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Thanks to skyrocketing adoption and improvements in solar technology, installing your own solar power systems is easier than ever. Part of what makes DIY installations simple is the increasing standardization of connectors and components that don’t require any special tools or knowledge to use.
Solar connectors are one of these innovations that make solar power accessible to just about anyone.
Even though they’re simple to use, solar connectors still have a bit of mystery about them. Let’s explore the applications of solar connectors, discover their advantages, and learn how to use them.
What Is a Solar Connector?
Solar connectors are a type of electrical connector used in modern solar power systems. These connectors are most often used to make connections between solar panels.
What are The Parts of Solar Connectors?
A few different parts that make up each solar connector:
- Male or Female Connector: Solar connectors come in matched pairs — one male and one female. The male connector features a rod, while the female connector has a corresponding receptacle.
- Contact Pins: There is a metal pin inside each connector (both male and female). These contact pins are usually made from tinned copper, providing excellent electrical conductivity and corrosion resistance.
- Housing: This is the outer part of each connector, often made from durable black plastic. The housing should be resistant to UV light and weather. The plastic housing features a locking mechanism that prevents accidental disconnections.
- Sealing Glands: The sealing glands are located at the bottom end of the connector where the cable enters. They provide a weather-proof seal.
- Cable Gland Nut: This nut secures the connector and cable together. It provides strain relief for the cable and adds another layer of weather resistance.
What are The Advantages of Solar Connectors?
Modern solar connectors have several inherent advantages when compared with older and proprietary types of solar plugs:
Solar connectors are designed to withstand years of harsh outdoor conditions, including UV radiation, rain, and snow. They usually have an IP67 or IP68 waterproof rating, meaning that they are exceedingly resistant to moisture and dust.
You should never use connectors that are rated below IP67 or IP6* for water/dust resistance, as you open yourself up to issues when your system inevitably experiences harsh weather.
Solar connectors have a secure locking mechanism that prevents accidental disconnections. They are also designed to accommodate the high DC voltages present in residential solar power systems.
Polarity protection is another critical safety feature of solar connectors. Since they have both male and female versions, reverse polarity is nearly impossible, which reduces the risk of system damage from wiring mistakes.
Most modern solar panels and portable power stations use solar connectors that are universally compatible. When you use a standard solar connector, you can swap out other panels and components without any hassle. Most solar panel manufacturers utilize the same solar connectors, and the technology is poised to be the standard for years to come.
Easy to Use
Solar connectors are known for their simplicity — connecting and disconnecting only takes seconds. This makes the solar installation process accessible to DIY-savvy homeowners and allows for easy maintenance if ever required.
They are not hardwired in, so you can always unplug and swap out components as needed. If you make a mistake in your initial installation, you can quickly adjust and make layout or wiring changes.
How and When To Use a Solar Connector?
Solar connectors are most commonly used to connect solar panels together in series or in parallel. They are sometimes used to connect solar panels to junction boxes and other solar components. They are easy to use — just plug the male connector into the female connector until you hear the locking mechanism click. Always ensure the power is disconnected when working on a solar power system.
To disconnect solar connectors, just squeeze the clips on the side using a solar cable disconnect tool (or your fingers). Exercise caution when working with solar panels, and never work on your system while it is under load.
What’s the Best Way to Connect Solar Panels: Series or Parallel?
The decision to wire your solar panels in either series or parallel depends on the specifics of your solar power system. Many factors will affect your choices, such as the layout and orientation of your array, shading and other challenges, and the distance from your portable power station or balance of system. In some cases, it makes sense to combine both types of connection to utilize the benefits of both.
In a series circuit, the voltage of each panel is combined while the current remains the same. For example, if two 12V panels rated for 100 watts are wired in series, their combined output is 100 watts at 24 volts. These panels feed their combined power into a portable power station like the DELTA Pro.
A series circuit is beneficial for solar arrays that are far away from the power inverter or battery bank. At higher voltages, less power loss occurs over long lengths of wires.
Solar panels wired in series have at least one big drawback: if one panel becomes shaded (or reduces power output for any other reason), the rest of the connected panels will experience the same loss in power. For instance, if one panel in an array falls to 50 watts of power output, then even a 400W panel in the string could fall to this same 50W output.
In a parallel circuit, the voltage of the panels remains the same while the current is added together. For example, if two 12V panels rated for 100 watts are wired in parallel, their combined output is 200 watts at 12 volts. This process can be easily accomplished with a solar parallel connection cable.
Parallel circuits do not have the same energy-loss downfall that affects series circuits. If one panel in the array becomes shaded or damaged, the remaining PV panels can still produce their usual output.
The only drawback to parallel circuits is the lower voltages that they operate at, which results in energy loss over long wire runs. Plus, they require more wiring altogether, as each panel has to run a wire to a central location (as opposed to each panel being wired to the one next to it, as in a series circuit).
Combining Series and Parallel
Large solar arrays often use a combination of series and parallel circuits to draw upon the benefits of each. In this configuration, small groups of panels are arranged in strings and wired in series. The group of strings is then wired together in parallel.
For example, a rooftop solar array might have eight 12V rigid 400W solar panels. If we split these into four strings wired in series, each string would have two panels outputting a combined 400 watts at 24V. Then, once these four strings are wired together in parallel, the combined output would be 1600 watts at 24V.
Solar connectors are suitable for connecting solar panels in both series and parallel arrays.
Solar connectors have made solar power systems more accessible to the typical homeowner.
You don’t need to know anything about wiring, soldering, or electrical systems to plug in a solar panel. In simple solar power systems, you can truly just plug and play to start charging your portable power station or other balance of system!
Even in larger systems, solar connectors simplify the process of arranging solar panels into series and parallel circuits.
EcoFlow utilizes standard connectors in all of its solar panels. This makes it easy to incorporate them with different portable power stations or swap the panels into your existing solar power system.