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 (click to view on Amazon)
In this article I am going to tell you what these connectors are called, and how you go about connecting the two.
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 (hopefully) simply not use it. If it’s hardwired to the solar panel you’re going to have to either bypass it, or buy a different panel.
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, you’re going to increase either the voltage or the amperage but we will get to that later on.
While it’s OK to exceed the amperage to a certain point, you should never exceed the max input voltage.
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 it’s 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.
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 (click to view on Amazon), you are going to have to use the adapter included by Jackery to connect the adapter above to the power station.
That’s because Jackery has created a proprietary 8mm input for the Explorer 1500, and even though it’s called an 8mm input it’s 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.
Combining Two Or Panels To Increase The Charging Speed
It’s possible to combine two or more panels to charge the battery faster, but it’s not always worth doing so.
Since the charge controller in the power station decides how many watts it’s going to use to charge the battery, it’s good to know these limitations before spending money on more panels.
For example, the Explorer 160, 240, 300, and 500 max out at around 50-80 watts depending on model. The larger Explorer 1000 max out at 127W, and the even larger 1500 at 300W.
A 100W 12V solar panel will generate around 70-80W in sunny conditions.
It’s not always perfectly sunny though, and if you’re going to use the panels where it’s often cloudy it might be more worth it to buy an extra panel or two.
To combine two Harbor Freight panels for the Explorer power stations, you need an adapter like this by SolarEnz (click to view on Amazon).
This adapter also includes the SAE reverse polarity adapters, which you might need to ensure that positive goes to positive and negative to negative.
When you combine panels in parallel like this it’s very important that you have made sure that all wiring used can handle the amperage. That includes these adapters and extension cables.
I recommend using SAE extension cables that come with caps to protect the connectors while not in use. These dust caps keep dirt, debris, and moisture out.
The thicker the cable the better, so look for the lowest gauge you can find and make sure it can handle the total amperage of your panel(s).
I like and recommend the iGreely SAE extension cables (click to view on Amazon). They come in different lengths and are compatible with the adapters I have linked to above.
While you can combine two shorter extension cables I suggest getting a long one instead. The more connections, the higher the voltage drop, which will decrease the total output to the power station.
Frequently Asked Questions
I’m 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 that’s not working correctly.
A digital multimeter like this one by Kaiweets (click to view on Amazon) works, just set it to four o’clock (20 by V DC) 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 it’s wired correctly. You can test it the opposite way to understand what it looks like if the polarity is reversed.
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 (click to view on Amazon) 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 don’t 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 haven’t had any problems using 200W of solar with my Explorer 500 for a couple of years.
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 they’re 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 it’s damaged due to rain and/or dust.
Can I combine a Harbor Freight solar panel with a panel by different manufacturer?
You can, but I don’t recommend doing so. The reason for that is that the setup is going to limited by the voltage of the lowest-rated panel.
If you have two panels that are rated similarly you won’t lose much, but be aware of the limitations.
Please leave a comment down below if you have any questions or experience with this and have something to add.
Jesse has always had an interest in camping, technology, and the outdoors. Who knew that growing up in a small town in Sweden with endless forests and lakes would do that to you?
6 thoughts on “Connect A Harbor Freight Solar Panel To Jackery Explorer”
I can’t get the harbor freight 100 W solar panels to charge the Jacari 1000. I’ve use both the 8 mm and the two prong adapter but still does not register. Not sure what else to do. Reply
Hi, Do you have a multimeter so you can test the connections? It’s likely a loose connector or a polarity problem. Reply
Can I charge a Jackery Explorer 240 with a 100 watt solar panel from HF? The one I’m looking at is the THUNDERBOLT SOLAR 100 Watt. The Jackery 240 is sold with their 60w solar panel. Is it safe to connect the HF 100 to the J240? Reply
Hi, Yes, it’s compatible and will work great with the Explorer 240. You just need the SAE to 8mm adapter (click to view on Amazon). Looks like the polarity lines up correctly, so I don’t think you need to use the included SAE reverse polarity adapter. Reply
Getting a Bead on Setting Up a Simple Solar Panel Kit
When it comes to understanding electricity, my mind tends to blank out when it gets to the point where I have to determine volts, amps, amp-hours, voltage under load and other terms that are second nature to the electricity savvy. Let me make it clear that this is not a girl thing or a guy thing. It is simply that some of us are better at understanding how power and electricity works than others.
In all fairness, in my boating days I was quite familiar with the operation of our house batteries and the inverter. Using this set-up, I had fresh coffee in the morning and power for my laptop. Life was sweet. Although that was almost ten years ago, the lessons learned were simple: don’t discharge the batteries more than 60% and don’t mess with a working electrical system unless you know what you are doing.
Given my own thick head when in comes to all things electrical, I have always considered the prospect of installing a small solar system in my home a bit daunting. I should not have worried.
HARBOR FREIGHT TO THE RESCUE
A few months ago I was contacted by Harbor Freight and asked if I would like to try out one of their Magnum Thunderbolt Solar Kits. This was not the time to be bashful so of course I said yes, as long as they understood there would be little or no sun in the Washington State for a month or two. Having set the stage, I was sent the following items for testing:
So how did it go? The first thing I did was recruit the Survival Husband to do the heavy lifting. Then, together, we decided that we would install the solar kit on the roof of our garage which was angled just right and facing the south. During the summer months, we should get six to seven hour of sun a day in this location.
We also agreed that climbing the roof was a task for someone younger – a lot younger – so until my brother and my electronics wizard nephew come to visit, we set things up on our upper patio and to heck with the patio furniture.
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, solar charge controller box, cables, battery terminal clamps and even a couple of 12 volt lights that plug directly into the controller box. Everything is included for a ground level installation. On the other hand, a roof top installation will require some brackets – something we have not purchased yet.
The installation was simple. We just followed the instructions in the manual and things worked. Okay, truth be told, Shelly (the Survival Husband) does not always read manuals thoroughly so he put the frame together goofy and had to start over. And then he could not find the power switch on the inverter and thought it was defective. I found it, turned it on and had immediate power.
He did offer up some tips:
When assembling the frame, make sure the top bar marked front actually faces front. Otherwise you cannot install the legs.
There are two sizes of screws with wing nuts. The bag with eight screws are shorter and are the screws to be used when assembling the frame.
When attaching the three panels to the frame, it is easier to attach the middle panel first. Other than that, just follow the instructions.
After completing the frame and panel setup, follow the directions by attaching the 3 leads from the panel to the splitter cable. Add the extension cable and plug into the charge controller. Next attach the battery terminals (on the battery) to the charge controller to confirm that you are receiving voltage from the solar panels. There is a large LED display on the front of the charge controller indicating the voltage so that you will know right away if everything is working okay.
You need to use an inverter to convert the power to AC. In that case, you need to attach the included cables from the inverter to your battery terminals.
The solar charge regulator box itself, without an inverter, has a 12V cigarette lighter socket, 5V USB, 3-6-9V DC outlets and two 12V sockets for the included light kit. Note that the USB port is only 5 volts, okay for cell phones, Kindles and tablets such as an iPad but not for devices or electronics that require higher voltage.
The 12V battery is not waterproof so you will need to keep it covered and protected from the elements.
The Quick Start guide is well laid out and intuitive with accurate, easy to understand diagrams. Plus, all of the manuals are available online so that they will always be handy, even if you lose the originals.
BUT DOES IT WORK?
The first thing I tested was my crock pot. If the grid was down and I wanted to eat but I did not want to build a fire, a working crockpot would be a godsend. It uses just a modest amount of steady power and can be used for soups, stews and even for baking quick breads. I ran the crockpot for quite some time with no problems.
My next test was more challenging – a hair straightening iron. If my hair iron worked, then I not only would look good, but I would be able to re-seal the Mylar bags I opened to get to my stored food items. Again, no problem. From there I moved to lighting and to my alkaline battery charger. Again, everything worked perfectly and I was pleased.
Using the Harbor Freight solar system was almost to easy – definitely a set it and forget it operation although the directions indicate you should not leave a charging battery unattended.
I am not done testing yet. The way these things work is that more batteries equals more amp hours equals more current. Or, in plain English, more battery juice means you can run more stuff for a longer period of time. We plan to add some marine deep cycle batteries and a large watt inverter to the basic set up so we can run more stuff. But for the basics and for now, this system works just fine.
THE FINAL WORD
This Thunderbolt Solar Kit from Harbor Freight is inexpensive if not downright cheap. But do not let the price dissuade you. For lighting, small appliances and laptops, this system works great. It would be even better with a larger battery. You do not need to be an electronics genius to set it up but if you need help, you can find it online, especially at the New World Solar/DIY Solar Energy Forum.
It is my understanding that folks have tied two or three of these systems together for even more power. As good as that sounds, it is beyond our technical capability at this moment but we are learning and just might get to that point.
Our goal for now is the get the complete system installed on the roof and to add some additional batteries, probably the marine deep-cycle type. We will then use the solar to kit to power all of our outdoor security lighting as well as our power tools and and everything else that we have running off of our garage and outdoor receptacles.
This does not apply to us, but I think this would be an ideal backup power source for a well. The price is right and it is oh so easy to install and use which makes it a great starter kit for those wanting to try out solar and see if it is for them.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation! Gaye
If you have not done so already, please be sure to like which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon. You can also follow Backdoor Survival on and Google and purchase my book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage from Amazon.
Bargain Bin: Here are some useful items to have on hand when the power is out.
Ambient Weather Emergency Solar Hand Crank Radio: This is becoming a popular choice with Backdoor Survival readers. This unit is a Digital AM/FM NOAA Weather Alert Radio and a powerful 3 LED flashlight, with Smart charger, all in one portable package.
AA and AAA Solar Battery Charger: Another popular item. This unit will charge up to 2 pairs of AA or 1 pair of AAA batteries via USB or solar power.
Chemical Lighting aka Light Sticks: These are inexpensive, portable and easy to use. These come in a number of colors so take your pick.
EcoZoom Versa Rocket Stove: Burning twigs and pinecones, this stove will cook a big pot of rice in under 20 minutes. The stove is solidly built and will burn charcoal as well. There is also a version that only burns biomass for slightly less money.
Coleman Rugged Battery Powered Lantern: This sturdy Coleman has a runtime of up to 28 hours on the low setting and 18 hours on the high setting but does require D cell batteries. Personally, I have both a battery operated and propane lantern. Of course by now you know that I like redundancy with my preps.
Dorcy LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: Don’t let the price lead you to think this wireless flood light is wimpy. I have two of these (so far) and feel that these lights are worth double the price.
Bicycle Canasta Games Playing Cards: Heck, you need something to keep yourself entertained!
100 Hour Plus Emergency Candle Clear Mist: My number one choice for emergency candles. This liquid paraffin candle will burn for over 100 hours. t is also odorless and smokeless, making it a great emergency light source that can be extinguished and re-lit as often as needed. Very safe to use.
Coleman Candle Lantern: When the lights go out, there is nothing like a Coleman. They last forever because spare parts are always available. A candle lantern will not give out the bright light of say, a propane or kerosene lantern. On the other hand, candles are likely to be available when other fuels are not.
Although I have plenty of flashlights and batteries (you might even say I have a flashlight fetish) I also stay stocked up with a dozen of these Clear Mist 100 Hour Plus Emergency Candles as well. For the best deal, purchase a dozen at a time to get a discounted price. Be sure to also check out the Clear Globe attachment.
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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.
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.
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.