Supplemental Devices And Equipment
This is all a fairly simplistic overview of how to hook up solar panels to your RV batteries. There are several other pieces of equipment that are commonly included at various points along the way.
A battery maintainer is basically an AC-fed battery trickle charger. They are connected to shore power when its available and slow-charge the battery at night or in low light conditions.
The combiner box is typically located between the RV solar panels and the charge controller. They serve to combine the inputs of multiple solar panels while offering electrical protection through fuses or circuit breakers.
Quick disconnect switches
Quick disconnects offer the additional protection of central isolation for the RV solar panels in case of emergency. Its also a good idea to make sure similar isolation is installed on the inverters AC output.
Put The Solar Panel In The Sun
Put your solar panel in direct sunlight at the best tilt angle for your location .
Once you do, your charge controller should indicate that the battery is charging. Mine has a light that flashes when the battery is charging normally.
Just like that, youre DONE.
Now you know how to charge a battery with a solar panel!
Sit back and let the panel collect all that free solar energy. The charge controller will stop charging the battery once its full.
Install Your Solar Panels
- Mounting Z brackets for solar panels come with nuts and bolts, but can be attached to the roof with strong adhesives.
- Aluminium tiltable mounting brackets allow you to adjust the angle of panels, but require drilling. Panels on these brackets or frames can be also safely put on the ground.
- Light flexible or amorphous solar panels can be just glued to the roof or fixed with velcro tape. However, they tend to overheat, which lowers their already below-average efficiency
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Should I Connect My Solar Panels In Parallel Or Series
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- When solar panels are hooked up in series you connect the minus of one panel to the plus of the next panel.The voltages are summed, but the current remains the same:Putting panels in series is desirable as it keeps the amperage low, and amperage is the key factor in cost of the wire.Now lets look at panels in parallel. Here all the negatives are connected to each other, and all the positives are connected to each other. So the voltage stays constant and you sum the currents.With a PWM charge controller youll want to put the panels in parallel as those devices reduce the voltage to the batterys voltage and would otherwise waste a lot of power.When using an MPPT charge controller it will have a maximum voltage and current that you can put on any input. You typically put the most panels you can together in series but not so many you exceed the voltage. You repeat that for as many panels as you have and then connect the strings together in parallel.For example, if you had 6 panels with Vmpp= 22.5, Impp=5.75 and an MPPT with 60 volts and 20 amps max then you might arrange your panels into three parallel strings of 2 panels in series.When a panel in a series is affected by shade, it can reduce the voltage of the entire string, reducing the power output of the string.One way around this is to use diodes as shown below:Note that most modern solar charge controllers have blocking diodes built in to prevent draining your batteries at night.
Advanced Considerations To Optimize Your Design
The above rules will ensure that your stringing configuration will comply with the specifications of your inverter and that the energy production of the system wont be negatively affected by mismatches in the conditions on the panels.
However, there are additional factors that a solar designer can consider to arrive at the optimal design . These factors include inverter clipping, the use of module-level power electronics devices which include microinverters and DC optimizers, and design efficiency provided by software tools.
Sometimes it may make sense to oversize the solar array that you are connecting to the inverter leading to a theoretical maximum voltage that is slightly higher than the inverter max. This may allow your system to produce more energy when it is below its maximum voltage, in exchange for reduced production during the times when the DC voltage of the array exceeds the inverters maximum.
If the production gains exceed the production lost to inverter clipping, then you can produce more power without paying for an additional inverter or one with a higher voltage rating.
Of course, this decision should be made with care and a clear understanding of how much production will be clipped compared to how much additional production will be gained at other times.
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S Of A Diy Solar Panel System
Obviously, your solar energy system will be centered around your solar panels, generating emission-free electricity anywhere the sun shines. Aside from the panels, the charge controller helps regulate the electrical flow to the battery, which supplies AC power with help from the inverter.
Between all of the main system parts, wires and connecting cables are required to efficiently transfer the energy, and it is very important to purchase components with the correct connecting parts and wire gauges for one another.
Again, our solar kits are sold with everything designed for easy interconnection. The process becomes even easier when adopting a solar generator. Solar generators pack batteries, charge controllers, inverters , into one convenient package. This way, all you need to do is connect the solar panels directly to the generator to begin charging and using its battery power.
Connect The Battery To The Charge Controller
Note: At this point I put on my gloves and safety glasses because places like Advanced Auto Parts recommend wearing them when working with batteries.
Follow the instructions in your charge controllers manual for connecting it to the battery. Ill show you how to connect the charge controller I used, the Renogy Wanderer:
Connect the negative battery cable, the one without the fuse, to the – battery terminal on the charge controller.
Connect the positive battery cable, the one with the fuse, to the + battery terminal.
Connect the battery cables to the battery terminals negative first, then positive. Before connecting the positive cable, I like to touch it to the positive battery terminal because sometimes there will be a little spark.
Your charge controller should turn on or light up to indicate the battery is properly connected. For instance, mine has a light that turns on.
The battery is now connected!
At this point, your manual may tell you how to program the charge controller for your battery type, voltage, etc.
Mine has a button which I can press to indicate battery type. It defaults to sealed lead acid, which happens to be the type Im using. So I just kept it at the setting it was on.
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Solar Panels In Series Of Different Voltages
In this method all the solar panels are of different types and power rating but have a common current rating. When they are connected together in series, the array produces 21 volts at 3.0 amps, or 63 watts. Again the output amperage will remain the same as before at 3.0 amps but the voltage output jumps to 21 volts .
Finally, lets look at connecting solar panels in series with completely different nominal voltages and different current ratings.
Fix The Solar Panels On Your Roof
Once the battery, controller, and inverters are ready, you need to get started with mounting the solar panels. Select the best spot for the panels on the roof or on open ground that receives an unhindered supply of the suns radiation. You can either make a mounting stand yourself or get it from the market. The tilt of the mounting stand should almost be equal to the latitude angle of your location. The proper setting of the solar panels is critical for their operation & maintenance. Hence, it is essential to ensure that the panels face the sun throughout the day.
In the last phase of this step, wire the solar panels. You can trace a small junction box at the back of the solar panel. The junction box has negative and positive signs of polarity. In a large sized-panel, the junction box has terminal wires too with an MC4 connector. However, you will have to align the junction box with external wires yourself if you use small solar panels. Use the black and red wire for negative and positive terminal connections, respectively.
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Mc4 Connectors For Wiring Solar Panels In Series Vs Parallel
MC4 Connectors are the way most solar panels are wired together. Sure, some people just cut off the connectors and splice the wires together and thats fine, but for those of us who like the ease of use of the MC4 connectors, there are a few differences between parallel and series.Solar panels typically have MC4 connectors built onto the ends of their built in wires like this:
And in the following picture, this is how you would be wiring the panels up in series and in parallel using MC4 connectors:
In 90% of installations, when wiring in series, the solar panels can be placed close enough together so that the positive lead of one panel will reach the negative lead of the adjacent panel. This means you wont need extra MC4 connectors to make the inter-panel connections.If that solar panel arrangement works for your setup, youll only need 1 pair of MC4 connectors for the whole series.For Parallel wiring, youll need a pair of MC4 connectors per solar panel you use.
Connecting Solar Panels Together In Series
The first method we will look at for connecting solar panels together is whats known as Series Wiring. The electrical connection of solar panels in series increases the total system ouput voltage. Series connected solar panels are generally used when you have a grid connected inverter or charge controller that requires 24 volts or more. To series wire the panels together you connect the positive terminal to the negative terminal of each panel until you are left with a single positive and negative connection.
Solar panels in series add up or sum the voltages produced by each individual panel, giving the total output voltage of the array as shown.
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How To Wire Solar Panels In Series Vs Parallel
As a homeowner who is just learning about solar energy options, it is easy to get confused with all the technical terms you might read or hear about. You may have come across the different ways that solar panels can be wired. And your first thought might be: does this really matter? After all, you just want the panels to produce electricity!
How your solar panels are wired actually does matter. It impacts the performance of your system, as well as the inverter you will be able to use. You want your panels wired so that they give you the best savings possible, and a better return on investment.
Here are answers to a few of the common questions homeowners ask about wiring solar panels that can help you get a better understanding of whether your panels should be wired in series or parallel.
Understand The Wiring Diagram
Heres the wiring diagram showing how to connect a solar panel to a battery:
Its important to understand the following:
- Dont connect a solar panel directly to a battery. Doing so can damage the battery. Instead, connect both battery and solar panel to a solar charge controller.
- Its recommended you fuse your system.Safety best practices, yall! Place one fuse between the positive battery terminal and the charge controller. Place another between the positive solar panel wire and the charge controller.
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The Answer To Installing Off
Assembling and wiring all of the various components of a solar system can be a complicated process for a novice. Not to mention, it can get quite expensive. Especially if you make any mistakes along the way.
For us, the ultimate answer was to use a component Kodiak/Apex solar panel & generator system from a company called Inergy.
The panels and wiring all fit and plug together with ease. And in place of using a separate controller and battery system, a single small battery/generator unit placed in the cabin handles storing and dispersing the electric.
More importantly, it eliminated the need for us to install an electrical panel and outlets in such a small space. For us, it was a huge savings in time and money.
Making it even better, the battery power pack and outlet unit is portable. Meaning, when we need to, we can easily just lift it up and take it anywhere on the farm where we might need instant remote power.
Here is a quick look at how we installed our system, including a simple and inexpensive way to install solar panels to any roof.
Mount The Solar Panel
It is crucial to set up a solar panel on a ground or rooftop were there will be no obstruction of sunlight. It is also important to tilt it to the right direction if you are on a northern hemisphere, point them to the south, or point them to the north if you are located somewhere on a southern hemisphere. This way, you ensure they capture maximum sunlight.
One of the methods used to firmly secure the panels is to use concrete that should be poured at each leg of the stand.
To mount the panel to the stand, use inbuilt holes on its sides to screw it to the stand. You will also find a small junction box on the back side of the panel with negative and positive sign of polarity. Junction boxes on smaller panels come with external wires, while on larger panels, they come with terminal wires with MC4 connector.
Use black wire for negative, and red wire for positive terminal connection.
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Questions About How To Install Solar Panels
These five steps represent the basics of how to install solar panels. But of course, these are just general guidelines, and specific steps can vary from home to home and from installer to installer.
If you have additional questions about how to install solar panels, a good next step would be to seek out the top solar companies in your area and make an appointment for a consultation. You can ask more about specific solar panel installation processes and what you might expect if you decide to make the leap into solar power.
You can fill out the quick form below or use this tool to get a free quote and book a consultation with a certified solar energy installer in your area.
Mistakes To Avoid When Charging Batteries With Solar Panel
The most critical mistake to avoid when charging batteries with solar panels is connecting expensive panels and large batteries to a solar power controller and wires that arent calibrated to work with the system.
This error will result in significant drops in efficiency and could result in fire hazards if the parts overheat from being undersized.
Make sure everything works with everything. Keep your solar panel max output voltage well over your battery bank voltage by at least 2 volts. Keep your wires as short as possible to avoid unnecessary efficiency loss.
Choose a charge controller that is either equivalent to your voltage and amperage system values or large enough to accommodate added future panels.
Make sure you install your panels with the best sun exposure. Most online calculations assume five hours of direct sunlight per day. If you place the panels in a shaded location or at a wrong angle to the sun, your production rates will substantially decrease.
Dont underestimate your wattage needs. When you calculate your system needs, dont leave anything out. For example, you shouldnt think about your average wattage needs but rather your maximum wattage needs.
It is much easier to leave charge in the batteries than overdraw from them. However, when you drain a battery system too much, you can damage the batteries, which decreases their life span.
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What Are Rv Solar Panels
In the 1800s, scientists observed something called the photovoltaic effect, where some materials would produce an electric charge and current when exposed to sunlight. Attempts were made over the years to create solar engines, as they called them, but most had very low efficiencies. It wasnt until the 1950s that scientists discovered that silicon could create a much more efficient solar panel.
This initial discovery led to the development of solar cells that could harness the suns energy and turn it into electricity. The technology has evolved over the years, but the concept remains the same.
A solar panel is a panel filled with solar cells that capture the suns energy and turn that energy into usable electricity that powers homes, businesses, coffee pots, and, yes your RV!
Lets find out how it all works!
S For Solar Panel Installation
By installing a home solar power system, you can reduce your dependence on traditional utility companies, offsetting the majority of your monthly energy bills. Plus, it offers a tangible method to curb your environmental footprint, making for cleaner, healthier communities.
Somewhat counterintuitively, the majority of what determines a successful solar project has little to do with the installation itself. Before getting into how to install solar panels, there are a couple of nuances to note off the bat.
First, installing solar panels requires thorough knowledge of solar technology, design and engineering. In other words, the average person will likely want to avoid a DIY solar panel installation and leave the process to professional local installers. A properly designed PV system will provide far more savings on the backend than most DIY installations will save on the front.
The second thing to consider is that solar panel installation wont happen overnight. Even after you choose the best solar panels for the job, there are a few vital steps in the installation process essential for ensuring a reliable, effective and efficient renewable energy system.
Here are the basic steps of solar panel installation:
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