Harbor Freight Solar Kit Review

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As we have increasing demand for solar energy, smart builders and homeowners are now in search and at the same time, subscribing to an alternative source of energy. To cater for this rising need, solar photovoltaic (PV) are being added by builders to serve customers. 

Indeed, we need energy to power almost every device and the interesting thing about solar energy is that it is readily available if you need it fast – at least, there are many Watt solar kit available in the market if you search. That being said, Harbor solar panel is designed with 100 Watt energy capacity and that is great for providing backup for regular electricity. With Harbor freight panel, you can relax anytime you experience a power outage. Solar panels at Harbor Freight are generally great so, when we talk about efficiency, their products perform pretty well – at least from many authentic buyer reviews we receive daily. This is not about vouching for this product only, but also letting you know about the interesting price value it commands. So, join me on this amazing adventure as I will be sharing information reviewing the thunderbolt solar magnum – 100 Watt solar panel harbor freight. 

How many panels are in the 100 Watt freight solar panel?

Well, there are four rated output of 25 Watt each as well as 23.6 OCV of open-circuit voltage. More information: the solar panels are arranged in a row and can in fact stand-alone – thanks to the individual stand that comes with each panel. Actually, they are better handled separately, but this is a choice if you don’t mind moving the four together. 

How long does harbor freight solar panel last?

Depending on the manufacturer, solar panel performance begins to decline from 3 to 25 years. You will notice that this lasting capacity is usually seen in the output that the panels can convert. Don’t worry, harbor freight company guarantees more than 80% of the regular life expectancy of most manufacturers. However, on the larger scale, people usually get they pay for, so, be rest assured of quality with this solar kit. 

In terms of performance, the thunderbolt magnum solar (harbor freight 100 Watts) somehow depends on the temperature of the day. You will relatively get more energy production during summer than the rest of the year – knowing fully well about the sun. That’s a periodic statement, though, but you can expect to have higher output in many sunny days than snowy days.          

Are harbor freight’s solar panels any good?

If you’re considering overall quality, I would say the 100 Watt solar panel is ‘very’ good. Now, considering value for money and the simplicity of “do-it-yourself” harbor freight makes the 100 Watt solar kit one of those rare panels that can be moved about. For people who love camping and road trips, harbor freight 100-Watt panel is designed just for you. This is a time to enjoy your trips as long as you want since the panels are movable, you might only need to get along your battery for energy storage. To me, the 100 Watt solar panels have provided an opportunity to stay connect with friends or work remotely while away so far there is internet coverage. 

What will a 100 Watts solar panel kit run?

The common question is this: “What will a 100 Watt solar panel run?” And, I will share this with you. Normally, every 100 Watt RV solar panel kit should discharge equivalent current to the receiving appliance. Given the output voltage, Harbor freight 100 W solar panel can run quite a number of devices and appliances. Putting into cognizance that appliances using larger Watts will require that you increase the number of solar panels and batteries you’ll need, you will see that it’s simply a rule of thumb. 

For example, an average energy consumption of a coffee maker is around 1000 Watt while a household ceiling fan uses only about 35 Watts – so, you cannot expect to use the same solar panel kits to serve these appliances. What you need are solar panels and other kits proportional to your devices. You will need to consider the controller as well as the batteries. Except you’re really prepared to spend, not all your home appliances can be run by your solar panel. 

However, there are a few appliances a typical 100 Watts solar panel can comfortably power. Below, I have listed the devices and corresponding energy consumption for you to have an idea of what your 100 Watt solar panel kit can power. 

Given the output voltage, Harbor freight 100 Watt solar panel can run quite a number of devices and appliances. Putting into cognizance that appliances using larger Watts will require that you increase the number of solar panels and batteries you’ll need, you will see that it’s simply a rule of thumb. 

For example, the consumption of coffee maker is around 1000 Wattage while household ceiling fan uses only about 35 Watts – so, you cannot expect to use a 100 Watt solar panel kit to serve these appliances. What you need are solar panel kit proportional to your devices. You will need to consider the controller as well as the batteries. Except you’re really prepared to spend, not all your home appliances can be run by your solar panel. 

However, there are a few appliances typical 100 Watts solar panel kit can comfortably power. Below, share a list of devices and the corresponding energy consumption for you to have an idea of what your solar panel kit can power.

  • Computer – notebook PC              25Watt
  • Ceiling fan                                            35Watt
  • Desktop computer monitor          42Watt (remember, CPU and other devices are not included)
  • DVD/VCR                                             17Watt
  • Electronic air cleaner/Filter 50Watt
  • Rechargeable power tool              13Watt
  • Router/cable modem 6Watt
  • Stereo system                                   33Watt
  • Television, analog, <40” 86Watt
  • Television Set-top-box                    20Watt
  • Video game system                         36Watt (like play station)
  • Smartphones                                     5Watt
  • Some lamps and light bulbs         14Watt

PS: These devices energy consumption may vary by manufacturers but, I’m sure of their minimum power requirement. Please, check here to search for Watt consumption of the appliances you want to share the energy with

How do you install Harbor freight solar panels?

Remember I said the harbor freight 100-Watt solar panel is designed as a “DIY – do it yourself” kit. Yes, I’m reiterating that you can install it all by yourself.  But before we begin, check out the parts of the solar kit and their descriptions.

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Now Let’s go through the installation process one after the other.

Locating my solar kit?

Choose a suitable location where direct sunlight (esp. during the day) can get to the solar panel. However, if you live where there are tall trees often drop debris, you will need to frequently clean the surface panels to enable maximum functioning. Please and please, where you have chosen to place the solar panel must be entirely free from the reach of children. As the case may require, kindly build an enclosure. Install the charge controller and battery where there is adequate ventilation and weatherproof. 

Mounting the Panel kit

Place the solar panel facing the Sun. Solar panel location should also be flat, not shaky, and should support the weight of the panel kit accessories. More importantly, make sure that the solar panel accessory cables can conveniently reach their connections. 

 Assembling the harbor freight panel kit

      i. On a flat surface, place two panels side-by-side. Into the innermost holes of the two panels, INSERT THE SCREWS.

  ii. Behind the inserted screws, tighten the WING NUTS to the CONNECTION BRACE.  Do the same for the bottom ends of the sided-panels as well.

iii.  Repeat the i. & ii. procedures above for the other two panels. 

Note: The harbor freight kit comes with pre-assembled MOUNTING STANDS on each panel. 

   iv. So, after assembling, stand panels uprightly and PULL OUT the MOUNTING STANDS. Pulling out the stands places the panels in a locked position to the sunlight. 

     v. You’ll see BATTERY TERMINALS on the bottom of the CHARGE CONTROLLER, connect WIRES of the BATTERY CLAMPS (don’t include battery yet).

   vi. Place red connector to positive (+) and BLACK CONNECTOR to negative (-). Get the SPLITTER CABLE connected to the DC connector cable and Plug DC cable into the SOLAR INPUT JACK on the CHARGE CONTROLLER. 

  vii. There’re lead wires from the Solar Panel, connect them to the SPLITTER CABLE. 

Wiring 

      i. Pass WIRES from the Panels through the weatherproof GROMMETS into the inverter enclosure (use twist connectors to connect the wires).

     ii. Ensure you follow the inverter’s instruction when connecting battery to the power inverter. 

PS. Make sure the inverter you’re using has good rating and is properly designed for the type of connection. 

    iii. Ensure the connections are weatherproofed and well routed to prevent loosing from the solar panel.  

How to set up the Charge Controller 

The controller helps protects against battery overcharge and discharge and is adjustable at different thresholds. 

NOTE: Connect a CHARGED 12V Lead-Acid battery to the Controller to power the display.

1. Click the LOAD BUTTON to toggle the 12V output on/off

2. Below the Load button, click the DISPLAY Button to cycle between the appeared 5 SETTINGS shown (you’ll see: ‘NORMAL’ ‘BOOST’ ‘FLOAT’ ‘LOW’ ‘RECOVERY’). 

You can manually select any of the SETTINGS above by doing the below:

3. Long-press the DISPLAY BUTTON while the settings show until VOLTAGE DISPLAY starts blinking. 

While the Display blinks, 

a. Long-press the Display button to INCREASE BUTTON

b. Long-press the Load button to DECREASE SETTING

c. Once the setting is complete, long-press the DISPLAY button until the blinks from the Voltage stop. Your SET value is automatically saved by the controller. 

4. If the Digital Voltage Meter shows Normal Mode, long-press the DISPLAY BUTTON till Battery Type display shows “U5r”.

5. Long-press Display button again to make Battery Type start blinking. Use Display button to toggle down and Load button to toggle up the battery type. 

6. Once battery type is selected, long-press the Display button until display blink stops. Your Set value is automatically saved by the controller. 

Setting the temperature

7. Press the Display button ONCE and you’ll see TEMPERATURE RATIO display e.g., – 4 

8. Long-press the Display button till display begins blinking. Use Display button to INCREASE & Load button the DECREASE. 

9. After selecting the temperature ratio, LONG-PRESS the Display button until the display stops blinking. The Controller then saves the set value. 

Output Duration Display

10. Press Display button ONCE and cycle to Output Duration Display e.g., ‘15h’ (meaning, 15h before output auto-shuts off)

11. Repeat step 8 above after selecting the duration and long-press the Display button until display blink stops; the controller auto-saves the set value. 

12. Leave the Controller to sit for at least five seconds for it to change back to NORMAL Mode.

Some Error codes or sign(s) may appear when voltage limits are reached. 

  • E11: (battery voltage shows sign <10.5-10.8V) Controller stops and enters “Low-voltage protection state”. 
  • E12: (battery voltage is showing sign > 16.1V). This is High Voltage and Controller enters “Over-voltage protection state”. 
  • E13 – Shows sign of Overcurrent and Controller enters “Overload protection state”. 
  • E14 – Shows sign of System short-circuit protection 

Setting up your Solar Controller Using 12 Volt Light and Accessories 

PS. You can use ONLY ONE appliance per time with this Charge Controller

1. Press the LOAD button

2. On the Charge Controller, Plug end of the LED light cable into one of the three (3) 12V DC outlets. 

3. Plug a DC adapter cable to the device (note: DC adapter is not included in the kit so, you’ll have to get one).

4. On the Controller, insert the plug on the other end of the cable into one of the three 12V DC Outlets. 

5. Then, turn on your appliance. 

6.    When you’re through using the appliance, unplug the DC adapter cable from the Charge Controller and then the cable from the appliance. To charge small gadgets/items like cellphones, plug the power cord of the item into the USB Port on the Controller.

Generally,

Instead of using the included plugs, you can run lights, accessories and solar panel to the Terminals at the bottom of the Charge Controller. The two extremes on the terminals Left and Right are specifically for the solar panel and 12V Appliances respectively. 

Pros 

  • Reliable panel output

So you’ll know, because of daily weather conditions and the direct sun contact, there is often high power fluctuation from solar panel. If you’re observant, solar installation for houses is often evenly distributed to allow sunlight for any potential direction. Doing that will help you get power from your panels even on the day with bad weather. Generally, fluctuations lead to changes in voltage output and because of that, harbor freight kit typically has a fantastic solar power rating – at least above your average needs. 

  • Charge controller 

The solar kit, harbor freight comes with a charge controller (10 Amp) that regulates power and current that goes into the battery. Higher rating suggests it works perfectly fine – though some say otherwise; but, I think the charge controller works great. In case you don’t understand what the charge regulator is – at times, the voltage out of a solar panel module may fluctuate and damage your battery or any connected components. So, the charge controller serves as a regulator between the solar panel and battery whenever there is fluctuation.

Cons

  • Unlike other solar kits, 300 Watt power inverter is not included. 
  • DC Adapter is not included in the kit 

I am actually not comfortable with the Limited 90 Day Warranty of the solar freight kit because I actually expect to see a much longer time. I think giving a longer warranty will help clear the doubts of “doubting Thomas”.

Last Note

I’m sure you agree with me about the authenticity of Harbor solar kit. Perhaps you’re still thinking about the installation guide for the kit, please, check the manual PDF here. Every other area of functionality of the Harbor solar kit are rated 10/10. The product promises efficiency. So, if you’re just starting out to get a solar panel for your battery and inverter (if you already have them), you should check out solar panels, Harbor Freight. They’re very affordable – from $199, the full solar kit can be purchased.

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