Using Solar panels is one of the best ways to preserve the universe because it is a type of green energy. When people buy solar panels, they might be inclined to test them because of one reason or the other. The real question now is, how do you test a solar panel accurately? It is not something hard at all and we will be giving you all the necessary information involved in testing a solar panel in this article. We have to add that there are different ways to test the solar panel but we assure you that this article will give you an insight on how to achieve your goal easily.
What To Do Before You Start Testing The Solar Panel?
There are some things you need to get done or have in place before you start testing the solar panel. These are highlighted below and we have to tell you that each of them is very important.
- The first thing to do is to look for the current and voltage ratings of the solar panel you are about to test. This information is usually stated on the back of the solar panel or on the packaging of the solar panel. The Voltage is always represented by the ‘V' sign while the current is always represented by the ‘A' sign.
- Make sure that the weather condition is sufficient enough to power the solar panel. Often times than not, the solar panel needs direct sunlight for it to get powered. Also, in order to get the rated output of the solar panel, the solar panel needs to be well charged and this can only happen when the weather condition is favourable.
- You need to get a multimeter and you must know how it is being used. You also need to make sure that the multimeter is set on the right settings for the power you want to measure
- If you will be testing a charge controller, make sure that the battery is halfway charged. This is because when the battery is fully charged, then it will not be able to take in more current.
Precautions For Testing a Solar Panel
Below are the precautions to be put in place before testing a solar panel.
- Make sure you do not short circuit both the battery and the solar panel
- Make sure you observe the polarities of both the battery and the solar panel. Ensure that the red and black terminals are in the right position.
- When photovoltaic panels are exposed to sunlight, they produce electricity. This is why before you start working on the solar panel; cover the front in order to avoid electrical shocks.
How To Test For The Solar Panel’s Open Circuit Voltage?
Below are the steps involved in testing the solar panel’s open circuit voltage. Testing this is important when you are planning to do a temperature corrected voltage at open circuit calculations in a solar system design.
- The first step in testing the solar panel’s open circuit voltage is by disconnecting the solar panel totally from the battery and the regulator.
- Next thing to do is that you need to make sure the solar panel is facing the sun directly
- Bring out your multimeter and set it in a position where it will measure volts
- Finally, you need to measure the voltage of the solar panel. To do this, you will connect the negative terminal of the solar panel to the negative of the voltmeter. You will also connect the positive contact of the voltmeter with the positive terminal of the solar panel.
After testing for the solar panel’s open circuit voltage, the normal result you will get for this process is as follows:
- A 12V nominal solar panel will give you a result of 18 to 28V
- A 24V nominal solar panel will give you a result of 34 to 56V.
Any result that falls outside the above rating most likely means that the solar panel is faulty.
How To Test For Solar Panel’s Short Circuit Current?
Below is how to test for a solar panel’s short circuit current in four easy steps.
- You need to first disconnect the solar panel from its battery and regulator
- The next step is to make sure that the solar panel is getting direct contact with sunlight
- Bring out your multimeter and set it to at least 10A. Note that you can also increase the setting if the need arises.
- Finally, you are ready to test the short circuit current and to do this; you will need to connect the positive terminal of the panel with the positive lead of the multimeter. You will also need to connect the negative terminal of the solar panel with the negative lead of the multimeter.
How To Test The Operating Current Of The Solar Panel?
If you need to test the operating current of a solar panel, then below are the easy steps involved.
- The first step in testing the operating current of a solar panel is by making sure that the solar panel is well connected to its battery and regulator.
- Set the multimeter to settings not lower than 10A when you want to start testing. You can always change the setting later if you need to.
- The next thing to do is to measure the operating current of the solar panel. To accomplish this, you will have to connect the positive lead of the multimeter to the positive cable of the regulator. The negative lead of the meter will also need to be connected to the positive terminal of the battery.
Note that the purpose of this test is to measure the current that the solar panel and the charge controller send directly into the battery. Make sure you connect the meter the right way in order to avoid getting a negative current reading. Finally, ensure that the battery is not fully charged because if it is, it might lead to you getting a low current reading.
How To Test Solar Panel Regulators?
A solar panel regulator is an appliance installed between the solar panel and battery in order to avoid overcharging of the battery. The benefits of a solar panel regulator cannot be overemphasized because when batteries are overcharged, they tend to lose their capacity. In simple terms, when batteries are overcharged, they will not hold a charge for long as they are expected to. In the subsequent paragraphs, we will be showing you how solar panel regulators are tested.
- The first thing to do is to measure the operating current just as we have explained above.
- Next, you will reconnect the solar panel to the battery directly. Make sure that the regulator is not connected with it.
- You then need to disconnect the positive cable that was connected to the battery and the solar panel.
- The operating current needs to be measured. This will be done when the positive lead of the multimeter is connected to the positive cable from the solar panel. Also, the negative lead of the meter needs to be connected to the positive terminal of the battery.
- If you noticed that you could not read an operating current when the regulator was installed but you can read the current without the regulator being installed, then it means the regulator is faulty.
One thing to remember is that the battery must not be fully charged because if it is, you might be getting a low current reading. With this, the regulator testing will not give you an accurate result.
Additional Testing/Checks To Be Done
There are some additional testing or checks that need to be carried out on the solar panels which we will be highlighting below. The tests are routine and it will not take much of your time.
- Every connection and terminals should be checked properly to ensure that they all have good electrical contact. This is because partial contacts can lead to sparks or can make you not to get your desired result.
- Make sure that the solar panel system is well wired and the wiring is still in place.
- You need to ensure that all the fuses being used are in the right conditions. Importantly, the fuses in the power paths should be given priority.
We have come to the end of this article on how to test a solar panel and we made sure we covered the major tests that can be performed on a solar panel. The tests include solar panel’s open circuit voltage test, solar panel’s operating current test, test for a solar panel’s short circuit current, etc. It was important for us to make the tests as easy as possible and we are sure that you will be able to perform them without hassle. We have to add that if after testing the solar panel and you did not get your desired result, do not hesitate to contact professionals to tell you what might be the cause. Finally, adhere to necessary safety precautions when handling solar panels in order to avoid electrical accidents.