Your Questions About Solar Panel Kits

Charles asks…

Are there problems adding other charging units like wind power to a Harbor Freight Solar Panel ChargeControler?

I would like to buy a small wind generator and just add the negative and positive wires to the negative and positive wires in my Harbor Freight Solar Panel kit. The Harbor Freight Solar Panel kit's charge control will still protect the battery from over charging right? Even though the charge controller would be buffering more wattage then what the manufaturer probably intended it to buffer? If so, could there be long term implications on the charge controller or battery?

ssadmin answers:

Hey Me, what are you using for battery storage? If I understand the harbor freight kit properly, it does not have a battery included, or it is a very small sealed AGM type battery. If that is the case, don't bother adding another source of charging power, you'll just fill that battery up faster and still have no place to put your excess energy. If you have a good sized deep cycle battery or two hooked up, my suggestion is simply get a wind turbine that has it's own charge controller, most of them do. Then wire it straight to the battery bypassing the harbor freight unit. A good example would be Southwest Windpowers Air 403, puts out up to 300 watts, although in ideal conditions on a tall tower, but has its own internal regulator, like a car alternator. So the two wires coming down the tower go straight to the battery, and the turbine is already prevented from overcharging anything.

In most wind/solar power systems, the charge controller is the achilles heel. It is the one thing that breaks down first and causes the most problems. We've been living in a wind and solar powered home for years now, I can speak from experience on this. We've not purchased the HF kit because the panels are not built as robustly as they need to be to be mounted on the roof of a home in all weather conditions, and the wiring harnesses are not designed for permanent installation, to be sunlight resistant, etc. Also the electronics are not UL listed to my knowledge, so they would not be legal for in home installation either. They are terrific little units to make small amounts of power in a portable application, like camping, or a remote shed for example. Adding another source of power to be fed through the existing controls of that kit would be like welding a bed on the back of a Ford Pinto in order to use it as a pickup truck. My suggestion is to have a good sized battery pack, like a pair of Trojan T-105 golf cart batteries (220 amp hours) then get a small turbine with its own regulator, and wire it straight to the batteries. The batteries will happily take a charge from either source, or both simultaneously, that's how our home works. If you really want to do some shopping for this stuff, get a subscription to Home Power Magazine, they regularly run articles on all the available panels, turbines, controllers and othe components to home power systems. If you subscribe, you can use their website to review archived articles in past issues that have all the write ups you're looking for. Good luck Me, and take care, Rudydoo

Robert asks…

What kind of solar panel kit would I need to power my garage?

I only need enough power for an outdoor spotlight, interior light & sprinkler computer. And the occasional power tool.

ssadmin answers: has a d.i.y. Information kit to build your own for less than 100 bucks.the kit costs about 40.

Chris asks…

how can i build a basic solar panel kit for my green house. I would like to use recovered materials?

ssadmin answers:

Get a coil of 10mm copper pipe from a plumbers' merchant. Do not uncoil it and build a squat ‘cold-frame' to enclose it. Paint the coil with black paint. Plumb one end to a small reservoir (and water supply) and the other to radiators(?) inside the greenhouse. The coil will heat up inside the frame and hot water will create convection flow in the coil. But a pump will improve the flow if you can get one driven by solar/wind power.

George asks…

I want a solar panel kit that can run a space heater for a few hours when the power goes out?

Which kit should I get? How many watts?

ssadmin answers:

MOST electric space heaters are a MINIMUM of 1000 watts of 120v power.
You would need at least 1500 watts of solar + a charge controller + batteries + an inverter. (THIS allows for the inefficiency of the conversion/storage units.)

Might I suggest a propane, kerosene, or diesel space heater instead.

Joseph asks…

Are you familier with the Power4Home solar panel kit and wind generator? I know it's just info is it any good?

I've always said if it sounds too good to be true, it's not.
Anyone order this kit?
What do you think?
Thanks Amy, don't want to pick a best answer yet but yours was great.
Thanks Roderick you both deserve best answer.
It's kinda like judging a talent contest where everyone is great.

ssadmin answers:

Many of the build it yourself sites are offering a very generic booklet that does not contain useful information. You can read a great review of one of them at

Excerpt from their review:

“The gist of their claims is this:

* Get cheap broken or used solar cells on e-bay. They show screen prints of auctions starting at 99 cents but all you e-bayers know that the prices gets bid up considerably. Solder it all together and make your panels.
* Ask forklift operators for free, used batteries (assuming they are going to throw out batteries that still function)
* Get a DC motor from e-bay and make a wind mill from it.”

Even if you do find a good instruction manual, home made panels cannot be connected to the electric grid, as they are not UL listed. If you really want to add solar to your house, buy factory made panels. The price has dropped a lot this year, and with rebates and credits, they are becoming more affordable. Check out the DSIRE site below to see any rebates available in your area.

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