18, 2019 The reduced speed limit is in effect for a roughly 6 mile-long section of the.

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    Oct 19, 2010 100 Watt SolarPanel Briefcase. The THUNDERBOLT SOLAR 100 Watt Foldable SolarPanel Briefcase uses high efficiency monocrystalline solar cells for top performance in a wide range of weather conditions. Ideal for electronics, small appliances, lights and fans.100 watts total, produces an average of 31 …. WindyNation 100-Watt 12-Volt Slim Polycrystalline Solar Panel for RV, Boat, Camping, Off-Grid SOL-HD-100LP-01-HD. WindyNation’s low profile design solar panel is ultra.

    Are Harbor Freight Solar Panels Water Proof

    Harbor Freight solar panels are not classified as waterproof but are considered weather resistant and can withstand rain, snow, and sleet. This means the panels can withstand exposure to water, but water should not be allowed to pool and they should not be submerged.

    It is important to note that the solar panels should not be installed in an area where they will be constantly exposed to water, such as under a gutter or on a flat roof, as this can cause the panels to degrade over time.

    This also means that they should not be permanently mounted on a roof like standard photovoltaic solar panels. Those have a much more durable construction and are designed to be exposed to the elements for years.

    If you live in an area where it snows, it is important to clean the snow off of the panels so that they can absorb sunlight and generate power.

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    Solar Decorative Lights. Shop All Solar Decorative Lights. Get free, clean, quiet energy with solar panels from Harbor Freight. Rugged design. Ideal for charging smartphones, tablets and other small electronic devices. No Hassle Return.

    That being said, Harbor solar panel is designed with 100 Watt energy capacity and that is great for providing backup for regular electricity. With Harbor freight panel, you can.

    In this video I discuss my experience with the harborfreightsolarpanel kit. We’ve been running the 45 watt kit for a few years and decided to try the 100.

    AA and AAA Solar Battery Charger: Another popular item Xantrex’s new-generation Freedom SW series represents highly sophisticated and advanced inverter/chargers available in 3000W with.

    There are a lot of critics for all things Harbor Freight. Some of it is justified. However, this is a great way to explore solar technology without spending much money. With a basic DIY kit and a solar inverter, you can create free energy for not a lot of time nor a lot of money. #6 Basic Solar Parts Needed for a DIY Camper Van or RV Solar Install.

    A database of the best coupons for HarborFreight Tools. HarborFreight Tools Coupon Database. Browse All Coupons | Recent Uploads | Expiring Soon … 100 WATT SOLARPANEL KIT Lot No. 64335/63585 Expired: 7/4/22 – 169.99 Coupon Code: ‘10686106’ 100 WATT SOLARPANEL KIT Lot No. 64335/63585 Expired:.

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    This is the new July, 2017 version of the Harbor Freight Solar Panel Kit San Antonio Rain Gauge Also, each and every solar system that you buy can be set-up in a different way 33 (original price 259 The Windy Nation 100-Watt Solar Panel allows The Windy Nation 100-Watt Solar Panel allows you to start producing free, clean power from the sun.

    Harbor freight‘s 100 watt solar panel kit is very popular, its a portable system, but useableHarbor Freight 100 watt Solar Panels Kit.Using the System, wh. Montgomery County is the first place in Maryland to implement the “20 is Plenty” program, but D. YouTube. Drivers are issued citations if Jul 18, 2019 The reduced speed limit is in.

    May 30, 2022 Harbor Freight Solar Panel Review and DIY Episode 1. May 30, 2022. 113. 0. Follow me on my Harbor Freight solar panel journey which starts from unboxing, to conceptualization, to final installation. In episode 1, I explain a little about myself, how I came to purchasing these solarpanel kits, and Ill show you the outside of the box.

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    Many consumers are searching for reasonably priced off-grid systems, and Harbor Freight solar panels are one of the top options. Are you wondering how long do Harbor Freight solar panels last? A lot of buyers pick this brand due to several reasons.

    First, they manufacture portable and affordable solar panel systems; secondly, these solar panels are adept at generating an adequate amount of energy. But, more importantly, harbor freight solar panels can last from 5 to 8 years.

    Essentially, such factors are valuable in making the final buying decision. In this post, let’s explore more about Harbor Freight solar panels.

    How Long Do Harbor Freight Solar Panels Last

    Amorphous solar panel systems are generally expected to have a service life of 5 up to 8 years. They are straightforward to install, and the entire setup is not costly compared to hiring an electrician. You also won’t need to spend more running the wiring from the house approximately 90-feet away and burying the lines.

    The Advantages of Harbor Freight Solar Panels

    In this Harbor Freight solar panel review, we’ll view the pros of the system.

    Harbor Freight solar panels have been specifically designed with excellent mobility features. The entire system allows a workable small space, and you can install it in no time.

    In addition to this, the kick-out stand situated on the rear section of the panels does not offer the most durable support; regardless, it’s useful for an adaptable setup. Changing the angle of the solar panels to keep an eye on the sun’s movement is a breeze and valuable for optimizing power capture.

    The system is practical as it provides a sufficient amount of energy to run appliances and lights when on the go or for other outdoor activities. Also, ensure that the solar panel system can optimally charge your battery at daylight so that you could utilize it at dusk. Check if the system charges the battery for 8 hours.

    Priced at a reasonable cost, Harbor Freight solar panel system is an entry-level system that works excellently for its purpose.

    Many homeowners who have already set up this system find it pretty intuitive and beginner-friendly. So long as you carefully follow the user guide, it is easy to connect all the panels together and get the solar panel system working.

    Are Harbor Freight Solar Panel Systems Worth it

    There’s no denying that Harbor Freight solar panels provide a more unique access to solar energy. Many people who have already used these solar panels have reported that they might not be the fanciest and most robust systems you can purchase; however, they are less expensive.

    over, they execute the task they are specifically designed to do. Such solar panels are effortless and quick to install and use. And they are durable enough for their applications. Hence, if you’re searching for a less expensive and portable solar system; this is good enough for your purpose.

    Be that as it may, if you search for a home solar panel system that produces ample energy, a different model might be needed. Harbor Freight solar panels are ideally fitted to use away from your place. Indeed, they are excellent access to the world of free and renewable energy from sunlight.

    Exploring about Harbor Freight Solar Panels

    Harbor Freight 100 watt Solar Panel Kit Review

    As aforementioned, Harbor Freight is one of the less expensive options available nowadays. They usually come in pretty affordable kits. When buying Harbor Freight solar panels, a 100-Watt solar panel kit generally does not contain two critical items: an inverter and a 12-Volt battery.

    Please note that a power inverter is necessary. It converts the DC power produced by the panels to alternating AC power, which you could utilize to run your home appliances.In addition, you can utilize this if you have an extra car battery.

    For beginners, the setup process may take a bit of work and time. This is why it’s recommendable to understand the user manual first and ensure if the unit is in complete working order.

    At first, it commonly takes a while to get everything in place and determine which cable is linked to what. Nonetheless, it isn’t pretty intricate, and installing the solar panels in your outdoor areas pointing at the sun can be a cinch.

    The solar panel system typically contains solar panels with 25-Watts. Furthermore, they are designed as amorphous silicon solar cells that operate excellently despite overcast conditions and under direct sun exposure.

    Likewise, they commonly contain several accessories, such as the required cables and a stand to reinforce the solar panels. The uncomplicated solar charge controller enables you to track the amount of energy you produce rapidly.

    Also, the panels contain a couple of LED lights with USB ports that are pretty portable for utilizing the unit on the go. Solar panel kits from Harbor Freight are generally lightweight, so setting them up is not burdensome.

    Harbor Freight solar panel systems execute an exceptional job of fully charging a 12-Volt battery to operate home appliances such as a fridge, LED lights, and a TV. Fundamentally, the most crucial test of the unit is to ensure that it can produce sufficient energy on a normal day to power the battery optimally.

    It’s recommendable to test the system on a sunny day. Check the charger controller a few times to inspect if everything’s working fine and if the solar panels are generating power.

    Try to come back and check again after roughly 8 hours, after you’ve set up everything. If the battery is completely charged, then this means that the system is ideal for optimally charging a 12-Volt battery.

    Heads Up

    Keep in mind that, just like a Harbor Freight 15 watt solar panel, a 100-Watt version won’t also completely power an entire home. As you might already know, 12-Volt is adequate only to operate lights, mainly if you utilize appliances like TV and LED fixtures.

    Additionally, the Harbor Freight solar kit is not ideal for air conditioners and home heating systems.

    Nevertheless, if you wish to utilize these panels as a backup system at your place during power interruptions, they are reliable for that purpose. Further, you can refer to a more complex system setup with more robust electricity storage or utilize a few car batteries.

    But, consider that you could anticipate a Harbor Freight 100w solar kit to charge roughly one 12-Volt battery a day.

    Key Takeaway

    Did we answer your question about how long do Harbor Freight solar panels last? Hopefully, from this post, you gained more ideas on whether or not these solar panel systems are the right option for your solar power needs. As mentioned above, the features that make this system an ideal alternative include:

    • Ease and convenience of setup
    • Portable and affordable
    • Can last for roughly 5 to 8 years
    • Sturdy enough for their purpose

    Please be reminded that such systems come with limitations, so it’s strongly suggested to consider them before making the final buying decision. Harbor Freight solar panel systems are undoubtedly a first-rate introduction to the world of renewable energy from the sun.

    Pete’s Solar Energy Experiemnt

    In November of 2007, I bought this kit and installed it on our south-facing deck so it gets sun all day, if there is any. I don’t have any firm plans for using this setup to produce useful power. It is purely an experiment to help me understand how much solar photovoltaic energy can be obtained at this exact spot in the world, Lat. 44.874 dN, Lon. 92.294 dW. For me, reading is good, but DOING is better. I have a daily log of this experiment on an Excel spreadsheet and a rather lengthy text of internet dialogue somewhere around here. I won’t bore you with it for now. What follows is a summary of what my testing setup is and what it does.

    The Answers, so far: My first conclusion about all this: I suggest that we can expect about 1/3 of the rated power of this 45 watt solar collector for about 6 hours per day, at this place in the winter,or, about 100 watt-hours stored per day, if we have a pretty good (non MPPT)PV charge controller, on a sunny day.

    My second conclusion: On a cloudy winter day, we can expect to store about 3 watts of solar energy for about 6 hours or about 18 Watt-Hours per day.

    Observation 3: It appears that the solar collector peaks out for about 3 hours in the mid afternoon. Maybe I’d only need to adjust the collector tracking about once every 3 hours to get all I can. The same goes for seasonal adjustments. I changed the tilt by 7 degrees from optimal and saw NO difference in insolation. Maybe 3 or 4 tilt changes per year are enough.

    Observation 4: (A refinement of Obs. 3), When the solar panel is within about 25 degrees of optimum, there’s no appreciable difference in output.

    Observation 5: When the Harbor Frieght charge controller can deliver no current to the load, which happens for a while in the morning after the sun comes up, and for a while in the evening before the sun actually sets and the sky becomes totally dark, there IS NO CURRENT TO BE HAD, even if a sophisticated MPPT controller were to be used.

    Current Situation

    Here’s my setup (as of March 16, 2008). The only things missing from these picture is the car battery, which is in the basement, and a box holding some big rheostats that I now use to test the MPPT idea. I didn’t say it was going to be pretty!

    Solar Panels: I can change the tilt by adding or subtracting 2 X 4’s and 4 X 4’s from under the back edge of the support. The panels are tied down to the concrete blocks with a piece of baler twine so they won’t blow over.

    Data Acquisition Unit: This DAU has 4 analog channels and 2 digital channels. This model hooks up to a serial interface, but now they have a USB model, which I’d recommend, instead. It is connected to the controller interface with a piece of 4 conductor phone wire.

    Controller, Controller Interface and Load Bank: Again, I didn’t say it was going to look pretty! This is about the fourth iteration. Maybe the twentieth? This controller is the third one I have had. I don’t think they can stand the stress of removing the collector input while the sun is out. This controller is a later model than the one in the picture at the top of the page. This is a pretty nice controller, but it is NOT a MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) controller. The most notable difference between this model and the original is that this one has a digital volt meter on the front. It is connected directly to the battery terminals. Internally, the positive side of everything is common, not the negative side. That’s why I had to build my interface with the voltages going negative and the current going positive. The controller interface board is contained within the little black box in front of the controller. On the top you can see a switch that disconnects the the battery from the DAU, and, if you look closely, just behind the switch, you can see the 0.1 Ohm 1% power resistor that is in series with the collector panel to measure current flow. In front of the controller on the little table sits the Load Bank. It consists of 4 16 Ohm 75 Watt wirewound resistors that can be connected to the little black box in front of them in almost any configuration your little heart desires, from 4 Ohms to 64 Ohms. The switch on that black box allows me to turn the load on and off without having to pull plugs out of the box. I almost always use 8 Ohms, for now. This gives the setup a power dissipation of about 21 Watts at normal panel output voltage when current is flowing. Finally, just to bug serious-minded folks, are the electrical schematic and the little interface PCB layout, almost readable.

    Maximum Power Point Tracking Tests: I don’t intend to add an MPPT controller to this little system, but I do want to know how much more power I could be getting if I had one. So, I will change my setup so I can switch my charge controller in and out and replace it with some power rheostats. Then I can sit in front of the computer as it monitors panel voltage and current, changing the load resistance to see where the maximum power point is for any particular solar drive voltage compared to a similar power (wattage)output using the HF controller. As of March 15, 2008, I have stuck 4 rheostats in a box and added them to the overall system. They are: 25 Ohms, 100 Ohms and 250 Ohms, all on a common frame, and 35 Ohms all by itself. The reason for this combination is that 1.)I know from developing the load bank mentioned above what the approximate range should be, and, 2.)Those were some rheostats that were available at a surplus electronics place on the web. This box is hooked in parallel with the panel input and controlled with an SPST switch. To use it, I simply turn off the switch on the front panel of the HF charge controller and turn on the switch to the rheostat box. This next image shows the overall wiring of the system at present. The image after that shows the voltage divider PCboard that goes between the charge controller and the DAU (because I couldn’t get my CAD program, Turbocad Pro, V7,to save with enough resolution).

    Schematic of Interface PC Board Between Controller and DAU

    What’s Happening Now: The Harbor Frieght panels are hooked up and operating. I’m on the third charge controller now and it has a slight problem in that the controller locks the panel to the battery whenever the panel voltage DROPS to the battery voltage. The only problem for me is that I don’t get to see the panel voltage drop as the sun goes down unless I turn the controller off, allow the panels to go to open ckt voltage, and then turn the controller on again.

    I record 3 channels of information each day with the DAU (Data Acquistion Unit) hooked between my PC and the solar PV (PhotoVoltaic) system. The software that came with my 25 Dataq DAU allows me to graph the data that I store, albeit in a limited manner. I can port the data to Excel where I can rework it but, I just haven’t gotten aroundtoit yet. The DAU requires signals between zero volts and 10 volts. The inputs are not isolated from eachother. So, I had to design an interface between the solar system and the DAU. It is currently a passive voltage division and series current sensing system. To keep wasted current to a minimum, the current sensing channel is running on a voltage so low that the DAU is non linear in that region, but never worse than within 15% or so. That design is good enough for now. Lastly, in defense of DATAQ, I bought this DAU as an entry level device in 2003 and never even took it out of the box. For the 25 it cost me, it is a great tool. They still have it, in the serial verson for about 25 and in the USB version for 50. REAL ones start at about 200, and they include better software.

    harbor, freight, solar, panels, good

    Data Recording

    Just today, I put a few images of of my recorded data here. The graphs, a set of 3 traces for each of the 6 days presented, are from some of the sunnier days in January of 2008:

    Here are some particulars of each Set of 3 Traces:

    Upper Trace: Photovoltaic Panel voltage output, negative-going. Multiply the value by 10 to get DC volts. eg: 1.36 = 13.6 volts.

    Middle Trace: Actual current being drawn from the collector panel. This is a positive-going signal. Multply the graph reading by 8.5 to get actual current in DC amperes. (Think 10 to make it easier)

    Lower Trace: Battery voltage, negative-going. Multiply the value by 10 to get DC volts

    You can generally see that the collector panel voltage rises as the sun comes up, but no appreciable current is generated until the sun gets well up into the sky (if it’s not a cloudy day). Later, the current falls to zero, but the collector is still forward biased, producing the voltage you see for a couple of hours. Then, of course, clouds during the day cause to current to fluctuate. The Charge Controller has a feature which shuts off charging when it thinks the battery is full. You see that function when the current drops suddenly to zero and the collector panel voltage climbs to it’s full no-load open curcuit value (as high as about 23 volts DC, if the scale was set that high).

    Graphs

    Here are 6 graph sets, if you are interested. Don’t feel bad if they don’t make full sense to you. The DAU I am using is somewhat simple-minded as is it’s software. (IT WAS cheap!) I had to do some work-arounds to get it to do some of the things I wanted.

    Again, here’s how the graphs work: At the left of the charts you see the channel numbers, (1=1, 2=2 and 3=3). Just to the right of each channel number is the chart’s title. Above and below that are the limits for that channel graph.

    1=1 is the Collector Voltage graph. The limits on the chart.000 and.2.000, mean that the voltage is zero at the top of the chart and.20 volts at the bottom of the 1=1 trace area. The X10C simply means that you multiply the reading by 10 to get the actual Collector voltage. (The number.013 just above X10C is the reading that was at the black vertical bar that’s about 4 squares in from the left.)

    2=2 is the Collector Current graph. The limits on the chart.000 and.500 mean that no current is flowing from the collector panel at.000 and, at.500 you’d multiply by about 8.5 to get the actual current in amperes. Sorry about this, but that’s the non-linearity of the DAU that I mentioned earlier. The X10A implies multiply by 10 and that’s good enough for you to get a general idea of what’s actually going on. I use an amperage correction table that keeps my actuals to about 2%.

    3=3 is the Battery Voltage graph. Same everything as 1=1.

    December, 2008 Now that I have a whole year of data, I conclude that, if you are already connected to the grid, then solar photovoltaic energy collection and storage is not for you. Maybe, if and when the price of the equipment drops by a factor of about 4 and/or the cost of your electricity doubles, take another look.

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