Harbor Freight Solar Panel Kit

Discussion in 'Energy & Electricity' started by sailaway, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

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    Is anybody comfortable with Harbor Freight Equiptment? Their current sales paper has a 45watt sloar pannel kit for $169.99, $80.00 off. Would you feel comfortable buying something this technical from a company like this. I suppose it all comes from China anyways.:confused:
     
  2. pills

    pills Well-Known Member

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    What item number?
     

  3. xj35s

    xj35s Guest

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    I can tell you they have great service and backing. If you buy the extended warranty They will replace it no questions asked. I think up to 3 years.
     
  4. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

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    I don't know but can probably find out. It was in an advertising circular that come in the mail last week.
     
  5. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

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    The advertising circular labeled it as Chicago Electric Power Systems Lot#90599. Under the UPC Bar is the # 39148291. I saw an 80 watt system at Menards this weekend for $500.00. It was by Sunpower or Sunsource. I'm not sure about its quality either.:confused:
     
  6. pills

    pills Well-Known Member

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    I dont know if it is a full endorsement but in the show the colony they got most of their stuff including the panels from harbor freight.
     
  7. youpock

    youpock Well-Known Member

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    That show is sometimes too obvious, they "stumbled" onto a supply of harbor freight power tools...

    Some of hf's stuff is total crap but some stuff works well, simple tools that I don't use often hf is a great option.

    A friend of mine has a wake boarding boat that he wanted to run a large stereo system in. We upgraded the alternator to 200 amps and installed two deep cycle batteries. Initially we thought this was enough to run everything and when driving the boat its fine but we wanted to be able to turn the boat off and just anchor while listening to music. It would drain the batteries even at low volumes. Hf had a sale going on for 5 watt panels for $19.99, we installed three on the top of his tower. We welded them to O's that bolted on to the top of the tower with rubber inlays. They run great and have been holding up well; the boat sort of takes a beating and shakes a lot just due to its natural and the panels are still holding up fine.

    I don't know if I would want to use hf's solar panels to power my home but something to tuck away and store for later I bought a few and stashed them.
     
  8. KC8UXU

    KC8UXU Member

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    I don't have any knoweledge of how good the panels are....but in my latest NRA magazine there is a coupon to buy the set for $149.00........save $100.00.....might be worth it at that price.
     
  9. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

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    I wound up buyingt the 3 pannel set for $169.00. I will use them for the cabin I want to build or for the bug out trailer.
     
  10. youpock

    youpock Well-Known Member

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  11. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

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  12. youpock

    youpock Well-Known Member

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    Have you installed it yet? There are some folk on youtube that seem to be having good luck with it. Costco has deep cycle golf cart bats for $65 so $130 for batteries and $160 for panels. I have a few inverters already $300 bux for a simple dc setup. I'm thinking have it just to have some backup power other than a car or my gas gen.
     
  13. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

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    youpock, I haven't installed mine yet, I will probably do that next spring when the camping season starts up again. I am accumulating stuff like this for a cabin I would like to build when I find some land. sail
     
  14. TechAdmin

    TechAdmin Administrator Staff Member

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    We want to see it when it's finished!
     
  15. youpock

    youpock Well-Known Member

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    OHhh sweet cabin, I wish I had some land that I could stock pile solar panels for, lol. Someday..
     
  16. GetPreparedStuff

    GetPreparedStuff Member

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    I'd like to throw in some information concerning "the harbor freight 45 watt solar panel kit" and those like it sold under different brands. Some of the info is from personal experience with a smaller HF panel and the other is from what I've read and will share so you can draw your own conclusions.

    I've had some misgivings about these 45 watt kits after I had purchased a small Harbor Freight 5 watt panel a number of years ago which is made of the same solar cell material as the larger 15 watt HF panels and when I bring it out to test, I've noticed that it just hasn't performed very well compared to other 5 watt panels I am evaluating. The output having actually decreased over the time I've owned it. I don't have anymore data other than that observation but it's left me with a knot in my gut every time someone has asked me about the 45 watt HF panel kits.

    Every so often I'd look for experiences on the net from people that have actually bought and put in to use the HF panels but they have been very few and only initial reports, no long term data.

    However, in my hunt to find meaningful data that would support my gut suspicions, I came across this review:Amazon.com: M. Anderson's review of Sunforce 50044 60-Watt Solar Charging Kit

    That led me to the report it mentions: http://www.humboldt.edu/~aej1/aSiKenya_FinalReport_July2_05.pdf or http://www.humboldt.edu/~aej1/JacobsonKammen_aSi_Kenya_EP07.pdf

    In the report it shows some pictures of the panels with problems. They look similar/identical to me to the Harbor Freight panels which also are manufactured as I understand in Shenzhen China by the Topray Solar Company. By that association I could conclude that the panel design after almost 5 years hasn't changed much and any current and similar panels could be subject to the same failure rate as the study reported which was that of two sets of panels under different brand names but manufactured by the same company, 3 of 4 panels for one brand failed completely during the first few months of testing and 1 of 4 failed with the other brand. In addition the test showed that all panels from both brands showed a large decrease in their power output of over 50% in the short time they were in service. Meaning that after only a few months in the sun the panels were only supplying 6 watts of power from panels that were rated at 14 watts. (Note: the HF panels say 15 watts but under load their actual initial output is 12 watts or less) This 50% decrease in output would support what I've seen with my own HF 5 watt panel which is made of the very same solar cell materials as the larger set of 45 watt panels.

    The Topray Solar Company also makes similar panels for Sunforce in 60 watt configurations which are sold by a number of different stores and shop such as Amazon, CostCo and Northern Tool. Sunforce support and warranty service are a whole other topic for discussion.

    The solar cell material in question is fairly easy to identify compared to other solar panels. The panels are made of an amorphous A-SI type solar cell material also known as thin-film. Please note that not all thin-film solar panels have the same problem as the Harbor Freight or similar panels but the panels made by the same manufacture maybe suspect. The solar cells in question have very long thin lines down the length of the panels about 3/8 inch apart like in Figure 2 or Fig 6 of the Humbolt test results docs linked above.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 15, 2010
  17. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

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    Thanks GetPreparedStuff, I haven't tried mine yet, but was wondering about quality over time. I have also seen Sunsource at TSC and wondered about them. Same mfg.,same problem. I'm still working on land for cabin.
     
  18. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

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    Here we have a PrincessAuto (kind of like HarborFreight) and they carry the SunForce brand of solar panels. Are you telling me that if I purchased one of the 120watt panels for my RV that in very short order it would not be able to keep my batteries on it charged properly?

    I have a different brand of panel on my camper right now (80watt) and I haven't noticed any problems with it yet - but - its only been on it for a year now.
     
  19. GetPreparedStuff

    GetPreparedStuff Member

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    The larger wattage SunForce brand solar panels do not share the same solar cell chemistry and manufacturer as the Harbor Freight panels. The 120 watt panels are crystalline cells (a grid like checkerboard look) which shouldn't have the same degradation problems that are seen in the HF panels. I can't vouch for seals, leakage and other issue around the aluminum frame though.

    I have a beef however, with Sunforce which has been going on for almost a year now. Let's just say that if you ever need warranty service on their products, you maybe in for a battle to get them to honor or replace products with problems. Even if they do replace a product you may get one that came from an open box and doesn't work either.
     
  20. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

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    I looked at them last week while I was down there,
    And for the production, they just aren't stacking up for the price per watt produced.

    Plus most of them looked like factory seconds,
    I found blemishes in every box we opened, and that's a big deal when you are shelling out those kinds of bucks...

    Think about warranty also,
    Most 'First Run' panels will out perform their rated values, and have a 20 to 40 year warranty.
    Mine are about 10 years old now, and the STILL put out more than they were rated for new,
    But the older ones have discolored a little...
    No big deal as long as the produce!