Are There Waterproof/Water-resistant Solar Panels Compatible With Power Stations?
Portable power stations, also known as solar generators, have become very popular among travelers.
Not only can they power and charge electronics on the go with its built-in battery, but most of them have a built-in solar charge controller that allow the user to plug in solar panels.
By using solar panels, a traveler in a car, van, or RV can stay out in the wild and use electricity, far from the power grid.
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But being outdoors means having to deal with the weather, and the possibility of rain is always there.
In this article, I want to share some of the waterproof and water-resistant solar panels I have found.
As a full-time traveler myself I have used several panels in rainy weather, sometimes against the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If you’re wondering how to connect any of the panels to your specific power station, please leave a comment and I’ll help you find the right adapter.
What To Think About
When dealing with electricity, even if it’s just electricity produced by a solar panel, it’s important to do it safely. Especially when water is brought into the mix.
Here are a couple of things to know.
- Waterproof Vs Water-resistant – There is a difference between being waterproof and being water-resistant. One panel might have an IP rating that tells us that it’s safe to submerge fully in water, while another one has a rating that only means it can handle splashes of water. A fully waterproof panel has at least an IP67 rating.
- The connectors – Not all solar panels use the same connectors, and most of them are not waterproof. I recommend using MC4 connectors because they use o-rings to keep moisture and dirt out. MC4 connectors are one of the most common connectors used on solar panels, so there are a lot of compatible adapters on the market for connecting power stations.
- Tempered glass vs Fabric – There are a lot of portable and foldable panels that become small enough to put in a backpack. These type of panels are often made with cloth and plastics, which will not hold up in rainy weather as well as rigid panels made with tempered glass and metal frames.
- The sun can cause more issues than the rain – Since the solar panel will (hopefully) see a lot of sun, it’s important to remember that the sun and the heat generated can do damage as well. The hotter the panel gets, the less efficient it is.
- Cables and junction boxes – A solar panel can have several IP-ratings. The junction box might be less waterproof than the cables, or vice-versa. Always read the manual and make sure you’re aware of which part can handle what.
- There are no waterproof power stations – If your solar panel is plugged into a power station, the battery must be placed in a dry location. There are no waterproof power stations, and leaving one out in the rain will most likely ruin it. Use extension cables and your creativity to keep the power station out of the rain.
Waterproof & Water-resistant Solar Panels
This article is mostly about waterproof solar panels, but I added some water-resistant panels to the table as well.
Every panel on the table below has an IP-rating, I suggest reading this article on donewithwires.com if these ratings are new to you to get a quick understanding of what it means.
After the table, I’ll talk a bit about how to connect solar panels that use MC4 connectors to the most common portable power stations.
Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
How To Connect Any Of The Solar Panels To A Power Station/Solar Generator
Not all power stations use the same inputs, but here are how you can connect MC4 panels to most of the common brands.
If your brand of power station is not on the list, please leave a comment and tell me the exact model name and I’ll help you.
Note that the adapters below are made for solar panels with a positive MC4 male connector and a negative MC4 female connector, which make them compatible with the panels above.
If you find a different adapter, make sure it’s wired the same way as the adapters below. The small text on the MC4 connector does not always show the correct polarity (positive might be negative).
Goal Zero – Goal Zero uses both the 8mm and the Anderson Powerpole connector (High Power Port) depending on the model. For connecting panels up to 120W, you can use the 8mm input with an an MC4 to 8mm adapter (click to view on Amazon). If you have a larger panel or several panels, use the High Power Port if your Yeti has one, with an MC4 to Anderson adapter (click to view on Amazon). You might have to rearrange the Anderson connectors on this adapter, which is easy to do. Just pull by the connectors and not the cable, and change the orientation of the connectors to fit the Yeti input.
EcoFlow – EcoFlow uses the XT60 input, and most of its power stations include an MC4 to XT60 adapter. If yours didn’t, you can buy one on Amazon.
Anker – Anker use the 8mm input on most of its power stations. It can be hard to find a compatible 8mm adapter though, and I can’t promise that the MC4 to 8mm adapter (click to view on Amazon) will work since there have been mixed reports.
Bluetti – Bluetti is also pretty good at including MC4 to DC adapters for its power stations. Most smaller models use the 8mm input, and requires an MC4 to 8mm adapter (click to view on Amazon) if it wasn’t included.
Rockpals – Rockpals uses a mix of different inputs, and I’d need to know the specific model you have to tell you which adapter to get. Please leave a comment if you need help finding the right one.
Can you connect two panels together?
You can connect two panels together in either parallel or series.
Which way you should do it, if at all, depends on the power station you have and the limitations of the solar charge controller inside of it.
You can usually find the charge controller input limitations in the product manual or by its specifications online.
If it says that the input can handle panels between 12-30V, you need to find a panel with an optimum operating voltage between 12 and 30 volts.
All of the panels in the table earlier would be compatible with this input.
When you start combining several panels, you need to know the difference between parallel and series and why it matters.
A parallel connection
To make a parallel connection, the positives are combined separate from the negatives. This is done with an MC4 Y branch (click to view on Amazon).
What this will do is add the amps together (optimum operating current) while keeping the voltage the same as if only one panel was connected.
So if a panel outputs 5 amps at 18 volts, two panels wired in parallel will output 10 amps and 18 volts.
The two panels would still be compatible with the 12-30V input used in the example above.
There are amperage limits, but most power stations can handle an extra amperage or two. This is not always the case though and you should follow what the manual says.
A series connection
To make a series connection, the positive MC4 male connector from the first panel is connected to the negative MC4 female connector on the second panel.
What you end up with is a positive wire from one panel, and a negative from the second panel. This is what you’d then connect to the MC4 to DC adapter for your specific power station.
Doing this will add the volts together while keeping the amperage the same.
So if a panel outputs 5 amps at 18 volts, two panels wired in series will output 5 amps at 36 volts.
36 is more than 30, and would therefore not be compatible with the 12-30V input used in the example above.
The pros and cons of each
One pro with a parallel connection is that the panels are capable of producing electricity separate from each other. If one panel fails, or gets shaded, the other panel can still keep producing electricity if it’s in the sun.
However, it’s not as efficient when the sun isn’t as strong (think early/late or on cloudy days) when connected to an MPPT solar charge controller.
A great thing with a series connection is that it will perform better in worse conditions if the power station has an MPPT charge controller. But if one panel fails or gets shade, it will drag the second panel down with it.
You don’t always have an option to choose between the two, but when you do you should consider which situations are likely to happen in your setup and go from there.
Are there MC4 extension cables?
Yes, there are a lot of different MC4 extension cables on the market.
I like it because it keeps the cables together with the protective sheath and comes in different lengths.
Please leave a comment down below if you have any questions.