Top 10 Solar Panel Diagnostic, Testing & Wiring Tools In 2020


Part 14 of 14 - Solar Powered Prepping Series - What You Can Maintain With Foldable Solar Panels & Solar Generators

Best Solar Panel Cabling, Testing, & Diagnostic Tools

Top 10 Best Solar Panel Testing, Diagnostic & Cabling Tools For Doomsday Preppers!


This article is part 14 of 14 in our series that cumulatively includes details on the vast amount of battery powered capabilities a prepper can easily maintain.  

In this article, written from a prepper's viewpoint, learn the Top 10 best solar panel diagnostic devices & tools needed by preppers for testing, cabling and planning to improve your odds of surviving a catastrophic event!  

Keep reading to learn recommended tools for cabling & testing foldable solar panels & portable power stations and the order of importance of each tool.  In addition learn about wiring size charts and voltage drop calculators that can assist in properly sizing solar panel to power station extension cables.  

Details on building your own extension cables and connecting solar panels in parallel are provided below after the Top 10 best solar panel diagnostic devices & tools.

Suaoki 120W Solar Panel Charging Energizer 160Wh Power Station Via 13' 3-Piece Extension Cable (19.8V - Open Circuit Voltage & 5.847A Short Circuit Current)

Suaoki 120W Solar Panel Charging Energizer 160Wh Power Station Via 13' 3-Piece Extension Cable

At a very minimum, we recommend that anyone using just a simple foldable solar panel & portable power station and the provided cables at least have a good multimeter and electrical power usage monitor.  See our top two picks below or pick your own.  

With just these two diagnostic tools, you can see how well or not your solar panel is working, whether or not you have a reversed polarity issue, and you can also plan what size power station to buy to take advantage of and correctly size a solar panel.

Our Top 10 Picks for the Best Solar Panel Testing, Diagnostic & Cabling Tools

1. 
AstroAI DM6000AR Multimeter 

Multimeters are a must have diagnostic tool to test the DC open circuit voltage and short circuit DC current from the solar panel before it is connected to any solar generators / power stations.  In addition a multimeter can test the polarity of any cables attached connected to a solar panel as well as the polarity of the DC Input connector on the power station.

Prepper's Viewpoint:  Prior to making the DC connection from any solar panel(s) to the solar generator/power station DC input, it is recommended to test the open circuit voltage and short circuit current of the solar panel at the DC connector (at the power station end) using a multi-meter to make sure the solar panel(s) voltage, current & wattage is within the operating limits of the power station's maximum DC input capacity.  

It is also a good idea to test the positive and negative polarity of the DC input as well especially if you added and/or created any extension cables.  The AstroAI DM6000AR is a simply fantastic very accurate and high quality multimeter and a great value.

The Highly Accurate & Quality AstroAI DM6000AR Multimeter

AstroAI DM6000AR Digital Multimeter



AstroAI DM6000AR Digital Multimeter Measuring Open Circuit Voltage On Rockpals 60W Solar Panel

 AstroAI DM6000AR Digital Multimeter Measuring Open Circuit Voltage On Rockpals 60W Solar Panel

A couple of things to note in the picture above.  This picture is measuring the Open Circuit Voltage of the Rockpals 60W solar panel with a measurement of 20.69V DC.  The Amazon listing for this panel and the 100W panel incorrectly lists the Open Circuit Voltage (OCV) as 16V - 18V.  

That range (16V - 18V) likely represents the DC charging volts after you connect the panel to the power station. The OCV of the Rockpals 60W and 100W solar panels should be closer to 21V max and not 16V - 18V as listed in Amazon.  

Also note the very bottom right hand corner of the picture where we have the red positive multimeter probe placed inside the 5.5mm x 2.1mm connector (that will plug into our power stations), and we are simply touching the black multimeter probe to the outside of the connector.  

On the 5.5mm x 2.1mm DC connector, the inside contact is positive and the outside contact is negative.  If we would have reversed the probes, the multimeter would have still read 20.69V, but there would have been a big negative symbol i.e., "-" symbol in front of 20.69.

Overview - AstroAI Digital Multimeter TRMS 6000 Counts


AstroAI Multimeter Review




Check Current Prices & Availability - AstroAI DM6000AR Multimeter 

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2. Poniie PN2000 Plug-in Electricity Usage Monitor 

Electricity Usage Monitors have the main purpose of helping you save on your electricity bills.  Simply connect one to a standard AC outlet and then plug a device in to this unit which allows you to count power consumption by the kilowatt-hours and assess what appliances are actually worth keeping plugged in. You are able to check the quality of your power by monitoring voltage, amp, frequency and power factor. 

Prepper's Viewpoint:  Preppers should include an electricity usage monitor for "solar prepping" as this is a must have planning tool to help you determine the actual Watts (W) and Watt Hours (Wh) for all of the 110V AC powered devices and battery chargers that you own that you would want to maintain after a Doomsday event using foldable solar panels & portable power stations.

Poniie PN2000 Plug-in Electricity Usage Monitor

Poniie PN2000 Plug-in Electricity Usage Monitor

This device will help you properly size portable power stations to make sure that they can handle the maximum continuous watts and surge watts for the most power hungry devices that you would plug into them.  Also, from a Wh perspective, you can plan how often any of your device battery chargers would need to be used and that will help you determine how many power stations to buy and what size.  

With the up and down arrows on this device, it will cycle through Watts (W), Current (mA), Volts (V), Frequency (Hz), Cumulative Time (Minutes), Power Consumption (kWh), and Power Factor.  The Poniie also has a backlight button (rightmost button).  

Click the "Set" then "OK" button to clear the memory to start the kWh timer at 0 minutes.  Note that the Cumulative Time only means the run time of your appliance, not the elapsed time, so this device shows the accumulated device run-time and accumulated kilowatt-hours, which is perfect.

Poniie PN2000 Plug-in Electricity Usage Monitor


Note that most battery chargers pull their max watts initially.  As a battery charges, the charging watts become progressively less, so battery charger Wh are probably less than you would think, as you will see if you measure their Wh with this device.  

We really like the short AC extension cord that comes with it as well.  In the picture below, 4 AA Eneloop batteries take 3 hours to charge using approx. 5 watts average, so it takes approx. 15 Wh of our power station's available Wh.  

We feel perfectly comfortable with one Beaudens 166Wh and one Energizer 160Wh Power Station to run all of our devices and battery chargers during a Doomsday scenario as we describe in our 14-part Solar Powered Prepping Series - What You Can Maintain With Foldable Solar Panels & Solar Generators.  

With that said, every few years we plan to add another LiFePO4 (or better technology if available) power station to our stockpile and "stagger" our power station purchases.  

Poniie PN2000 Measuring 6.87 Watts On Panasonic AA Battery Charger

Poniie PN2000 Measuring Wattage Of AA Battery Charger


The following YouTube video  shows you how to use a "Kill A Watt" to save money.  This device is similar to the Poniie device but with no backlight
.

How to use a Kill A Watt and save money



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3. Meterk Digital Clamp Meter Multimeter 

Digital Clamp Meters have the same basic functionality as a multimeter but with the added capability of measuring current (amps) with the Current Clamp.  

Clamp Meters can also detect AC voltage between a range such as 90V to 1000V using their Non-contact Voltage Detection Function (NCV) that has a sensor to detect voltage and avoid electric shock without touching any wires. The NCV function warns you with a flashing light and alarm sound if AC voltage is detected.

Prepper's Viewpoint:  If we could only have one multimeter it would be our #1 choice (the AstroAI DM6000AR Multimeter), but we also really like the Meterk MK06 Clamp Meter as a backup multimeter and for the really nice extra functionality of being able to very quickly and accurately measure DC current from our solar panels.

The simple instructions are:  1) switch the dial to current (40A position), 2) toggle the select button to DC current, 3) depress the zero button, and 4) simply place the clamp meter around either the Positive or Negative wire in the cable(s) between the solar panel and power station (or any other device).  

The NCV function is also nice if you needed to safely test any metal objects, wires, or buildings to see if they are energized with AC voltage.

Meterk MK06 Clamp Meter 

Top 10 Solar Panel Diagnostic, Testing & Wiring Tools For Preppers In 2020!

IMPORTANT:  In the picture below, the orange Meterk is clamped around the positive (red) wire during a short circuit current test of our 120W Suaoki solar panel.  It would read the same 5.71A DC current if we had clamped around (just) the negative (black) wire.  

Note that if you just have a single sheath DC to DC cable and do not have access to the individual positive and negative wires, then any Clamp Meter will not be able to measure current by clamping around both wires as the two wires (positive & negative) are carrying the same voltage with opposite polarity so they will cancel each other out in a voltage measurement.

Meterk Clamp Meter & AstroAI Multimeter Both Measuring Approx. 5.7A (Short Circuit Amps) From A Suaoki 120W Solar Panel

Meterk Clamp Meter & AstroAI Multimeter

Many clamp meters will read AC current via the clamp, but only some will read read DC, like this Meterk.  As noted, measure either the positive or negative wire (but not both) as the current should be the same with a sign change. 

Note that if you turn the clamp 180 degrees on the same cable (so that it passes through the clamp going the opposite way), then the polarity sign will also change. Both the Meterk Clamp Meter and the AstroAI multimeter are True RMS meters which are the best type of multi-meter.

IMPORTANT:  In general DC current is slightly harder to read for a clamp meter, so put the meter very close to the cable you want to measure (but not around it), then hit the zero button before clamping and making the measurement. Then unclamp and check that it reads zero again. 

The zero button tells the meter in what environment to read zero amps.  So you do not want the clamp meter around an energized wire and then hit zero, which would cause the clamp meter to baseline the voltage (whatever it really is) as zero volts.

The following YouTube video explains why you need True RMS instead of Averaging Clamp Meters.

True RMS (TRMS) vs Averaging Clamp Meters


The following YouTube video is a review of the Tacklife CM01A Digital Clamp Meter which functions identically to the Meterk MK06 Clamp Meter.

Tacklife CM01A Digital Clamp Meter Auto Ranging Multimeter Review



Check Current Prices & Availability - Meterk MK06 Clamp Meter

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4. 
Powerwerx DC Inline Power Analyzer 

DC Inline Power Analyzers require the power source and load to be connected in order for the meter to output the measurements on the display.  The measurements include 8 electrical parameters: Amps, Volts, Watts, Amp-hours, Watt-hours, Peak Amps, Minimum Volts (Sag), Peak Watts

Prepper's Viewpoint:  DC Inline Power Analyzers would be nice to have installed at the power station input end of the cable from the solar panel so that you could instantly check the watts, amps, and voltage going into the power station.  

As an example, if your solar panel was on the roof with an extension cable run through a window to your power station, you could check on the solar panel just by looking at the DC inline power analyzer.  If a limb was covering the solar panel and it was sunny outside you would know without even physically looking at the solar panel.

DC Inline Power Analyzer - Power Flow

The Powerwerx Precision Watt Meter and Power Analyzer comes precabled with MC4 cables or with Anderson powerpole connectors.

Powerwerx DC Inline Power Analyzer (Shown With MC4 Connectors)

Powerwerx DC Inline Power Analyzer (Shown With MC4 Connectors)

Powerwerx DC Inline Power Analyzer (Shown With Powerpole Connectors)

Powerwerx DC Inline Power Analyzer (Shown With Powerpole Connectors)

NOTE:  There is a less expensive option (150A High Precision DC Inline Power Analyzershown below that does not have any connectors.  It handles up to 60 Volts and 150 Amps max, and you could save a little money if you installed your own MC4 or Anderson connectors.  

This item comes with short wires (perhaps 3" length), so just barely enough wire to install the connectors of your choice.  It provides 8 Electrical Readings: Current (A), Voltage (V), Watts (W), Amp-hours (Ah), Watt-hours (Wh), Peak Amps (Ap), Minimum Volts (Vm), Peak Watts (Wp).

150A High Precision DC Inline Power Analyzer

150A High Precision DC Inline Power Analyzer

Important Note:  The PowerWerx is rated at 100A DC (45A Continuous) and the 150A High Precision Model is rated at 150A DC max.  However, it appears that these manufacturers are overstating the max amps that you can run through these especially since they will be connected to cables (much longer than a few inches) and those cables will likely not be able to handle such high amperage.

We wouldn't advise running any current through these over 20A.  The good news is that unless you are wiring more than several 12V-18V Solar Panels in parallel, you should be well under 20A.  

If you are using a single 12V-18V 120W Solar Panel, your max current would be less than 7A max.  The wiring in and out of all of these different these DC Inline meters appears to be 12 AWG and is listed as 12 AWG in the Powerwerx description.  

Note that 100 Amps of current (which is what the devices are rated at or more) would require a minimum of super heavy duty 4 AWG wire no matter how short your entire length of cable is from the solar panel to the power station.  

Build Your Own 150A High Precision DC Inline Power Analyzer

1. Required Tools & Connectors         
2. MC4 Connectors Installed              
3. In-Line Power Analyzer Connected
4. Reading (2.52A, 17.66V, 44.5W)    

150A High Precision DC Inline Power Analyzer Connected To Solar Panel And Power Station

NOTE:  The in-line power analyzer connected in the picture above was difficult to take a picture of the reading in the sun, but it is easy to read the measurements in person.

Check Current Prices & Availability - Powerwerx DC Inline Power Analyzer

1. Amazon (Powerwerx with MC4 Connectors)
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2. Amazon (Powerwerx with Anderson Powerpole Connectors)
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3. Amazon (150A High Precision DC Inline Power Analyzer with no Connectors)
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5. 
BougeRV MC4 Solar Crimper Tool Kit  

MC4 Crimpers are needed to install MC4 solar connectors easily and precisely.  BougeRV make quality stationary solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations and more including quality and inexpensive MC4 crimper and connectors for creating professionally installed solar connections.  

The BougRV MC4 Kit includes a ratcheting crimping tool, 2 spanner wrenches (used to tighten each 2-piece MC4 connector), and 6 pairs of MC4 connectors (6 male + 6 female MC4 connectors).

Prepper's Viewpoint:  In the event you need to extend your power station further away from the solar panel (than the provided DC cable will allow), such as having your solar panel just outdoors and your solar generator sitting inside, or if you need to create new MC4 cables for parallel solar panel connections, then there is a good chance that you may need to create your own MC4 cables.  

In the process of creating your own extension cables you may also run into situations where the polarity is reversed between the positive and negative connections and you need to fix that.  This requires that two MC4 cables be created (one male-to-male and one female-to-female cable).   They do not make these so you likely will have to make them yourself (see the 2nd picture below).

The BougeRV ratcheting crimping tool, spanner wrenches, and their MC4 connectors are high quality and easy to use.  The MC4 connectors are very sturdy and make water tight connections. We thought that we might need to order separate metal spanner wrenches, but the two blue ones that came with the kit seem very durable and plenty good for occasional use.

For more details, scroll down to the sections on Solar Panel To Power Station Extension Cables and Connecting Solar Panels In Parallel.

BougeRV MC4 Solar Crimper Tool Kit

BougeRV MC4 Solar Crimper Tool Kit Is Essential For Doomsday Preppers Who Want To Build Their Own Solar Extension Cables!


Male to Male (black) and Female to Female (red) MC4 cables that were custom made using the above BougeRV kit to reverse polarity

A Male to Male (black) and Female to Female MC4 Cable needed to reverse polarity

When you purchase MC4 extension cables, they always come with one male and one female end.  

In the rare event where you need to reverse polarity and your connections are MC4, you would need a male-to-male and a female-to-female cable similar to what we created above, or you would need to cut off existing MC4 connectors and re-install / switch them on your existing cables.

Note:  We had a couple of "normal" MC4 extension cables, where we simply cut one end off and installed a male MC4 opposite the existing male MC4 connector and we installed a female MC4 opposite the existing female MC4 connector.  

You could also just purchase the appropriate gauge Solar PV Cable in the appropriate length and install MC4 connectors as appropriate for your installation.

The following YouTube video shows you how to correctly crimp MC4 connectors using the BougeRV MC4 Solar Crimper Tool Kit.  It also demonstrates how a poor crimp technique without the correct tool will fail.

Best Way To Crimp PV MC4 Interconnection Cables



Check Current Prices & Availability - BougeRV MC4 Solar Crimper Tool Kit

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Additional BougeRV MC4 Solar Connectors can be ordered separately in either a set of 6 or set of 22 MC4 connectors.

6. IWISS Crimper Tool Kit For Anderson Powerpole Connectors

Anderson Powerpole Crimpers typically will crimp all three sizes of Powerpole contacts (15, 30 and 45 amp) and have a built-in contact positioner that holds the contact during crimping along with a ratcheting mechanism to assure a proper crimp every time.  

Prepper's Viewpoint:  Powerpole connectors are starting to show up on some of the larger power stations such as the Jackery 1000 and Titan as DC power inputs.  Also, if you just need an extension cable between a solar panel and a power station and have no intention of putting additional solar panels in parallel (which would require MC4 branch connectors), then the Powerpole connections can be an excellent choice and option to consider.

The IWISS Crimper Tool is an excellent choice for the cost.  

IWISS Crimper Tool For Anderson Powerpole Connectors

The IWISS Crimper Tool Kit For Anderson Powerpole Connectors Is Great For Solar Powered Prepping!

The 15, 30 & 45 amp Powerpole connectors will connect with each other in a secure connection if they are properly crimped.  

- 15 amp contacts are recommended for 20-16 gauge wire.
- 30 amp contacts are recommended for 14-12 gauge wire.
- 45 amp contacts are recommended for 10 gauge wire.

The following YouTube video shows you how to correctly crimp Anderson Powerpole connectors using the IWISS Crimper Tool.

IWISS AP11 Ratchet Crimping Tool for Anderson Powerpole Connectors



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You do have to order the Powerpole connectors separately.

7. Klein Tools Wire Cutter and Stripper Model 11063W

Wire Strippers & Cutters are needed along with either MC4 or Powerpole crimping tools to build your own solar cables assuming that you desire extension cables and/or parallel cables and they are not available for purchase for your particular need.  A good quality pair of wire strippers and cutters are nice to have for other electrical projects as well.

Prepper's Viewpoint:  If you need to build your own solar extension cables or solar panel parallel cables, the Klein Tools Wire Cutter and Stripper Model 11063W is an outstanding choice.  

This tool is an engineering marvel to watch it in action as the initial squeeze of the handle causes a guillotine action where one side gently clamps down on the wire with a tension loaded wire grip and the side other clamps down on the wire perfectly with the correctly sized sharp and precise blade.  

Once the clamp and blade compress down on the wire, continued progression of squeezing the handle will easily and perfectly remove up to 1-Inch in length of the insulation layer (jacket layer) in a single step.

You can always purchase a less expensive type of wire stripper, but if you want the best, Klein Tools is it.  They also make the Klein Curve which is a little less expensive, but has a normal wire stripper action. 

Klein Tools Wire Cutter and Stripper Model 11063W

The Klein Tools Wire Cutter and Stripper Model 11063W Is Simply The Best Available Wire Stripper For Solar Prepping!

Check Current Prices & Availability - Klein Tools Wire Cutter and Stripper Model 11063W

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2. Home Depot
Check Price of Dewalt 20V Max XR DCD791B Compact Drill At Home Depot

8. BOOHER 11-Piece 1000V Insulated Tools Set

Insulated Hand Tools keep you safe by providing an extra measure of protection against electric shock and they reduce the possibility of arc faults caused by short circuits.  What's the difference between a regular hand tool and an insulated tool? 

A lot of hand tools have a rubber coating and/or plastic handles but that’s not the same as an insulated tool. True protection against electric shock requires high quality insulation constructed of a special combination of materials that can block potentially hazardous voltages.

Prepper's Viewpoint:  Inevitably a prepper will need a pair of needle nose pliers, lineman's pliers, basic wire cutters, screwdrivers, etc., and perhaps be working near AC or DC voltage.  If you are anywhere near AC or DC powered devices or cables/wiring, it is always wise to have properly insulated hand tools for added protection.  

1000 volt electrician hand tools are recommended over regular hand tools.  We would never work on any solar cabling that is connected to either a solar panel, battery, power station, or any other device.  The BOOHER 11-Piece 1000V Insulated Tools Set below is a really good value.

BOOHER 11-Piece 1000V Insulated Tools Set

The BOOHER 11-Piece 1000V Insulated Tools Set Will Help Protect Preppers Against Electrical Hazards While Working Near AC or DC Voltage During Doomsday!

Check Current Prices & Availability - BOOHER 11-Piece 1000V Insulated Tools Set 

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9. MOTOPOWER MP0514B 12V Digital Battery Tester & Charging System Analyzer

12V Digital Battery Testers can provide a quick reading to determine if a vehicle battery needs a jump or replacing and also the alternator output status. 

Various colored LEDs indicate the battery and the alternator status, while the LCD digital screen simultaneously provides an accurate reading of the battery's voltage.  These testers are great diagnostic tools to use today during normal times.

Prepper's Viewpoint:  During a Doomsday scenario, a prepper may desire to utilize 12V automotive batteries in conjunction with a solar panel, solar controller, and a DC to AC power inverter. 

Before removing any batteries and using them, it would be best to first test them to understand their condition as some batteries may just be 100% dead and a waste of your time.  The MOTOPOWER MP0514B is a good choice.

MOTOPOWER MP0514B 12V Digital Battery Tester & Charging System Analyzer

The MOTOPOWER MP0514B 12V Digital Battery Tester & Charging System Analyzer Is An Asset For Preppers To Test Car Batteries During Doomsday!

The following YouTube video shows you how to use the RMSTATOR Battery Tester and Charging System Analyzer which is identical to the MOTOPOWER MP0514B.

Battery Tester and Charging System Analyzer


Check Current Prices & Availability - MOTOPOWER MP0514B 12V Digital Battery Tester & Charging System Analyzer 

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10. 
Amprobe SOLAR-100 Solar Power Meter

Solar Power Meters measure solar power to optimize placement of solar panels or solar water heaters, tests light transmission of windows and headlights, and checks thermal efficiency of windows.  

They provide measurements in British thermal units per hour per square foot (BTU/[ft2/h]) or in Watts per square meter (W/m2).  Maximum or minimum reading mode displays the highest or lowest reading in a session to track a sudden increase or decrease in readings

Prepper's Viewpoint:  The solar power meter would be most useful for mounting rigid stationary solar panels.  We have this item at #10 in our list because with a foldable solar panel you can basically do the same thing (although not quite as precisely) by using a multimeter, clamp meter and/or DC inline power analyzer.  

Since you will likely move the panel (not permanently mounted) throughout the day and you should have access to other meters like those higher in our list, you may not desire spending a lot on a solar power meter like this.  If you created a stationary bracket on top of your roof, this solar meter would be more accurate and perhaps worthwhile.

Amprobe SOLAR-100 Solar Power Meter

The Amprobe SOLAR-100 Solar Power Meter Will Assist Preppers To Optimize Their Solar Panel Orientation During Doomsday!

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Solar Panel To Power Station Extension Cables

If you need a solar panel extension cable, if the solar panel has an MC4 cable hardwired to it with an MC4 to DC adapter cable (and if needed an appropriate sized DC adapter), then it is super easy to just order an MC4 to MC4 extension cable and install it (as long as all cabling and the power station are still within allowable voltage and current ratings).

There may be other situations where you can just order and install an Anderson to Anderson extension cable. In the picture below the Rockpals 60W solar panel comes hardwired to two 5' cables with MC4 and then has two 4' MC4 to 5.5mm x 2.1mm cables.

We simply ordered two 20' 10 AWG cables (red and black coils below) with MC4 connectors and it was super easy to add the 20' extensions with the existing cables.

Rockpals 60W Solar Panel Measuring 21.46V (Open Circuit Voltage) & 3.265A (Short Circuit Current) Through A Three-Piece 29' Extension Cable

Rockpals 60W Solar Panel Measuring 21.46V & 3.265A Through 29' Extension Cable

There will be situations where the solar panel and the solar generator both have for example, female DC ports, such as they both might have 5.5mm x 2.1mm female ports. Since they do not seem to make 5.5mm x 2.1mm male to male extension cables you end up having to make your own cables, and you may even have to make short cables to reverse the polarity.

It's not that hard to do as explained below, but it is a lot more convenient to not have to make your own cables. However, if you find the perfect solar panel, better than other solar panels, but you have to make some of your own cables, then sometimes that will be well worth the trouble. Keep reading for more details.

Example Of A Wire Sizing Chart

Wire Sizing Chart

As a hypothetical example, assume we have a Beaudens 166Wh powerstation and we also have a 100W solar panel that has MC4 connectors and an existing 9' of 16 AWG cable (between the solar panel & power station) and the panel's maximum charging voltage is 5.5A. Assume that we want to order a 20' 10 AWG MC4 to MC4 extension cable.

When you create or buy extension cables be sure to consider the overall electrical length between the solar panel & power station and use a wire sizing chart for a first general ballpark of the needed gauge. So if you had 9' existing cable length (16 AWG) and you want to add a 20' extension cable (10 AWG), then your total length is 9' + 20' = 29'.

To be safe with the calculation we would go with the smallest gauge size in the calculator. The chart below shows that 12 AWG would be right at the fringe limit of supporting 5.5A and still have a voltage drop less than 3%.

When we entered the parameters in the Voltage Drop Calculator below we entered all 16 AWG so the voltage drop is at 7.11%. With 10 AWG as 20' of the total 29', we would expect the voltage drop to be lower than 7.11%.

Another Example Of A Wire Sizing Chart For Minimizing Voltage Drops
Another Example Of A Wire Sizing Chart

IMPORTANT: In conjunction with a wire sizing chart, use one of many available Voltage Drop Calculators such as available on Calculator.net. See the screenshot below for an example to determine the predicted voltage drop.

If you pick a gauge too small for the parameters, the calculator will either tell you the wire will not support the current OR you should notice that the resulting predicted voltage is too low to charge the power station. Use more than one voltage drop calculator and more than one wire sizing chart to validate your calculation of needed gauge. If you are still unsure, consult an electrician.

Example Of A Voltage Drop Calculator Entries & Results

Example Of A Voltage Drop Calculator Entries & Results

In our example (above screenshot), a 20' 10AWG extension cable will still have approx. 16.72V max in full sun and should charge our Beaudens 166Wh Power Station. This is because, at 16.72 predicted volts, we are within the manufacturer range is 13V-22V for solar panel charging.

The Beaudens 166Wh Power Station MPPT controller will optimize the charging rate by adjusting the current from the solar panel such that the Wattage is approximately 42W.

IMPORTANT: In practice, always assume that your calculations could be wrong or that the polarity may now be reversed when you connected more than one cable. If you create or purchase new extension cables between your solar panel and power station, before connecting the solar panel to the power station, it is highly advised that you connect all of the cables to the solar panel in maximum sunlight, and measure the open circuit voltage and short circuit current coming from the solar panel on the connector end of the now extended cable that you plan to plug into the power station.

Validate again that your power station can accommodate the solar panel's voltage and current reading per your actual multimeter readings. With the solar panel and all cabling connected, also check the polarity of the connection that you are about to plug into the power station to make sure that the positive and negative leads were not reversed.

If the polarity is reversed, you will have to modify the cabling to get it fixed or else you will fry your power station and likely cause a safety hazard. If you are not 100% sure of what you are doing, consult an electrician or just do not plan on using any cables other than what came with the solar panel.

Example Of A Voltage Drop Calculator Entries & Results That Will Not Support The Current

Another Example Of A Voltage Drop Calculator Entries & Results

Connecting Solar Panels In Parallel

For most of the solar generators listed in the Small through Medium/Large categories, you can charge them adequately with just a single solar panel.  For those solar generators in the Large category, you are most likely going to want more than one solar panel connected in parallel (with MC4 branch connectors) to take advantage of faster charging.  That makes the Large solar generators less portable than the smaller power stations. 


Parallel Solar Panel Connection

You will need to determine from either the solar generator manual or from the product description where you are purchasing the solar generator what are the limits on charging in maximum watts and/or maximum allowable open circuit voltage.  

For many power stations with an MPPT controller, they specify using any single solar panel input as long as the open circuit voltage of your solar panel does not exceed the input voltage limit of your power station.  

IMPORTANT:  Make sure that you know what you are doing before connecting solar panels and solar generators, and especially if you wire solar panels in parallel or series. Be sure to investigate particular solar generators & solar panels to make sure they are compatible and that your wiring is sized properly for the current (amps).  

Connecting two of the exact same solar panels in parallel will maintain the same solar panel open circuit voltage but will basically double the wattage & current.  The solar panel(s)' open circuit voltage, wattage and current should not exceed the solar generator's DC input capacity.   

If you exceed the solar generator's DC input capacity, you theoretically could "fry" the solar generator and/or create a safety hazard, although in reality the over-voltage and over-current protections built into most solar generators should protect the unit by shutting down as long as you do not exceed the limits by a certain amount.  

At some point though, exceeding the max specified DC Input power by some amount could actually fry the unit and cause a safety hazard.  We are not sure what that would be so it is best to stay under the manufacturers specifications.  

Depending on what you purchase, you may also have to buy DC adapters if the DC connectors are not the right size.  Most foldable solar panels come with several DC adapters to fit a wide range of popular power stations.



Caution & Warning

Use at your own risk. Please note that the information provided on this web site is for information only. TopSurvivalPreps.com and it's owner have no liability or responsibility for anyone using any items or information described on this web site including any of the above devices and tools


If You Liked This Article - Please Share It & Keep Reading Our - Solar Powered Prepping Series - What You Can Maintain With Foldable Solar Panels & Solar Generators

Each of the following articles cumulatively include details and recommendations on the vast amount of capabilities a prepper can maintain during Doomsday! 

Solar Powered Prepping Series:

The following web pages are in progress!  They will be created throughout 2020 and the links will be added below as they are created.



Part 3:
  
Top 10 Expert Survival, Bushcraft & Self Defense Videos In 2020

Part 4:  Best AA, AAA, C, D, 9V & CR123A Battery Chargers & Batteries In 2020

Part 5:  Top 15 Devices That Use Rechargeable AA, AAA, C, D, 9V & CR123A Batteries In 2020

Part 6:  Top 10 High Tech Motion Detection, Camera & Lighting - Early Warning Systems In 2020

Part 8:  Top 10 Direct 110V AC, DC & USB Powered Devices In 2020

Part 9:  Top 10 Communication Devices For Preppers In 2020

Part 10:  Top 10 Drones & Tactical Uses For Surveillance, Reconnaissance & More In 2020

Part 11:  Top 5 GPS Navigation Systems For Preppers In 2020

Part 12:  Top 10 NightVision / InfraRed Imaging Optics:  Cameras, Binoculars, Riflescopes & Trail Cams In 2020

Part 13: Top 10 Solar Powered Entertainment Solutions In 2020

Part 14 (This Article):  Top 10 Solar Panel Diagnostic, Testing & Wiring Tools In 2020

The above 15 related web pages will be included in our TopSurvivalPrep's Prepper Gold Mine which is our best "How To" & "Top 10" Learning Series To Prepare For Doomsday

Also check out Our Top 10 Favorite Portable Solar Panels & Solar-Powered Products For Doomsday Preppers for other top solar devices.