There is no doubt that solar energy has been getting more accessible over the past few years. As a result, people are becoming more interested in solar and what it entails. Recently, a lot of homeowners have been wondering how to measure solar panel output. And while that may seem like a difficult question, measuring solar panels is not as hard as it seems.
Trusting the Manufacturer
Most manufacturers provide information regarding the output of their solar panels. You can usually find this information under the power output rating section of the product description. The output rating is measured in watts and varies from model to model.
However, the official rating measures how much electricity a solar panel will produce under ideal conditions. That usually refers to a cell temperature of 77°F and 1 kilowatt per square meter of solar energy shining on the panel. Such conditions are not always met, so people prefer to look up how to measure solar panel output on their own.
How to Measure Solar Panel Output
Although most labels provide information about the voltage and amperage, you can always get more accurate numbers by measuring them yourself. While those with technical expertise will have an easier time measuring, anyone can learn how to do it.
Rounding Up the Equipment
Before you start any measurement, you will require at least one multi meter and some connecting wires. If you have never done this before, we recommend buying an auto-range multi meter, as they are easier to use. You will also need to wear some gloves to protect both yourself and the solar panel when measuring.
Making Sure Everything is Ready
You should make sure that sunlight conditions are suitable for producing accurate readings for your system. To obtain accurate results, you will need bright sunlight falling directly onto the panel.
Reading the Voltage of Your Solar Panel
To read the voltage of your solar panel, you must set your multi meter to the DC “volts” setting. It is usually marked by a V which has two lines above it, one of which is dotted. If you are not using an auto-multi meter, choose the maximum range of the measurement. For example, if your panel is rated for 20 volts, you should set the multi meter to read up to 200 volts for accurate results.
Next, connect the black (negative) probe to the COM port and the red (positive) probe to the V port. Then simply touch the solar panel leads with the multi meter probes, making sure you match the polarity and color. Write down the result and then disconnect the probes starting with the positive one.
Reading the Amperage of Your Solar Panel
This procedure is similar to the previous one and will require you to set up the multi meter to measure amps. To do that, select the DC “amps” setting, marked by an A with two lines above it, one dotted and one straight. If you are using a switched multi meter, set the range well above the solar panel ratings.
Once you set it all up, place the black probe to the COM port and the red one to the port labeled as A or 10A. Then connect the probes to the solar panel leads, matching the polarity and color. Make sure to write down the result and carefully disconnect the probes.
Calculating the Solar Panel Output
Once you know both the voltage and amperage, all you have to do is to multiply them together. The result will be the wattage of your solar panel output, which should be similar to the solar panel rating. However, keep in mind that your testing may provide different results than the official rating.
It’s important to know how to measure solar panel output, especially if you are looking to buy second-hand solar panels. Most panels lose their efficiency over time and we advise you to measure all products before making a decision. Not only that, but regular checks of your old installation can help you decide if it’s time to change any of the panels. And lastly, you can always check Atlantic Key Energy for all the solar panel information you need!