Testing the Solar panel setup

by Administrator 23 July 2012

My new solar panels and charge controller have arrived, so I'm ready to get it all connected. But, before it's set up permanently I want to test everything to make sure it all works as it should.

The picture to the right shows a simple wiring diagram, basically we have connections for the Solar Panel(s), battery and the load. First we need to connect the battery, this charge controller can switch between 12 and 24 volts and by connection the battery first it can switch accordingly. When the battery is connected the controller should light up showing the battery capacity and whether or not it has sufficient charge for a load.

I did a quick test of the battery/charge controller combination by connecting a 12v cigarette lighter socket to the charge controller and charging my phone with a USB adaptor, this worked fine. It took a while for a decently sunny day to arrive for testing of the solar panels, I had already done a few simple checks in overcast weather and the voltage was OK, but to test the true capacity of the panels I needed the full strength of the sun.

First I checked both panels seperately, the voltage was still OK, and according to my multimeter each panel was producing approximately 1.1 - 1.2 amps which checks out with the 20 watt specification. I then connected both panels in a parallel configuration and they managed to produce a maximum of 2.4 amps, I was ready to get it all connected properly.

I did all this testing without using fuses, which is not a very smart thing to do. Later when testing with fuses I accidently tried to measure the voltage while the multimeter was in Amp measuring mode, resulting in a short circuit, luckily the fuse blew and saved my equipment.

* Please note, I am learning as I go along. If there are any incorrect facts above, please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks


Part 1: Solar panels for camping (Introduction)
Part 2: Parts for a Solar camping setup
Part 3: Testing the panels and charge controller
Part 4: Assembling the Camping Solar system


Tags: ,

Sourcing parts for a Solar camping setup

by Administrator 17 July 2012

Once I decided on which parts I needed I set about sourcing them. The most obvious place to look is on Ebay for cheap parts, but be careful, I've bought my share of dodgy items there...

Ebay Ireland didn't have too much choice and what they did have was fairly expensive, so I tried ebay.co.uk and also ebay.de, I chose Germany as they have a massive solar market, be sure to use a translate function/website to make sense of it if you can't read the German language. (I use Google Chrome's translate function)

There was a lot to choose from, I ended up ordering the following:

  • 2x 18 volt 20 watt solar panels.
  • 1x 12/24 volt charge controller.
  • 1x 12 volt 20 AH deep cycle battery (purchased locally).
  • Wiring, fuse holders, fuses and connectors and other assorted small items.

20 watt solar panel  12/24 volt charge controller for solar panel  12 volt 20AH battery

When searching for the correct items for your solar camping case you must take the following into consideration:

  • Make sure your battery has at least double the required capacity.
  • Solar panels need to output approx. 17-18 volts to be able to charge a 12 volt battery. (34-36 volts for a 24 volt battery)
  • You should match the wattage of the solar panels to the AH of your battery (ie. 20w panel : 20AH battery) I doubled the wattage as we don't have much sun in Ireland.

Later you'll also need parts to connect your devices, we'll get to that later on.

* Please note, I am learning as I go along. If there are any incorrect facts above, please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks


Part 1: Solar panels for camping (Introduction)
Part 2: Parts for a Solar camping setup
Part 3: Testing the panels and charge controller
Part 4: Assembling the Camping Solar system


Tags: ,


Month List