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45 Watt Solar Charging system from Harbor Freight
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Van-Goat
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:23 am    Post subject: 45 Watt Solar Charging system from Harbor Freight Reply with quote

I'm considering picking up the kit that Harbor Freight has for my 86 Weekender. It is the 45 Watt, it has 3 - 15 watt solar panels comes with an LED charge indicator, plus a few extras. Their Item Number is 90599 Regular price is listed as $229, with an email coupon it is $169.99 until July 17. Seems like a great deal, does anybody have this system, if so how does it perform? The reviews on their site seem good, only 1 person bagging on the regulator with several 4 and 5 out of 5 star ratings.

As a side note, if anyone would like the coupon pm me with your email and I'll forward it to you. $60 off is a pretty good deal if this setup works well!
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SWbySWesty
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do a quick search for solar and you'll see that there seems to be a consensus that you want 80+ watts in a system and that the HF package is quite large for the power output. I'm debating pulling the trigger on a UL-Solar package.
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oreana123
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most importantly the materials sold in that store are crap! You've been told so no whining later
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Van-Goat
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to both of you for the input! I don't have a whole bunch of experience with their goods. So it is over-sized for the power it can provide, doesn't provide enough power, and is basically crap. In light of this information I will not be purchasing one, thanks again gentleman!
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stclair411
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SWbySWesty wrote:
Do a quick search for solar and you'll see that there seems to be a consensus that you want 80+ watts in a system and that the HF package is quite large for the power output. I'm debating pulling the trigger on a UL-Solar package.


This one? Any good?

http://www.ul-solar.com/RV_Solar_Power_Kit_85_Watt_12_Volt_p/stp085p-rv.htm
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themervino
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I picked up a Kyocera 135 watt panel for around $350. You can find a 10 amp charge controller for cheap. Don't cut yourself short on the amps coming in ,you will regret it later on.
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SWbySWesty
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stclair411 wrote:
SWbySWesty wrote:
Do a quick search for solar and you'll see that there seems to be a consensus that you want 80+ watts in a system and that the HF package is quite large for the power output. I'm debating pulling the trigger on a UL-Solar package.


This one? Any good?

http://www.ul-solar.com/RV_Solar_Power_Kit_85_Watt_12_Volt_p/stp085p-rv.htm

Yea, that's the one. Or the 125w one. Last time I visited the store, the 85w kit was $318. Now it's $279. Not a bad price drop!

I can't find many reviews about the company's panels is why I haven't pulled the trigger yet.
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Bruce Wayne
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a 15watt HF panel. I do not have a fridge,heater or any other power hungry items. just the house lights and stereo. so far (2 years) it has been great.
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ShootingFish
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does anyone have the dimensions of the front luggage rack? I am currently in another state far away from my westy.... And the UL Solar 85W sounds perfect!
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madspaniard
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

about 48" x 19"

Regarding this comment above.."Don't cut yourself short on the amps coming in ,you will regret it later on" depends on your needs, each case is different. Look at your present and future power needs and size your solar panel system accordingly, with some extra room just in case.
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ShootingFish
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the idea of a bigger panel... and given those dimensions, I guess that bigger is going to better as I am going to be rack mounted either way.
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subter
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've got two 18 watt panels at home connected to 3 deep cycle batteries. I can pretty much charge small electronics, batteries, etc. If I wanted to I could run low power lights a small fan or radio but that's about it. And it takes a while to charge them back up after heavy use. If you're going through the trouble to install on a van I'd go with at least 80 watts.
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cvbill
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've had the HF 45 watt system on my van for about 3 years now. Very happy with it. It feeds a 55 amp Optima batt under the driver's seat and runs an Engel model 45 reefer and assorted lights. The charge controller is great with a led readout, usb port(5v(?)), 12v cigarette plug,3v,5v,9v,+two more 12v plugs.
i've listened to many P&M about HF; but without their pricing I would never had considered getting into metal work. Mig welder, lathe, vertical mill, metal bender, shear, former.
My latest gig was to build an aux gas tank (under sliding door) out of 20 gauge steel, POR tank sealer. Hols about 7-8 gal. Total outlay-$65 Happy (long range) Camper Bill L
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subter
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've eyed that set for a couple years now. I get that coupon and it's very tempting. It's the cheapest I've found for that wattage. Although it is a bit on the large size. Do you have it mounted on the top of your van or do you set it up when you arrive at camp? Either way it really does depend on what you want to run off it and for how long. Other factors like placement, amount of sunlight, ambient temp of the batteries and keeping it clean will affect performance.
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crazyvwvanman
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just got a coupon for $150 yesterday, for that low grade solar setup. It is simply too large for the power it makes and not that well priced even at $150. The HF 45 uses more than 9 square feet of roof space for what other 45 Watt panels do in less than 4 square feet. Look around a little. Like here.

http://cgi.ebay.com/SOLAR-PANEL-45-WATT-45W-12-VOL...1e65227864

Or here.

http://cgi.ebay.com/SOLAR-PANEL-60-WATT-60W-12-VOL...415b913e18

http://cgi.ebay.com/SOLAR-PANEL-85-WATT-85W-12-VOL...415b8a25c3

Mark

subter wrote:
I've eyed that set for a couple years now. I get that coupon and it's very tempting. It's the cheapest I've found for that wattage. Although it is a bit on the large size. Do you have it mounted on the top of your van or do you set it up when you arrive at camp? Either way it really does depend on what you want to run off it and for how long. Other factors like placement, amount of sunlight, ambient temp of the batteries and keeping it clean will affect performance.
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tencentlife
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They are large in area for the wattage because they are amorphous silicon panels. This technology costs the least to manufacture but has the lowest efficiency (as in power/area). They also typically experience about 10-15% output loss in the first few months in use, but the published ratings usually account for this.

All PV is of generally high quality, no matter which technology is employed it simply can't be done on the cheap, so you do get what you pay for. But the three methods in use, monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous, are progressively less expensive per watt but also progressively less efficient. Where space is an issue, such as in use on top of a van, I think it's worthwhile paying more per watt to get mono- or polycrystalline units. Myself, I will only buy the best, monocrystalline PV. My entire house and workshop runs on it.

And that HF amorphous tri-lam is moderately priced per watt at the sale price, but by shopping around a bit you could do just as well with a monocrystalline panel that would be much smaller in area.


Quote:
you'll see that there seems to be a consensus that you want 80+ watts in a system
Really? I didn't realise everyone has the same load profile.

Quote:
Don't cut yourself short on the amps coming in ,you will regret it later on.
What I would regret is buying and lugging around more expensive PV power than I need.

Quote:
Look at your present and future power needs and size your solar panel system accordingly, with some extra room just in case.
Ahh, at last, a rare voice of reason.
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SWbySWesty
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote]Really? I didn't realise everyone has the same load profile.

Quote:
Ahh, at last, a rare voice of reason.


I think sizing a little over requirements fits into these two comments. If a fridge is pulling 40-60amps, then factoring in radio and light usage, laptop (photo editing at night or a movie) then you might want to double it. Wouldn't this also allow for faster charging of the system?

Naturally, the best bang for the buck is to add another battery.
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subter
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I think everyone is just sharing their experiences with solar which helps someone getting into it make some initial decisions. There are so many factors involved to suit the setup to the person. Extra battery storage is a good idea, especially if you go for periods of time not using solar only. Then you have more reserve to deplete, as long as you can wait the extra time it'll take to charge the batteries in between usage. But the down side is your batteries will spend more time at lower voltages which isn't the best but I've got 3 larger deep cycle batteries running off of two 18watt panels and have never had any issues. I never deplete them below 12 volts though.
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jackbombay
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Without an electric fridge I think that 45 watts is enough for most people, in the middle of summer with many hours of daylight I think 45 is enough even with a fridge. But without doing load calculations none of this is anything to base a purchase on.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

it seemed to be about half as efficient wrt to area as a Sharp panel from Home depot. 33mW/in^2 vs 61 for the Sharp Home Depot one...

doesn't seem like a bad deal for $/Watt though...
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