Sunforce Solar Charging Kit

A friend showed me a link for a Sunforce 60-Watt Solar Charging Kit on Amazon that was being manufactured/distributed by SunForce Products.  On their website SunForce states: "Sunforce Products Inc. is a leading manufacturer and master distributor of renewable energy products. Our leading and innovative designs help provide simple Renewable Energy Solutions to consumers."

So it seems that they manufacture some products (like the solar charging kit?) and distribute others (like the Skystream 3.7 wind turbine).  SunForce is based in Canada and sells its products through many national stores like Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, Northern Tool, and others.  But I am a little confused as to its relationship with product manufacturers like Skystream and Sharp.

The solar charging kit is advertised as solution for RVs, cabins, backup power for the home.  The SunForce site lists the items that are included on the 60 watt kit sold on Amazon:

  1. 4 x 15 Watt Amorphous Solar Panels
  2. Plastic PVC Frame for mounting panels
  3. 12V DC Plug, Alligator Battery Clamps, Mounting screws & extra wiring
  4. 4 in 1 wire connector so that all 4 panels can be wired together in an easy fashion
  5. 12V DC Socket for powering 12V Products
  6. 200 Watt Modified Sine Wave Inverter
  7. 7 Amp Solar Charge Controller

But it does say that batteries for your system are not included.

Some of the comments on the post provide some great information on the system.  The first comment on Amazon is very well written and provides excellent information but is too long and detailed to be included here.  Some of the other comments:

A portion of Michael's comment from Athens, GA says: (He gave 5 stars):

The panels are installed on my garage roof, wired in to a battery bank and inverter which primarily functions as a very large (4KW) uninterruptible power supply for the house. So far, everything is working fine. They keep the batteries topped off without using power from the grid.
Like most manufacturer's specs, the 60 watt claim is hard to realize. The panels' current output is about 3.2 amps under bright sun, which yields only about 45 watts into a 12 volt gel cell battery at 14.2 volts. The panels can output about 20 volts which would indeed yield 60 watts, but not while connected with the included charge controller. A MPPT controller would achieve 60 watts, however

C. Bayne from Phoenix, AZ said (She gave 5 Stars, this is just a portion of the full comment):

This is not the most efficient solar panel set, but it's very good for starting out and learning about solar power. It's inexpensive enough to set up and charge all your rechargeable stuff whenever you need it, as long as you live in a fairly sunny area.

Oh, as an experiment, I plugged the vacuum cleaner into the inverter, which promptly started screaming for help. (The inverter has an alarm, apparently.) This whole set-up CANNOT handle this kind of power draw. You have to unplug everything and turn the inverter off and let it just sit a while and reset before plugging in your lower power things again.

You're not going off the grid with this set-up, but you'll save yourself a few bucks a month. And you get to be smug whenever anyone talks about going green. "Well of course, our solar array has lowered our carbon footprint considerabley. Shall we go for an organic smoothie now?"

But of course, not all reviews are glowing.  It seems the most common complaint is lackluster quality and poor packaging.  Paul Beckwith says (He gave 1 star, portion of full comment):

Do not waste your money!! These panels are poorly made. Receiving broken panels is a common occurence, as mentioned by the other reviewers; I had three in a row arrive broken. These panels are made in China and are rip-offs of ICPsolar solar panels. I have three ICP amorphous silicon type panels purchased in 2002 that have been in constant use and are still working at 90% efficiency. The Chinese panel's frame came unglued within 1 year, then the amorphous silicon film delaminated from the glass and two of the three panels no longer work at all. Keep in mind that these panels break very easily and would not be a good choice for a RV or camping.

I would recommend  this product to someone who is looking for a little extra power for a remote cabin or who just wants to learn more about solar.  With a system this small you aren't going to make too much of an impact; whether it is environmentally or in your home energy needs.  But at under $300 (without batteries) this system would be a greater learning experience than any book or website and could encourage you to invest in a larger system for your whole home.  I can see teachers or school systems buying a system like this to education their students on renewable energy.  I know I wish I had a system like this to learn from when I was in school.  And aside from using a bicycle to power your backup batteries, using solar power is the next best thing!

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That does sound like good fun Jeff! But about the article ... it is a good starter kit.. however I would just piece out my own kit with the option to upgrade a later time..
I have a similar system made by Coleman that I use to power my Tiki bar. It works well for me as I only use the bar on weekends so the battery has all week to recharge. I only power a radio and some lights. The included inverter is too small to power small appliances. I imagine if I used 3-4 deep cycle batteries and a larger inverter I could power a blender all weekend again having the weekdays to recharge the batteries. My home is powered by a 9.72 kW grid tie solar PV system so the Coleman setup is more for fun than anything. How many people can say they have a solar powered Tiki bar?
Jeff, What size batteries do you use? I would like some solar powered margaritas!
Right now I have an old car starting battery hooked up. It would be much better with a deep cycle battery as they tend to have a greater amp hour capacity.

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