Harbor Freight 100W Solar Kit. Full Review – Day 1



Day 1. Sharing my first day using the 100W Harbor Freight Solar Panel Kit. This is the new July, 2017 version of the Harbor Freight Solar Panel Kit. The kit now offers 4- 25W panels and a modernized solar controller. Harbor Freight Part no. 63585

Day 2 link:
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25 comments

  1. Nice review. Was looking to replace mine. Wanted to see it first. Had 45w kit for 8 years. Definitely got more than my money's worth out of it. Powered a lot of things. Charge controller always read way lower than my meter. Never trusted it. Got a charge regulator that I did trust. Even when panels started putting out 26v, regulator cut it to 13.8. Looking forward to another 8-10 years of free power in the shed for $150.

  2. My take is that the discrepancy in your voltage readings could probably be due to the cheap clamp connectors. Better clamps could equal better voltage transfer.

  3. The solar pannels put out current wirh the least bit of sunlight. The wire connectors are too short ,but that can be remidied by buying a $10 lit at Harbor. Yes, the alligator clamps are cheap. Watch your negative connection .Mine got eaten up and became useless in a short time.The controller is way too complicated and does not need that many settings. If thr controller gets wet, its easily ruined. I found no use for the lights, so I replaced the controller with a solid state led one. About $10 . Shop around its more expensive at HF. Also the original controller prevents you from charging batteries when voltage drips below 10V

  4. Voltage isn't what you should be looking at, you should be looking at the amperage produced. You should be getting about 4 or 5 amps out of that setup, max. That's basically a trickle charger for 1 standard factory-sized RV battery, which typically has a capacity of about 90 amp hours, but since you can only use lead-acid down to 50%, that comes out to only 45ah that is usable.
    This HF setup (or any brand of 100w setup) would not actually be enough to keep an RV battery charged if you were dry camping and using 12v appliances all day, like the radio, led lighting, exhaust fans, etc. It would not be able to keep up with demand. It's a good budget set up for charging one small battery, but it would literally take several days to bring a lead-acid battery up from 50% to 100% using 100 watts (5 amps). If you were trying to charge a single RV battery using a generator that puts out 30 amps it can take 3 to 6 hours! So the trickle of power this setup puts out would take forever! Literally. This is true regardless of who made the components, it is a limitation of the hardware, not anything against HF. A brand name Renogy 100w solar panel has the same limitations. There is no 100-watt solar panel made today, at any cost, that can produce enough power to run everything in an RV. I wish there was such a thing I would have bought it. Again, I'm not saying this setup is junk or inferior in any way, (although I would use thicker gauge wiring because you will lose quite a bit of power through heat loss using thin wiring) but some people new to solar might think they can buy something like this and power everything in their RV and that just isn't the case. Put this on your tractor behind the barn or on your car battery sitting in a storage lot and it will keep the battery charged no problem, it would be perfect for that. But if you have 2 or 4 batteries in your RV and you plan on dry camping and are expecting this setup to keep your batteries charged, guess again.
    It simply isn't enough power.
    There's a lot of cool things that are possible with solar, believe me, I run everything in my fifth wheel when I dry camp off solar even a window unit air conditioner. You can power literally anything using only solar, but it isn't cheap. I have 7 panels on my roof which have the power output of 46 of the panels in the video.

  5. I'm not sure about the 100 watt kits. However, in my experience with the 45 watt kits the charge controllers tend to be junk as they tend to burn out after a year or two of use. So, just get a different charge controller and the kit will be fine.

  6. Man, that thing is HUGE at over 2100 square inches. And extremely complicated with all those parts, holly cow!! A “Combiner”??…LOL. Why not just purchase a 100 watt panel (about 850 square inches and you can purchase many quality name brands for under $100) and a small PWM solar charger (Renogy has one for about $15). Now you have a quality panel, much smaller, much simpler, no proprietary parts, 25 year warranty, and for less money that this one. Why would anyone want to purchase this expensive, complicated, large, poor warranty, unknown system?
    But excellent review on this system, thank!

  7. Multimeters are super accurate. Each on is calibrated to plus or minus 3 percent when new and calibrated correctly. You are not using a top of the line meter,, you get what you pay for.

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