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45 watt, Harbor Freight portable solor panel, junk or worth while?


mr. cob

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Howdy All,

 

I don't think I would get my monies worth doing a large solar panel setup on my trailer for the amount of time I would be camped in a place where I could take advantage of it. However I have thought that something like the 45 watt unit offered by Harbor Freight might be something I could use when I camp at places like Death Valley for a week of so.

 

This unit sells for anywhere from $129.00 to $145.00 depending on what sale or promotion they have going, when its on sale and you throw the 20% off coupon into the mix its not much more then a 100 bucks. So when boon docking I have been running my generator for about 30-60 minutes per day, for those who know about electrical things would this 45 watt solar setup accomplish what I am now doing with the generator, I am very frugal with electrical usage but it would be nice to not run the generator and use that gas to keep the toys running while I am out camping.

 

Any advise concerning this unit would be appreciated, thanks.

 

Dave

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Modern RV's use about 20 amp hours a day with the detectors, water pump, today's gas appliances have electronic control boards just sitting there without lights and toys, a 100 watt panel would just about cover the 20 amp hour usage, a 45 watt panel won't cover it. Google "handy Bob solar" and "Jack Mayer solar"

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Keep in mind that the solar panel is only the first step and first expense. You will need the rest of the equipment to make everything work. I assume you already have an inverter, but many items will not run off the inverter so you will probably still need to run the generator, perhaps just not as often. I too suspect that 45 watts will not be enough. That rating is at peak efficiency and the reality of solar panels is that for the most part, you will get about half the rated watts and everything depends on the amount of sunlight and number of hours per day minus what you actually use. Chuck

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At $100 for 45 watts, the Harbor Freight system costs $2.22 cents per watt. More if it's not on sale.

 

Amazon lists several 100 to 165 watt panels for $1.00 per watt or less. You'll have to add a solar controller, these start around $20 for a 20 amp PWM controller that would let you add a second 100 watt panel in the future.

 

This makes the cost for a 100 watt system around $125, with twice the capacity of the Harbor Freight package and with room for future expansion.

 

If you want to upgrade beyond that, the panels offered on Amazon are industry standard, so you could keep the panels you start out with and just upgrade the controller as you add more panels.

 

With the Harbor Freight system, you'd have to throw it all away and start over.

 

Solar prices have dropped dramatically in the past couple of years. Harbor Freight seems to be a little bit behind the price curve.

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I have not played with harbors kit because you can by a 50 watt renolgy kit complete for 86 to 125 through amazon or i would recomend going with 100 watt kit 160 to 180. You dont have to mount them permanent. Part separate 100 watt panel 100 to 120, controller 12 to 20, pair of 20 ft mc4 calbes 20 to 25, i have made several 100 watt suit case portable panels using 2 50 watt panel from huicane solar 65 each x 2 = 130. Physical panel size vares but the panels i bought are 50 watt 26 x 26, 100 watt 26 x 40. I also used anderson connectors on the ends of a 10 ga sj cord ( more flexable than 10 ga pv wire) and made a 30 ft portable cord ( between panel and contoller) mounted perment in 5th basement, plug and play.

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Dave,

 

The Harbor Freight panel won't do much more than maintain a battery with some basic phantom draws on it. It won't keep up with any type of real useage. I have an 80w Kyocera portable panel with a Sunseeker charge controller attached to it. I have 15 or 20 feet of cable on it so I can set it in the best spot to catch the sun. I also have tilt mounts on it to allow me to tilt it toward the sun (whether I have it sitting on the ground or on my roof or wherever). When I deploy it, it will slowly put a charge on my bank when I am not using anything in the coach (other than phantom loads). Once I start using any juice it doesn't really keep up. I will probably move this panel and it's portable connection to my truck now that I will be adding a full array to my new trailer.

 

I plan to give a presentation on my new solar system at the WCR, along with an updated version of my inverter presentation from last year. If you can make it down, it might be beneficial for you. I'm also happy to talk to you about solar off line if you want to get in touch with me. I will have several solar installs completed on 5th wheels by the time the WCR rolls around.

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If your can swing a visit to the WCR this year you can "sponge" all kinds of info on solar.......and maybe put together a nice little system to fit your needs!

 

Just throwing it out there.......

Howdy MrSeas,

 

My wife, who I can't talk into retiring is a school teacher, last day of school this year because they have to make up any snow days is June 15th. I could attend the rally by myself, which I did for the first one held in Sparks NV, but I would really like to bring her so this would make it difficult to go ahead with our summer travel plans with out me doing many miles of back tracking. Yes I know, a first world problem but one that is getting to me.

 

Dave

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Dave,

 

The Harbor Freight panel won't do much more than maintain a battery with some basic phantom draws on it. It won't keep up with any type of real useage. I have an 80w Kyocera portable panel with a Sunseeker charge controller attached to it. I have 15 or 20 feet of cable on it so I can set it in the best spot to catch the sun. I also have tilt mounts on it to allow me to tilt it toward the sun (whether I have it sitting on the ground or on my roof or wherever). When I deploy it, it will slowly put a charge on my bank when I am not using anything in the coach (other than phantom loads). Once I start using any juice it doesn't really keep up. I will probably move this panel and it's portable connection to my truck now that I will be adding a full array to my new trailer.

 

I plan to give a presentation on my new solar system at the WCR, along with an updated version of my inverter presentation from last year. If you can make it down, it might be beneficial for you. I'm also happy to talk to you about solar off line if you want to get in touch with me. I will have several solar installs completed on 5th wheels by the time the WCR rolls around.

Howdy Chad,

 

Thanks for your offer of off line correspondence, I just might take you up on this as I am a babe inthe woods when it comes to ANYTHING electrical or electronic.

 

Dave

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Howdy MrSeas,

 

My wife, who I can't talk into retiring is a school teacher, last day of school this year because they have to make up any snow days is June 15th. I could attend the rally by myself, which I did for the first one held in Sparks NV, but I would really like to bring her so this would make it difficult to go ahead with our summer travel plans with out me doing many miles of back tracking. Yes I know, a first world problem but one that is getting to me.

 

Dave

 

Its only a few hundred miles......LOL

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Its only a few hundred miles......LOL

Howdy MrSeas,

 

Well actually its 518.7 miles one way, so going to the WCR then coming home, then pretty much retracing that route to fulfill our summer plans mounts up. Living at an extreme corner of the country makes going anywhere a long distance trip; if Kansas weren't so flat, cold and windy I'd live there.

 

Dave

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