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Open Roads Forum  >  Tech Issues

 > Need advice on 50 ft cable to portable solar panel

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profdant139

Southern California

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Posted: 10/11/21 05:51pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We have a 120 watt portable solar panel -- it almost always generates enough power to top off our battery every day.

We usually park the trailer in the shade and put the panel in the sun. We have a 30 foot cord -- heavy gauge (I think 12 gauge). Very little voltage drop.

But there are times when we wish we had a longer cable -- 50 feet would do the job for sure.

So that is my question – I know that a ten gauge cable would be ok, but it is thick and heavy and awkward to deal with. Would a twelve gauge cable cause a significant voltage drop? Are there reference tables that indicate how much of a drop is caused by a cable of X gauge at Y feet?

Thanks in advance for your expertise!


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Boon Docker

Mountain Foothills of Southern Alberta

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Posted: 10/11/21 06:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Worse case scenario based on the specs below.

100 watt panel
Output 18 volts, 5 amps
Distance 100 feet (12AWG)
11% voltage drop

10AWG would be about a 6% drop

Fisherman

Angus, Ontario, Canada

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Posted: 10/11/21 06:40pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A gauge 10 cable with a length of 15 m, 50ft, has a maximum current of 5 Amps. This is for DC wiring. https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/amps-wire-gauge-d_730.html
This has a user chart you can put in your numbers. https://www.renogy.com/calculators#tab_solar-cable

NRALIFR

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Posted: 10/11/21 06:54pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If you want some cables that are easy to handle, rolls and unrolls nicely, and has a flexible, durable jacket, buy some fine strand welding cables like these.

I’ve made a lot of custom length cables from this, crimping my own lugs on the ends and it’s a joy to work with. You’ll need the appropriate size lugs and a crimping tool that can handle the size.

6 Gauge 50’ Welding Cable

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red31

Dallas

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Posted: 10/11/21 07:23pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Luckily the panel operates over a wide range of voltages.

I use 12g landscape wire

profdant139

Southern California

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Posted: 10/11/21 07:27pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Lots of good tips so far -- keep 'em coming! I had not thought about welding cable -- I bet that is available at Harbor Freight -- they have a whole welding aisle.

ktmrfs

Portland, Oregon

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Posted: 10/11/21 08:50pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

buy a 12Ga 3 wire extension cord, cut the ends off it and solder the green wire to either the black or white on one end do the same at the other end soldering to the same color you did at the first end. you now have a cable with 1 conductor 12ga and the other 10ga. total resistance will be about 0.13 ohms. voltage drop with 5A will be about 0.6V

and an easy way to do a group of cables is to use anderson connectors on both ends. that way you could make the 50ft two 25ft real easy and plug and play to go to whatever length you want.

BTW the 0.6V drop won't have much of an effect.

Or the big kanuna option is to get 30ft of 30A trailer cords and do the same trick. but now you have one conductor at 10 ga and the other at 8Ga

for each 30ft section you would have only a 1/4V drop not enough to worry about.

I have close to 120ft of cable made this way with anderson connectors to string whatever length I need.

FWIW I have three 160 W portable panels going to an MPPT controller and using the 30A cords wired as described. Usually panels in series to minimize drop. a 100W panel would be no problem.

NOW THE BIG THING YOU MUST PAY ATTENTION TO. The controller MUST be at the battery end, NOT at the panel end!. Otherwise the controller will output a voltage it expects the battery to see and the voltage drop will mess up the charging rate big time. And NOT in the direction you want. Charging current will drop like a rock, even 1/4V will really drop the charging rate. If the controller is on the panel, remove it, make a panel board or some way to place it even temporarily within a few feet of the battery so the cable goes from the panel to the controller, not from controller to battery.


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Mike134

Elgin, IL

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Posted: 10/11/21 09:06pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Buy plain old 10ga stranded wire cut 2 50' pieces tape them together every 3 feet.
Your only dealing with a 12 volt circuit.

That's how we used to string temporary lights till they changed the NEC and required an outer jacket over the conductors.


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time2roll

Southern California

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Posted: 10/11/21 09:16pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I would get some #10 and accept what it is. You may not get full power but certainly more than fighting the shade.
Controller should be near the battery.


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profdant139

Southern California

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Posted: 10/11/21 10:57pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Very interesting points about moving the controller -- I will have to experiment with that to see how much difference it makes.

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