Charging Goal Zero Power Stations With Third-Party Panels
After purchasing a Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Lithium, we started looking for solar panels to go with it.
Goal Zero makes its own solar panels, but we wanted to mount two panels on top of our RV roof and have a couple of portable ones that we could angle and move around with ease on the ground.
These panels come with MC4 connectors, and the Yeti 1000 (or any Yeti for that matter) doesn’t have an MC4 input.
After talking to Goal Zero, we figured out what kind of adapter we need and what you need to think about when connecting third-party solar panels to a Yeti power station, and today I am going to share what we learned.
How To Connect Third-Party Solar Panels To Goal Zero Yeti
All the solar panels I link to in this post, and in my post about the best solar panels compatible with Yeti power stations, are wired the same way as the Renogy panels.
Renogy panels have a positive male MC4 connector and a negative female MC4 connector coming from the panel. So to connect it to the Yeti, we need an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon).
As you can see, the female on the cable above is a positive wire (red), and the male is a negative (black), making it a match for my Renogy solar panels.
You’re going to have to rearrange the Anderson connector for it to fit the Yeti, but that is very easy to do. Just slide down the protective sleeve, slide the connectors off of each other and turn them so the orientation is the same as on the Yeti, then slide them back on.
Hold the Anderson connectors when sliding them off of each other to reconfigure the orientation. Some people grab the wires and pull them right out of the connectors, which is not what you want to do.
If you want to use the 8mm input (since not every Yeti has an APP input), this is adapter you need (click to view on Amazon). This adapter doesn’t require any rearranging. Note that the 8mm inputs max out at 10A (120W input).
Again, the adapter above has a positive MC4 female connector, and a negative MC4 male connector, which makes it a match with Renogy panels. This is important! Some adapters are wired the opposite way and won’t work.
See Also: Goal Zero Solar Panels Compared
Note that the positive from your panel should always go into the positive red wire on the adapter, or you have the wrong cable. The red piece of the Anderson Power Pole should then always go into the red Anderson part on the Yeti.
What Makes A Solar Panel Compatible With Goal Zero Power Stations
Let’s talk about what makes a third-party solar panel compatible with the Goal Zero Yeti Lithium power stations.
The voltage of a third-party panel is very important to be aware of since the charge controllers in the Yeti power stations are not going to allow a voltage too high.
You might’ve seen the sticker on the front of your Yeti that says “Never Exceed 22V”. The newer larger Yeti X models say “Never Exceed 50V”.
This refers to the VMP voltage, which is the maximum power voltage of a solar panel. This VMP rating can usually be found on the panel itself, or in the manual.
If we take a look at one of the panels I have, the Renogy 100W 12V, it tells us in the product description that the Optimum Operating Voltage (Vmp) is 17.9V. Since that’s below 22V and 50V, it’s compatible with all of the Yeti models.
For a different example, take a look at the Rich Solar 200 Watt 24 Volt Solar Panel. It has a Vmp rating of 37.6V, which makes it compatible with the new Yeti models that can handle up to 50V.
You can only wire one or two in parallel though since wiring two of them in series would result in a voltage higher than 50V, which is not safe.
If you have a Yeti non-lithium power station, the max voltage is different and depends on which model you own.
No charge controller
Since the Yeti models have a built-in charge controller, you can’t connect a solar panel that has a built-in charge controller.
A lot of portable solar panels are sold with charge controllers because they’re supposed to be connected directly to a battery, but when charging solar generators you need to connect one that doesn’t have one or find a way to bypass it.
The solar panels I recommend come with two MC4 connectors. More specifically a positive MC4 male connector, and a negative MC4 female connector.
If your panel has different connectors or is wired differently, you’re going to need a different adapter to connect it to the Yeti. I can help you out if you leave a comment with info about your panel.
Can You Just Tell Me What Panel Works With What Adapter?
If it’s still confusing, these solar panels are compatible with both the Anderson and the 8mm adapter below. Clicking on any of the links will take you to the product page on Amazon.com.
If you don’t have a Yeti 1000, 1000X, 1250, 1400, 1500X, 3000, 3000X, or 6000X you must use the 8mm adapter.
Adapter (APP) – MC4 to Anderson Power Pole Adapter
or if you want to use the 8mm input
Adapter (8mm) – MC4 to 8mm Adapter Cable
If your panel(s) might output more than 10A (120W), you should use the Anderson adapter since the 8mm input has a 10A limit.
How To Connect Two Or More Panels?
You can combine several panels to charge your Yeti faster. There are two main ways to do this, although there is also a third way for large setups.
The two most popular ways are called parallel and series. A parallel connection will add the amperages together but keep the voltage the same. A series connection will add the voltage together but keep the amps the same.
Since the Yeti power stations have voltage limits, you’re going to have to do some math if you want to connect panels in series. The amps and volts (VMP) ratings of a solar panel can usually be found on the panel itself, or in the manual.
When you start connecting several panels together, I recommend using the Anderson input instead of the 8mm, since the 8mm input can only handle/use 10A input (120W).
It’s also important to know the total voltage and amperage that are going to be sent through the wires, especially when choosing extension cables.
The WindyNation MC4 extension cables I use and recommend come in different sizes. This wire size calculator (click on Solar Cable Gauge Calculator) will tell you what gauge wire you should use depending on amps, distance, and acceptable voltage loss.
Renogy has also listed the NEC maximum current for different wire sizes below the calculator. But you also need to make sure that the specific cable you buy can handle the total amperage.
Connecting more panels also means that you need to be aware of how many amps the MC4 to Anderson/8mm adapter can handle, so you need to calculate the total amperage of the panels you plan on wiring together.
Which Yeti model do you have?
If you have a Yeti power station with a sticker on the front that says “Never Exceed 22V”, you can only connect panels in parallel.
If you have one of the newer models (1500X, 3000X, 6000X) and the sticker on the front says “Never Exceed 50V”, you can do a series connection with most 12V panels.
Again, the voltage it’s talking about is the VMP voltage, which we need to be aware of even if you only connect one panel as we saw in my examples earlier.
A parallel connection
What wiring in parallel means, is that the positive wires meet each other separate from the negative. This will add the amperage together, but not the volts. This is done with a connector like this (click to view on Amazon).
Plug each positive wire into the same Y branch adapter, and then plug the connector into the positive (red) female on the adapter we looked at before.
Make sure that the Y branch you choose can handle the total amperage of your panels.
Then you take both negative wires, plug those into the negative (black) male on the adapter that you’ll plug into the Goal Zero.
If you want to connect three panels, this is the adapter you’ll need.
If you want to connect four panels, this is the adapter you’ll need.
As an example, if we take two 100W panels that each output 6A at 18V during the day, a parallel connection will output 12A at 18V.
Since that’s above 10A, you should use the Anderson input instead of the 8mm. Goal Zero says it’s alright to exceed the amps as long as you don’t exceed the voltage, but why waste the extra amps if you have an Anderson input available?
A series connection
When we combine panels in series, the VMP voltage is very important. If a single 12V 100W panel outputs 18V, we’re only going to be able to connect two before we exceed the 50V limit. Two panels equal 36V, three equal 54V.
If you’ve checked the VMP and made sure that the total voltage will stay below 50V, you can do a series connection by taking the positive MC4 male connector from the first panel and connecting it to the negative MC4 female connector on the second panel.
You’re going to end up with a positive MC4 male connector from one panel, and a negative MC4 female connector from the second panel. Now you can connect these two wires to the MC4 to Anderson adapter.
To be 100% sure that your panels are compatible I recommend contacting Goal Zero before making any connection.
A series-parallel connection
With a series-parallel connection, you do both by doing two pairs of series with four panels, then combining the two pairs with a parallel connection.
If you would like to do this, please leave a comment and I will help you out. Tell me what panels you’re planning on using and which Yeti you have.
How Many Watts Can The Goal Zero Lithium Power Stations Handle?
It depends on which Yeti you have.
The older Yeti lithium models can handle 360W via the built-in PWM charge controller, and 360W via the optional MPPT expansion module. Both the 8mm and Anderson inputs can be used at the same time.
On the newer Yeti X power stations (1000X and larger) you can only use one input at a time, and it’s the port receiving the highest voltage that is going to be active.
The Anderson input (Goal Zero calls it High Power Port) can handle up to 50A, or 600W. The 8mm input can handle up to 10A (120W).
If you purchase the MPPT expansion module and install it on your Yeti 1000X or larger, you can add an additional 360W.
Even though the max input of the new Yeti X is 600W, Goal Zero recommends using up to 800 watts of total solar panels.
Remember that the 8mm input only allows 10A (120W) input, so if you’re connecting more than that you should use the High Power port.
How Do I Max The Input Of The Yeti X Models?
I have heard of some issues with the latest models not being able to go over 400W of input, so I recommend calling Goal Zero to get the latest info on this before doing any of the below.
If you purchase the optional MPPT expansion module you could add an additional two Boulder 200.
To increase the input further, you can get a USB C PD charger like this and plug it into the USB C PD port on your Yeti.
Best Extension Cable Solution For Goal Zero Yeti?
I use MC4 connectors to extend my cables. WindyNation sells different lengths with both 10 and 12 gauge cable. 10 gauge is recommended for up to 30A, and 12 gauge for up to 20A.
You still need to check that the extension cable you’re buying can handle the total amperage and voltage of your panels.
For an 8mm extension cable, I recommend the Graybull 20ft 8mm extension cable.
Can You Charge The Yeti With AC And Solar At The Same Time?
The older Yetis can, but the newer Yeti X models that only allow one input at a time can’t. You can, however, charge the new Yeti X models with USB C PD while charging in other ways.
Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment.