HF 45w Solar Kit feedback - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-27-2009, 11:54 AM   #1
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Name: Eddie
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Harbor Freight has their 45 W solar panel kit (3-15Watt Panels) on sale with a coupon for $179.99. I have read many old posts most of which covers people storing and setting them up. Besides needing to purchase a better controller I would like to get some feedback from users. Watts per $ they look like a good buy. Are the three panels worth the hassle to set up and store? Have you broken a panel yet or had any problems with them after a little use? Would I be better off to just to purchase a single 45-60 watt panel from a brand name Mfg.?
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Eddie
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Old 01-27-2009, 12:19 PM   #2
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Peter h did a single panel setup on his Scamp 5th that is probably an excellent solution for you.
His origninal post is here
and I'm sure he'll jump in with additional details for you.
Will be more expensive then the HF solution, but I think it would be worth it.
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:00 PM   #3
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Frederick has posted his HF Solar installation here.
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:59 PM   #4
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Hi Eddie,

The Harbor Freight kit has its limitations, but if it meets your power needs and your panels are covered when you're not using them it is an OK solution.

Things you should know:

There are three commonly available types of solar panels: amorphous coating panels, polycrystaline, and monocrystaline panels. The 'crystaline panel types have a number of advantages: they produce more power per square foot of panel, produce power over a wider range of angles of the sun, and they last longer when left out in the sun. (Solar rays slowly delaminate and damage the amorphous coating in the Harbor Freight cheapies, but if you take them inside or cover them to block the sun's energy when you're not using them they'll last a long time.)

It all comes down to how much energy you use each day and how much energy your solar panels make. If you don't use a forced-air furnace (or do your camping in places where you don't need your heater) and have LED lighting in your most-used lights and don't have many other draws on your power, the HF panels might just do the trick. Several people here have reported using them with good results.

And, yes, Frederick's portable panel setup is cool! Another cool setup is (Gina's?) rock-guard mount, though that's just one panel, I think.
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Old 01-27-2009, 07:06 PM   #5
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Quote:
1. Are the three panels [b]worth the hassle to set up and store?
2. Have you broken a panel yet or had any problems with them after a little use?
3. Would I be better off to just to purchase a single 45-60 watt panel from a brand name Mfg.?
1. As they are from Harbor Freight
The angled mounting frame is designed to be permanently screwed to the roof of your garden shed. Without fasteners the whole assembly is somewhat tenuous.

My hinge mod and guitar case storage are what make this set-up workable for me. I like being able to redirect their orientation in a Low-tech (cheap) manner. They would facilitate a long term boon-dock at Quartzite's dome rock area with 2 group 27 wet-cell batteries; [b]keeping up with the way I use power. (on edit: I have my 1156 and 1157 interior light bulbs (6 fixtures) changed out to 18- and 36-pack LED's with retro sockets. I also have 2 sets of the Cold Cathode Florescent tubes. My Duette Range-Heater's blower motor doesn't seem to be quite the power drain that other furnaces are. I have each battery isolated from the other. One battery runs the Lights, Water Pump, Fantastic Fan, and Heater Blower. The other battery runs a 400 watt inverter for my TV/VCR and computer charger)

2. No Once again, storage in a hard shell guitar case protects them when not in use, and I only Boondock 20% of the time (or less).

3. Your mileage may vary. I would recommend that if you plan on a permanent flat roof install, keeping in mind Peter's polycrystaline, and monocrystaline recommendations.
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Old 01-27-2009, 08:44 PM   #6
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Thanks to everyone for the replys. I had missed Peter's roof top solar panel install in my ealier search. Since I just picked up a shinny new to me Scamp I am not inclined to drill holes in it for a perm. roof mount at this time even though that is what I had planned to do with my older Scamp. I understand that the HF set up is just a little more than trickle charge or about 20-30 amp hours per day with good sun. I just wanted to make sure the HF panels were sturdy, reliable and worth the money.
One more question, Anyone know the current draw for a Suburban NT-12SE furnace?
Thanks again
Eddie
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Old 01-27-2009, 09:27 PM   #7
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One more question, Anyone know the current draw for a Suburban NT-12SE furnace?
Thanks again
Eddie
According to the manual the NT-12 draws 2.8A. Keep in mind that it only draws current when it is running since it just runs the fan. The ignition system only works for a short time to get the flame started and it only draws a few mA anyway.

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Old 01-29-2009, 10:03 AM   #8
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You can find anything on Youtube

I have the Coleman 45 watt kit, basically the same thing, but better quality glass and mountings.. also making it heavier. The panels are OEM, actually made by ICP.

The weight was the downfall for me. Managable in the full array with my 13 footer, but too heavy for me to lift into my 17 footer. I split the panels so I can carry one at a time, made some wiring modifications and I now carry 2 "loose" and one is permanently mounted to my rock guard.. it stows by folding it under the guard on a hinge. I also got folding briefcase type panels that stow under one seat and almost never take the two loose larger panels with me anymore. (They get used at home, however)

As far as 45 watts is concerned, with my 13 footer, it worked great as I had very little to consume power. Just lights and a small water pump and fan. Thats the key.. KISS.

And yes, they do break. I accidentally stepped on one of the Coleman panels last year, and the back (Fortunately) split much like your windshield would. It still works just fine, however.
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Old 01-29-2009, 11:30 AM   #9
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Thanks for the furnace current draw info.
Gina
Great videos, very educational and also lots of great home projects. I'm leaning toward a portable solar collector set up at this time.
Thanks
Eddie
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