How to Test a Solar Panel With a Multimeter?

The multimeter is a crucial diagnostic tool for circuits. It most commonly measures voltage and current. You can do some quick troubleshooting and simple sanity tests with a multimeter.

11 mins read
how to test a solar panel without a multimeter

Solar panels are becoming the new hype in the town. More and more folks are installing this renewable energy-based device in their homes. If you also are planning to install a solar panel in your residence, then there are a few things you must know. This article will help you with a few of those things. It will teach you how to test a solar panel with a multimeter. It’s one of the most essential things you should learn. So, let’s get started.

What is a Multimeter?

A multimeter is an electrical device that can be used to evaluate circuit components such as voltage, current, and resistance. Professionals can use multimeters to measure voltage, resistance, or variations in electrical currents by connecting the device’s two leads to different points in an electrical system.

It’s possible to hear this device referred to as a volt-ohm meter or volt-milliammeter (VOM). Modern digital multimeters have progressed to the point that they can detect and record quite subtle changes. However, experts warn that at the higher voltage levels tested by some multimeters, it would be more difficult to notice tiny changes. The use of multimeters is widespread in the information technology industry. Troubleshooters in the field of hardware may employ the use of a multimeter to determine whether or not individual hardware devices are receiving adequate current or whether or not any alterations have been made to the pre-existing IT infrastructure. Most people associate a multimeter with a home or business electrician, but this tool can also be useful for IT professionals in detecting power supply problems in complex computer networks. Now, it’s finally time to learn how to test a solar panel with a multimeter.

How to Test a Solar Panel With a Multimeter?

how to test a solar panel without a multimeter

The solar panels, like any other electronic device, may have their voltage and current checked with a multimeter. Multimeters can be divided into two distinct categories.

The most precise reading can be obtained with a switched multimeter by manually switching between ranges. To use this multimeter properly, first, choose the right mode. The device comes equipped with measurement functions for a variety of parameters. DC Amperage is where you’ll want to be if you’re trying to gauge current. Switch to DC voltage mode for accurate voltage readings. There is typically a lot of clutter in the readings.

Obtain the most accurate reading with minimal effort using an automated multimeter that toggles between different measuring ranges. Since voltage and current are the only numbers that the auto range can measure, any adjustments made will be limited to those two parameters. Most readings are easy to understand.

In terms of measuring the amperage and voltage of solar panels, both multimeters are essentially interchangeable, with the exception of their differences. Knowing your way around a multimeter is a must if you plan on testing solar panels. No one wants their panels ruined because they were careless with a multimeter. Testing your panels with a multimeter is the best way to determine their quality.

1. Check Where the Converter Box is

To access the converter box, turn the solar panel around. If you find one, you’ll need to take off the cover before you can examine the wiring inside. Mastering both positive and negative associations is critical. After you’ve figured out the wiring, make sure your solar collector is facing south. In order to maximize the solar panel’s exposure to light, you should tilt it.

2. Direct Current on the Meter

Take your readings at a greater voltage than your solar panel is rated for to make sure you’re measuring at the correct level. For this reason, it is recommended to set the multimeter to a higher reading than the nominal voltage of the panel, which in this case may be 30 volts. By doing so, you can rest assured that your readings are precise. Look at the labels on the inside of the converter box to learn the voltage your panels are approved for.

3. Join Alligator Clips Together

Use the positive side to attach the positive leads of the alligator clips. Then, connect the second black lead alligator clip to the negative terminal. After you’ve done this, the volt reading on the multimeter should be spot-on for the panel’s output. The voltage produced by the solar panels, especially the new ones, needs to be near the voltage that is permitted. The use of solar panels is likely to result in a lower reading. Once the multimeter has been turned off, only then should the alligator clips be disconnected.

4. Putting the 12-Volt Solar Panel Through Its Paces

Since this is the most common voltage rating for solar panels, testing procedures will be very standard. Make sure the multimeter is on and the black alligator clips are attached to the negative side and the red ones are attached to the positive side. To get the most accurate readings, set your top-of-the-line Fluke multimeter for electronics to more than 200 VCD. If the multimeter reads an overload condition, the VCD must be raised to prevent damage.

If you have checked your multimeter and found no problems with it, the readings it gives you can be trusted. Your solar panel’s output voltage should be this. It’s important to remember that not every multimeter on the shelf is the same.

5. Charge Controller Verification

The charge controller must be tested with the solar panels. In the event of solar with storage, this will prove useful. In order for the battery to take the current, it must not be fully charged. The solar panel is the sole instrument of measurement in the first two readings. Make sure the solar panel is unplugged from the regulator before connecting the controller, solar panel, and battery. After then, take the battery away from the regulator/controller.

You should reconnect the controller to the battery before hooking it back up to the solar array. You may be wondering why things can’t be done the other way around, and the answer is that doing things this way will prevent harm from being done to the controller.

To learn how to test solar panel amps with multimeter, you need to follow these steps-

  • Adjust the multimeter’s settings to read in direct current (DC) amps. Put the alligator clips on the correct jack so you can measure the DC Amps.
  • The amperage setting on the multimeter should be changed to 10A.
  • The solar panel and controller should then be linked, followed by the solar batteries.
  • You need to unplug the controller’s positive cable from the battery.
  • Connect the multimeter’s lead alligator clips to the positive cable you just unplugged. This will give you the current.
  • The last step is to attach the multimeter’s negative lead alligator clips to the battery’s positive terminal.
  • During this procedure, the current between the solar array, the controller, and the solar batteries will be measured.

What are the Types of Multimeter?

how to test a solar panel without a multimeter

After learning how to test a solar panel with a multimeter, let’s also learn about the types of multimeters. The multimeters come in a variety of types, including Analog, Digital, and Fluke multimeters.

Analog Multimeter:

The VOM (Volt-Ohm-Milliammeter) or Analog Multimeter is built with a moving coil meter and a pointer to show the scale reading. A moving coil meter has a coil wrapped around a drum that is sandwiched between two magnets.

The pointer linked to the drum rotates on a scale that indicates the current reading as a result of the force created by the interaction of the magnetic fields formed in the coil and the magnetic fields of the permanent magnets. In addition, there are springs fastened to the drum that exert a force opposite to that of the drum’s rotation in order to regulate the angular displacement of the pointer.

Analog multimeters provide the ability to measure changes in readings and are relatively cheap and battery-free. The two most influential aspects of measurement are its sensitivity and accuracy. The sensitivity is expressed as the number of ohms per volt, and it is defined as the inverse of the full-scale deflection current.

Digital Multimeter:

A digital multimeter can handle any measurement needed from AC to DC. The figure shows that there are two probes, one positive and one negative, represented by the colors black and red, respectively. To measure ohms, volts, and amps, you’ll need to plug the black probe into the COM JACK and the red probe into whatever port the device’s user specifies.

Connecting a voltmeter, ohmmeter, or diode tester to the V and COM jacks on the right of the image allows you to measure voltage, resistance, and conduct diode tests, respectively. When an LCD displays the value being measured, both jacks are used (volts, ohms, amps, etc.). Overload protection shields the user from harm while also shielding the meter and the circuit.

The Digital Multimeter’s components include a visual display unit (LCD), a range selector for each of the three electrical characteristics, and an internal signal conditioner and A/D converter. Depending on where the knob is turned, different circuit rings on the PCB will be joined or separated.

Fluke Multimeters: 

Any number of team-oriented features can be programmed into the fluke digital multimeter. This tool is used to monitor voltage and electrical resistance and typically features a sizable display. Humidity, duty cycle, pressure, frequency, temperature, and other such sophisticated measurements can all be taken using certain types of equipment. One of the most common and well-known tools is the fluke multimeter.

For the most part, this type of multimeter is employed in the process of calibrating electrical quantities like currents, voltages, and others. Transient voltage is not a problem with the fluke multimeters. This handy tool can test diodes, and measure current and voltage on the go. The multimeter contains a number of buttons to help you choose the right measurement. Most measurements are picked for you by the fluke MM’s automatic ranging functionality. This allows the signal to be sent to the proper port for the required measurement without first requiring knowledge of or determination of its size. If the fuse is accidentally plugged into the wrong port, the device is protected.

What are the Functions of a Multimeter?

A digital multimeter’s primary uses are:

1. Relatively Normal Distribution Mode

RMS (Root mean square) functionality is available on all modern AC-capable multimeters. True RMS measurement is something that only some multimeters can do. The root-mean-square (RMS) value can be thought of as the DC value analogous to the AC waveform. Premium multimeters are plentiful, and many of them offer the features and ability to perform TRUE RMS measurements.

You should take note of the following description if you’re trying to figure out how an RMS number is determined. When measuring alternating current (AC), the multimeter will square the immediate value.

2. The Minimum/Maximum Hold

The MIN/MAX hold function on a multimeter is one of its less-used features. When troubleshooting or diagnosing an active circuit, this feature is invaluable. In high-pressure situations, for example, it’s not practical for the operator to devote his or her complete attention to the multimeter’s LCD screen. The MIN/MAX hold frees the operator’s attention from the screen so that they can concentrate on collecting a series of continuous values that will later be used to determine the minimum and maximum.

3. Mode REL

Multimeter readings are reset to zero in REL mode. For further measurements, this value will serve as the new relative starting point. The voltage drop between your home’s mains supply distribution board and each individual wall socket is a good example of this. If you are measuring 230 Vac and push the REL button, for instance. To illustrate the difference (delta) or relative voltage of your current measurement to the measurement captured by the REL Mode, your multimeter will display a reading of 6V when you move to a different measurement site (for example, a wall socket) and the voltage there is measured as 224V.

4. The Range Key

When combined with an auto-ranging multimeter, this button becomes invaluable. Unlike manual ranging multimeters, these devices can determine on their own the range you need to measure. With auto ranging, you don’t have to worry about remembering to set the range of your reading to a specific point, such as 20V or 200V, so you can concentrate on what you’re measuring rather than the potential measurement range. There are a few scenarios in which you might find it useful to determine the range of your measurements on your own. With this option, your multimeter’s data recording speed will greatly outpace the auto-ranging mode. This is because the multimeter needs time to choose the appropriate measuring range before a reading can be taken. If you know what voltages you’ll be dealing with (i.e. in an electronic circuit – typically 5V). Depending on how precise a reading you need, your multimeter can be configured to deliver more or less resolution.

How to Test Solar Panel Amps With Multimeter?

how to test a solar panel without a multimeter

After learning how to test a solar panel with a multimeter, you must have also wondered how to test solar panel amps with multimeter. These are a few ways of testing solar panel amps with a multimeter-

Voltage Checking Your Solar Panels: Set your multimeter’s volt setting higher than the maximum voltage your panel can produce in an open circuit when you’re ready to do a voltage test (usually labeled as DC voltage or DC volts). Your solar panel and meter will be safe from damage, and you’ll get an accurate reading. If the highest open-circuit voltage of your solar panel is 22 V, your multimeter’s range should be adjusted to 100 V or 200 V, respectively.

Plug the black (negative) probe into the COM port and the red (positive) probe into the V/mA/ port. Next, if you haven’t previously, put the panel where it will receive the most sunlight and check the Volts X reading during the day. The volt reading on a brand-new panel should match the panel’s rated voltage. Depending on how much your solar panels have degraded, you may only get a small voltage if you do utilize them.

Analyzing the Current Output of Solar Cells: DC amperage or DC amps should be selected on the multimeter for this test. Your amperage sensitivity should be set considerably over your device’s maximum amperage, as was the case before. This will ensure precise readings and protect the panel from harm.

Determine the Voltage at No Load: When taking a reading of the voltage with no load, keep in mind that this is the same as the open-circuit reading. When testing a brand-new solar panel, the multimeter’s open-circuit reading should coincide with the voltage figure listed on the panel. Because no two locations receive the same amount of sunlight, you should minimize shading and be aware that your multi-meter reading also varies on the time of year and your location. After this, let’s see how to test solar panel wattage.

Also See: Solar Charge Controller Load Output

How to Test Solar Panel Wattage?

Knowing the voltage and current allows you to determine the wattage of your panel. Multiply these two numbers and replace “Watts” with the resulting figure. A straightforward formula and its application are shown below:

A reading of 22.4 V was obtained after careful measurement.

Amperage as measured: 5 A

Watts is simply expressed as the product of voltage times current.

112 watts equals 22.4 volts times 5 amps.

Determine how many watt-hours per day you may expect to receive now that you know the Watt output of your solar panels. Multiply the Watts of your solar panel by the number of hours per day that it typically receives sunshine, taking into account the time of year.

Power in Watts multiplied by Time in Sunlight each Day yields Power in Watt-Hours

Multiple 112 watts by 6 hours to get 672 watt-hours (Wh).

672 Wh / 1,000 = 0.672 kWh

This formula can be expanded upon when doing solar panel tests to determine the optimal number of solar panels for a given solar array. You’d do this if you wanted to completely eliminate your impact on the grid or if you wanted to power your home using renewable energy sources. This new formula can be stated as follows:

Watt Hours Per Day Multiplied By 365 Days = Watt Hours Produced In A Year

Multiplying 0.672 kilowatt-hours by 365 days gives us 245.28 kilowatt-hours annually.

To calculate how many panels you’ll need to produce your home’s total annual energy needs, simply divide your annual power consumption (approximately 11,000 kWh for the average American home) by the annual panel production in kWh. Invest in a solar array that is somewhat larger than necessary (by around 10 percent) to account for system losses. This should have made you understand how to test solar panel wattage.

With this, we are at the end of this article. Learning how to test solar panel amps with multimeter is an important skill that you have mastered. Now, you’ll never have to rely on a technician to test your solar panels for you.

Recommended: 100 Watt Solar Panel Output on Cloudy Day

Olivia is committed to green energy and works to help ensure our planet's long-term habitability. She takes part in environmental conservation by recycling and avoiding single-use plastic.

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