Implementing solar power has traditionally been an expensive undertaking and, though prices have improved substantially in recent years, the tendency from the customer's perspective is still to think about solar power in terms of the cost. That is still a somewhat justified perspective if associated costs are a significant factor in the decision to go solar. Those homeowners who must consider costs when deciding whether or not to install a solar power system on their home cannot be blamed for bargain-shopping.
But there has also long been a tendency on the part of solar energy hobbyists and do-it-yourself solar enthusiasts to shop for bargains, leading them to purchasing products that do not hold up over time. As a result, they end up with DIY solar kits that often fall short of expectations. Sure, they're useful to an extent. But those who purchase consumer-grade solar kits often become disappointed in the parts and power output of these consumer-grade solar kits. Granted, there are applications for which these kits fill a need.
However, If form, function, durability, and having a product that pays for itself in both cost and satisfaction are more important than the initial outlay of cash, then perhaps you should consider spending a few more dollars with our alternative to the 45 Watt Solar Panel Kit. Indeed, our kit is just $10 - $30 more, depending on whether or not you get those consumer kits on sale or not. But, our kits include something the other kits don't. And I will get to that in a moment.
What is it? Solar panel kits allow you to generate clean, quiet energy using the light from the sun to operate DC appliances or recharge 12 volt DC batteries or, when connected to an DC-to-AC power inverter, to power TVs, lights, computers.
If you want a beginner setup and are not overly concerned quality, longevity, and performance, then other kits on the consumer market will suit you just fine. However, most hobbyists find that they want to purchase a better controller or the frame is too flimsy or the output is insufficient, factors that lead to dissatisfaction and will add to the cost of the system in both money and time.
Here are some examples of issues people are finding and reporting for one of the more popular consumer-grade kits, the Harbor Freight 45 watt solar power kit:
- "The panels are... OK," says Alan Georges, a forum contributor at TheSurvivalPodcast.com, a daily online audio show about self sufficiency and self reliance in the modern world. "They’re cheap amorphous silicon cells mounted in cheap aluminum frames. "The connectors on the back don’t look especially weather tight."
- "One thing I did notice is the panels are not very efficient," said Erigornz, also a contributor at The Survival Podcast Forum. Hence the 9 square feet of panels included in the HF kit.
- "...the controller box is pretty rudimentary," Alan Georges goes on to say, referring to the controller box. "I’m not sure that it would prevent over-charging or over-discharging the battery, and the manual isn’t particularly helpful on that point. It might be worth picking up a $25 controller to keep from over-charging."
- "...the controller is kinda cheesy," says yipykyah, also a poster at The Survival Podcast Forum. "Would a 20 Amp, 12 Volt charge controller be sufficient?". Here's another forum discussion where many posters are suggesting the purchase of a better charge controller. And another, where genebo says "I ditched the controller that came with the Harbor Freight kit and bought a better one that used an improved way to charge the battery that helped the battery last longer."
"I bought one of these systems almost two years ago and, living within its limitations, it works," said Alan Georges. "But its limitations are pretty severe."
Now, to be fair, there are many purposes for which these kits have proven to be useful, as witnessed by their continued popularity. If you decide that the kit mentioned above will suit your purposes, then that is good enough for us. However, we believe we have a product that is superior in the ways that really count that the consumer kits do not have, as hinted to above: their utility and their warranties.
So, what are we offering as an alternative to the consumer solar panel kits you typically see? Please read on...
Introducing the Mr. Solar 45 Watt Solar Panel Kit, A Quality Alternative to the Typical Consumer-Grade Kit!
NEWLY CONFIGURED KIT...
MORE POWER. LOWER PRICE!
NOW ONLY $152.00!
The NEW! Mr. Solar® 45 Watt Solar Panel kit is our response to the typical consumer-grade kits popular among DIY'ers, hobbyists, and emergency and survival preppers. Our single, high-efficiency, poly-crystalline solar panel will withstand high wind pressure, hail and snow load. Our high-efficiency panel carries a 5 year marterial and workmanship warranty, 90% performance up to 10 years, and 80% performance up to 25 years. Our high-quality SolarLand 10A 12/24V PWM Charge Controller w USB Output is warrantied for one year and will ensure that your batteries are not under- or over-charged far beyond it's warranty period.
Our 45 Watt Solar Panel Kit Includes:
- SolarLand SLP045-12U 45W 12V Solar Panel - PDF SPEC SHEET - At just under 4 sq. ft. (10.25 lbs in weight), this multi-crystalline panel is much smaller compared to the Harbor Freight 45 Watt Kit's 9 sq. ft. amorphous thin cell panel area, giving you lots of elbow room in areas where space is at a premium. Our solar panel includes a 5-year warranty on materials and workmanship compared to the Harbor Freight 45 watt solar kit which has only a 90-day warranty. Our solar panel is an industrial-grade PV module that is high-impact resistant, including from hail damage, and made from durable materials including an aluminum frame.
Complaints about the quality of the consumer-grade Harbor Freight solar kit, which uses amorphous panels, being "shabby" or "flimsy" are common.
- SolarLand SLC-NR1012UL 10A 12/24V PWM Charge Controller w USB Output - PDF SPEC SHEET - A 10-amp controller is sufficient to replace the frequently discarded voltage regulator in that other solar kit. Our regulator, which is an actual industrial-grade battery charge controller, includes a one year warranty.
The the other consumer-grade solar kits have only a 90-day warranty and their voltage regulator is often quickly replaced by people who purchase that other kit! So, why even bother with it? And with proper installation and care, our controller will last way beyond the warranty period and paying for itself many times over!
- Complete Wiring Kit including the module-to-controller and controller-to-battery wiring with battery clamp set. While the consumer-grade wires that come with the HF kit are kinda nice, the Mr. Solar™ 45 Watt Solar Panel Kit requires only one panel instead of three and the wiring we include in our kit is industrial-grade and is correctly rated for this type of power system. Our kit includes a 20' length of MC4 output cable, which will be cut in half to create two 10' lengths to connect the solar panel's MC4 cables to the charge controller, and 36 inches of #10-1 controller-to-battery cable.
Expand This Kit to a Deluxe 45 Watt Solar Power System:
In order for your solar panel kit to be even more useful, you'll need one or more batteries. If you want to power AC appliances like a TV or can opener or a fan, you'll also want to grab an inverter. These two items, together with the kit, comprise a complete 45 Watt Solar Power System.
- Universal Power UB12350 12V 35Ah AGM Battery - $81.00. This is a 35Ah battery that is sufficient for a small scale system. Includes a 1-year warrany. This is an industrial-grade solar power system battery designed specifically for this type of application. Always be careful when it comes to batteries and battery charging and choose the right battery!
- Samlex PST-300-12 Pure Sine Wave Inverter - $161.00. The Harbor Freight kit page suggests that a 300 watt inverter is required to run AC loads with their kit, which is not included. So, why not invest in a quality pure sine-wave inverter that provides continuous power and 300 watts of surge protection, with a cleaner electrical signal that sensitive electronics use. Supplied with terminal battery clamps and terminal rings. Take our word for it, don't go cheap at Walmart for your inverter. You'll just end up wishing you hadn't gone for the cheapest product. For an explanation of pure sine-wave vs. cheap inverters, go here.
What Our Kit DOES NOT Include:
- Our kit does not include the type of voltage regulator that comes included in the HF kit. Our 4.5 amp industrial-quality controller does not include an all-in-one regulator box with the DC and USB power ports or wiring plug ports that are popular features in the consumer-grade kits.
- Our kit also does not include the mounting frame that comes with the popular consumer kit. You'll have to come up with your own simple or ingenious way to mount them where you want them to be installed.
- Our kit also does not include the lights that come with the popular consumer-grade kit. If you want those, you will have to purchase them separately. We do, however, carry Portable DC Lighting Kits or you can find them at Amazon.com.
All of these features can be overcome in favor of the industrial-strength workhorses of our solar panel, controller, and wiring components and the associated warranties. But all is not lost! Indeed, there's yet another fun DIY project in the offing that makes the lack of features in our kit a bit more attractive. For around $25 that you can do this do-it-yourself project that will replace those features of the HF kit very nicely while providing a convenient place to store your battery as well as your charge meter. I've built it and use it to power lights, my laptop, and a radio when we go camping. I've also used it to demonstrate how solar power works. You can read and watch instructive videos on our page titled: VIDEO: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Solar Charging Station or you can watch how to create a battery power pack in the video at the bottom of this article.
The bottom line is this: it seems that many people quickly become disappointed with some aspects of competitor kits. We can offer you a high-quality, durable system that is a far better kit in terms of quality and warrany, for just a few more dollars. While the lights, mount, and DC ports that are included in competitor kit are nice features that we don't include with our industrial-strength alternative, you're a DIYer and you can build your own do-it-yourself battery box with DC and USB power ports and purchase lights from Walmart or Amazon.com - WHILE YOU WAIT FOR OUR MR. SOLAR 45 WATT SOLAR PANEL KIT TO ARRIVE!
Our kit is high-quality and can be used for many applications, from charging cordless power tools to powering a couple of lights and a radio in the lawn mower shed or powering lights in your hunting cabin. It's also a great kit for countless DIY solar projects, school science fair projects, and solar power demonstration models.
Remember this: you get what you pay for! If Quality, Reliablity, Durability, and Performance for years to come is important to you, then...
Now that you have complete your purchase of our 45 solar panel kit, get to work building your battery box with DC and USB power ports while you wait for our kit, which ships in less than 2 days.