How to Install Photovoltaic Wiring

Written by david mcguffin
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How to Install Photovoltaic Wiring
Solar panels represent complex technology that must meet electrical codes when installed. (Solar Panel image by kuhar from

Photovoltaic (PV) technology has become increasingly popular in the past decade, with promise of continued expansion in the American marketplace. Many publications and advertisements imply that the installation of PV technology can be done by ordinary homeowners with a background in electrical systems. However, it is important that PV wiring and installation be done with the utmost concern for quality, as it is not only subject to electrical codes and inspections, but also poses inherent risks and hazards such as electrocution, shorts or fires.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Industrial heavy-duty wire crimpers
  • Electrical tape
  • 12-gauge American Wire Gauge (AWG) cable
  • USE-2 rated wire
  • Electrical metallic tubing (EMT)
  • Soldering iron
  • Insulated heat-shrink tubing
  • Heat gun or lighter
  • Microinverters

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  1. 1

    Link multiple solar panels together according to exact specifications from the PV panel module's manufacturer. There are several different manufacturers and standards for each type of panel. Improve the efficiency of mismatched modules by installing microinverters in the wiring between each module. Fasten microinverters by attaching each unit's DC input wires to the wires connecting each solar panel module, splicing them together by soldering or using a wire nut.

  2. 2

    Attach 12-gauge AWG (American Wire Gauge) to the positive and negative terminal leads from the module series. The black AWG wire connects to the positive terminal, and the white wire connects to the negative terminal. Connect the green wire to the frame of the solar module, which will act as a ground for the system. Wire that is 12-gauge or smaller should be used for all systems that are below 50 volts. PV modules use a variety of different installation methods for attaching wires. Depending on the design of the PV module, you may have to screw in the 12-gauge wires, crimp, solder or screw-in using pigtail connections. All connecting wires must meet the National Electric Code by joining with a tight twist and then be brazed, welded or soldered. All connections should either be wrapped in electrical tape or insulated heat-shrink tubing, which can be installed using a heat gun or a lighter.

  3. 3

    Install an electrical metallic tubing (EMT) or a non-metallic conduit or sheath, which will add extra environmental protection for the 12-gauge AWG cable. Slide the EMT along the 12-gauge AWG cable so that the cable is passing through the EMT. Do this prior to connecting the 12-gauge cable to the charge controller. Most charge controllers attach to wires via screw-in input ports.

  4. 4

    Size each other AWG wire needed for installation according to the length of the wire and the anticipated amp load that will pass through the wire. If the wrong-size wire is used, a short or fire could result, damaging your system, or in a worse-case scenario, burning your home. Typically, batteries are connected by using 8-gauge AWG cable.

  5. 5

    Wire the battery bank by using either a series or parallel circuit configuration. Most installations use a series circuit, which has the advantage of adding each battery component's voltage. Install a series configuration by connecting each battery's positive terminal with the adjacent battery's negative terminal. Continue this process until all batteries are connected and there are only two free terminals, one at each end of the configuration. The free terminals connect to the power inverter, which converts the electricity to alternating current (AC), which is the usable form for household appliances. Wire a parallel configuration, which adds the amperage of each component, by connecting like terminals, positive to positive and negative to negative.

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