to simplify 2.0    notes from the open road

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Solar Combiner


That's the snappy new homemade solar combiner that I cobbled together today. In need of a way to merge the outputs from my four flexible panels into a single positive and negative cable, I opted for a couple of 5-in-1 MC4 branch connectors to do the job. Yes, that's one too many branches, but 4-in-1 connectors don't exist as far as I can tell. And if I decide to supplement things with a portable panel that can be set up near the van when camped, I'll have the room for it.

For the uninitiated out there, each panel has one positive and one negative output cable attached – one with a male MC4 connector on the end, and another with a female. So all four ladies will go to the branch connector on the right above, and all the dudes to the left (best to keep the sexes apart where electrons are concerned). Then one semi-honking MC4 cable will come off of each branch connector and run down into the van where the solar charge controller patiently waits. 56 long days and counting since it has received a single electron, and not one complaint so far. Amazing.

That slick red platform, by the way, started out as a black piece of 1/4" thick ABS plastic, which I made UV-resistant with the help of a few coats of spray paint that's remarkably close to the van's paint job. I then drilled and threaded four holes to mount the connectors with hex screws, adding a thick bead of Sikaflex adhesive underneath each for additional security. The whole contraption, along with the solar panels, will be secured to the van's roof using 3M's almighty Dual Lock tape.

That's the plan at least. Stay tuned to find out how it all plays out.