Harbor freight solar panels

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by fortunateson, Feb 18, 2010.

  1. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

  2. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

  3. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    Here ya go.


    Expires 2/21 though

    BTW, you need a separate battery regulator to make sure you don't overcharge. They sell that for 10 or $20 I think.
    And of course, it doesn't come with an inverter.
  4. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Ah In-store only. I need to get a HF in my area.
  5. dragonfly

    dragonfly Monkey+++

    Do NOT buy these solar devices!
    I own 2, I have a friend that has bought 3.
    They are NOT what they appear to be...
    They are in fact NOT the silicon type, but the el-cheapo version "amorphous" types. They LOSE 20% and more, of their initial output within 3-4 months of exposure to UV sunlight.
    They decompse rapidly!
    They are cheap, and they are pretty much a waste of your time and money!
    They have no real power output, and it only gets worse in a short period of time. Now they may be listed as 45 watts, (3-15 watt panels), But they have so little output, as to make them junk! (try 4.3 milliwatts!)
    I have a set still wrapped and in the carton from H/F, next to me, even as I write this!
    They will not even maintain a charge on a dual set of deep cycle marine batteries!
    You have to remove the wiring, when it gets dark or the "so-called" "box" they come with will kill your batteries!
    They do NOT have a charge controller.
    Buy ONLY a real set of the blue silicon types and get real charge controllers. The wiring on these is so cheap they are ludicrous to be carrying any voltage whatsoever!
    Whether you pay $149.00 to $249.00 these are junk and a waste of your time and money!
    I know, I was fooled into the same scam!
  6. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Good to know. You are quite useful, Arizona Man. :)
  7. toddintacoma

    toddintacoma Monkey+

    That's good to know .I was lookinat them awhile ago.
  8. dragonfly

    dragonfly Monkey+++

    Better to let others know about all the mistakes I made, so you don't waste your time and money!
    Now, those decent "blue-silicon" ones are about $600.00 depending on what manufacturer you get them from, BUT, they are good! They put out 100 watts ( average) and well into the 3.0+ amperage range!
    Also, don't buy even the best so-called marine grade deep cycle batteries ( another serious mistake I made!) Buy the 6 volt, hi amperage, deep cycle batteries used for golf carts! You wire them so you'll still get your 12 volts output, but more than quadruple your amp hours!
    A word about invertors, buy one twice the size you plan on for needs, and you'll be 100% ahead of the game! No sense in burning out one that is rated for 2,000-4,000 watts, and discovering that the 4,000 watt "surge" is not going to save you but maybe once. Then they fry!
    Check everything you plan on using (wattage-wise) and then double it!
    Better safe than sorry!
    Buy ONLY the best, not what you can afford now, as I did!
    It cost me dearly!
    Watch out for cheap imitations and low priced items for your solar array...
    Those charge controllers can really create a disaster for you, when they blow out!
    My caretaker bought 3 in 6 months, all from Northern Tool, which is JUST a higher priced Harbor Freight!
    Now, we have to replace 4 batteries and a lot of burnt wiring!
    Buy the best!
    We didn't, and we are now in a world of hurt!
    Good luck!
  9. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    Good stuff, Dragonfly. I have no direct experience with the Harbor Freight setup, but when I saw the thread title I came here to post a general warning about the amorphous solar kits. You're spot on with your warnings, and I'm sorry you had to learn firsthand.

    Preparedness doesn't come cheap anyway, but it always costs more to do it wrong the first time. A quality solar setup will provide reliable electricity for decades, and is worth doing right.

    I always counsel people to take a minimalist approach - instead of trying to power everything in the house look at a system sufficient to maintain refrigeration, a couple of CF or LED lights and communications. If there's money for more that's great but you'd be surprised how civilized life is if you have a working fridge, a fire in the wood stove and a light to read by!
    radpug likes this.
  10. SLugomist

    SLugomist Monkey++

  11. dragonfly

    dragonfly Monkey+++

    microcrystalline panels rule!
  12. SLugomist

    SLugomist Monkey++

    Can anyone explain the principles of solar? With batteries and inverters and wattage and what could you run?
  13. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    Wow. I was there today and tempted to pick them up.
    Glad I didn't!
  14. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    Here's my rudimentary understanding.
    Feel free to correct or fill in the blanks:

    Your whole system runs like a big water cistern system. Your batteries are your tank. Your inverter is your filter (converter really). Your solar cells are your rain collector to fill the tank.

    So you figure out the total wattage you will need. Bulb wattage + consumption plates of all you will use.
    Then as Dragonfly states, double it (just learned that).
    So you buy an inverter rated for that wattage.
    Most inverters are modified sine wave. They don't play so well with AC electric motors.
    Pure sine wave inverters are EXPENSIVE.
    Then you add the wattage of DC items you'll use if any.
    Now you figure out how many hours/day you'll need to run them.
    Divide the wattage by voltage and you have your amperage.
    Multiply your amperage by hours and you have your amp/hours.
    Find a battery or batteries that add up to that # of amp hours.
    Add some extra capacity. (someone comment on this)

    So, for example:
    10 15w CFL bulbs will consume 150 watts
    Buy a 300 watt inverter
    You'll use them for 4 hours per night.
    300 watts / 110v = 2.72 amps
    You plan on lighting for 4 hours, so you need batteries w/ 11 ah + extra.

    As for panels - a bit fuzzy on this one.
    I think you'd need to find the specs on the battery - how many hours to charge at how many amps
    Then you find panes that will supply that with your available sunlight considering cloudy days, etc.
    You'll also need a charge regulator to make sure that you don't overcharge your batteries.

    As I said - rudimentary, so take with a grain of salt ;)
  15. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Close. The wattage calcs are straight forward with DC. No good with AC, if motors are on the circuit. I think you have to multiply rated wattage by 1.67 to get at the required amperage they will draw on the system. And yes, do NOT depend on the minimum battery capacity, you WILL add stuff as time goes on, I'd say doubling is not enough. Remember to have enough in the cans for cloudy days. You also need to know something about the efficiency of the inverter. Last one I looked at (years ago) the INPUT was the defined variable. Output is what you need to be concerned with.

    The inverter converts DC in the batteries to AC for your reefer. The charge regulator is DC, controls the state of charge in the batteries, much like a voltage regulator back in the days of automotive generators rather than alternators. Current cars use (let's think of it as a reverse inverter) that takes AC off the alternator and makes DC for the battery.

    Solar is good. Wind is good. Both have limitations, and both can get pricey in a hurry.
  16. SLugomist

    SLugomist Monkey++

    good foundation, thanks Fort.
  17. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Say that 10 times real fast.

    "Goog foundakin tanks fart." - "Good foundation kants ford." - "fart cantartion....ah hell"
  18. oldfood

    oldfood Monkey+

    Does anyone out there have any experience with the H/F self contained solar charger for cordless tools?
  19. Mountainman

    Mountainman Großes Mitglied Site Supporter+++

    Thanks for the advice on the 6V batteries Dragonfly. I currently have a solar setup for my septic system that I have been using for over a year and it works fine. The advice for doubling any part of the system is 100% correct, cloudy days in the winter are a bitch! I am going to try and make my own solar panel soon and have some links below if anyone wants to try it out. I figure it will cost around $150 to make a 72 watt panel as long as the company selling the cells is not BS'ing the current rating.

    Building A Solar Panel

    Solar Cell Suppliers


  20. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    Cool info. Thanks.

    Has anyone noticed that the highway departments have started using Solar powered signs and signals?
    They're good quality too - you can tell by the way the crystals shimmer.
    I've got to think that those things are going to disappear pretty quickly in a grid-down situation.
    They just hang out there basking in the sun on lonely stretches of road.
    The temptation even makes me drool at times...:-0
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