Solar power is only getting more popular. It is now the most popular new way to generate electricity. With the rise in solar comes the need for an understanding of the technology. Perhaps you’ve heard the terms like inverter, kilowatt-hour (kWh), off-grid, power rating, and temperature coefficient are thrown around. These are all important concepts. But, in this article, we will be discussing something more integral to the running of a solar setup: the wire.
If you are interested in solar technology, you have also likely heard or seen a discussion of solar wire. The solar cable is often called 600-volt wire or AWG 12 wire. We discuss both of those names more fully in the rest of this article. Electrical wire of all types can be intimidating to the uninitiated. But, with the help of this article, you will know all there is to know about solar wire.
Solar cable specification | What is 600 Volt Wire?
First, you are likely wondering what exactly a 600-volt wire is. The short answer is that 600-volt wire is electrical wire rated for use with 600 volts. Voltage is a measurement that looks at the pressure put off by the power source of an electrical circuit. Voltage, then, is the measurement of a type of pressure.
Most modern electrical outlets are 110 volts. Clearly, 600 volts is much more than 110 volts. This is why you cannot use regular home electrical wire in a solar setup. Instead, you need the specialized 600-volt wire.
There are a number of different factors that go into all electrical wires, including 600-volt wire. One of the most important is the type of insulation used. Electrical wires have to be insulated or else the electrical current will flow into other conductors. In essence, the insulation keeps the electrical current in the electrical wire.
There are many different types of insulation for solar wire cable. Polyethylene, crosslinked polyethylene, PVC, Kapton, Teflon, silicone, modified ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), and more are all common insulators. Currently, the standard for 600-volt wire is PVC. Most of the 600-volt wire you will find will be insulated in PVC. However, in places like Europe, new regulations are making the other insulation types more appealing. In the U.S., PVC is still the go-to when it comes to 600-volt insulation.
Another factor is the conductor type. When you hear about copper or aluminum electrical wires, the person is discussing the conductor. For solar wiring, copper and aluminum are the most common types of conductors.
Copper electrical wires are very versatile. They can be used in a variety of applications. Copper wires also conduct electricity very efficiently. It is a more stable choice than aluminum conductors. Less copper wire will be needed per power load, as well. The big problem with copper wiring is its high cost.
If you need a lower cost option for your solar setup, then go with an aluminum conductor. It is the most cost-effective type of conductor. Just make sure that you install the aluminum wire correctly. Otherwise, it can be a safety hazard. There are many different brand to choose from, here is a quick resource to to find the leading cable manufactures
What is AWG 12 Wire?
AWG (or American Wire Gauge) is a measurement of all non-ferrous wire. The AWG numbers are standard. So, AWG 22, AWG 24, AWG 12, and so on always mean the same thing. Copper is the most common type of electrical wiring to be measured using AWG. You can find these measurements for aluminum wires as well.
When putting in solar wiring, you must use the correct size. The higher the AWG number, the thinner the wire. AWG 12 is right in the middle of the standard sizes. These range from 0000 to 26.
Typically, you want the thicker wire to carry more electrical current over a given distance. However, when the AWG number is lower, that means it will handle higher current safer because there is less resistance in the wire.
An AWG 12 wire will make about 20 amps. That is the same amperage you will find in appliance and laundry circuits in your home.
When you are creating a solar setup, you will likely use various types of AWG wire. AWG 12 wire is most commonly used to combine solar panels. You can use this calculator to determine what gauge wire you need for your solar panel.
A final factor that will affect the wire gauge you need is the length of the wire. Wire length and gauge must match. When you use long wires, there is a lot of resistance, which increases the voltage drop. Shorter wire lengths may not be as convenient for your setup, but they have less resistance. This results in less voltage drop and a more current magnitude. Here is another calculator that can help you determine the wire size and length you need for your solar setup.
There is a lot that goes into setting up a solar system. The wiring is just one piece of the puzzle. However, it is an extremely important piece. You must use the right size and voltage of wire to ensure your solar system works correctly and efficiently. Using the correct solar wire will also increase the safety of your system. Solar is increasing in popularity because it is a great way to generate your own electricity. By fully understanding solar wire, you will increase your chances at success with solar, and thus ensure your system will be working at peak capacity for many years to come.