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*FRIENDLY* advice for 45w HF panel kit owners

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  • #16
    Hello! I need some advice. I have a power setup in my van with 2 marine batteries, battery monitor, a 75 watt panel with solar charger controller, and I can charge off my alternator when driving. I am trying to generate enough power to run my solar fridge from edgestar fulltime and it's not quite enough. Enter this harbor freight 45 watt kit that a friend was looking to get rid of so I have it now. I already mounted panels on roof and I use the box to power a dc fan during the day. I would like to connect these panels to my existing system without damaging it and not sure how. basically I think I need to seperate these from the batteries rather than trusting to just clip the wires onto the battery like the instructions. advice?

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    • #17
      don't bother, you really need more like 300W of panels to be able to power a fridge (even a small one - they have lousy insulation) and you have to park in full sun for the panels to work.
      Sorry, it's the simple truth
      Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
      || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
      || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

      solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
      gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

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      • #18
        Hi Mike. As I said it's a solar fridge by edgestar. I have enough power off the one panel and 2 batteries to run fulltime for 4 days with other draws, but I am looking for real sustainability, not dwindling power over time. My existing system works great as is, I just need to know how I can safely add these janky panels to my batteries without potentially over charging them. Can you recommend a cheap solar charger controller that will work with the kits panels and allow me to boost my overall solar power? I already connect my existing panel to its own solar charger controller and then to the batteries but I can't use it for these also so I need something seperate. Or can I make this kit controller work safely with a mod? I just don't want to fry my existing system, looking for an easy way to add these without risk since this kit seems janky. thanks in advance.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by TaraSandala View Post
          Hi Mike. As I said it's a solar fridge by edgestar. I have enough power off the one panel and 2 batteries to run fulltime for 4 days with other draws, but I am looking for real sustainability, not dwindling power over time. My existing system works great as is, I just need to know how I can safely add these janky panels to my batteries without potentially over charging them. Can you recommend a cheap solar charger controller that will work with the kits panels and allow me to boost my overall solar power? I already connect my existing panel to its own solar charger controller and then to the batteries but I can't use it for these also so I need something seperate. Or can I make this kit controller work safely with a mod? I just don't want to fry my existing system, looking for an easy way to add these without risk since this kit seems janky. thanks in advance.
          Besides those HF panels being junk they also will not match up to the Vmp or Imp of your 75watt panel so adding them to your existing system will probably just lower the output of your one good panel to the level of those 15 watt ones.

          You also did not provide any information on your batteries so it would be hard for us to tell you if adding any additional panels that can charge them would hurt or help them.

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          • #20
            Oh, does that matter? How can adding more solar power hurt my batteries as long as I provide a solar charge controller to not over charge them? I also have the trimetric battery monitor. they are deka deep cycle marine batteries. As I said my existing system is all hooked up and working already. I just want to add more panels and it will be complete. The system I have provides 80-90% of what I need...almost there so I figured these panels can work to top me off.

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            • #21
              The title is a Joke. There is nothing friendly about HF Solar.
              MSEE, PE

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              • #22
                Originally posted by TaraSandala View Post
                Oh, does that matter? How can adding more solar power hurt my batteries as long as I provide a solar charge controller to not over charge them?.
                No problem as long as you do not mind having a battery explode, spewing boiling hot acid in your eyes, then set the surrounding area on fire while you are blinded trying to escape. No problem.
                MSEE, PE

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by TaraSandala View Post
                  Oh, does that matter? How can adding more solar power hurt my batteries as long as I provide a solar charge controller to not over charge them? I also have the trimetric battery monitor. they are deka deep cycle marine batteries. As I said my existing system is all hooked up and working already. I just want to add more panels and it will be complete. The system I have provides 80-90% of what I need...almost there so I figured these panels can work to top me off.
                  You are making a general mistake. The panels need to be very similar in specifications and have Vmp and Imp within a certain percentage of each other. I would guess that a 75 watt panel and 3 x 15 watt panels would not even be close to each other regardless of what type of charge controller you are using.

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                  • #24
                    Hi Tara - I get it. With your existing 75w system in place, use something like a Morningstar SS-10-12v controller for the HF kit.

                    Is it *perfectly* engineered for your system? No. But it will delay the inevitable if your power draw can't keep up with the charging requirements.

                    So you basically just have two solar systems, each with their own controller connected to the battery. The may fight a bit with each other towards the end of charge deciding who is going to be in control at the very end, but it will work. Another option might be the Battery-Minder SCC-180 controller.

                    Again - while the system is not perfectly engineered, it will work to a degree.

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                    • #25
                      All we can tell, is that you are planning to use mis-matched components, and the HF kit is mostly, junk out of the box (in the box, it makes a great table). The HF gear generally performs so poorly, it will degrade the existing panels, rather than enhance them.
                      What we are trying to do, is inform folks that the clever marketing scheme from the "Company that sells things that look like tools" really does not address the actual effectiveness or longevity of the panel kits they sell. If you are going to spend $, spend it knowing it's a toy you are buying, not powerful gear that can run a major appliance.
                      Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
                      || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
                      || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

                      solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
                      gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Sunking View Post
                        The title is a Joke. There is nothing friendly about HF Solar.
                        Note that they also go by names like Coleman and Sunforce. And, most of the SAE quick-disconnects are wired backwards in polarity from the rest of the world who also use SAE connectors - so don't forget that warning too. Use multimeter to prove polarity if you are smart.

                        The reason I put "friendly" in the title is that I *hoped* it wouldn't turn into us more knowledgeable folk dumping on those who don't know any better and how to modestly improve and learn from the setup. In particular, those who may have received them as GIFTS, or those not in control of their finances, like gifts from unknowledgeable parents to children.

                        The fact is, the panels WORK, and they meet SPECS, although they are not obviously to US, the best things to use for decades long use. Some users may only buy the panels, and not the entire "kit" with the controller.

                        I'm not defending whether or not they are the best bang for the buck, or whether or not I like Harbor Freight. Mine were Sunforce actually. Same thing.

                        Again the reason for "friendly" in the title was in the hopes that we wouldn't immediately turn away the sales-demographic for these things - that is total beginners with no prior knowledge.

                        Sadly, we can't help them advance or improve their own knowledge, because all we do is dump on their hardware - nearly to a personal degree - which in some cases could be children who had no say in the matter. Doesn't matter though - it always turns into a negative experience right off the bat from us "know it all's", including myself at times.

                        Quite frankly, if I was a kid, excited to see my solar gift working, but wanting to know more, I wouldn't step foot in the forums ever again.

                        Last edited by PNjunction; 09-29-2016, 05:53 AM.

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                        • #27
                          I have a solar system installed that "offsets" 90% of my electric cost. I am not a solar knowledge person and went through issues when purchased in that could not put output directly into house circuit, but had to connect to a meter that feeds into grid and then that credits against metered electric grid use. That was only way was allowed to use by local power utility and still get tax credit against cost. I had originally thought could feed house if grid power was out (using transfer switch to shut off from feedback into grid if commercial power is out). Where I previously lived could be connected to house circuit and "spin meter backwards" when producing excess power not used in house.

                          Issue is that when relative heard how this works, she gave me one of the HF 45 kits. She said electrician (who I don't trust from previous errors he made) told her to just feed into my house circuit, but I wanted to ask people with knowledge before doing this. This would be for when commercial power is out to provide few basic lights and if feasible, to provide some slight power to further reduce commercial power cost. Is this feasible to do? Don't want to have her feelings hurt if I don't use.

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                          • #28
                            Not feasible, and also illegal. With the HF kit, what we're talking about is maybe charging something like a 35ah agm battery, or just using it for a maintenance top off vehicular charger. Nothing more serious than that to spark some interest, and further study.

                            To avoid any hurt feelings, attach the HF kit to something like a commonly available 18ah - 35ah agm battery - the kind you find in jumpstarters and run stuff from that. Charge your cellphone, run some led lights, small stuff. Use a jumpstarter even if you want built-in connectivity like dc plugs, usb ports etc.

                            Inform your relative that diy attaching to the grid is for the most part illegal, and even if not, once one kills a neighbor or LINEMAN when they are not expecting a back feed from a diy connection when the system is down, may lead to a lifelong regret from many angles.
                            Last edited by PNjunction; 11-01-2016, 04:32 AM.

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                            • #29
                              After reading this guide, I read the reviews on HF (mostly the negative ones) and found numerous potential problems. I was also able to confirm that it will not be enough to suit my needs. Thanks for a well written post. The rest of the comments range from instructive to insane and worth a laugh.

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