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Design Tools : Wire Size Calculator
(Note: These design tools require javascript to be turned on in your browser)
Wire size calculator Quick Start guide
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Brief Instructions for the Wire Size Calculator
In order for the energy from your Solar Panels to reach your Battery Bank without serious loss of power, you will need to calculate the proper size of wires to use. Just like water in a pipe, the smaller the pipe, the less water that can pass through it. To use the Wire Size Calculator, just follow these 4 simple steps:
  1. Enter Solar Panel output voltage. Usually 12, 24, or 48 volts.
  2. Enter the total Amps that your Solar Panels will produce all together.
  3. Enter the distance in feet from your Solar Panels to your Battery Bank / Charge Controller.
  4. Click on 'Calculate' to see the size wire required in AWG (American Wire Gauge).
Wire   Size   Calculator
Step 1   Enter the output voltage of your Solar Panels.
Step 2   Enter the maximum amperage your panels will output.
Step 3   Enter the Distance in feet from Batteries to Solar Panels.
Step 4   Enter percentage of acceptable loss.   ( 3% - 5% typical )
Detailed Instructions for using the Wire Size Calculator
Step 1 - The first step is to decide on the voltage for your system: 12, 24, or 48 volts. The main issue is the wire size needed for the (usually) fairly long run to the Solar Panels. Simply stated, the higher the voltage, the smaller the wire size that is needed to carry the current. The formula P=E*I says that the wattage/power P is equal to the voltage E times the current I in a circuit. So, you can see that as the voltage goes up the current goes down since E*I always = P. (More details on formulas are available under Watt & Power). Less current means smaller (less expensive) wire. So, as a general rule, you would normally choose a higher system voltage. The only reason not to would be if you planned on using lots of 12 volts DC only equipment. Also, keep in mind that whatever system voltage you decide on 12, 24, or 48, all of your equipment must work on this voltage. If you choose 24 volts for example, your solar panels, charge controller, inverter, and battery bank will all need to be 24 volts. By playing with the numbers in the Wire Size Calculator you can get an idea of what voltage will be best for your system.
Step 2 - Next, enter the maximum amps/amperage that your solar panels will produce. This will be the rating of one panel times the number of panels in your array. If you put two 12 volt panels in series to increase the voltage to 24 volts, you would count the two panels as one. The same would be true if wiring two 24 volt panels to equal 48 volts. The reason for this is that in a series circuit the voltage increases, but the current or amperage stays the same. More details on this are available under Battery Wiring Diagrams which explains series and parallel wiring. For example: 10 solar panels rated at 5 amps at 12 volts. You want a 24 volt system so you wire 2 panels in series to make 24 volts. You do this 5 times. The 5 pairs will be wired in parallel where the current adds to give you 5 sets times 5 amps per set equals 25 amps. Enter the 25 as the maximum amps your wires need to carry.
Step 3 - This is the distance in feet from your solar panels to the charge controller and battery bank location. Even though you will actually be running 2 wires, one negative & one positive, do NOT double the distance. The Wire Size Calculator assumes this and does it for you in the calculation.
Step 4 - The loss you will get in the transmission of the electrical power from your solar panels to your equipment location is due to the resistance of the wire. This cannot be avoided. A common practice is to use 3, 4, & 5 percent figures for 12, 24, and 48 volt systems respectively. I like the 3 percent choice for all systems, but even 5 percent is not too bad. The Wire Size Calculators' answers are based on copper wire using the standard AWG (American Wire Gauge) sizes. Also note that 00, 000, and 0000 gauges (generally refered to as 2/0, 3/0 and 4/0 are progressively larger in size and are represented in the Wire Size Calculator as -1, -2, and -3. If you enter numbers that would result in sizes larger than -3 (pretty darn big), you will get an error message to that effect. In this case, the best response would be to increase system voltage (resulting in less current required) or/and increase the percent of loss.
By the way, a -3 size wire (4/0) is pretty large and if used in a 48 volt system with a 5% loss factor, you could move 100 amps over 250 feet. This would be a VERY large system. The calculator does not fiqure systems larger than this. Whatever gauge wire you use, you must also make sure it is capable of carrying the amount of current your system will produce.
DISCLAIMER : Alway make sure that all of your equipment is properly fused and grounded for safety. Also, be sure to read and follow the advice and instructions that come with your equipment. Additionally, our Design Tools, while reasonably accurate, are not meant as a substitute for the recommendations of a licensed electrician. We provide these Design Tools as a guide only and to assist in the explanation of the information presented. We do not warrant their accuracy where equipment is improperly installed or operated under extreme or unusual conditions.
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