solar setup at costco. Good buy - Page 5 - Fiberglass RV

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Old 03-13-2007, 03:03 PM   #81
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Name: james
Trailer: Boler 1984
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Talking about solar. I know that this is not in your mega amp league but thought you might find it amusing, or at least worth a smirk. I don,t use the tow very often during the winter so I picked up one of those dash mount solar units to trickle charge the battery.
Wouldn't work worth a #$%.
OK I finally got it right. Realized that the cigarette lighter is swiched with the ignition and only on when the key is ON. wired direct to the battery it works OK. Now we're juiced and ready to go.

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Old 04-05-2007, 02:49 PM   #82
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Trailer: Scamp 13 ft 1990
NW Wyoming
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Over the last year there seems to have been lots of interest in solar panels sold by Costco and also some confusion as to what they consist of. I thought I would describe my set that arrived this week so the current configuration was clear. Many Costco warehouse stores do not carry these panels and they must be ordered through, whose online catalog description leaves out many details.

Costco sells two basic solar kits that would be of interest to small fiberglass rv owners. They offer a 60 watt kit that consists of 4 solar panels made by Sunforce and comes with associated hardware ($299 PLUS shipping). I bought the 54 watt kit that is marketed under the Coleman brand name and which comes with 3 - 18 watt panels made by ICP Solar. Mine cost $329, WITH shipping included.

My Coleman kit consisted of 3 - 18 watt panels, each 14" x 39", a 5 amp Phocos charge regulator (described as 4 A on the kit box), and the associated wiring to hook the system up. The Costco site and the shipping box describes the kit has having a "durable, heavy duty aluminum frame." This is NOT the A frame support structure shown in the photo but rather seems to describe the integrated border of each panel. As the shipping box says, no support frame is included. The Costco site might lead you to believe the support frame is part of the kit.

The panels and wiring were complete and easily put together, with no cutting or splicing required -- though I suspect a love of modifications will have many forum readers making changes. Each panel has a 10' cord with a two pin flat connector. These connect to another 10' unit that has 3 two pin flat connectors on one end for the panels to plug in and a single two pin connector at the other in. A short 20" unit connects to this 2-pin connector and has two bare wires at the other that connect to the charge regulator. A similar 20" cable is used to leave the regulator and this also ends in a simple 2 pin flat connector. All that is left is one 14" cable that has battery clamps at one end and another cable that has a male "cigarette lighter" plug that can be used in a TV.

The manual that comes with the kit is just a two page sheet that describes a single panel and is not terribly useful, but the wiring was very self explanatory once looked at and should cause no one problems when hooking up. Adding additional wire length to get the charge regulator inside the trailer should be simple. Some might want to reduce the length of the 10' tails coming off of each panel if they are going to be located in a single frame.

The units come with a 2 year guarantee.

I was pleased with the Coleman kit and am confident that anyone could hook this up without much of a problem and that they could throw a single panel at an attacking grizzly bear and survive the attack. The shipping weight for the kit was 42 pounds.

John C.

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Old 04-05-2007, 06:33 PM   #83
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Trailer: '77 Leocraft 17 & Former Burro owner and fan!
West Coast USA
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I did not get mine thru Costco, but it is a Coleman kit.

I seem to be the only one here that got a frame. It's a PVC pipe arrangement. One could easily make one from stuff from the plumbing store for just a few bucks.

It also had the two pin connectors, and short line from each panel that parallel together.

I added 10 gauge and speakon connectors to the thing for ease of use.. plug and play, takes, oh.. 5 seconds for the connection if you are carrying your beer.

Last weekend, I bought on oversixed battery box and permanently mounted the controller in it with bolts and nuts running thru holes I drilled in the sides.

That said, I am looking for and easier stand for them. They do weigh quite a bit, but are manageable for weight, but the big array is cumbersome for me to lift into the newer higher trailer.

My solution is a molded Bass Guitar Case. I will mount the panels and the wiring on each flap of the case, and add a 3rd fold out so it does a tri fold, sort of like fred has done, only the Bass Case will carry the panels weight instead of the hinge.

A little reinforcement will be required for the handles and hinges, but that is done easily with many of the scrap aluminum blocks we have lying around at work.. and willing metal shop boys

Just have to figure out HOW to make it NOT look like a guitar.. it would last about 2 minutes if it did.
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Old 04-07-2007, 08:33 AM   #84
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Trailer: Eco 12 ft
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Just have to figure out HOW to make it NOT look like a guitar.. it would last about 2 minutes if it did.

Just mark it "Personal property of Antonio Banderas"


OTOH, that would change your problem from guitar thieves to gun thieves...
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Old 04-07-2007, 01:51 PM   #85
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One of the kits which was displayed in our local Costcos long ago did have the PVC tubing frame. The kit I saw there most recently (last month?) was only in the box (no display model) and I don't think it had that frame.

The cables and connectors - including the battery clip and other ends - described by John sound essentially the same as those provided with my single 30W panel from Canadian Tire, sold under their house brand name... there are not many truly different sources of these things.
1979 Boler B1700RGH, pulled by 2004 Toyota Sienna LE 2WD
Information is good. Lack of information is not so good, but misinformation is much worse. Check facts, and apply common sense liberally.
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Old 04-07-2007, 02:21 PM   #86
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Harbor Freight now has the $249.00 regular price marked down to $199.00, good until March 26 in the store I go to. I cannot find a 20% coupon in the link referenced. Am I doing something wrong, or has it expired?
Thank god!! I thought I was going blind!!

Life is good!
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Old 01-23-2008, 05:01 PM   #87
Trailer: 13 ft Scamp
Posts: 33
I just bought the Harbor Freight 3 panel 45 watt special for $199.00 i now need to buy the inverter.

Can anyone recommend a good brand and is 300-400 watt enough for these panels?

I need to purchase fairly soon as i am leaving on a trip!! thanks for your help!!! Dee
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Old 01-24-2008, 06:24 AM   #88
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Trailer: 2003 Casita 16' SD
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Are you looking for an inverter (converts 12v DC to 120v AC) or a charge controller to regulate the solar panel's output to the battery?

For the latter I'm a fan of Xantrex products as they have a good rep in the marine industry. Although I should admit that I have no first hand experience with solar panels I've researched them a number of times. (But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express! )

If you're really talking about an inverter, I think you may be disappointed if you plan to hook the inverter directly to the solar panels. Regardless, a 300 watt inverter will deplete a battery more than twice as fast as the panels recharge them. It's my sense that solar panels can often keep up with 12v loads (in sunny locations).
Without adult supervision...
Quando omni flunkus, moritati.
I'm a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess.
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Old 01-24-2008, 09:26 PM   #89
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Trailer: 84 Burro 13 ft
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Harbor Freight also sells a 400 watt invrter. As you know their panels come with a frame to orient toward the sun. My panels are mounted on my back porch roof. I use them to run a string of 50 led patio lights during the summer months. I also charge all rechargeable tools, phones and appliances as well as batteries. This is my backup emergency power system.
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Old 01-25-2008, 09:58 PM   #90
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Trailer: 2005 19 ft Scamp 19 ft 5th Wheel
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I just bought the Harbor Freight 3 panel 45 watt special for $199.00 i now need to buy the inverter.

Can anyone recommend a good brand and is 300-400 watt enough for these panels?
New solar panels? Welcome to the world of solar energy!

The cheap (about $30-$35) 7 Amp solar charge controllers sold by Harbor Freight, Northern Tool and many sporting good stores are an OK -- but not great -- charge controller. If you want a better performer for a few bucks more, take a look at the Sunsei 10 Amp controller ($35-$45) I have. The Sunsei controller has two charge rates, one for when your battery has been depleted and a second "float charge" rate that tops the battery off and keeps it optimally charged. It also has a status light that tells you when the solar panels are connected correctly and whether the panels are busy charging the battery or not.

The ampere rating for the controller is not an issue here, by the way. You'd have to connect two 45-watt Harbor Freight solar setups to the 7-amp controller before you'd hit the controllers maximum capacity.

As for inverters that will convert 12V DC battery power to 110V AC household power, I have two inverters. One is a no-name 100 watt unit I picked up at a local auto parts store for $25 and plugs into a cigarette lighter (for charging my laptop, iPod, cordless drill, etc), the other is a $40, 400 watt Vector-brand unit I plan to permanently (and safely) connect to my trailer wiring for those occasions when I want to watch TV or have multiple laptops charging or running. Because big inverters consume more energy (whether or not you're using their full capacity) than small inverters it makes sense to use a smaller inverter when that's all you need.

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Old 01-25-2008, 10:34 PM   #91
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and for those in power challenged areas...

I am using mine right now (Well, not RIGHT now.. it's sort of *nite* out there.. they really stink when it's dark) to keep several small 20 ah batteries going to charge my laptops and have a few lights around the house due to a lengthy power outage.

It's very snowy and overcast here right now, and they are not charging as fast as I would like them to.. but, mother nature holds the cards on this one.
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Old 06-23-2008, 11:51 AM   #92
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Name: Maggie
Trailer: 1990 16 ft Scamp Deluxe
Posts: 52

I just saw a Coleman Solar Charger CL-1200 Kit by ICP Solar "The Power to Go" Kit on the web site. It is selling for $139.00, shipping and handling included. (Item # 253599)

Weight is 10.6 lbs.

It says it's engineered to trickle charge 12V deep cycle batteries and power is 1.2A, 15V (18W). It has an LED indicator to let you know it's working. It comes with a charge controller (CC-4400).

What do you think of this model?

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Old 06-23-2008, 06:18 PM   #93
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Trailer: 1984 Fiber Stream
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For anyone who doesn't want to put holes in the roof, check out the 3M brand VHB tape. It stands for Very High Bond. Someone over on the casitaclub forum has used it successfully to mount his solar panels on the roof. Apparently it can be ordered online.
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:26 PM   #94
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Checker auto has a sunforce 15 watt panel with controller for $99 About the same set up as the one at costco for $139

sunforce 15 watt

checker store locator
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Old 06-25-2008, 05:18 PM   #95
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Trailer: Bigfoot 5th Wheel
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I actually went down to my Checker store and bought one of these and it is the whole kit. When looking on line for extra 15 watt panels to add on to this I find they are the same price - $99 -as this kit with the controller. It seems like you should be able to get just a panel for less...

Checker auto has a sunforce 15 watt panel with controller for $99 About the same set up as the one at costco for $139

sunforce 15 watt

checker store locator
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Old 06-26-2008, 02:39 PM   #96
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Alas, the 2006 $179 Harbor Freight price for the Chicago Electric 45 Watt solar panel kit is now listed as $219 (ITEM 90599-8VGA. Bummer! But wait! The same unit is sold on Ebay in June 2008 for $177 . . . see this link:

The above kit weighs 9.7 lbs. and the panel dimensions are: 12.40'' x 36.42'' x 0.75'' (each panel.) But is 45 watts really enough? I also found an 80 watt panel (not a kit) on Ebay for $335. It's dimensions are 38.9x 26.4 x 1.57 and it weighs 20 lbs.

Here's what the seller has to say about the 80 watt unit:

Brand New 80 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel From Solar Cynergy with cells from Q-Cells PV-SC080J12

Manufacturer: Solar Cynergy
Cells: Q-Cells
Model Name: SLP80-12
Max Power: 80 W
Open Circuit Voltage (Voc): 21.6V
Short Circuit Current (Isc): 5.17A
Optimum Operating Current (Imp): 4.65A
Optimum Operating Volatage (Vmp): 17.2V

Solar Cynergy photovoltaic modules are designed for commercial and domestic applications and suitable for both grid-tied and off grid systems. Solar Cynergy offers both high performance and reliability. The silicon solar cells, held by heavy duty anodized aluminum frames, are laminated with TPT & EVA for longer working life and high efficiency output. An ideal power supply for boats, traffic signs, lights, pumps, vehicles, RVs, homes, camping and caravans.

Q-Cells wafers are cleaned with acids and alkaline solutions and electrophysically altered. An anti-reflection film made of silicon nitride is applied to them to increase their efficiency. And finally electrical contacts are attached. Q-Cells sells the finished cells to solar module manufacturers.

Visit for more info!

Admittedly, I know next to nothing about all things electric. However, my brother has an 80 watt panel that he uses for boondocking for weeks at a time and is quite happy with his not-too-skimpy lifestyle out in the middle of the desert. He listens to satellite radio and watches Direct TV shows to his heart's content. He gets all the power he needs for his 22 foot trailer (not a FGRV, but I plan on making him a convert) from this single panel. As for me, I usually meet up with him and bring the laptop camping to work on report cards for 3 consecutive days before I allow myself to go hiking, kayaking, or fishing. If I do the fun stuff first I'd never finish my report cards! But the laptop is a big energy drain and even when I'm not working on report cards I always have some kind of a project in the works. I recently learned from Gina's website that I shouldn't work on the laptop while plugged into the inverter because this draws more juice than if I turned the laptop off and recharged it's battery. I'm trying to plan ahead for the future in terms of what appliances I'll be using on the road. I'd also like to get the TV adapter gadget that goes into the BUS port of the laptop instead of buying a TV for the trailer. Weight is also one of my considerations since my Highlander can only tow 1500 lbs.

So, back to the two panel comparison. . . in term of portability, which seems to be an issue for many, the 45W panel 328sq" larger than the 80W unit but weighs half as much. The interior of my Campster is roughly 6' X 9' so space is important to me. If I had to add more 15W panels to the array to beeter meet my needs I'd be stuck hauling around something even bigger. The 45W unit costs $3.93/watt and the 80W unit costs $4.19/watt, which in my book is a nominal difference. However, the 45W kit includes 3, 6, 9, 12 volt DC adapter outlets; Easy-to-read LED charge indicator; mounting hardware, light, 12V socket and battery clamps. The 80W unit is only a panel and needs all the other dohickies to make it function. The Techie from the Cynergy Company suggested a 10 amp controller at $60, so this would also need to be factored into the equation (but I also got the impression that he was really trying to upsell to me when he told me that a CCFL light equivalent to a 60W incandescent bulb requires 14w of power and since I like a lot of light, he suggested that I get at least a 120W panel!)

Perhaps I have wattage envy. Perhaps I'm overanalyzing things. I'm trying figure out how to get the maximum wattage for the best price without having to tote a lot of cumbersome equipment around in my tiny trailer. Does anyone have any thoughts on the subject? Am I comparing apples to oranges? I have no clue!!!

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Old 06-26-2008, 02:55 PM   #97
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The Harbor Freight set is on sale for 179.99 through July 7th according to the ad I have sitting on my desk.
1979 Boler B1300 | 1987 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | 1988 Bigfoot 5th Wheel | We officially have a collection!
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Old 06-26-2008, 05:24 PM   #98
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The Harbor Freight set is on sale for 179.99 through July 7th according to the ad I have sitting on my desk.
I've just GOT to get on their mailing list! If I end up getting their solar kit I can pick it up locally and save on the freight charges. I wonder why they don't show it as on sale online? Lizbeth!
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Old 06-26-2008, 07:03 PM   #99
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I've just GOT to get on their mailing list! If I end up getting their solar kit I can pick it up locally and save on the freight charges. I wonder why they don't show it as on sale online? Lizbeth!
From talking to my local HF manager, the online group is totally seperate from the retail stores, tho he did tell me they would honor the online prices, if lower.

Plotting my next adventures...
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