# voltage drop and amp increases

Solar Expert Posts: 191 ✭✭
I just went to the voltage calculator and I'm missing something badly. Here's the deal.

I had 2 130 watt (~ 7.5amps each) panels running directly to the CC ( through a small fuse box) using #6 wire. The run is about 25 feet (x2 = 50 feet total). No combiner box for obvious reasons. 12 volt system. My voltage drop was (is) less than 2%.

So, I plan on adding in my 2 135 watt panels next week. In order to do so, I have to fuse between the panels as they are all running in parallel. To do this I chose a combiner at the solar panel mounting pole. I thought I would use #10 wire to run each panel to the combiner box. About 10 feet tops round trip per panel. Then keep the #6 wire in the conduit to run from the combiner box to the CC. No big deal I thought. I'm running it now for 2 panels.

So, I plug all this into the voltage drop calculator and it spits back at me 6% voltage drop? What the...? So I play around with wire sizes from the panels to the box and the #10 seems fine. The problem is I added in the 50 foot round trip from the combiner box to the CC and the whole thing just skyrocketed. 50 feet from the panels section was not a problem before, why is it now a problem coming from a combiner box?

What am I missing here? Why would the wire size all of the sudden be too small by a long shot by adding 2 panels? Does this mean I have to tear out the #6 wire and put in #2 for the home run? This sounds fishy. What am I missing? Am I plugging in numbers incorrectly? Please help.

Tim

• Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

You are doubling the Wattage of panels. In parallel the Voltage stays the same, the Amperage goes up.
Increase the current flowing through a wire and it loses conductivity; more Voltage drop.
Run the numbers with two parallel sets of two in series and see what happens.
• Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

to make sure i understand the circumstance does each pv have their own wire run to the cc with #6 or did both pvs get combined to travel through 1 pair of #6 wires of 25ft for each polarity? in other words how many 25ft lengths of #6 is there?

it can get complex as multiple pvs and their individual wire runs should be calculated separately. in other words if you have 4 pvs then pick the farthest run as a worst case scenario and figure the v drop and percent up to the combiner, but the wire run that has all of the currents from all of the pvs has to include the voltage drop with the most current flow and not just 1 pv. that is what i had difficulty explaining to the guy that put all of the formulas and data into the spreadsheet.

lay it all out for me and i will report on what i find.
• Solar Expert Posts: 191 ✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases
niel wrote: »
to make sure i understand the circumstance does each pv have their own wire run to the cc with #6 or did both pvs get combined to travel through 1 pair of #6 wires of 25ft for each polarity? in other words how many 25ft lengths of #6 is there?

it can get complex as multiple pvs and their individual wire runs should be calculated separately. in other words if you have 4 pvs then pick the farthest run as a worst case scenario and figure the v drop and percent up to the combiner, but the wire run that has all of the currents from all of the pvs has to include the voltage drop with the most current flow and not just 1 pv. that is what i had difficulty explaining to the guy that put all of the formulas and data into the spreadsheet.

lay it all out for me and i will report on what i find.

As it sits, I have 2 panels paralleled with #6 wire and then the #6 wire run from the last panel to the CC. So in essence, one run of #6 wire from the + and - posts to the CC for ~ 25 feet (~ 50 feet total round trip).

What I was planning on doing was simply to add in-line 2 more panels with in-line fuses between the panels. But, I decided it would be better to just get a combiner box and run each panel to the box using #10 wire. Then use my 25 feet of #6 wire to run to the CC.

Does that help?
• Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

Well I just did the calcs on a less sophisticated program than the one in Niel's sig and got 2.5% drop with one set of panels and 5% when doubling the panels. So 6% with the slightly higher Wattage panels doesn't seem out of line to me.

But you can't beat Niel for this; he's pretty much responsible for that Voltage drop calculator and knows his stuff!
• Solar Expert Posts: 191 ✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

That's basically what I came up with as well. So, is there a way around this situation? Other than rewiring the home run. If as you said I run two panels in series and then parallel them, will I not end up with a 24 volt system?
• Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

well i'm ignoring the extra #6 that interties the pvs and i got 3.15% v drop.

now feeding pvs to that #6 wire with #10 will increase the v drop in that section and add to the already present 3.15% in the 25ft homerun. this is before we even address adding the extra pvs. now if you were able to just have 1 big pv for example that comes up to the full imp of the individual pvs and ignor the intertie wires to the combiner we get 7.5a + 7.5a + 7.63a + 7.63a = 30.26a. putting that into the calculator i get 6.35% and your finding 6% would be about correct as you have a bit more than doubled the current going through that same #6 wire. this does not yet include the voltage drops you'll see from the pvs to the combiner and i suspect you will be close to the 7% area in total.

this makes you fairly correct in your rough calculations that the v drop is out of line with those 4 pvs. #2 could bring it into the 3% area you had it at before depending on the length of the individual pv leads to the combiner box for whatever v drop that occurs on the pv leads to that combiner will add to what you get with the homerun from the combiner. 10ft total of #10 will add another .2% to the homerun v drop.

now i don't recall what kind of cc you have there, but if it is a high end mppt then there is the possibility of putting the pvs all in series to overcome the v drops. i got about .4% for a nominal 48v pv array at about 7.56a. now you see why we recommend using higher voltage when it's possible and mppt controllers that down convert are a blessing in this area of losses.

if you played with the calculator you would also see that doubling the distance also doubles the v drop %, but cutting the distance in half also cuts the v drop in half. you already learned that doubling the current will also double the v drop and as i pointed out cutting the current in half cuts the v drop in half too.

i can't tell you the best way to reconfigure your setup, but now you know what it is you are up against. if you wanted an even better v drop % even bigger than #2 would be needed for paralleling those 4 pvs. you aren't missing something after all and do note that from the cc to the batteries is even more critical if the v drop is fooling the cc into seeing the batteries as being charged. for instance if one were lax on that wire and it's distance it could show a .3v drop making a cc see 14.4v and in reality it is at 14.1v and is not reaching a proper charge.

now i believe you have a better understanding as to why we put importance on the v drop as our pv power is expensive, but so are our batteries that may not receive a proper charge if this isn't addressed there too. so called minor changes can have large impacts and your connections, switches, and even the fuses or circuit breakers can add a tad of resistance and increase the v drop. play with the calculator to see your options.
• Solar Expert Posts: 191 ✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

Thanks everyone. Just as I suspected, my original calcs were correct and I have a huge voltage drop. I think what I will do if NAWS will accept my situation, is trade back the new PWM CC I hjaven't openned and get an MPPT and then up my voltage. I'd rather spend the money on equipment than wire. And besides, re-running the wire with #2 or larger would entail quite a bit of digging, new conduit and the cost of the wire as well.

Thanks again for the help.

Tim
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

You will have to contact NAWS directly... They do not monitor this website for business related issues/questions.

-Bill
Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
• Solar Expert Posts: 5,183 ✭✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases
niel wrote: »
well i'm ignoring the extra #6 that interties the pvs and i got 3.15% v drop.

now feeding pvs to that #6 wire with #10 will increase the v drop in that section

Niel, can you explain this. Is it in the resistance of the connection?

thanks,
Eric

KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
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• Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases
westbranch wrote: »
Niel, can you explain this. Is it in the resistance of the connection?

thanks,
Eric

i was only addressing part of the v drop losses just to illustrate what he was looking at as i gave the example of a hypothetical single large pv with the capabilities of his 4 pvs he wishes to use and no interconnections would be needed to attach it to the main run of #6 wire for it would connect directly. in the real world the wiring from pvs to their combiners does add to the v drop, but selectively. if for example you have 3 identical pvs and they connect to a common connection point or combiner with the following lengths of wire all of the same gauge,
pv1 has 5ft total
pv2 has 10ft total
and pv 3 has 20ft total
people should note that these are separate circuit branches and the v drop %s presented by each branch shall not be added together with each other.
the losses in the wires for pv1 are lower than the other 2. pv2's wiring will have twice the voltage drop as pv1 and pv3 will have twice the voltage drop as pv2, but 4x as much as pv1. the tricky part is that the voltage drop for pv2 does not figure into the voltage drop for pv1 or pv3 as it is a branch circuit that is on its own until it hits the combiner where the currents of all 3 pvs combine. so what do you do? figure for the worst case which is pv3 and take the v drop % that the wires from pv3 present and add it to the v drop % for the homerun and include the v drop % from wires to the batteries from the cc to get the total v drop %. to make matters more complex is that in the case of an mppt controller downconverting from say 24v nominal pvs to a 12v battery bank the v drop shall be calculated for 12v from the cc to the batteries while the rest are calculated at 24v. remember the v drop has a lesser effect at a higher voltage and in this example i presented the 24v pvs and mppt cc may have been opted for because of the lower v drop % present for the homerun to the cc. this will be a similar case for bobdog, but he will have 4 12v pvs acting as 1 48v nominal pv lowering his v drop % to the cc. now the cc to battery wires will be figured at 12v and will be somewhat critical as i explained before because a loss there can stop the battery from getting properly charged.

note here that you will not need the combiner or fuses if you are placing all 4 pvs in series.8) btw bobdog, if you expand your system in the future you can still do so using that same #6 wire and still be under 2% or 3% depending upon the v drop %s you have for individual strings tied and the cc to battery v drop %. like i said downconverting mppt controllers are a blessing.:D
• Solar Expert Posts: 191 ✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

I have a question regarding going to 48 volts. If I do that, then in essence I'm ending up with 7.69 amps of panel output, correct? Then that would be half of what I already have so what would the point be of adding 2 new panels? As a friend said to me, "what does it buy me"? If I get this right, I'm going from my current 15 amps of power (current) down to half that, yet I gain what? Again, I apologize for my confusion, but it seems like I should simply leave it alone.
• Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

you are a bit unfamiliar with mppt controllers i see. maybe this will help you.
http://www.windsun.com/ChargeControls/MPPT.htm
basically i can say in summary that it will convert the roughly 48v and 7.56a to a lower voltage and in doing so it will up the current proportionally minus the power used by the mppt cc and other efficiency losses. you will have more power and amps getting to the batteries than with a non-mppt type controller. it does not create this extra current or amps, but is more efficient at delivering the power and therefore more of the initial power is reaching the battery. even if you don't understand it, trust me, it'll work great for you. the only thing people complain about is the higher price tag involved with them.
• Solar Expert Posts: 191 ✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases
niel wrote: »
you are a bit unfamiliar with mppt controllers i see. maybe this will help you.
http://www.windsun.com/ChargeControls/MPPT.htm
basically i can say in summary that it will convert the roughly 48v and 7.56a to a lower voltage and in doing so it will up the current proportionally minus the power used by the mppt cc and other efficiency losses. you will have more power and amps getting to the batteries than with a non-mppt type controller. it does not create this extra current or amps, but is more efficient at delivering the power and therefore more of the initial power is reaching the battery. even if you don't understand it, trust me, it'll work great for you. the only thing people complain about is the higher price tag involved with them.

It's not that I don't trust you at all. In fact I trust you guys very much, and I can grasp (I think) that it is far more efficient at delivering the amps to the batteries, but (here's the caveat) it still sounds like I would be sending 7.56 amps to the batteries instead of close to 30 amps. Am I understanding that correctly? That's a big difference in amps. OR is it like this...as the voltage drops from 48 volts down to 12 volts, the amps increase to above 7.56 amps? Please be patient with me as I'm still a bit confused.

Edit: I went to the manual for the Tristar MPPT 45 which is what I'm thinking about getting, and one figure showed that V x A in = V x A out. So, 48v x 7.56a = 362 watts = 12v x 30a. So, if I'm doing this correctly, then my 30 amps will be going to the batteries. Is this math correct?

Tim

Thanks for the article, it does help me understand, though I'm still wondering how I make up for 30 amps if I were to parallel the panels
• Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases
bobdog wrote: »
It's not that I don't trust you at all. In fact I trust you guys very much, and I can grasp (I think) that it is far more efficient at delivering the amps to the batteries, but (here's the caveat) it still sounds like I would be sending 7.56 amps to the batteries instead of close to 30 amps. Am I understanding that correctly? That's a big difference in amps. OR is it like this...as the voltage drops from 48 volts down to 12 volts, the amps increase to above 7.56 amps? Please be patient with me as I'm still a bit confused.

Edit: I went to the manual for the Tristar MPPT 45 which is what I'm thinking about getting, and one figure showed that V x A in = V x A out. So, 48v x 7.56a = 362 watts = 12v x 30a. So, if I'm doing this correctly, then my 30 amps will be going to the batteries. Is this math correct?

Tim

Thanks for the article, it does help me understand, though I'm still wondering how I make up for 30 amps if I were to parallel the panels
It's not about Amps (current), it's about Watts (power). Power is voltage multiplied by current. If, for example, you add modules and reconfigure a system and doing this drops the current by half but multiplies the voltage by four, then you have doubled the power.
• Solar Expert Posts: 191 ✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases
ggunn wrote: »
It's not about Amps (current), it's about Watts (power). Power is voltage multiplied by current. If, for example, you add modules and reconfigure a system and doing this drops the current by half but multiplies the voltage by four, then you have doubled the power.

So my constant worry about losing amps is for naught? In that case I'll have 500+ watts of "power" and the MPPT will utilize all of that and so not to worry about amps. OK, I trust you guys. Why do I make this so difficult?

Tim
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

Just to make things really clear... MPPT charge controllers internal electronics are usually some from of buck mode switching power supply. As far as we are concerned, they are are almost the DC version of a AC variable transformer which can take "high voltage/slow current from the solar array" and down convert to "low voltage/high current" required to charge the battery bank (with around 95% efficiency).

Like an AC Transformer, a MPPT power supply is a "constant power" converter... It takes in 600 watts from the solar array and down converts 600 watts out to the battery bank (less ~5% losses):
• Power = V*I
• 100 volts Vmp at 7.5 amps (array) = 750 watts = 14.5 volts Vbatt-charge * 50 amps (battery)
So--lets look at what it would take to send that power ~50 feet using copper wire and 1% voltage drop (generic voltage drop calculator) at Vmp-array=100 volts (MPPT controller) and the same power levels with 17.5 volt Vmp/42.9 amp Imp array (MPPT or PWM controller) (both 750 watts):
• 1% drop of 100 volts = 1 volt drop
• 1% drop of 17.5 volts = 0.175 volt drop
• 50 feet, 7.5 amps and 1.0 volt drop => 10 AWG with 0.9 volt drop
• 50 feet, 42.9 amps and 0.175 volt drop => 500 kcmil with 0.15 volt drop
So, the same 750 watts at the two different voltage--a huge difference in copper wire size/costs... You will require over 4x as much copper for the same run.

The higher voltage drop and lower current of the "high Vmp-array voltage" you can have with an MPPT controller allows you to use much smaller wire and/or to send the power much longer distances.

Make sense?

-Bill
Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
• Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases
bobdog wrote: »
So my constant worry about losing amps is for naught? In that case I'll have 500+ watts of "power" and the MPPT will utilize all of that and so not to worry about amps. OK, I trust you guys. Why do I make this so difficult?

Tim
Yes, power is what counts to the production of your system. An advantage of a higher voltage, lower amperage system of identical power is that you can use lighter gauge wiring, because in sizing your wire, amperage is what counts.

A way you can visualize this is like cars on a highway. Power is the number of cars that pass a given point on the side of the road in a given amount of time. Voltage is how fast they are going and amperage is how many cars are traveling side by side and the width of the road in that direction is the necessary wire size and the other lane represents the other polarity with you picturing a split highway. If the cars are moving faster, you can get the same number past the point in fewer lanes (smaller diameter wire).
• Solar Expert Posts: 191 ✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

Well, all the responses have convinced me to go with an MPPT CC. It's seems obvious now and I can still use my #6 wire for the home run. I was so worried about "losing" amps, that after rereading Niel's and others responses (over and over!) and looking at the voltage drop calculator, I'm not losing amps and what power I do have is far more efficient at charging the batteries. I apologize for my ignorance as this should've taken a few responses to convince me. Not 2 pages worth.

Thanks for all the help everyone. I wouldn't be able to do all this without the forum.
• Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases
bobdog wrote: »
Well, all the responses have convinced me to go with an MPPT CC. It's seems obvious now and I can still use my #6 wire for the home run. I was so worried about "losing" amps, that after rereading Niel's and others responses (over and over!) and looking at the voltage drop calculator, I'm not losing amps and what power I do have is far more efficient at charging the batteries. I apologize for my ignorance as this should've taken a few responses to convince me. Not 2 pages worth.

Thanks for all the help everyone. I wouldn't be able to do all this without the forum.
You aren't losing amps, you are trading them for volts.

Not to worry. All of us are traversing that learning curve as well, we are just at different points on it. Learning never stops.
• Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

do note that the output level of the tristar45 is rated for 600w so you would not be able to expand much on the pvs with you being at 530w in pv. going to a 60a mppt would allow for any future expansion with the tristar60 being at 800w. if your battery bank were a higher voltage this would change what the mppt cc can handle on its output. you are already at a 12v battery bank and inverter i presume so unless you plan major changes in the battery bank and inverter the 12v output required will not change.
• Solar Expert Posts: 191 ✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

I know it might be short sighted, but 4 panels at my cabin are twice what anybody in the "neighborhood" has and will likely be more than enough for our needs. So, in short I probably won't add any more panels down the road. Having said that, my not planning for future growth has led me to the situation we've been discussing, namely, wire size too small. So, before I buy the MPPT CC I'll have to look down the road and see what my future power needs could be. And then decide whether or not a 60 amp is appropriate. In essence it boils down to future needs but also money. We'll have to see.
• Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

no problem as i only wish to inform you and i understand about the \$. the wire is fine for an expansion at 48v with the low v drop %, but would require a much larger mppt cc at 12v out for adding more pvs. even the tristar 60 allowing for the 800w would translate roughly to only 4 67w 12v pvs in series. the wire is the least of your problems for any expansion with a 12v output as you see as any changes in the future i'd recommend upping the battery voltage and change the inverter to suit both the higher voltage battery bank and the highest loads that may be demanded of it. you are at a kind of plateau with the tristar 45 at 12v out. at 24v that same mppt controller will output 1200w and 2400w at 48v so the future changes might be in the form of the higher voltage batteries (and probably ah capacity too) as well as a new inverter in addition to more pvs.

as it is with the mppt cc it should work great for you. just be careful of going up in your power consumption needs that exceed your present upgrade.
• Solar Expert Posts: 5,183 ✭✭✭✭
Re: voltage drop and amp increases

Bobdog there is another benefit that has not been delved into here about MPPT CC's (IMSMC) ...that is that they can harvest more of a PVs output than a PWM CC. the increase can be up to 30% but more realistically it is probably averaging in the 10 - 20% range. They get their highest % at low light levels.

Your cabin will get lots more power in the winter when the PVs are cold... but remember the batteries are also cold and will yield less.. a double edged sword.

Eric

KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge,
Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep