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123 of 125 people found the following review helpful
SOLAR PANEL: This panel is very well made, reliable, and seems quite weatherproof. It puts out the full 5 watts in bright sunlight. I put some silicone caulk where the wire exits the back of the panel, just to be safe.

EDIT: The charge controller failed after 19 months, and two replacements from Instapark were dead on arrival. The techie at Instapark said they are replacing that model of charge controller with a different model. So I can't recommend it any more. The solar panel is still good, but the charge controller didn't last long enough. So ... read all the information below with the failure in mind.

CHARGE CONTROLLER: The housing is definitely not weatherproof, but it does work properly. Some reviewers reported rusted connectors. Mine arrived without any rust. I created a battery box for an electric fence. The solar panel is mounted on top of the box, and the solar charge controller is inside the box with the battery and the fence energizer (protected from weather).

Don't use it with a large panel (as one reviewer did), because it's only designed to take a small current. It is rated for only 3 amps. 3 amps x 12 volts = 36 watts. So ... don't hook up more than 36 watts of 12-volt solar panels to this charger.

Another reviewer said the charger allows the battery to discharge into the solar panel at night. That's not really true. I did many tests and figured out what is going on. There is a green "Power" LED light on the charge controller. That light is on whenever it is connected to the battery. That light draws about 5 milli-amps from the battery at night, which is negligible. During the day, the solar panel powers the green LED.

So ... when the solar panel gets no power from the sun, electricity flows from the battery to the green LED. But that is the only draw on the battery. I tested it, and there is no current flowing into the solar panel from the battery. The 5 milli-amp draw is minimal, and really has no effect on the battery at all. Consider that during bright sunlight, the panel pours about 400+ milli-amps into the battery. Even that amount is just considered a "trickle" charge.

I put a blocking diode (1N4001) between the battery and the charge controller, which even blocks the 5 milli-amp discharge at night. Now the green "Power" light only comes on when the panel gets light.

I also verified that the charge controller stops charging the batter when it reaches about 13 volts. That protects the battery from being over-charged.

Hope this helps.
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82 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2011
This solar panel combo is a solar panel plus a charge controller plus clamps - all preassembled and ready to go. Set it out in the sun, attach the clamps to a meter, and you should get what I got - 20V at .3 amps. My panel came in good condition - inside a solid cardboard box within another box. Your mileage may vary. I am pleased with the construction overall, but it does not look overly rugged. You won't want to casually toss it around too much, but it should mount nicely to a solid surface. The aluminum frame has mounting holes on the back, but the clearance is very limited.

I have a Brunton foldable solar panel that cost ten times as much and only puts out 3 times the amps (same voltage).

I will be buying a larger Instapark product in the future. Overall, I am very pleased with this purchase.
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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2011
This is a pretty good little solar panel. I bout this to keep the battery on my camper topped off while not being used.

The Good: Panel performs as expected. In full bright sun I measured around 350mA at about 20V (7 Watts!) The size is nice and small (about the size of a sheet of paper) as compared to the amorphous panels which are much larger for the same wattage. The cable from the panel's junction box to the charge controller is nice and long.

Th Not So Good: The cover for the junction box on the back doesn't quite seal all the way around on mine. I put a small bead of caulk around it. Also the charge controller does NOT appear weatherproof. As a matter of fact it has a USB port on the side of it that is not sealed. My solution was to encase it in a weatherproof electrical box and run the wires out from there. Also, the clamps are small. Finally, the thickness of the frame is very small which makes mounting with the moutning holes challenging.

Overall though, I like this panel and would buy it again.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2011
Appears to be very well made and a good value for the price except for the clamps. The clamps are too small for the products intended use and tinny. I easily destroyed one of the clamps when trying to grip the 12v battery pole. I cut the original clamps off and replaced them with the appropriate clamps I purchased at Radio Shack.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2011
i bought this to charge my D.I.Y. battery box/ power station. I use it to charge cell phones and run a 75 watt inverter. I charge two 7Ah 12 volt batteries. it charges them from 50% DOD (depth of discharge) in about 4 hours. Very nice. This kit comes with a 3 amp solar charge controller and a set of battery leads with clips. Perfect for learning about solar energy and small projects. I will be buying another 5 watt instapark panel next weekend to hook up in parallel with this one. For the price you cant beat this system.

Another note is that instapark has slightly underrated this system, which is awesome considering all of the over rating going on in the industry. In Oklahoma I'm reading 19.8 volts and .420 amps right now. And its solid mounted to my porch. Also this panel will put out 13 volts in 60% shade. To get those numbers from an amorphous panel you will need something 3 times as big, physicly. if you want to get into solar for less than $100 buy this an amazon has a $13 SLA 7ah battery. And your ready to do some work.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2011
We use this to keep the battery on our sailboat topped off. It works great and we especially like the built in USB port on the charge controller.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2011
Solar panel looks great, except its the wrong one (2 oval solar tabs vs the rectangular tabs displayed in the picture). The back of the housing says 22V instead of 12V . I'll test out the amps as soon as I get a new fuse for my multimeter to see if its actually putting out 5 watts.
The charge controller on the other hand, obviously came overseas from China by boat. The small Ziploc bag it came in had a substantial amount of rust in it. The 6 terminals on the controller are completely rusted, and reduced the voltage from 11.3V to 2.1V after connecting it. I'll need to do some serious cleaning to get the rust off and see if its salvageable, but I would suggest ordering the panel without the charge controller, its not worth the $12 price difference.

Edit: I spent about 30 minutes cleaning the terminals (Put them over the tip of some pliers and scraped the rust off with a box cutter). Im now getting 21.5 volts straight from the panel, and 20.0 after connected to the charge controller. I talked to our electrical engineer at work and found out solar panels dont put out any amps on their own ("You need resistance to have amps"), but after connecting the panel to a battery, I was getting 20V at .19 amps, or 3.8 watts. He also said if the controller is doing its job, the 22V panel shouldnt fry the 12V battery during charging.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2012
O.k., maybe that is a bit much, after all these are NOT PERFECT...let me list the problems, then I'll heap on the praise!!!

They are NOT WATERPROOF. I HIGHLY recommend you use a little silicon caulk around the edges of the glass and the seams of the frame.

The electronic unit is a cheap little plastic box, but it seems to work well.

The hookup instructions were translated from chinese, and are a bit confusing. I wish I'd kept them, I would put photos up here.

Now the praise:

WOW! REALLY? For this price!?!? I installed one on my pop-up trailer, and lived in it (unhooked) for 10 days in semi-cloudy weather! I bet I could have gone forever! The battery would only have lasted two days without this unit!

I loved it so much, I bought another for my F150 Base truck (2WD), which is stored all winter. I long ago mounted a trickle charger under the hood, and kept it plugged in all winter. With this baby, there's no need to plug in or worry it might accidentally get unplugged (which has happened)! I actually mounted it on my fiberglass topper, and ran the wires to the dome-light switch (battery side). My battery has been great this winter the times I've checked it!

Keep in mind that this unit puts out about 20VDC (12VDC regulated by the electonic box), but at VERY LOW CURRENT. It is a TRICKLE CHARGER, and will NOT run any electronics, or charge a battery that sees HEAVY USE. But if you have a boat or a trailer or vehicle that sees a moderate amount of electical use/discharge, you really need to try this! It even works fairly well in cloudy/indirect light!

HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2011
I bought this solar panel and charge regulator a couple months ago. I used this system to charge a 12v marine grade battery to power my landscape lighting. I recently installed several more lights on the system bumping up my amp draw to 4.5. The charge regulator is rated at 3 amps, but has a 10 amp fuse. I would have to overload the regulator 3 times its rated capacity for the fuse to blow. With all that being said, the regulator caught fire and luckily killed itself without damaging anything else. The fuse never blew. I acknowledge I overloaded the regulator but, I would have thought the fuse would be rated accordingly.

The solar panel itself functions great and is solid construction.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2012
I live on the cloudy coast of Washington and was doubtful about the benefit of a solar panel for my needs. I have a Honda generator with a key start supported, obviously, by a 12 volt battery. In the optimal place to keep the generator there is no household electricity available to connect the battery's trickle charger. So -- maybe a small solar panel to keep the battery "ready"?? This would be my first, long-awaited venture into solar. One small step, literally!

Working in the garage I connected the charge controller/indicator to the mono-crystalline panel and instantly had power. From what I've read the mono-crystalline manufacturing process has been around the longest, is the most durable, but consequently results in higher acquisition cost. For $36 bucks this was an affordable test. And with instant power while inside my darkened garage -- I was impressed.

There are two indicator lights on the charge controller (included with the panel so you don't have to order extra parts). One indicator shows that you are generating power (but not how much), the other light indicates that power is being delivered to the object/device you are hoping to charge (but now how much) -- once you've connected a device to be charged. As noted by other reviewers the alligator clips which connect to the target object to be charged are cheap and flimsy but they were adequate for my application.

Past reviewers have sometimes noted that there was a mix up in the positive/negative wiring. There is a small removable panel on the back of the solar panel and the charge controller, both easily accessible and requiring no tools, where one can simply verify that the wires are consistently connected from the positive terminal solar panel to the positive terminal controller to the positive terminal device being charged, etc. There was no miswiring on my unit.

This took all of two minutes to accomplish, verify, connect, stand back and be amazed.

The solar panel is mounted inside of a heavy-duty metal frame. As others have noted about the length of wiring: The wires from the panel to the controller are approx. 5' long. The wiring available from the controller to your device is approx. 16" -- not very long. 5watts isn't much energy -- you'd want to make sure you had appropriate wire if you were going to mount the panel any further from the target device to be charged. My panel is mounted 5' up along the top of a fence, the wiring reaches just far enough on the back side of the fence to reach the battery terminals on the generator.

Instructions were translated by someone who didn't comprehend English well, but the good news is that use/connecting is simple and straight forward.
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