Most do it yourselfers
probably be purchasing used or surplus
solar panels, and therefore it
is extremely important to know that the panels you are purchasing are
capable of generating enough electricity to be worth your time. Knowing
how to use a multimeter is not that difficult, but it is still
important to read more about how to use a multimeter before you just
start connecting diodes and attempting to test the voltage of your
If you do not know how to
use a multimeter properly, then
there is a chance that
you could damage your panels, and you also might
find yourself getting ripped off because you purchased inferior or
defective solar panels and were not able to use the multimeter
correctly to determine that they were not producing enough voltage.
Below you will find complete instructions on using a multimeter to
check the output of solar panels.
These instructions were
Tools MM200 Auto Ranging Multimeter. This is a
multimeter that should be sufficient for checking the voltage of your
solar panels, and it won’t set you back several hundred dollars like
many of the other brands on the market- you should be able to purchase
the Klein Tools MM200 for around $35-55.
This meter isn’t the most
accurate on the market, but you probably won’t be able to find a more
accurate one without
spending at least triple the amount of money. The
only drawback to this particular multimeter is that it only comes with
banana leads, and to make testing your solar panels much easier, it is
recommended that you also purchase a lead that will connect from the
banana to an alligator
This way you can clip the
onto the wires coming from your solar panel. Overall, the Klein Tools
MM200 is a decent multimeter and good value for your money. Unless you
need a multimeter for testing more than your solar panels, then this
product should be sufficient for your needs.
a Multimeter to Test Your Solar Panels
There are two different
readings which you should check to ensure that
your solar panel is functioning properly and to see the amount of
energy it is generating. You will want to check both the volts and the
being produced by your panel. Luckily both of these can be tested
with one multimeter and the process for testing them is almost
Using a Multimeter to Test
The first thing you will
need to do is to locate
the converter box on
the back of the solar panel. After locating the box you will need to
remove its cover, thereby exposing the connections inside.
You will want to pay close attention and note which connection is the
positive ( + )
and which is the negative
connection ( - ).
Now you will
want to ensure that the solar panel is fully exposed to the sunlight,
so it will probably be necessary to tilt the panel in order to receive
the most possible sunlight.
Next you will need to turn
your multimeter on and set it to read
You want to make sure that
the level you are measuring in is
much higher than the volts your panel is rated to create. This means
that if you have a panel rated for 20 volts, you should set the
multimeter to read up to
200 volts to ensure that you receive an
accurate reading. The panel’s voltage rating should be marked somewhere
inside the convertor box, so you can compare the actual voltage of the
panel with its rating.
Now with your alligator
clips, connect the red lead to the positive side
and the black lead to the negative connection. You should then receive
a fairly accurate reading of the volts created by your panel. If the
panel is new, then the voltage should be very close to the panel’s
rating. For used panels, a slightly
lower voltage should still be
acceptable, although this is up to your own preference. You can now
turn the multimeter off and disconnect the alligator clips.
Using a Multimeter to Test
The process for testing
the amount of amps produced by your solar panel
is very similar to the process for testing the voltage. The only major
difference is that you should never
test for amps when the panel is
exposed to the sun.
If you attempt to connect
the alligator clips while
the panel is live, then you will create sparks and possibly shock
yourself or damage the panel or multimeter.
With the panel in the
shade, turn your multimeter to read DC amperes and then connect the
alligator clips to the panel as described above.
Once the multimeter is
connected to the panel, then you can put the panel back in direct
sunlight and you should get a reading. You will almost never produce
higher amp reading than the panel is rated for unlike with voltage, so
you just want something similar to the rating. After getting your
reading, make sure to put the panel back in the shade before
disconnecting the alligator clips.
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