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Old 07-03-2011, 11:58 AM   #1
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Fold-Up Carrying Case Solar Panels At Harbor Freight

So I just wandered through Harbor Freight the other day, and noticed they have a new (to me at least!) solar panel set up that's made into a little briefcase-like carrying case, maybe about the size around of a standard computer monitor screen. The box says that it puts out 18-24 volts, and you can see in the picture various cable connectors to hook it up to various devices, or straight to a battery for charging. The packaging advertises the panel setup as being good for charging cordless drills among other things. I think it was around $80. Looked VERY interesting to me, since while I'm very interested to set up SOMETHING as far as a solar system for my rig, I'm very apprehensive about making holes in my trailer's shell, mounting permanent panels, etc. So something portable like this, that I could subtly set up, to just charge up when I'm boondocking or something, would be great, and if nothing else a great way to start out with solar. But, I have some questions/thoughts...
1. Would just hooking this sort of set up to my house battery directly allow it to just free flow whatever amt of electricity the panels create into my battery? Would that hurt it? I'm thinking there might need to be some kind of charge controller between the panel and the battery (seems like that's how most of the built-in systems people have made work).
2. The panel's packaging says it puts out 18-24 volts, while our house batteries are 12 volts, so again, would I be cooking my battery, or what?

Anyway, hoping that some of you guys who are WAY more engineering/creative/analytical than me have already seen this, have it all debugged, or at least have some good ideas/suggestions/etc?
Lets see how this thread goes!
Joe
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Old 07-03-2011, 12:23 PM   #2
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You would need a charge controller that would limit the output. I have 1X 15 watt unit I just lay on my tongue, it puts out about 1 amp/hour or maybe 6 amps on a good day. It is enough to keep my batteries topped off.
Find out the watts to compare to other units.
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Old 07-03-2011, 12:45 PM   #3
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A lot of people are buying HF solar panels. If it was me one of things I would want to know is the life of the panel. I bought a Kyocera 65 Watt panel about 3 years ago. The specs say that it will still have over 80% of it's output after 20 years. If you can't get that kind of specification I'd leave them on the shelf. It's not good economics if you have to replace them in a couple years.
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Old 07-03-2011, 02:18 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
It's not good economics if you have to replace them in a couple years.
A lot will depend on intensity of use. I boondock less than 25% of my trailering time. My 5 year old panels still function as well as they always have.
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Old 07-04-2011, 02:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
A lot of people are buying HF solar panels. If it was me one of things I would want to know is the life of the panel. I bought a Kyocera 65 Watt panel about 3 years ago. The specs say that it will still have over 80% of it's output after 20 years. If you can't get that kind of specification I'd leave them on the shelf. It's not good economics if you have to replace them in a couple years.
Byron, I'm wondering what an 'HF' panel is? I'm still so new to all of the solar stuff...
I KNEW I'd get some responses on this thread...hehehe
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Old 07-04-2011, 08:08 AM   #6
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Byron, I'm wondering what an 'HF' panel is? I'm still so new to all of the solar stuff...
I KNEW I'd get some responses on this thread...hehehe
"HF" is Harbor Freight
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Old 07-04-2011, 11:51 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph Domingos View Post
So I just wandered through Harbor Freight the other day, and noticed they have a new (to me at least!) solar panel set up that's made into a little briefcase-like carrying case, maybe about the size around of a standard computer monitor screen.
I went to my brand new Harbor Freight store and couldn't find what you are describing. I found the 45 watt sets like I own and the small 5 watt trickle charger that you place on the dashboard of your car... I guess I'll have to ASK next time...
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Old 07-04-2011, 12:25 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Frederick L. Simson View Post
I went to my brand new Harbor Freight store and couldn't find what you are describing. I found the 45 watt sets like I own and the small 5 watt trickle charger that you place on the dashboard of your car... I guess I'll have to ASK next time...
Hey Fred,
I found it on the HF website also, Chicago Electric Power Systems 95000, check it out there and see what you think, okay? I do value your techno input Mr Fred! hehe
HUGS!
Joe
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Old 07-04-2011, 12:40 PM   #9
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here you go
18 Volt to 24 Volt Solar Charger
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Old 07-05-2011, 09:25 PM   #10
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interested also to get your feedback Fred ... i have an Inside Track Membership (you pay an extra 20 bones for the year and get discounts on top of sales - yaaay!), so this week's sale puts the unit for me at $43 duckets. for the great portability and relatively decent charge power - i am quite interested, but will defer to your wisdom!
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:21 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
Gina D. used to have that set; I think she ordered it online, but not at HF, years ago. I borrowed her's once, before I bought my 45 watt set. I was very impressed.

So Harbor Freight carries them now? I'll have to check again.
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Old 07-06-2011, 06:57 AM   #12
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Frederick,
I may have misread something and if so sorry.

What is in the HF catalog is not always available in the stores.

Bill K


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Gina D. used to have that set; I think she ordered it online, but not at HF, years ago. I borrowed her's once, before I bought my 45 watt set. I was very impressed.

So Harbor Freight carries them now? I'll have to check again.
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Old 07-06-2011, 10:01 AM   #13
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I see my local Costco has the Coleman panel set in stock again, the 3 big panels that look SO MUCH like the HF set, for $199. Again though, just feel so apprehensive about making any holes in my trailer's hull... hehe
Anyway, so I've still got this folding case set on the brain, any suggestions for a controller that will keep it from cooking my battery, but at the same time won't break my bank account? I've been wanting to get started with something solar for a while, and I'm thinking this might be a good starting point. So portable I could use it for the trailer, and maybe use it for other applications too like charging the cell phone or IPad in camping trips as well...
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Old 07-06-2011, 10:53 AM   #14
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Joseph you dont need to add holes to the trailer - I use my panel free standing (easy to move around to where the sun actually is while camping). I leave the small controller always attached to the battery and put it inside a small water proof case attached to the battery case - so all I have to do to connect the panels is open up the box and plug the panel into it. Easy and no holes.
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