Harbor Freight Thunderbolt Solar Item #68738 500 watt solar charge controller | Solar & Wind Products; View Hundreds of Solar & Wind Products Here!

Harbor Freight Thunderbolt Solar Item #68738 500 watt solar charge controller



My review and basic instructions on the Harbor Freight Thunderbolt {solar lights} 68738 {solar lights} charge controller. Although advertised and labeled as a 500 watt charge controller, documentation in the package indicates it is only rated for 18 amps, which is more like 300 watts of common panel power. Price ranges from $60-$90 depending on coupons and sale prices. It is the best charge controller available at Harbor Freight, but not quite a high grade unit. I suggest keeping a spare on hand if you use this on your power system since these lower grade charge controllers tend to be the “weak link” in power systems, although this one seems decently built and simple to use.

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25 Comments on "Harbor Freight Thunderbolt Solar Item #68738 500 watt solar charge controller"

  1. Sekji Ani says:

    Thanks, very informative, as I am trying to do a bit of solar.

  2. Viokehd says:

    Thank you! I think you are the only one to explain this particular item. I was going to buy it, but your info helped me see it is not what I should get. Thanks for taking the time to make a post this video.

  3. 8digitPDX says:

    I tried to return it to the store but had lost my receipt so they would not take it back, then I gave it away to some guys who were working on a solar trailer project and they seemed pretty happy with it. I just personally greatly prefer the Netmeter Solar LCD30 even though I had one fail on me. 

  4. 8digitPDX says:

    It is probably pretty decent as long as you are staying below 18amps and got a good coupon deal for it. I prefer the types of charge controllers with a lot of information in the readout but my recent experience is their capacities tend to be a bit overstated. They are Ok for smaller systems and the guys I gave mine to have had no complaints. 

  5. Can this unit manually control the load feature. If I have an LED light bulb on the load system, and I want to manually simply turn it on and off can I do such a thing? This would be used to controll led light in my shed at night time and then turned off when I leave..etc.

    Thanks much,
    -Nigel

  6. 8digitPDX says:

    Stop spamming my channel with that bullshit site. No articles, no videos, nothing for sale, just a bunch of material ripped off from other people's projects and shitty link advertisements that act like a computer virus. 

  7. lcalarea47 says:

    WARNING ,, i got 375 watts running through it [pushing it ], , noticed around 28 amps unit VERRRRY hot . warning is do not mount flush to wall , back unit is where heat sink fins are , keep about 1 inch away from wall so unit cools get air ,behind unit , i may also put a computer fan , i got for temp , til can afford good one , higher amp ,,
    

  8. ceasu allen says:

    Great job good to see another out there look at FREEENERGYGENERATION.PIXUB.COM hundreds of members at this web site FREEENERGYGENERATION.PIXUB.COM to the end

  9. You can build a single solar panel, or you can build an entire array of panels.Why pay thousands of dollars for solar energy..Catch the method here. ABOUTSOLARCELLS.COMXA.COM

  10. Steve Huynh says:

    Thank you for the great explanation. I was a little confuse about this component in my system. I got my question answered now. thanks again. 

  11. 8digitPDX says:

    Just for everybody's information, I burned up two similar controllers from netmetersolar on the issue of the watts vs amps vs new solar panels running above the listed performance issue, but the main reason I got rid of this HF charge controller was the information I found buried in the owner's manual. I gave it to some guys to use on a solar demonstration project with two of the DM145 panels running aruond 8 amps each, and they have not had any problems with it. It is fine with lower wattage

  12. unitcount503 says:

    i burned 3 of them also. i had 360 watts. got hot and  it  just detected one single solar panel and only that single panel. i spent days, trying to figure out the issue i connected a battery directly to the solar panel and it charged the battery, it just wont detect those 2 solar panel it just stopped detecting them. very strange. and 1 panel it works. 

  13. unitcount503 says:

    i had 3 solar panels connected at first they all worked. 360 watts. got hot sometimes. i have another set of 2 panels on it 250 watts. 2 of the 3 panels just stopped detecting. i spent weakends trying to figure it out. i thought maybe solar panels where faulty. so i connnected those 2 non detecting panels connected them directly to a battery and they worked. why does it detect other panels but not those 2 anymore>? really strange. any one had that isssue ? pushing over 360 watts

  14. unitcount503 says:

    im useing th charge controller that is in this video. they sell them at harbor freigtht,

  15. Renato Silva says:

    hello friend wanted his aid made ​​a eolico generated and bought a 500w inverter 3000w and a 270Ah battery but do not know what type of controller uses
    come some of 10ah 20ah30ah what I wear can i help??

  16. nisw1918 says:

    thanks gave you a thumbs up please return the favor

  17. mik22pik says:

    You are 100% correct, print is wrong/misleading.
    This unit should be 250 Watts, no more.
    It's simple math!

  18. It holds 360 watts that's the max with a 8 panel set , I know I own the system and it runs all my stuff great , and I've never had any issues , and that's the only electric I've got too , just sayin

  19. And I'm totally off the grid

  20. But ur rite on tho , ur not gonna run a factory tho just sayin 

  21. Steven Fate says:

    I don't think you mentioned it in your video and if you did I'm sorry, but I just hooked mine up and it keeps beeping and it's driving me crazy. My battery bank is at 11.8V and that's accurate. With my multimeter I'm getting about 13V from my panel but on the controller I'm showing 0A from solar. Nowhere in the manual does it say if this beeping is because of low bat voltage or low solar voltage, though I assume battery the manual doesn't say at all. I had the cheaper $25 controller from Harbor Freight and it worked for I time. The reason I got the nicer one is because the cheaper one died on me, but I know my setup is good I just have no idea why this isn't working out. It also isn't running my load even though it is reading the proper battery voltage.Any ideas?

  22. I'm looking for something for a low amp portable setup. I can even go as low as 4 volts. I'm using small li ion batteries. Its for a small 4 watt water pump hooked to a medical device. Portable Ice pack.

  23. ron guin says:

    very informative review. much appreciated.

  24. R.J. Moser says:

    Hello 8digitPDX, I'm just beginning an entry level solar panel experiment using a Everstart Marine Battery, the Harbor Freight Thunderbolt charge controller and their 13 Watt Thunderbolt briefcase style solar panels (cheap stuff… I know). I gather from what your saying is that, even when the low wattage solar panel is hooked up to the charge controller… the amperage will be so low that it wont be detected by the charge controller? I would think it would at least show .4 amps in the controller display since the panels are rated 400mA Thnx

  25. I know you said what you believe causes the alarm to go off, but is there a way to shut it off?
    Trying to figure out how anyone is supposed to inhabit a travel trailer if there is not power from the panel and the battery goes low with that alarm.
    Cant for the life of me figure out why this alarm cannot be disabled.
    Thanks!

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