Solar Panel Ideas !!!!

Discussion in 'My Favorite Mods, Tips, Tricks (and Blunders!)' started by rsholarjr, Jul 7, 2019.

  1. rsholarjr

    rsholarjr New Member

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    Well I splurged on the 4th of July Harbor freight Sale and picked up their 100 watt solar kit plus a battery for $225 that was 20% off the battery and the kit so it would've been closer to 300. Just wondering as these kits have been around for a while ( i did a quick search but nothing showed specifics) if anybody had one of these kits and what there thoughts were ??? there are several you tube videos on them and there flaws but i was looking at something cheap that could at least charge a battery. any ideas or your experiences all i would really be doing is running lights and maybe small fans to circulate the air nothing heavy duty from what im reading this should in theory do it but it does have its flaws.... your thoughts........

    I hooked it up and tested it to make sure it worked tonight in the driveway seemed to charge in low light real test will come on July 20th weekend when we test out the camper and the setup for the first camping trip away from home (yes we tried the driveway camping )

    This is the kit i'm referring to https://www.harborfreight.com/100-Watt-Solar-Panel-Kit-63585.html
    https://imgur.com/vQbA7X4
    https://imgur.com/WE8z0iu
     
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  2. davido

    davido Active Member

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    The kit is fine. It is what it is; there's not much that can go wrong with a solar panel. The charge controller is probably the weakest link, but those can be replaced. Don't expect to be able to run the AC off of it. Just plan that if it gets direct sunlight throughout most of the day, you can replace a substantial portion of the power you've used overnight running the furnace and lights. Even if you don't replace 100% of what you used overnight, the solar panel can extend your trip by a few days. But it does need direct sunlight to be effective. Overcast weather or shady tree-filled areas will impact its usefulness for the worse.

    Not sure why you had to buy a battery. Didn't your trailer have a battery already?
     
  3. PopUpSteve

    PopUpSteve Administrator

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    Take them back before you get attached to them! You can get lighter, more powerful panels off Amazon.

    The weight and setup time for the HF panel will kill you.
     
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  4. joet

    joet Well-Known Member

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    AND
    For less money. I found 2 100 watt HOST panels for what the 1 HF panel cost
     
  5. rsholarjr

    rsholarjr New Member

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    no battery or propane tank came with the trailer
     
  6. GrueMaster

    GrueMaster Active Member

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    I have both the original 45W HF panel set from 6 years ago, and the 100W panel (I spent $149 on mine here in Oregon). The old kit is now sitting in the corner in the basement. The 100W kit works well enough. Depending on location, I'll either keep all 4 panels on the ground and adjust them during the day, or when at Oregon Country Fair (camping in a big open field), I'll just throw them on the roof before I lift the roof. They keep my trailer going for a week as long as I don't need the heater. I also have a couple of sets of solar rope lights from HF for the awning. Cheap ($13) and they work great.

    Having said that, I do want to replace the panels. My son currently works in a solar panel manufacturing company, and I am trying to get a couple of 'rejects' (usually have 1 or 2 cells that are a different color - who cares).
    [​IMG]
     
  7. inthedirt

    inthedirt Active Member

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    Agree with the others......return them if possible. I have about $300 into my panels and have almost triple the power in a smaller profile. I understand splurges, but get educated first before spending money on electrical items. Solar has been around for quite awhile now. The technology is improving, so that means slimmer profiles, more current output, and cheaper. I say this because the HF stuff is old-school tech but their prices have remained the same. Ebay and Amazon sell solar packages for <$1 per watt and typically include a decent charge controller and wiring. I've purchased factory-2nd panel from companies for other projects and it usually just means there is a minor blemish, but remain fully functional at a discounted price.
     
  8. 8lugnutz

    8lugnutz Member

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    While I agree for the most part with the others, I don't have and don't want an electrical degree in Solar. For me this was plug and play and I got them on sale for $150 bucks. Sure, you can get others cheaper, but I "splurged" and also got the 3 year "no questions asked" replacement policy from HF, something I doubt you will get with any other solar panel ordered from Amazon, or a reject. Hail damage is a real problem here in Colorado, and I was told that I can just take it back and they'll replace it. We'll see how that works out when it happens.

    Now, as far as ideas, which is what I think you are really looking for (links are embedded):

    1. Mount the charge controller it inside the camper somewhere so you can monitor it. It will also give you two USB ports for charging, and you can use the little drop lights if you want. I don't use those drop lights from HF, if you want mine PM me with your address. A better charge controller may be in the works, but at this point I'll deal with the one that I have until it fails. When that finally happens, I have this stashed in the camper as a backup, which is strikingly similar to the HF device and I can swap it out very quickly.

    2. Wire your battery to the Charge controller which is now inside your camper. Use decent gauge wire, I used 10 ga.

    3. Wire in a Waterproof SAE connector on the outside of the camper to the charge controller for the Solar Panels. That way, you can just plug the HF four way into the camper to make setup easier. I bought two of these from Amazon as a backup to the HF four way should it ever fail. I drilled a 7/8" hole using a hole saw, and used butyl tape to seal it real good. Solder and heat shrink on the pig tail.

    4. Reduce the draw of your old, inefficient and power thirsty original fixtures. I updated the lights inside our popup to LED lighting to reduce the draw and they are plenty BRIGHT. In fact, just running one of the LEDs in the dual fixture is brighter than the dual incandescent fixtures we used to have, so I really now have double the brightness. Fixtures with LEDs result in less draw and are more efficient usage of the power you have. Look for things in out of the way places too, I didn't even realize I had lights in the storage area until I saw the old incandescent fixture glowing behind the access door while making S'mores with the kids! I guess I hit a switch when I was putting something back in there one time and turned them on, but I also swapped them out with LED. Don't forget your porch light.

    5. KNOW what your usage is, or what it will be. I want to put in a bigger inverter, but for now my 800W works for us. We don't use any AC appliances except the Mac Charger which in reality is using my DC to convert to AC.....to charge..DC? Yeah. Once you figure out that a lot of things are run from an AC > DC converter, just find things that run on 12V natively and skip the wall wart. Just about everything else we have runs on DC.

    6. Ditch anything that drains the battery unnecessarily. I have a master switch wired in that I can turn off everything except the fridge and lights. If you don't need it, and it's not being used, turn it off.

    As far as draw, setup etc, this will simplify your world. We just spent a week (six days) at the Grand Canyon with another couple and we had no problems with the above setup. We ran the 12v Road Pro coffee maker in the morning (which will soon not be used, see #6. Switching to pour over like I use at work), ran the exhaust fan and two additional 12v fans 24/7, recharged battery banks in the daytime (to run the USB LED Lighting in the rooftop tent and shower tent at night), and charged all the electronics at night while we slept, including my MacbookPro on an 800w inverter. We also have a 12v TV/DVD player which the kids watched while drifting off to sleep. All this, and the solar panels from HF kept us happy and maintained the camper battery at 100% daily. I'd say that's pretty good.
     
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  9. SHFL

    SHFL Active Member

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    8lugnutz — thanks for posting your setup information! For those of us trying to get started with solar, we sometimes over analyze to the point of doing nothing. You've given me some specific ideas on how to get started.

    As a side note, I was over-analyzing 3D printers. I finally just jumped in a bought a relativity inexpensive kit, and I am happy with the results. There may be better printers out there, but this one does what I need it to do — it got me learning and printing.
     
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  10. GrueMaster

    GrueMaster Active Member

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    Yes, convert what you can to DC and low power. In the case of the laptop powersupply, massive power waste using an inverter. Get a 12v universal power supply (they make them). The two biggest power consumers I have are my CPAP at night and the blower for the heater. Also, I think the CO2 alarm is always on, even when the trailer is closed up. My battery won't last a month in the driveway before it is flat.
     
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  11. roybraddy

    roybraddy Well-Known Member

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    One of these days I want to add a couple of 100WATT panels on both sides of my fantastic roof fan like shown here in this photo...
    [​IMG]
    google image

    I will want to use the aluminum Unistrut rails across the POPUP roof. Any drilling will be done on the roof side panels...

    [​IMG]
    Google image

    My setup is I have a rather large battery bank and we use it all the time when camping and this will run my ham radio and other sometimes high wattage things between the 6PM and 11PM time frame. All planed out to make it thru the one day/night run off the batteries and then use my 2KW generator during breakfast the next morning to re-charge the batteries back up to their 90% charge state which usually takes around three hours...

    With the solar panels installed I would only have to run my generator maybe one hour to get past the high battery absorption time (sometimes over 55AMPS) and then the solar panels would take over the rest of the day (absorption around 5-6AMPS DC per battery) getting the batteries back up to their 90% charge state while in high sun...

    On the back of my POPUP trailer roof I could mount one more solar panel across the the roof between my air condition and the end of the roof... something like this perhaps...
    [​IMG]
    Google image

    I would use the same aluminum Unistrut with the drilling all done on the roof side panels... This could also be a portable solar panel that might come in handy if you are parked in the shade and maybe move the panel to somewhere in the sun on the ground???

    my solar panels pipe dreams haha

    Roy Ken
    [​IMG]
     
  12. 8lugnutz

    8lugnutz Member

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    Indeed! I have one of these for charging the MacBook and newer USB-C based electronics, I just didn’t have time to install it before we went on our vacation. :)
     
  13. 8lugnutz

    8lugnutz Member

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  14. michaeltdyer

    michaeltdyer Member

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    I’ve used the HF 45 Watt panels for five years now and they work. Based on some advice I found online, I wired a diode in the line from the panels to the charge controller so it cannot drain the battery at night. Yes, they are heavy and I do plan to replace them soon with a Renology suitcase kit that will provide twice the power at half the weight, but the work and are a good starter solar kit.
     
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  15. MyName

    MyName Active Member

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    I bought one of those with built in controller from Renology off ebay. I don't have any power issues. I lay mine flat on the roof with pool noodle under it for air flow and tie down to secure it. The only thing I don't like is the controller is on the backside of the panel so I can't see it.
    My specs.
    [​IMG]
     
  16. Garrity

    Garrity Member

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    We also purchased the 100W Renogy Adventurer series. I mounted the controller just inside the front door. Had to reinforce it a bit, but it is holding well. It also has a Bluetooth module so I can monitor everything from my phone. I used the MC4 connectors to quickly remove the panel for transit and mounted them on the tongue of the trailer. This trip we had a bit of shade and I realized 30 feet of cable for the panel was not enough to get full sun all day. We did stay charged all weekend though. We were boon docking with friends for a large family gathering, so no neighbors outside of our party. I was able to play the stereo in the camper during the day without even touching the battery. Very happy with the setup.

    Panel.jpg App.jpg
     
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  17. shaxs

    shaxs Active Member

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  18. LjohnSaw

    LjohnSaw So many fish, so little time...

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    I have an old 45 w HF setup from about 6 years ago. I quickly learned the charge controller is absolute junk. It would wait for my battery charge to drop to something ridiculous like 10.5 or 10 v before it would "turn on" to charge. I replaced that with one of many available on Amazon for $10. That made a HUGE difference. But now I have a 200w panel I picked up used for $50. Awesome now.
     
  19. yetavon

    yetavon everything is better around a campfire.

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    We have had the 100 Watt HF kit almost 2 years, $139 on sale. Charge controller died on day one, went back and they only had one other set that had a broken panel and pulled the controller out... I asked and bought the rest of the kit for $50.... ( and thanks to Wildlife on here and a quick soldering job the controller was fixed.) We have used it several times camping, But its always hooked up to our barn at home to 2 6 Volts providing power.
     
  20. 8lugnutz

    8lugnutz Member

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    For me, although I do have the ability to fabricate, it would not be advantageous to return it even if I could build it for free. I chose that solution because it is plug and play, so it's already set up and works. Not trying to be abrasive or confrontational, just bringing it to light. Buying mine from HF was the right choice by my standards, my time and my family. I understand that people have preferences and talents that others do not possess, and I'm happy that you were able to build yours yourself. Not everybody has that ability, and to suggest or vote that someone return something, assumes that they possess the same ability that you have to fabricate. :)
     
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