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Reviews Categories | Emergency/Portable Power: generators, solar, wind, thermal, etc | Harbor Frieght 45W solar kit Help

Reviews Summary for Harbor Frieght 45W solar kit
Harbor Frieght 45W solar kit Reviews: 7 Average rating: 4.3/5 MSRP: $249
Description: 3X15 Watt solar Panels with charge controller and CF lights
Product is in production.
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KJ6ZEL Rating: 5/5 Mar 22, 2014 17:26 Send this review to a friend
Keeps battery charged  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Purchased the three panel set a few months ago. Put the panels on my shop roof and they have kept my deep cycle 12v battery charged ever since. I have read the charge controllers that come with the panels do not work well. I have used the controller and had no problems. It seems to do it job just fine. I would reccommened these panels to anyone wanting to try some solar power. You will need a battery, the panel set and an inverter.
KF7VXA Rating: 5/5 Sep 1, 2012 22:11 Send this review to a friend
Good Deal  Time owned: more than 12 months
I agree with the positive reviews.

For the money, these are the best deal in solar panels. Yes, there are better panels, but they will cost far more. I like having multiple panels rather than just one or two higher amperage panels because if the one high power panel goes bad, your sunk, with this set, you will still have ones that will work.

I have bought 3 sets so that I have enough amperage to charge my back up radio batteries and a little light as well as some power to charge other batteries such as my AA batteries.

Be sure to buy a seperate charge controller, the box that comes with the panels does not do a good job of regulating the charging of the batteries, but is very handy for the voltage reducing plug in's as well as the two included lights.

The panels work well in shaded light where some won't, they won't give max. power, but far better than some other types of panels.

All in all, a very good deal for the price, that is why I rated it at a 5.

Watch for coupons, I have paid $149.99 for each set. The accessories sold by HF that go with the panels are low priced, work well and help connect the panels with little effort. They are often out of stock, so get them when you find them.
KJ6EEM Rating: 5/5 Dec 6, 2011 10:58 Send this review to a friend
Affordable & works for what I need  Time owned: more than 12 months
Living just a few miles off the San Andreas, I keep my system small, portable, and as redundant as possible. So I currently have 2 sets of these at opposite ends of my property.

I have them charging up my 35ah & 18ah batteries (3 of each). I use a battery power all the time in the shack as I charge another couple outside at the panels.

I am currently using Battery Tender Solar Chargers.
I am metering 22v going into the controller on a regular day, and I know that I get at least 14v coming out of the controller on cloudy days.

The frame provided at first seemed way too flimsy, but they have survived a wind storms with gusts up to 70mph... my guess is in part because they weren't too ridged - a good thing in earthquake country.

The controller I don't trust for charging, and the included CFL draw 0.43amp each- too high for my tastes for any sort of emergency use. So I turned those parts into a very bright lighting system with an on/off switch & build-in voltmeter in my large 10x12' shed... an added bonus :)
K9KJM Rating: 5/5 Sep 25, 2011 22:06 Send this review to a friend
Good value  Time owned: more than 12 months
SO KE7LLU has a small unit not even close to what this review is about to compare with, Plus some second and third hand reviews of units that "look" kind of similar? RUBBISH!
Let's compare apples to apples please!

I have several of these units and have found them to be a good value for the money. Note that many magazines have discount coupons for these, 149.95 is an easy one to find, There have been a few for 139.95, And the panels are sometimes on sale at the stores for 179 bucks, Plus the very easy to find 20% off coupon still gets you in the 150 dollar range. Around 3 bucks a watt is a good price.
As mentioned, They do come with lighting, And the power distribution box. But note that box is NOT a charge regulator! To charge a battery fully automatic, You do need an outboard charge regulator. I bought them for 16 bucks on Ebay, I see they are now up to 17.50:

One of those 10 amp regulators will handle several 45 watt panel assemblies.
Without that charge regulator, The 45 watt panel WILL overcharge a battery with only light loading on it in bright sunlight.

N7BUI Rating: 5/5 May 20, 2010 18:26 Send this review to a friend
3 years  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've owned two of these kits for over three years. They are advertised at 45 watts but my initial testing in full sun showed a little over 50 watts. They have survived massive downpours and have not developed any detectable leakage. The build quality is actually pretty good IMHO. Considering they come with a charge controller, mounting rack, and lighting it really is a great deal. I have both systems charging two deep cycle batteries that power the ham shack. No issues or problems in the time I've owned them. They just quietly keep the batteries fully charged year round and have far exceeded my expectations. Well worth the price.
KE7LLU Rating: 1/5 Jan 15, 2010 10:23 Send this review to a friend
Poor performance experienced with this type of solar panel  Time owned: more than 12 months
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 Harbor Freight 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. 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 personal 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 Harbor Freight 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 most are only initial reports with no long term data such as the one here on eHam.

However, in my hunt to find meaningful data that would support my gut suspicions (I admit, I was biased by my own personal experience), I came across this review on "M. Anderson's review of Sunforce 50044 60-Watt Solar Charging Kit"

That led me to the report it mentions:

In the report it shows some pictures of the panels being evaluated and reviews and shows those that were experiencing 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. My experience with Sunforce support and warranty service are a whole other topic for discussion and I would not put much trust in them either.

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.
K0JEG Rating: 4/5 Jul 1, 2007 07:55 Send this review to a friend
Buy it on sale. Expect to modify it.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
List price is $249, but almost always on sale for $199. This works out to $4.00/Watt, a very good price. However, they do take up a lot of space for the energy they put out. I have 2 sets that I use to power my station, charge rechargeable items (like cell phones, etc), and run several 12VDC halogen lights. Don't use the included "charger" as it will likely ruin your batteries (See my review of the Steca Sigma, if looking for a controller). The lights are a little too blue shifted for my taste, but I use them on cloudy days as needed.

The panels themselves are made by Topray, a Chinese company (at Harbor Freight!?!). They are Amorphous solar panels (hence the somewhat weak output and cheap price), putting out 15Watts @ about 22VDC open circuit in full sunlight. The kit includes a mounting bracket that will hold all 3 panels. I cut up a 2X4 to make a simple frame and weighed the whole thing down with a few 5 gal buckets filled with sand. This arrangement has stood up to wind gusts of 30+MPH without moving an inch.

I have been using the current setup for about a month. Prior to that I had one set, but they were not enough to charge the bank (2 100Ahr gell cells), hence the second set. Before that I was using a small panel and 17Ahr battery using a different controller.

We'll see how they perform in December, but for summer use, they can't be beat. Again, the only reason to buy these over monocrystalline panels is for the price/Watt. If you have some space available and don't need bleeding edge technology, these are a good way to go.

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