Harbor Freight's 45 watt solar panel - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-05-2015, 04:20 PM   #1
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Harbor Freight's 45 watt solar panel

This is a "Thunderbolt Magnum" and it's a solar panel kit. Looks like 3 panels with a stand behind them, and some electrical stuff included. Regular price $299, on sale for $139.

Looks tempting, but I know HF stuff is often a disappointment. Any advice to offer?

Thanks,
LP
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Old 08-05-2015, 04:37 PM   #2
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Harbor Freight's 45 watt solar panel

You might look at the Northern Tool crystalline NPower 35 watt panel and solar charge controller to get nearly the same wattage in a much smaller panel.

There is usually a large difference in efficiency between the amorphous solar panels and the crystalline solar panels.

At the EAA Oshkosh Airventure air show, I put a little 12 watt NT crystalline panel on my gravel shield to maintain my battery while we dry camped for a week. (I was only using LED lighting, occasional electric water pump, and a couple hours of Fantastic Fan each night.)

See this thread:
How long will battery last...

Good luck! 😀

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Old 08-05-2015, 04:57 PM   #3
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those panel kits from HF have been panned as pretty bad by members a few times. I have looked at them and at what is offered on Amazon and they seem overpriced & underpowered. The "stand" is really not much. You could do as well with a couple of pieces of aluminum angle from the hardware store.

Pretty sure you can get more power per dollar in a more reliable package by asking around.

Oh and I have never actually seen those things on display at HF except on sale for less than $150 Which also happens to be the cost of a good panel and controller.
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Old 08-05-2015, 05:18 PM   #4
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When HF makes a big discount it often means that they are clearing out existing stock either because there have been too many returns, or that it's being replaced by an improved version. Usually the former from my experience.
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Old 08-05-2015, 05:32 PM   #5
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Thanks. I'm glad to get this feedback. The crystalline panel looks more and more attractive.
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Old 08-05-2015, 05:54 PM   #6
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I would look around for where you are planning to store the panel and work from the dimensions there.

I recall Carol H. used bungee type arrangement to hold it in place at the end of a cabinet or closet on edge. Some mount them, or create storage locations on the tongue or rear bumper. But whatever size you get will have to go somewhere and provide sufficient charging capacity to make it worth taking along.

In my 13 ft. Scamp I figure I have the closet walls inside and outside, with a slight bias towards outside walls of closet since I don't want to dig for it when setting up camp. Either end of the kitchen base cabinet which is a pretty small "wall" but could in theory go up to the ceiling. Front face of the couch base near the door, or behind the couch back.

If it does not fit in one of those locations it had better fold and go under seat storage someplace. One extra consideration small might stay in the camper even if not expecting to camp without shore power. Larger would possibly only go if one knows there will be a need for it.

Just something to think about. Where does it get packed or stowed? Better 20 - 40 watts you don't mind hauling than 100 watt that annoys the blazes out of you trying to keep it out of your way anytime it is not outside and set up.
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Old 08-05-2015, 06:32 PM   #7
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I have seen 3 amorphous 15 watt solar cells being dumped lately, both in stores, and through Craig's List, (kijiji actually). They are way big for the power produced. I purchased two 40 watt Coleman cells for $100 cdn each. Sort of like this one:
SunForce Products Inc. - Coleman Solar - Coleman 40W Folding Solar Panel Kit with Stand
They each came with a PWM solar controller big enough for 120 watts. My son got two 60 watt panels for $170 cdn each at Costco:
Referral - Coleman 60W Solar Kit - $170 CDN
They each came with the same PWM charge controller, plus a 300 watt inverter, and a bunch of wire and other stuff.
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Old 08-05-2015, 06:44 PM   #8
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Canadian Tire has the 40W crystalline panels on sale again this weekend. I have two.
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Old 08-05-2015, 07:01 PM   #9
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I love Canadian Tire. That would be $76 US. I got my 40 watt panels at crappy tire.

One 40 watt panel that is as big as one 15 watt amorphous panel.

This week they have a 100 watt panel for $300 cdn.
http://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/ho...l#.VcKkMflVhBc
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Old 08-06-2015, 06:18 PM   #10
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Solar Panel

I got a 38 watt Coleman at Home depot for 149.00 with 2 year replacement warranty. Works great
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Old 08-06-2015, 07:18 PM   #11
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Harbor Freight's 45 watt solar panel

I like the Canadian Tire panels too.
One point about the original question is that Watts are Watts and that is watt counts (yea, little pun there). I have a variety of panels and have found that none of them ever gave me the rated wattage, and usually on a full sun day they would give between 1/2 and 3/4 of the rated wattage while charging lead batteries. They are usually designed to optimize their current around 13Volts so to get maximum charging current at lead battery voltage, but the modern larger ones have boxes that allow the panel voltage to run at a more efficient power point and the box uses switch mode converters to optimize for a lead battery. If your interested search MPPT charge controller. The whole thing is complex and temperature dependant and even the MPPT charge controllers eat 10%to 15% of the panels energy in switching losses. Bottom line is there are many ways to rate the wattage of a solar panel, but what counts to us is the actual wattage charging the battery and that is usually significantly less than what it says on the advertising.
Oh one other point. David is right on that the amorphous units are less efficient (but cheaper), but for solar panels of either type SIZE MATTERS. If you see a one foot square panel rated at 40 watts you know it was the sales department that chose that rating, not the engineering department.


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Old 08-06-2015, 07:43 PM   #12
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Harbor Freight's 45 watt solar panel

Last weekend we had a family gathering at the lake and my brother showed up with a new Coleman 40watt panel. The weather was clear and sunny and near noon we carefully positioned the panel and measured 2.02A going into the battery that was sitting at 12.5V. That is 25.25 watts. I think it is a good setup and the price was right so I would certainly buy one (if I needed another one), but it was rated at 40 and gave 25. In fact the user manual says 2.3Amps maximum into the battery, so 28.75 watts maximum.
He has a new modern trailer and so I measured his current consumption with only the fridge on and it was very close to 2A. So that is 48 AHr/day and he is likely to get about 12 or 15 AHr/day charge out of his 40 watt solar panel if he diligently keeps it pointed at the sun. So with no lights or pumps used....just the fridge, he is taking over 30AHr out of his battery per day. A 100AHr battery should give him 2 days without the solar panel and 3 days with the 40 Watt solar panel.


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Old 08-06-2015, 07:54 PM   #13
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Doug makes what I think is an important point. Small panels may not yield 100% replacement charge but still provide an extended camping time. For those that don't have any high power draw items they might actually get that 100% replacement.
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Old 08-06-2015, 09:03 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rdickens View Post
You might look at the Northern Tool crystalline NPower 35 watt panel and solar charge controller to get nearly the same wattage in a much smaller panel.
Ray, is this the one?
http://www.amazon.com/NPower-Crystal...+35+watt+panel

Would this give me enough power to run the fridge, occasional lights, a fan, and charge computer?

LP
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