Can you splice silver & copper wire

Hello.

I'm in the process of installing a single 135 watt Kyocera (with MC4 connectors) to a SunSaver 10 Amp 12 Volt controller to two 6V golf cart batteries (12V) on an RV.

I just hooked up the solar panel to the breaker and it reads hot with the breaker both on and off! Now I'm reading the print on the breaker, and it is only for use with copper wire. The extension MC4 cable is silver.

I have another 4 solar panels installed on the roof and all the MC4 cable was copper so it wasn't an issue. I was surprised when I stripped the wire and saw that it was silver but didn't realize it wouldn't be compatible with the breaker. This is pretty unbelievable.

Everything is set up to go into this breaker box. Is there any way to salvage this?

Can I splice the silver cable to some of the left-over copper cable I have from the last install and bring that into the breaker? They are both #10 wire.

Thanks for any help on this.

Teri

Comments

  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Methinks you are fixating on a problem that isn't the right one, nor even a real problem at all.
    There's no such thing as "silver wire"; it's either tinned copper or (heaven forbid!) aluminium.
    When they warn "use copper wire only" they mean don't connect aluminium because it's going to react with the connectors and cause problems. In any case, Voltage flows through copper or aluminium or even silver just the same, and when the breaker is "OFF" the circuit is interrupted regardless of the components in the rest of the loop.

    In other words, wire isn't the problem; something else is. Check the breaker on its own with an Ohm meter and see if it's functioning. It could be defective or somehow too much current might have got to it and welded the contacts shut.
  • JamesJames Solar Expert Posts: 246 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    By chance did you try disconnecting a circuit breaker lead from the system and just check the breaker with an ohm meter for make/break continuity?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,642 admin
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Regarding the Breaker connection... If you are connecting a breaker as part of a combiner box... You will have "hot" from the solar panel you are adding... Plus you will have "hot" from the other solar panels on the other side of the breaker (unless they are turned off too).

    What was the voltage you were reading? 2-5 volts, 14+ volts, 17+ volts?

    Also, there can be a little leakage current from the battery bank backwards through some solar charge controllers... It is not enough to worry about (battery is not being discharged)--but if you are measuring the voltage with a common digital meter--they are so sensitive, they will sometimes read a few volts leaking back from the solar charge controller (DMM meters are usually around 1-10 MegOhm input (1-10,000,000 Ohms). They take almost no current to read full voltage.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • iabteriiabteri Solar Expert Posts: 45 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Thanks for the replies.

    At first I thought it was a defective breaker, but then I saw the copper wire text and thought otherwise.

    I am on a "learn as I go" mission over here. I've read just enough to figure out how to install this stuff and take precaution before I proceed!

    I am glad to hear the issue is not the wire.

    I have a digital multimeter but I have no idea how to check the breaker. Could someone help me with this please?

    Insofar as BB's comments, I was also in the process of adding one more solar panel to my 3-panel system, so both breakers were off. The solar panels themselves on the other system were also disconnected on the roof. That particular system is now connected and up and running.

    The breaker was reading 19+ volts on meter in both the on and off position. The SunSaver controller is not even connected at this point. I wanted to get the panel hooked up to the breaker first.

    I disconnected the single panel on the roof but I will reconnect and check the breaker if I can get some input on how to do this.

    It is getting dark soon and I may have to continue this tomorrow.

    Thanks.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    It's simple, really;

    Breaker not wired to anything.
    Multimeter set on "Ohms" (any scale should work).
    One lead (either) on each of the breaker's terminals.
    In the "OFF" position the meter should read whatever its designation for "infinite" Ohms is (i.e. there is no connection at all).
    In the "ON" position the meter should read zero Ohms.

    If there is no charge controller connected and none of the other breakers are "ON" there should be no Voltage present on the output side of the breakers at all.
  • iabteriiabteri Solar Expert Posts: 45 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Thanks, Cariboo.

    When I switch to ohms on the meter, I am automatically getting a "1" with a decimal that either moves or disappears as I change to different scales. The 2 probes touching goes to zero.

    When I test on the breaker:

    Breaker in the off position, the "1" does not change position on the meter.

    Breaker in the on position, the meter is at zero.

    If this is an indication that the breaker is okay, could it be the way I positioned the wires?

    I am using a Midnite Solar baby box and it is a pretty tight fit in there with the 2 breakers and 2 (short) bus bars.

    I'm running the negative wire for the single panel between the rubber boots of the bus bar for the multiple panels.

    Could this cause some sort of interference?
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Sounds like the breaker is functioning normally.

    The only thing that can cause Voltage to appear at the terminals is having a source connected to them. If there's no charge controller hooked up, the only potential source is the panels. If all the panel breakers are "OFF" and there's still Voltage, then something is shorting (+) across the breaker connections. Something is making a pathway from the input side to the output side. The negative wire can't do this; it would create a short, not a clear circuit. Are you sure some piece of scrap hasn't got wedged in there somewhere? It wouldn't have to be big; a single strand from a multi-strand wire laying across the busbars would be enough to present Voltage.
  • dwhdwh Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    A breaker is a kind of switch.
    A switch is either "open" or "closed".
    If it's open, that means that the two sides of the switch are not connected.
    It it's closed, that means that the two sides of the switch are connected.

    If your multimeter does continuity, then turn the switch off and put the leads of the multimeter on both sides and see if the circuit is "continuous".

    If it is, then there is a problem since with the switch turned off the circuit should be open (non-continuous).

    However, if the switch is off and there is no continuity, that means that the circuit is open.

    Then check with the breaker on and see.

    With the breaker OFF, there should be no continuity (circuit open).
    With the breaker ON, there should be continuity (circuit closed).

    As for checking voltage -
    with the PV connected, but not the charge controller...
    and the breaker OFF...
    there should be voltage on the input side of the breaker but not the output side...

    With the breaker ON...
    there should be voltage on both input and output...


    With everything connected...
    and the breaker OFF...
    If there is voltage on the output side, then it is NOT coming from the PV...
    but from somewhere else...

    Possibly coming from the charge controller as Bill suggested.
  • iabteriiabteri Solar Expert Posts: 45 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Well, there is definitely something going on here.

    This morning I realized that the other breaker with the multiple panels is now also hot when the breaker is off. I know I checked this prior to connection, so I have no idea what is going on.

    I checked that breaker and it also seems to be working fine.

    I don't see any stray piece of wire anywhere in the combiner box.

    I disconnected the 4th panel and tried this with just the 3 original panels and still the breaker in the off position is hot. I also switched breakers and bus bars and still the problem persists.

    Could there be a short somewhere in the wire itself now? Not sure how this could happen when all I did was add another panel and now that I disconnected that last panel I'm still having a problem.

    Any more suggestions?
  • iabteriiabteri Solar Expert Posts: 45 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Another thing I just tried.

    I disconnected the multiple panels from the breaker and bus bar, and just connected the single panel to the breaker and bus bar. Same problem when I connect the panel.

    i also tested the single panel in the breaker and bus bar not connected to the combiner box. Same problem.

    The 4 wires (MPPT controller on the multiple panel system) are all routed through the same hole in the roof. They seem well insulated so hard to believe, but could this be an issue?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,642 admin
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Are your breakers properly rated (voltage, current, and for DC)... It is possible the contacts have welded from the DC current in an AC only rated breaker... But that would be a long shot (solar panels do not output much more current when shorted vs normal operation).

    If the breakers are hot--I would normally guess that the electrical connection (screws bus bar jaws, etc.) are not properly connecting--But that is also a long shot for new(ish) equipment.

    What are the Brand/Model and voltage/current/AC-DC ratings of these breakers?

    These are not something special like ArcFault or Ground Fault breakers intended for an AC home wiring?

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • iabteriiabteri Solar Expert Posts: 45 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    All equipment was purchased through our host, so I'm assuming I have the correct stuff.

    Both breakers are 15 amp and I've tried them both. The same results with both breakers on either system together or independent.

    By "hot" I just mean "live" not actually heated.

    This is crazy-making. My 3 panels were fine before I began this other install. What could be happening here?

    The odd thing is that each system independent of each other is now giving me the same results.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,642 admin
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    I assume that they are wired like this:
    [FONT=Fixedsys]
      |===[-panel+]====o^o===+===[+solar charge controller]=== +battery
      |===[-panel+]====o^o===|
      |===[-panel+]====o^o===|
      |
      +==========================[/FONT][FONT=Fixedsys][-solar charge controller]=== -battery[/FONT]
    
    Sorry for the ASCII drawing--Just easier/quicker.

    So if all the breakers (=o^o=) are open, you still see 19 volts to "the right"?

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • iabteriiabteri Solar Expert Posts: 45 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Thanks for your input Bill.

    I'm testing this without anything hooked up to the controllers or batteries.

    Right now everything is disconnected and I'm just testing the panels to the breakers.

    The 3 panels (the 4th is disconnected right now) are wired in series (for an MPPT controller), so I am getting a reading of about 57+ on this system, with the breaker both open and closed.

    The single panel is giving me a reading of 19+, with the breaker both open and closed.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,642 admin
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    The three panels in series--How many circuit breakers do you have? One is all that is needed (even zero would work fine).

    How are you connecting the 4th panel? In series with the other three?

    Or is this a separate single charge controller (RV battery) setup with 1-4 other panels... I am getting lost.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • iabteriiabteri Solar Expert Posts: 45 ✭✭
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Bill, the problem has been resolved.

    Obviously, I was having a blond moment--a very long blond moment (and I'm not even a blond). Suffice it to say, I was not testing the breaker correctly.

    What I have is two separate systems. The first is now on 4 solar panels, an MPPT controller, 8 golf cart batteries and an inverter. This is for my computer system and satellite so I can work during the day. This system is now up and running and the breaker is working fine.

    The second system is one panel, small controller and 2 golf cart batteries. These are the "house" batteries for DC only for the overhead lights, gennie start, frig, etc. This is still not up and running but I'm working on it.

    Hopefully, I can finish this install without another hitch.

    Thanks to all who offered assistance. You guys are great.

    Teri
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,642 admin
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    Our pleasure Teri---There is a thread here that had us all scratching our heads until the poster figured out his volt meter had a 1/2 dead battery. Meter seemed to work fine but the measurements did not make 100% sense--just 50%. :roll:

    It happens to us all.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    I would say it isnt a conductor problem its a breaker problem, if you arent using DC rated breakers then the spark gap is your trouble. breakers for ac wiring have a smaller spark gap and DC voltage being direct will jump over it as its too small of a space to prevent the arc-ing. you could use Square-D breakers from home depot or lowes they are rated for DC up to 48v. if you are using household breakers thats the problem wire is wire pretty much. If you read voltage across that breaker in the off position its obviously not working so try changing to some cheapo sqaureD units, if it still does it its cursed!! (it wont though lol)
  • Energy EfficienciesEnergy Efficiencies Registered Users Posts: 11
    Re: Can you splice silver & copper wire

    When you say you were having a "blonde moment" what was the issue? Were you checking the voltage on the wrong side of the breaker??? I am curious....

    Also you say" What I have is two separate systems. The first is now on 4 solar panels, an MPPT controller, 8 golf cart batteries and an inverter. This is for my computer system and satellite so I can work during the day. This system is now up and running and the breaker is working fine."

    Are you telling me your computer is such an electric whore that it needs more power "during the day" than the second system you mention in the lower part of this email?...seems a bit wrong on your design to me for some reason...are you sure you dont have it opposite...My laptop doesnt take much to run, but firing up gennie start, etc would most definitely suck more power...and through the night...

    "The second system is one panel, small controller and 2 golf cart batteries. These are the "house" batteries for DC only for the overhead lights, gennie start, frig, etc. This is still not up and running but I'm working on it."

    You may want to seek a professional. Not to insult, but you may be in over your head. Good luck.
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