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Connect A Harbor Freight Solar Panel To Jackery Explorer. Thunderbolt solar controller

Connect A Harbor Freight Solar Panel To Jackery Explorer. Thunderbolt solar controller

    How To Connect A Solar Panel Bought At Harbor Freight To A Jackery Explorer Power Station

    Solar panels can be bought at a lot of different places nowadays, the popular hardware store Harbor Freight is one of those places.

    A Harbor Freight solar panel is not compatible with a Jackery power station directly out of the box though since it requires additional adapters.

    Related Product: Extend the cable between the solar panel and the power station with an SAE extension cable by iGreely (click to view on Amazon)

    In this article I am going to tell you what these connectors are called, and how you go about connecting the two.

    What You Need To Know

    Before we get into the specifics, there are some things we need to know before we connect anything.

    Solar Charge Controller

    The job of a solar charge controller is to take the voltage and amperage generated by a solar panel and regulate it. Then it sends the regulated electricity off to the battery.

    Portable power stations have built-in solar charge controllers so you can connect solar panels directly to them.

    The Jackery Explorer is not going to charge if you use two charge controllers. Therefore, we should not buy a solar panel that has an external solar charge controller.

    If you have already bought a panel that included a solar charge controller, you can (hopefully) simply not use it. If it’s hardwired to the solar panel you’re going to have to either bypass it, or buy a different panel.

    Input Ratings

    Not all solar charge controllers are the same. They have different input ratings, meaning that they accept different voltages and amperages.

    The input ratings can usually be found in the manual of the power station, or by the port on the power station.

    Most Jackery Explorer power stations can handle voltages between 12-30V, and a typical 100W 12V solar panel like the most popular one from Harbor Freight outputs around 18V which makes it compatible.

    If you combine two or more panels, you’re going to increase either the voltage or the amperage but we will get to that later on.

    While it’s OK to exceed the amperage to a certain point, you should never exceed the max input voltage.

    The Harbor Freight Solar Panels – What Connectors Do They Use?

    Most solar panels sold by Harbor Freight today use SAE connectors. This is a two-conductor DC connector that is easy and quick to connect/disconnect, which makes it a great connector for a solar panel.

    SAE connectors have one male pin and one female pin. One is positive and one is negative, but which is which depends on the wiring and adapters used.

    The panels from Harbor Freight that use SAE connectors I have looked at have a positive female pin and a negative male pin. This is important when we search for the right adapter.

    A positive wire is often red and a negative wire black. The wires are not different from one another other than the color, which is only made this way to make it easier to connect and follow the wire.

    You might find a connector with a small “” or “-” on it, with a cable color that makes it look like it’s the opposite of what the connector says.

    This is nothing to worry about, as long as you can follow the wire and make sure that the positive output ends up with a positive input.

    The Jackery Explorer Input And The Adapter You Need

    The input on Jackery Explorer power stations is called an 8mm connector. This is a round connector which also has a positive and a negative part to it.

    Since we know that the SAE connector has a positive female pin and a negative male pin, we need an adapter that has the opposite.

    This adapter includes what is called an SAE reverse polarity adapter, which will reverse the positive and negative. You do not need to use that to connect the panel to an Explorer power station.

    Note that if you have the newer Explorer 1500 (click to view on Amazon), you are going to have to use the adapter included by Jackery to connect the adapter above to the power station.

    That’s because Jackery has created a proprietary 8mm input for the Explorer 1500, and even though it’s called an 8mm input it’s slightly different from the regular 8mm connector used by other manufacturers.

    When you have the adapter, you simply connect the solar panel to the adapter, then connect it to the power station.

    Combining Two Or Panels To Increase The Charging Speed

    It’s possible to combine two or more panels to charge the battery faster, but it’s not always worth doing so.

    Since the charge controller in the power station decides how many watts it’s going to use to charge the battery, it’s good to know these limitations before spending money on more panels.

    For example, the Explorer 160, 240, 300, and 500 max out at around 50-80 watts depending on model. The larger Explorer 1000 max out at 127W, and the even larger 1500 at 300W.

    A 100W 12V solar panel will generate around 70-80W in sunny conditions.

    It’s not always perfectly sunny though, and if you’re going to use the panels where it’s often cloudy it might be more worth it to buy an extra panel or two.

    To combine two Harbor Freight panels for the Explorer power stations, you need an adapter like this by SolarEnz (click to view on Amazon).

    This adapter also includes the SAE reverse polarity adapters, which you might need to ensure that positive goes to positive and negative to negative.

    When you combine panels in parallel like this it’s very important that you have made sure that all wiring used can handle the amperage. That includes these adapters and extension cables.

    Extension Cables

    I recommend using SAE extension cables that come with caps to protect the connectors while not in use. These dust caps keep dirt, debris, and moisture out.

    connect, harbor, freight, solar, panel

    The thicker the cable the better, so look for the lowest gauge you can find and make sure it can handle the total amperage of your panel(s).

    I like and recommend the iGreely SAE extension cables (click to view on Amazon). They come in different lengths and are compatible with the adapters I have linked to above.

    While you can combine two shorter extension cables I suggest getting a long one instead. The more connections, the higher the voltage drop, which will decrease the total output to the power station.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    I’m not sure whether the polarity is correct or not!

    You can use a multimeter to check the polarity of the wires. This is also helpful when troubleshooting a setup that’s not working correctly.

    A digital multimeter like this one by Kaiweets (click to view on Amazon) works, just set it to four o’clock (20 by V DC) and stick the red test lead in the supposedly positive SAE connector on the panel/adapter.

    Then do the same with the black test lead. If it shows a positive voltage on the little screen, you know it’s wired correctly. You can test it the opposite way to understand what it looks like if the polarity is reversed.

    How long will it take to charge my Explorer power station?

    It depends on how big the power station is in watt-hours. A 100W panel will generate around 70-80W, but if your power station has a max input of 65W you need to do a calculation based on that.

    connect, harbor, freight, solar, panel

    For example, the latest Explorer 500 (click to view on Amazon) has a battery capacity of 518Wh and maxes out at around 70W.

    The way to calculate how long it would take to charge the Explorer 500 with a 100W solar panel is then: 518/70=7.4 hours.

    We also need to consider the fact that the charge controller will start out charging the battery fast, then slow down as it is getting closer to a full charge.

    Therefore, I would add another hour or two to the estimate to get a more accurate number, resulting in 8-9 hours for a full charge.

    How much can I go over on the amps?

    While I personally don’t recommend going over 150% of the maximum amps with an Explorer power station, Jackery do not recommend going over on the amps at all.

    For warranty reasons you should stick to what the manufacturer says.

    Some charge controllers are more sensitive than others, but I haven’t had any problems using 200W of solar with my Explorer 500 for a couple of years.

    Are Harbor Freight solar panels waterproof?

    The junction box on the back of the panel is water-resistant, and the SAE connectors should withstand rain as long as they’re connected to another SAE connector or has the cap on.

    I would ask Harbor Freight to be sure though, since it might void your warranty if it’s damaged due to rain and/or dust.

    Can I combine a Harbor Freight solar panel with a panel by different manufacturer?

    You can, but I don’t recommend doing so. The reason for that is that the setup is going to limited by the voltage of the lowest-rated panel.

    If you have two panels that are rated similarly you won’t lose much, but be aware of the limitations.

    Please leave a comment down below if you have any questions or experience with this and have something to add.

    by Jesse

    Jesse has always had an interest in camping, technology, and the outdoors. Who knew that growing up in a small town in Sweden with endless forests and lakes would do that to you?

    6 thoughts on “Connect A Harbor Freight Solar Panel To Jackery Explorer”

    I can’t get the harbor freight 100 W solar panels to charge the Jacari 1000. I’ve use both the 8 mm and the two prong adapter but still does not register. Not sure what else to do. Reply

    Hi, Do you have a multimeter so you can test the connections? It’s likely a loose connector or a polarity problem. Reply

    Can I charge a Jackery Explorer 240 with a 100 watt solar panel from HF? The one I’m looking at is the THUNDERBOLT SOLAR 100 Watt. The Jackery 240 is sold with their 60w solar panel. Is it safe to connect the HF 100 to the J240? Reply

    Hi, Yes, it’s compatible and will work great with the Explorer 240. You just need the SAE to 8mm adapter (click to view on Amazon). Looks like the polarity lines up correctly, so I don’t think you need to use the included SAE reverse polarity adapter. Reply

    connect, harbor, freight, solar, panel

    How Does a Solar Charge Controller Work?

    Solar charge controllers are an essential element to any solar electric panel system. At a most basic level, charge controllers prevent batteries from being overcharged and prevent the batteries from discharging through the solar panel array at night.

    Note: While the principles are largely the same regardless of the power source (solar panels, wind, hydro, fuel, generator, etc.), we’ll be speaking here in terms of solar electric systems and will be using the terms “charge controller” and “solar charge controller” interchangeably. Similarly, our term “battery” represents either a single battery or bank of batteries.

    What Is a Solar Charge Controller?

    An essential part of nearly all battery-based renewable energy systems, charge controllers serve as a current and/or voltage regulator to protect batteries from overcharging. Their purpose is to keep your deep cycle batteries properly fed and safe for the long term.

    Solar charge controllers are a necessity for the safe and efficient charging of solar batteries. Think of the charge controller as a strict regulator between your solar panels and solar battery. Without a charge controller, solar panels can continue to deliver power to a battery past the point of a full charge, resulting in damage to the battery and a potentially dangerous situation.

    Here’s why a charge controller is so critical: most 12-volt solar panels output anywhere from 16 to 20 volts, so it’s very easy for the batteries to overcharge without any regulation. Most 12-volt solar batteries require 14-14.5 volts to reach a full charge, so you can see how quickly an overcharging issue could occur.

    How Does a Solar Charge Controller Work?

    While you don’t necessarily need to understand the technical intricacies of a charge controller, being familiar with the basics is helpful – whether you’re doing a DIY solar installation or turning the job over to the professionals.

    The basic functions of a controller are quite simple. Charge controllers block reverse current and prevent battery overcharge. Some controllers also prevent battery over-discharge, protect from electrical overload, and/or display battery status and the flow of power. We’ll examine each function individually below.

    Modern solar charge controllers work by detecting and monitoring the battery’s voltage level and closely regulating the flow of current from the panels to the battery. Battery charging is best done in three stages: maximizing the current to charge the battery up to approximately 80% as quickly as possible (the “bulk charging” stage), then reducing the current as the battery approaches a full charge (the “absorb” stage), and finally maintaining a “float” or “trickle” charge to keep the battery topped off and ready for use. For more information about three-stage charging for solar batteries, check out the first video in our How to Charge a Deep Cycle Battery Properly video series.

    Types of Solar Charge Controllers

    When you begin searching for solar charge controllers for sale online, you’ll quickly realize that there are many different options. You can find a broad range of brands, sizes, price points, and features to choose from, which gives you the benefit of having great options – but it can also be overwhelming.

    Generally, the three primary charge controller types are 1- or 2-stage solar charge controllers, 3-stage and/or PWM solar charge controllers, and maximum power point tracking (MPPT). You’ll also find charge controllers for electric vehicles and golf carts. The most commonly used charge controllers range from 4 to 60 amps of charging current, but there are newer MPPT controllers that can achieve upwards of 80 amps.

    Simple 1- or 2-Stage Controllers

    These charge controllers use shunt transistors or relays to control voltage in either one or two steps (hence the names 1-stage or 2-stage controller). These are the oldest types and are extremely basic – and sometimes inefficient – in their components. However, their reliability and affordability do still attract some people.

    3-Stage and/or PWM Controllers

    Manufactured by well-known brands such as Xantrex, Morningstar, Steca, and Blue Sky, PWM charge controllers are inexpensive and reliable. Their drawback is that they should only be used when the nominal voltage of the solar panels matches the battery voltage – and even then, they have inefficiencies in larger systems.

    Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) Controllers

    MPPT charge controllers are the highest-quality, most advanced option available, but they come with the high to match. Produced by brands like Victron Energy, OutBack Power, MidNite Solar, and others, MPPT controllers provide an impressive 94-98% efficiency level, delivering about 10-30% more power to the solar battery than other types. Unless your solar system is small (cabin-sized or smaller) and its battery voltage is no more than 24V, an MPPT controller is usually worth the extra initial investment. With larger, more advanced systems and 48V battery banks becoming much more common over the years, MPPT charge controllers are the new standard.

    Why Having a Solar Charge Controller Is Important

    Blocking Reverse Current

    Solar panels work by pumping current through your battery in one direction. At night, the panels may pass a bit of current in the reverse direction, causing a slight discharge from the battery. The potential loss is minor, but it is easy to prevent. Some types of wind and hydro generators also draw reverse current when they stop (most do not except under fault conditions).

    In most controllers, charge current passes through a semiconductor (a transistor) which acts like a valve to control the current. It is called a “semiconductor” because it passes current only in one direction. It prevents reverse current without any extra effort or cost.

    In some older controllers, an electromagnetic coil opens and closes a mechanical switch (called a relay – you can hear it click on and off.) The relay switches off at night, to block reverse current. These controllers are sometimes referred to as call shunt controllers.

    If you are using a solar panel array only to trickle-charge a battery (a very small array relative to the size of the battery), then you may not need a charge controller. This is a rare application. An example is a tiny maintenance module that prevents battery discharge in a parked vehicle but will not support significant loads. You can install a simple diode in that case, to block reverse current. A diode used for this purpose is called a “blocking diode.”

    Preventing Overcharge

    When a battery reaches full charge, it can no longer store incoming energy. If energy continues to be applied at the full rate, the battery voltage gets too high. Water separates into hydrogen and oxygen and bubbles out rapidly. (It looks like it’s boiling so we sometimes call it that, although it’s not actually hot.) There is excessive loss of water, and a chance that the gasses can ignite and cause a small explosion. The battery will also degrade rapidly and may possibly overheat. Excessive voltage can also stress your loads (lights, appliances, etc.) or cause your inverter to shut off.

    Preventing overcharge is simply a matter of reducing the flow of energy to the battery when the battery reaches a specific voltage. When the voltage drops due to lower sun intensity or an increase in electrical usage, the controller again allows the maximum possible charge. This is called “voltage regulating.”

    It is the most essential function of all charge controllers. The controller “looks at” the voltage, and regulates the battery charging in response. Some controllers regulate the flow of energy to the battery by switching the current fully on or fully off. This is called “on/off control.” Others reduce the current gradually. This is called “pulse width modulation” (PWM). Both methods work well when set properly for your type of battery.

    PWM solar charge controllers hold the voltage more constant. If a PWM controller has two-stage regulation, it will first hold the voltage to a safe maximum for the battery to reach full charge. Then, it will drop the voltage lower, to sustain a “finish” or “trickle” charge. Two-stage regulating is important for a system that may experience many days or weeks of excess energy (or little use of energy). It maintains a full charge but minimizes water loss and stress.

    The voltages at which the controller changes the charge rate are called set points. When determining the ideal set points, there is some compromise between charging quickly before the sun goes down, and mildly overcharging the battery.

    The determination of set points depends on the anticipated patterns of usage, the type of battery, and to some extent, the experience and philosophy of the system designer or operator. Some controllers have adjustable set points, while others do not.

    Understanding Control Set Points vs. Temperature

    The ideal voltage set points for charge control vary with a battery’s temperature. Some controllers have a feature called “temperature compensation.” When the controller senses a low battery temperature, it will raise the set points. Otherwise when the battery is cold, it will reduce the charge too soon. If your batteries are exposed to temperature swings greater than about 30° F (17° C), compensation is essential.

    Some controllers have a temperature sensor built in. Such a controller must be mounted in a place where the temperature is close to that of the batteries. Better controllers have a remote temperature probe, on a small cable. The probe should be attached directly to a battery in order to report its temperature to the controller.

    An alternative to automatic temperature compensation is to manually adjust the set points (if possible) according to the seasons. It may be sufficient to do this only twice a year, in spring and fall.

    Control Set Points vs. Battery Type

    The ideal set points for charge controlling depend on the design of the battery. Up until the mid-2010s, the vast majority of renewable energy systems used deep-cycle lead-acid batteries of either the flooded type or the sealed type. Flooded batteries are filled with liquid. These are the standard, economical deep cycle batteries.

    Sealed batteries use saturated pads between the plates. They are also called “valve-regulated” or “absorbed glass mat,” or simply “maintenance-free.” They need to be regulated to a slightly lower voltage than flooded batteries or they will dry out and be ruined. Some controllers have a means to select the type of battery. Never use a controller that is not intended for your type of battery.

    Typical set points for 12V lead-acid batteries at 77° F (25° C)

    (These are typical, presented here only for example.)

    High limit (flooded battery): 14.4V High limit (sealed battery): 14.0V Resume full charge: 13.0V

    Low voltage disconnect: 10.8V Reconnect: 12.5V

    Temperature compensation for 12V battery:

    -.03V per ° C deviation from standard 25° C

    What is Low Voltage Disconnect (LVD)?

    Lead acid deep-cycle batteries used in renewable energy systems are designed to be discharged only by about 50-80%. If they are discharged 100%, they are immediately damaged. Imagine a pot of water boiling on your kitchen stove. The moment it runs dry, the pot overheats. If you wait until the steaming stops, it is already too late!

    connect, harbor, freight, solar, panel

    Similarly, if you wait until your lights look dim, some battery damage will have already occurred. Every time this happens, both the capacity and the life of the battery will be reduced by a small amount. If the battery sits in this over-discharged state for days or weeks at a time, it can be ruined quickly.

    The only way to prevent over-discharge when all else fails, is to disconnect loads (appliances, lights, etc.), and then to reconnect them only when the voltage has recovered due to some substantial charging. When over-discharge is approaching, a 12V battery drops below 11 volts (a 24V battery drops below 22 volts).

    A low voltage disconnect circuit will disconnect loads at that set point. It will reconnect the loads only when the battery voltage has substantially recovered due to the accumulation of some charge. A typical LVD reset point is 13 volts (26 volts on a 24V system).

    All modern inverters have LVD built in, even cheap.sized ones. The inverter will turn off to protect itself and your loads as well as your battery. Normally, an inverter is connected directly to the batteries, not through the charge controller, because its current draw can be very high, and because it does not require external LVD.

    If you have any DC loads, you should have an LVD. Some charge controllers have one built in. You can also obtain a separate LVD device. Some LVD systems have a “mercy switch” to let you draw a minimal amount of energy, at least long enough to find the candles and matches! DC refrigerators have LVD built in.

    If you purchase a charge controller with built-in LVD, make sure that it has enough capacity to handle your DC loads. For example, let’s say you need a charge controller to handle less than 10 amps of charge current, but you have a DC water pressurizing pump that draws 20 amps (for short periods) plus a 6 amp DC lighting load. A charge controller with a 30 amp LVD would be appropriate. Don’t buy a 10 amp charge controller that has only a 10 or 15 amp load capacity!

    Have Peace of Mind with Overload Protection

    A circuit is overloaded when the current flowing in it is higher than it can safely handle. This can cause overheating and can even be a fire hazard. Overload can be caused by a fault (short circuit) in the wiring, or by a faulty appliance (like a frozen water pump). Some charge controllers have overload protection built in, usually with a push-button reset.

    Built-in overload protection can be useful, but most systems require additional protection in the form of fuses or circuit breakers. If you have a circuit with a wire size for which the safe carrying capacity (ampacity) is less than the overload limit of the controller, then you must protect that circuit with a fuse or breaker of a suitably lower amp rating. In any case, follow the manufacturer’s requirements and the National Electrical Code for any external fuse or circuit breaker requirements.

    Why Displays and Metering are Important

    Charge controllers include a variety of possible displays, ranging from a single red light to digital displays of voltage and current. These indicators are important and useful. Imagine driving across the country with no instrument panel in your car! A display system can indicate the flow of power into and out of the system, the approximate state of charge of your battery, and when various limits are reached.

    If you want complete and accurate monitoring however, spend about 200 for a separate digital device that includes an amp-hour meter. It acts like an electronic accountant to keep track of the energy available in your battery. If you have a separate system monitor, then it is not important to have digital displays in the charge controller itself. Even the cheapest system should include a voltmeter as a bare minimum indicator of system function and status.

    Have it All with a Power Panel

    If you are installing a system to power a modern home, then you will need safety shutoffs and interconnections to handle high current. The electrical hardware can be bulky, expensive and laborious to install. To make things economical and compact, obtain a ready-built power panel. It can include a charge controller with LVD, the inverter and digital monitoring as options. This makes it easy for an electrician to tie in the major system components, and to meet the safety requirements of the National Electrical Code or your local authorities.

    Charge Controllers for Wind and Hydro

    A charge controller for a wind-electric or hydro-electric charging system must protect batteries from overcharge, just like a PV controller. However, a load must be kept on the generator at all times to prevent overspeed of the turbine. Instead of disconnecting the generator from the battery (like most PV controllers) it diverts excess energy to a special load that absorbs most of the power from the generator. That load is usually a heating element, which “burns off” excess energy as heat. If you can put the heat to good use, fine!

    Is a Solar Charge Controller Always Required?

    In most battery-based renewable energy systems, yes. However, a charge controller may not be necessary if you are using a small maintenance/trickle charge panel (such as panels rated 1-5 Watts). It is widely accepted that charge controllers aren’t a required component if your panel puts out no more than 2 Watts for each 50Ah (amp-hours).

    Is My Solar Charge Controller Working?

    How do you know if a controller is malfunctioning? Watch your voltmeter as the batteries reach full charge. Is the voltage reaching (but not exceeding) the appropriate set points for your type of battery? Use your ears and eyes-are the batteries bubbling severely? Is there a lot of moisture accumulation on the battery tops? These are signs of possible overcharge. Are you getting the capacity that you expect from your battery bank? If not, there may be a problem with your controller, and it may be damaging your batteries.

    Conclusion

    A good charge controller is not expensive in relation to the total cost of a power system. Nor is it very mysterious. The control of battery charging is so important that most manufacturers of high quality batteries (with warranties of five years or longer) specify the requirements for voltage regulation, low voltage disconnect and temperature compensation. When these limits are not respected, it is common for batteries to fail after less than one quarter of their normal life expectancy, regardless of their quality or their cost.

    Shop the Best Solar Charge Controllers at the Lowest Prices

    Your unique needs, budget, and setup can help you determine the best charge controller options for your system – and whatever you choose, you can count on finding it at the best price from altE.

    Our selection of solar charge controllers features all the top-rated models from leading brands, saving you the hassle and time of having to check multiple stores to narrow down your options. And with altE, you can be confident that you’re getting the best possible price without sacrificing product authenticity or quality.

    How to Connect a Solar Panel to a Battery: 5 Steps (w/ Videos)

    Just so you know, this page contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one, at no extra cost to you I may earn a small commission.

    These instructions will show you, with step-by-step videos, one of the foundational skills of building DIY solar power systems: how to connect a solar panel to a battery.

    By the end, you’ll be charging your 12 volt battery — or higher — with free solar energy.

    (If that doesn’t get your blood pumping…I don’t know what will.)

    Materials Tools

    Materials

    Note: I’ve listed the sizes I used and linked to either the exact materials I bought for my setup or materials that are compatible with it. Feel free to copy my setup. Otherwise, adjust the sizes of your components for the amount of current that’ll be flowing through your system.

    • 100 watt 12 volt solar panel
    • 12 volt battery
    • Renogy Wanderer 30A solar charge controller
    • 12 gauge wire
    • 12 gauge wire connectors
    • MC4 solar adapter cables
    • MC4 solar extension cables (if necessary)
    • 15 amp MC4 inline fuse
    • Inline fuse holder with 20 amp blade fuse
    • Heat shrink tubing
    • Gloves
    • Safety glasses

    Tools

    • Screwdriver
    • Wire stripper
    • Wire crimper
    • Wire cutter
    • Heat gun

    Step 1: Understand the Wiring Diagram

    Here’s the wiring diagram showing how to connect a solar panel to a battery:

    It’s important to understand the following:

    • Don’t connect a solar panel directly to a battery. Doing so can damage the battery. Instead, connect both battery and solar panel to a solar charge controller.
    • It’s recommended you fuse your system.Safety best practices, y’all! Place one fuse between the positive battery terminal and the charge controller. Place another between the positive solar panel wire and the charge controller.

    Step 2: Make the Battery Cables

    I didn’t have pre-made battery cables lying around. So I decided to save some money and make my own.

    Turns out it’s pretty easy. Here’s how I did it:

    Cut two pieces of wire to the length you want and strip both ends. (I made one a little shorter to account for the fuse I’m going to attach to it.)

    Put the fuse in the fuse holder. Use our fuse size calculator to find the right fuse size.

    Connect one of the fuse holder’s wire leads to your shorter battery cable with your wire connector of choice. (I used a 12-10 gauge butt splice connector.)

    Shrink wrap the connector with heat shrink tubing and a heat gun.

    Slide a piece of heat shrink tubing onto each battery cable (before crimping the terminal connectors…don’t forget until after like I did ).

    Then crimp the battery terminal connectors onto the battery cables and shrink wrap the connections. Look at your battery terminals to know which size connectors to use. Mine uses 1/4″ ring terminals.

    Now they’re ready to be connected. ⚡

    Step 3: Connect the Battery to the Charge Controller

    Note: At this point I put on my gloves and safety glasses because places like Advanced Auto Parts recommend wearing them when working with batteries.

    Follow the instructions in your charge controller’s manual for connecting it to the battery. I’ll show you how to connect the charge controller I used, the Renogy Wanderer:

    Connect the negative battery cable, the one without the fuse, to the “-” battery terminal on the charge controller.

    Connect the positive battery cable, the one with the fuse, to the “” battery terminal. (Renogy recommends connecting the battery cables to the charge controller before connecting them to the battery.)

    Connect the battery cables to the battery terminals — negative first, then positive. Before connecting the positive cable, I like to touch it to the positive battery terminal because sometimes there will be a little spark.

    Your charge controller should turn on or light up to indicate the battery is properly connected. For instance, mine has a light that turns on.

    The battery is now connected!

    At this point, your manual may tell you how to program the charge controller for your battery type, voltage, etc.

    Mine has a button which I can press to indicate battery type. It defaults to sealed lead acid, which happens to be the type I’m using. So I just kept it at the setting it was on.

    Step 4: Connect the Solar Panel to the Charge Controller

    Next up — connecting the solar panel!

    Most solar panel cables come with pre-attached MC4 connectors. To connect a solar panel to a charge controller, you need MC4 solar adapter cables.

    (These are basically a length of solar PV wire that has an MC4 connector at one end and is stripped at the other. For my setup, I made my own by assembling a male and female MC4 connector. I also bought MC4 solar extension cables. The extension cables are optional based on how far apart your solar panel and charge controller are.)

    For the panel’s positive cable, connect the MC4 inline fuse, positive extension cable (if using), and then the MC4 adapter cable.

    For the panel’s negative cable, connect the negative extension cable (if using) and then the MC4 adapter cable. Don’t let the exposed wires touch!

    Follow the instructions in your charge controller’s manual for connecting it to the solar panel. I’ll show you how I connected mine:

    First connect the negative solar cable to the charge controller, then connect the positive. Your charge controller should turn on or light up to indicate that the panel is properly connected.

    Everything is now wired together!

    Step 5: Put the Solar Panel in the Sun

    Put your solar panel in direct sunlight at the best tilt angle for your location (this is easy to do with my 11 DIY solar panel mount).

    Once you do, your charge controller should indicate that the battery is charging. Mine has a light that flashes when the battery is charging normally.

    Just like that, you’re DONE.

    Now you know how to charge a battery with a solar panel!

    Sit back and let the panel collect all that free solar energy. The charge controller will stop charging the battery once it’s full.

    How Long Does It Take to Charge a Battery with a Solar Panel?

    Use our solar battery charge time calculator to find out. The answer depends on a lot of factors.

    As an example, here are the specs for the setup I used:

    • 12V, 33Ah lead acid battery
    • 50% battery depth of discharge
    • 100 watt solar panel
    • PWM charge controller

    According to our calculator, with this setup it’ll take about 4.5 peak sun hours to fully charge the battery.

    But change any part of the setup — e.g. swap in a 50 watt solar panel, a lithium battery, or an MPPT charge controller — and the charge time will be different.

    So yeah, definitely recommend the calculator for that question.

    DIY Solar Power Projects You Can Build Now

    What you effectively just built was your first solar panel setup. That’s a big deal!

    Now that you’ve passed that milestone, here are some more projects I think you’d be interested in building:

    Solar Car Battery Charger

    By connecting a solar panel to a 12V battery, you’ve actually made a solar 12V battery charger. Car batteries are 12V batteries, so you could just as easily use the system you just made — or the near-identical one described in this tutorial — to solar charge your car battery.

    DIY Solar-Powered 12 Volt LED Lights

    These solar-powered LED lights use essentially the same system you just built. All you need to do now is connect some LED strip lights to your battery, and you’re good to go.

    Solar Charger for an Electric Bike

    You can build a modified version of the solar charging system you just made to solar charge an electric bike. Or, just connect an inverter to your 12 volt battery and plug the ebike charger in like normal.

    Thunderbolt solar controller

    UPC 792363687386 is associated with Thunderbolt Magnum Solar 500 Watt Charge Controller #68738 DAMAGED OPEN BOX

    UPC 792363687386 has following Product Name Variations:

    • 500 Watt Solar Charge Controller
    • Thunderbolt 500 Watt Solar Charge Controller. 68738 NEW SEALED
    • Thunderbolt Magnum Solar 500 Watt Charge Controller #68738 DAMAGED OPEN BOX
    • 500 watt solar charge controller

    Info

    UPC-A: 7 92363 68738 6
    EAN-13: 0 792363 687386
    Amazon ASIN: B009JCTULK
    Country of Registration: United States
    Brand: Magnum
    Model #: 68738
    Color: Silver
    Last Scanned: 2023-06-10 12:39:17

    Shopping Info

    Products with UPC 792363687386 were listed on the following websites. Product are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Disclosure: We may earn a commission when you use one of our links to make a purchase.

    Stores Product Info Price Last Updated eBay.com eBay US Used
    Thunderbolt 500 Watt Solar Charge Controller. 68738 NEW SEALED 29.98 2023-06-10 12:39:17
    Thunderbolt Magnum Solar 500 Watt Charge Controller #68738 DAMAGED OPEN BOX 36.99 2023-06-10 12:39:17
    500 watt solar charge controller 80.11 2021-07-03 20:44:37

    Similar UPC Numbers

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    Thunderbolt solar controller

    am Solar Charge Controller for 12-Volt Battery

    71.25 was 88.00

    It is 30A Solar Charge Controller featured by

    Mode 1: when you press “▲”. LCD screen shows battery’s working voltage. Model 2: when you press “▲” again, LCD Screen shows the output current from battery to load. Model 3: when you press “▲” again, the LCD Screen shows the charging current from the solar panel to the battery. Load On/Off Bottom can turn on or off output current from battery to load.

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