How to connect multiple solar panels in array

Written by paul marshall
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How to connect multiple solar panels in array
Proper wiring of a solar array takes time and accuracy. (electrical panel wiring image by Jake Hellbach from Fotolia.com)

Wiring multiple solar panels together to form an array may sound like a daunting task, but if you are well prepared, the job is fairly straightforward. Array wiring is a tedious, time-consuming task, depending on the wire termination method used. Preparation is an essential component to a successful and timely array wiring job. Organising your "plan of attack" before you pick up any tools or materials will make wiring your array the easiest part of the overall solar panel installation process.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Appropriate length No.12 gauge wire, preferably designed for PV
  • Wire strippers
  • Soldering iron
  • Rosin core solder
  • Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
  • Marking tape, red and black
  • MC contacts (multiconnector)
  • Crimping tool
  • Zip ties or lacing tape

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Cut the wire for the lengths you think you will need between panels. Always add a couple of inches in case of length errors or termination errors.

  2. 2

    Strip ¼ inch of insulation from wire end that connects to panel.

  3. 3

    Crimp connector onto wire if using a screw-on contact or a multiconnector, or MC, contact. MC contacts look like the RCA plugs (red, white and yellow) used on your stereo equipment.

  4. 4

    Apply solder to terminal plates on all panels if a soldering method is used, by touching plate with the iron, then touching the solder to the plate, not the iron. You should only leave a small ball of solder on the terminal plate. Do this for all panels in the array at the same time.

  5. 5

    Either solder bare wire to solar panel terminal plates on all panels or crimp contact onto wire if a screw-on connector is used. Plug MC contacts together if MC contacts already are installed on panel.

  1. 1

    Connect the positive (+) lead of the first panel to the negative (-) lead on the next panel in the array. Repeat throughout the array.

  2. 2

    Connect the negative (-) lead of the first panel to the positive (+) lead on the next panel in the array. Repeat throughout the entire array.

  3. 3

    Keep wires from the end of the series run separate or terminate into a two-position plug to avoid shorting.

  1. 1

    Connect the positive (+) lead on the first panel to the positive (+) lead on the next panel in the array. Continue throughout the entire array.

  2. 2

    Connect the negative (-) lead on the first panel to the negative (-) lead on the next panel in the array. Continue throughout the entire array.

  3. 3

    Bundle all wires in the system together and run them through a conduit. Using zip-ties or electrical lacing tape to bundle them together will help prevent any wiring damage caused by snagging or tripping.

Tips and warnings

  • A combination of series/parallel wiring can be employed to reach specific voltage and amperage requirements.
  • Parallel wiring will increase the amperage, or strength of the current, but the voltage will remain the same.
  • Series wiring will increase the voltage, or speed of the current, but the amperage will remain the same.
  • Combination series/parallel wiring will increase both voltage and amperage, making it a custom wiring scheme to fit individual needs.
  • If at any time you feel you are in over your head, secure any loose ends away from each other and contact a certified electrician or solar installer. Miswiring your solar panels can ruin them as well as cause a fire.
  • Wire all of the positive (+) leads first before continuing. Do not wire the negative (-) leads until the positive (+) sides are complete and the end of the wire run is taped off to prevent any short circuits. Never leave any wires connected to the arrays lying around with any exposed conductor. Your solar panels are active and producing electricity at all times. There is sufficient power to melt wires and cause injury or a fire if the wiring is mishandled.

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