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Old 07-03-2015, 09:12 AM   #1
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Harbor Freight Solar Kit

I realize this is a really inexpensive system (read cheap), but I am merely looking for an alternative to the generator to silence our few days a season of dry camping. Does anyone have experience with this particular system as a battery charging system? I really don't need it to run an Inverter but if it is capable, I might add a small one (<300watts).



Solar Panel Kit - Save on this 45 Watt Solar Panel Kit

The timing of this question is merely because the system is on sale for $129. I am not sure I would go this route for the $189 (or more) price.

Thanks, in advance and let the debate begin . . .
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Old 07-03-2015, 10:39 AM   #2
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Have yo looked at this?

100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit | Renogy Solar

..
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Old 07-03-2015, 12:19 PM   #3
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Thanks! I have VERY limited knowledge on solar systems. No, I haven't. Is this more reliable/better than the Harbor Freight system? It seems to provide more watts, but do I need that for just casual charging?

I do like that the cheaper system has a stand to set it up, but I am sure I could make do with what is in the campground for that if need be.
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Old 07-03-2015, 03:58 PM   #4
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I don't know a lot about it. I've been exploring it and it seems like a good "beginner" set.
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Old 07-03-2015, 04:13 PM   #5
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I have a friend who is not on this forum that has one. We have camped with them and it will charge his 1 battery in an sverage day. It also has a USB port and he charges his smart phone. To me the stand is a little hokie, but it works. Hope this helps. Yes it is worth the $129.00.
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Old 07-03-2015, 05:40 PM   #6
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I just looked at this one and if you want to go that route be very careful.
The web page states that it is a positive ground system. Our RVs are negative ground. They do offer an RV system but the cheapest is just over $300.
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Old 07-03-2015, 05:54 PM   #7
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I have a friend who is not on this forum that has one. We have camped with them and it will charge his 1 battery in an sverage day. It also has a USB port and he charges his smart phone. To me the stand is a little hokie, but it works. Hope this helps. Yes it is worth the $129.00.
Thanks, I am not sure I want the leash charged, but good to know!

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I just looked at this one and if you want to go that route be very careful.
The web page states that it is a positive ground system. Our RVs are negative ground. They do offer an RV system but the cheapest is just over $300.
And, wow Thanks!!
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Old 07-03-2015, 07:57 PM   #8
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Joel, The "positive ground" refers to the Load connection. I talked to the Renolgy folks and he re-assured me that this was a none-issue.

The controller can disconnect loads in order to maintain a battery, Ods are good, nobody would use that feature in an RV.

On cars, we control loads by turning the power on off. This controller controls loads by switching the ground on/off.
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Old 07-03-2015, 09:09 PM   #9
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I think I would worry about storing this unit in the RV and also it disappearing from my camp site when unattended.
I have 6 x 100 watt panels on my roof for this very reason. I want to KNOW it will be there when I get back.
Anyone considering solar "kits" should be aware most don't come with MPPT controllers. JMHO.... tied to experience. Been down the PWM road before. You get what you pay for.
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Old 07-03-2015, 09:18 PM   #10
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I think I would worry about storing this unit in the RV and also it disappearing from my camp site when unattended.
I have 6 x 100 watt panels on my roof for this very reason. I want to KNOW it will be there when I get back.
Anyone considering solar "kits" should be aware most don't come with MPPT controllers. JMHO.... tied to experience. Been down the PWM road before. You get what you pay for.
Thanks.
I don't leave the generator out, either if I am not there. I don't want them on the trailer because we always try to be in the woods. Shade is good for us, but bad for the panels.
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Old 07-04-2015, 10:00 AM   #11
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Joel, The "positive ground" refers to the Load connection. I talked to the Renolgy folks and he re-assured me that this was a none-issue.

The controller can disconnect loads in order to maintain a battery, Ods are good, nobody would use that feature in an RV.

On cars, we control loads by turning the power on off. This controller controls loads by switching the ground on/off.
That seems confusing. The web page says explicitly that you should use a different system.

I quote --
"Please Note: This is a Positive Ground Charge Controller. If grounding is necessary, it must be completed on the positive line. If the controller is to be used on a vehicle which has battery negative on the chassis, loads connected to the controller must not have an electrical connection to the vehicle body.
If you want to connect this solar system to a negative ground battery bank, you can choose Renogy RV kit or Renogy Premium kit."

Not saying that what they told you is wrong I just want the OP to have all the info he can.
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Old 07-04-2015, 12:36 PM   #12
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If you want something quite a bit better check out the Zamp Solar system web page, we have a 160 watt charger that will provide almost 10 amps per hour. Costs more than most systems but we are in this for a lifetime of enjoyment!! We have a long cable kayak lock that we use to secure to the system and trailer.
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Old 07-04-2015, 12:45 PM   #13
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I have two 10 watt panels that I put in the sun to recharge the battery when boondocking in Canada. Works good, but 10 X 2 watts is not very much... neither is 45 watts...
you won't be charging up much, but it would help.
$129 sounds like a great price to try it out and post back with your experiences later.
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Old 07-04-2015, 12:59 PM   #14
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I have two 10 watt panels that I put in the sun to recharge the battery when boondocking in Canada. Works good, but 10 X 2 watts is not very much... neither is 45 watts...
you won't be charging up much, but it would help.
$129 sounds like a great price to try it out and post back with your experiences later.
Thank you. That is pretty much in line with my thinking.
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Old 07-04-2015, 01:39 PM   #15
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Most of the reviews are positive but I think expectations are low.

Some have reported if you don't have a controller at night your battery will discharge through the panels. A few said the regulator $14 didn't last. HF's controller is actually overpriced compared to more reputable brands.

If you check Amazon you can find:
60 watts for $189
80 watts for $199
100 watts for $239
And these come with a controller. So for power you would have to buy 2 HF's for 260 to get close to the crystal in panels. HF gives you a 90 day warranty, these others will give you a good warranty and the panels themselves are warranted 25+ years.

It is just what you expect that determines if you will be happy.
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Old 07-04-2015, 01:49 PM   #16
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I bought and installed the Renogy 300 watt, MPPT kit. It works great. I would recommend this to anyone.


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Old 07-04-2015, 01:59 PM   #17
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I noticed that the shipping weight of the Harbor Freight model weighs 52 lbs. Do those panels weigh that much? I had no idea if they do.
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Old 07-04-2015, 02:06 PM   #18
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I don't remember what the shipping weight was. They're not too heavy. I put them on the roof and mounted them by myself. I got the kit from Amazon. Shipping was free. Look them up in Amazon. The description should answer your question.


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Old 07-04-2015, 02:13 PM   #19
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I used the Renogy Suitcase system for a bit with our Pop Up and it worked fine if you had good sun access. Ultimately we camp in shaded areas and we don't hang around our camp site a lot so I'm not there to track the sun and get optimal results with it.

It could get up to 5.5Amp output optimal in my experience. It's got a basic PWM controller. While it shows SOC (State of Charge) in theory, you'll still want a voltmeter on your battery to know the voltage.

The ZAMP/Samlex stuff s ridiculously overpriced. Sorry, it just is.

If your system is pre-wired for ZAMP. The SAE connectors are reverse of the industry norm (you can simply look at the back of the ZAMP connector on your RV and either re-wire them to be standard or just use the alligator clamps to hook up to your battery.

That Harbor Freight system uses hugely INEFFECIENT amorphous solar panels. Probably no better than 7% efficient. Cheap and you get what you pay for. I wouldn't bother wasting my money on it.

In the end, solar is cool but wasn't a good fit for us (at least right now) if you aren't able to tend to the angles or camp in shady areas.

FYI. If you camp in shady areas don't bother with the amorphous harbor freight system. One of the advantages of a mono cyrstalline system like the Renogy/ZAMP/Samlex systems is that you aren't affected as dramatically when getting partially shaded.

After trying to use the solar system for a week at yellowstone and three days at a lake near our house we ended up returning the Renogy system. Not because it didn't work, but because it didn't work for us. I recommend it if you'll be in sunny places and will be around to track the sun.
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Old 07-04-2015, 02:44 PM   #20
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Wow, this is good information! Maybe information overload for me. I am getting a little confused about which system does what now. . . From what I am reading, the HF system is not very efficient but it seems like this is dependent on what you want to do with it? Based on what I think are my simplistic wants, it may work out. I am not too worried (for the price) if it doesn't work out. I figure I could sell it for some small refund on Craigslist of a garage sale later?


We too seek the shade in NP/SP, but even in the thickest stuff I have seen direct sunlight. If I understand the above, that means I would have to physically move the panels throughout the time we are charging.


Weight might be a concern. I will have to figure that out.


I think I would pack the thing up after use. Wouldn't that mean disconnecting it to keep from battery discharge?


Can you give me some links to the Amazon systems you are referencing? I see 60 watt systems on there for upwards of $400. I stupidly assume those are above my basic requirements, but I don't know.
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