How to Wire Solar Panels: Parallel VS Series Configurations

Got a few solar panels? Ready to wire them together? Great, I’ve some good information for you. Before we dive into it though, is this your first visit here? If so, I’d like to introduce myself.

Okay, let’s get wiring!

Before you can start connecting your panels together, you need to decide which wiring configuration to use, parallel or series. This page will explain the difference between the two, and it will give advice as to which you should use. Also, if you would like a set of professionally made wiring plans, just click here.

Wiring Solar Panels in Parallel

Imagine that you’ve got three solar panels lying next to each other on the ground. On the top of each panel is a positive terminal. On the bottom of each panel is a negative terminal. You are going to wire these panels together at the terminals. You have two options. Option one is to run wires along the top, connecting each positive terminal together. Then you would run wires along the bottom, connecting each negative terminal together. This is a parallel solar panel configuration. What are the effects of wiring your panels together using this configuration?

When you wire your solar panels in parallel, the total voltage output of your array is the same as it is in any one of your single panels. You do not add the voltage output of each panel and get a total output. The amperage output, on the other hand, does become the sum of the output of each panel. For example, say each of your panels produces 12 volts and 3.5 amps. The total output of your panels, when wired in parallel, would be 12 volts and 10.5 amps. What would your total output be if you had six panels instead of three? Your voltage output would remain the same, 12 volts, but your amperage would increase to 21.

Wiring Solar Panels in Series

Now look back again at those three solar panels sitting on the ground next to each other. We are going to hook them up again, but this time we are going to wire them in series. Instead of wiring the positive terminal of one panel to the positive terminal of the panel next to it, like we did last time, we are going to wire the positive terminal of one panel to the negative terminal of the panel next to it. If we do this for each panel, and the array will be wired in series. What is the result of this?

When you wire your solar panels in series, the amperage remains the same, and the total voltage output becomes the sum of the voltage output of each panel. Using the same example as above–three 12 volt, 3.5 amp panels, we can see the difference. Wired in series, they now produce 36 volts at 3.5 amps. What if we were to hook up our three other panels? You got it . Our amperage is still at 3.5 and our voltage output has jumped to 72.

When to Use Each Respective Wiring Style

Which wiring style should you use? Well, that depends on the system that you want to charge. Let’s say, for example, that you want to use solar power to charge up your RV while camping. An RV, as you know, uses a 12-volt system; therefore, you would want your solar array outputting 12 volts. So, if you have two solar panels and each produces 12 volts at 3.5 amps, you would want to wire them in parallel, which would keep the volts at 12 and increase the amperage to 7.0. If, on the other hand, you have two solar panels and each produces 6 volts at 3.5 amps, you would want to wire them in series, which would increase the volts to 12 while keeping the amps at 3.5.

You may be wondering what the effects are, in regards to total power output, of wiring panels up one way or the other. The answer is that there are no effects at all. Total power is measured in watts. To figure out the total wattage of your charging system, simply multiply your amps times your volts. For example, say you have one system producing 12 volts at 10 amps and another producing 120 volts at 1 amp. Which produces more power? Neither.

12 volts X 10 amps = 120 watts

120 volts X 1 amp = 120 watts

Got a headache yet? You should have seem my poor bloodshot eyes after writing this article! Anyway, you don’t really have to remember everything. Just remember that parallel wiring = more amps, and series wiring = more volts.

I tell people to send me a message if they have any questions, but not this time! If you need more help, you’ll have to ask someone who know more than I do! I would like you to send me a message, however, if you’ve got any pictures or videos of your handy work. My next goal for this site is to put up a display area of everyone’s handy work. If you would like to share, I would love to post your pictures and videos. Just send me a message.

Thanks for stopping by, and please remember to be safe when working with electricity!

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