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Brief Instructions for the Wire Size Calculator

In order for the energy from your Solar Panels to reach your Battery Bank without serious loss of power, you will
need to calculate the proper size of wires to use. Just like water in a pipe, the smaller the pipe, the less water that
can pass through it. To use the Wire Size Calculator, just follow these 4 simple steps:
1. Enter Solar Panel output voltage. Usually 12, 24, or 48 volts.
2. Enter the total Amps that your Solar Panels will produce all together.
3. Enter the distance in feet from your Solar Panels to your Battery Bank / Charge Controller.

4. Click on 'Calculate' to see the size wire required in AWG (American Wire Gauge).

Wire Size Calculator


Step Enter the output voltage of your
1 Solar Panels.
Step Enter the maximum amperage your
2 panels will output.
Step Enter the Distance in feet from Batteries
3 to Solar Panels.
Step Enter percentage of acceptable
4 loss. ( 3% - 5% typical )

Detailed Instructions for using the Wire Size Calculator


Step 1 - The first step is to decide on the voltage for your system: 12, 24, or 48 volts. The main issue is the wire
size needed for the (usually) fairly long run to the Solar Panels. Simply stated, the higher the voltage, the smaller
the wire size that is needed to carry the current. The formula P=E*I says that the wattage/power P is equal to the
voltage E times the current I in a circuit. So, you can see that as the voltage goes up the current goes down since
E*I always = P. (More details on formulas are available under Watt & Power). Less current means smaller (less
expensive) wire. So, as a general rule, you would normally choose a higher system voltage. The only reason not to
would be if you planned on using lots of 12 volts DC only equipment. Also, keep in mind that whatever system
voltage you decide on 12, 24, or 48, all of your equipment must work on this voltage. If you choose 24 volts for
example, your solar panels, charge controller, inverter, and battery bank will all need to be 24 volts. By playing
with the numbers in the Wire Size Calculator you can get an idea of what voltage will be best for your system.
Step 2 - Next, enter the maximum amps/amperage that your solar panels will produce. This will be the rating of one
panel times the number of panels in your array. If you put two 12 volt panels in series to increase the voltage to 24
volts, you would count the two panels as one. The same would be true if wiring two 24 volt panels to equal 48
volts. The reason for this is that in a series circuit the voltage increases, but the current or amperage stays the same.
More details on this are available under Battery Wiring Diagrams which explains series and parallel wiring. For
example: 10 solar panels rated at 5 amps at 12 volts. You want a 24 volt system so you wire 2 panels in series to
make 24 volts. You do this 5 times. The 5 pairs will be wired in parallel where the current adds to give you 5 sets
times 5 amps per set equals 25 amps. Enter the 25 as the maximum amps your wires need to carry.
Step 3 - This is the distance in feet from your solar panels to the charge controller and battery bank location. Even
though you will actually be running 2 wires, one negative & one positive, do NOT double the distance. The Wire
Size Calculator assumes this and does it for you in the calculation.
Step 4 - The loss you will get in the transmission of the electrical power from your solar panels to your equipment
location is due to the resistance of the wire. This cannot be avoided. A common practice is to use 3, 4, & 5 percent
figures for 12, 24, and 48 volt systems respectively. I like the 3 percent choice for all systems, but even 5 percent is
not too bad. The Wire Size Calculators' answers are based on copper wire using the standard AWG (American Wire
Gauge) sizes. Also note that 00, 000, and 0000 gauges (generally refered to as 2/0, 3/0 and 4/0 are progressively
larger in size and are represented in the Wire Size Calculator as -1, -2, and -3. If you enter numbers that would
result in sizes larger than -3 (pretty darn big), you will get an error message to that effect. In this case, the best
response would be to increase system voltage (resulting in less current required) or/and increase the percent of loss.
By the way, a -3 size wire (4/0) is pretty large and if used in a 48 volt system with a 5% loss factor, you could move
100 amps over 250 feet. This would be a VERY large system. The calculator does not fiqure systems larger than
this. Whatever gauge wire you use, you must also make sure it is capable of carrying the amount of current your
system will produce
Brief Instructions for the System Sizing Estimator
Use this estimator to get a pretty good idea of how many Solar Panels you will need to generate electricity and
how many Storage Batteries you will need to store that electricity. The estimator lets you make simple choices and
then calculates the WattHour usage based on typical configurations. After you see how the estimator works, you
can figure your own system size much more accurately by determining the wattage needed for each of your
appliances and then manually calculating the required WattHours. This procedure is explained under the details of
the Estimator's Calculations below.
Select closest Size and Use factor for each Item
Just click the 'Calculate' button below to see the pre-selected default settings which approximate the typical usage
for a small household of 2 persons. Or, select the choices that apply to you from the drop down lists then click the
'Calculate' button below.

System Sizing Estimator


REFRIGERATORS :
Select size in cubic feet. With an icemaker, select the next larger size.

TELEVISIONS :
Select a screen size. If it's LCD, select the next smaller size.
How many hours per day is the TV on?

MICROWAVE OVENS :
Select a MicroWave Oven based on Power rating (Wattage).
How many minutes per day is the MicroWave used?

LIGHTING :
Add wattage of lights in all rooms. (four 60 watt bulbs =240 watts)
How many hours per day are the lights on?

COMPUTERS :
LCD displays use less wattage than CRT types. Printers and/or sound systems will increase
wattage.
How many hours per day is the computer used?

MISCELLANEOUS :
This section allows you to add power usage from 25 to 1500 watts for extra items or items not
included above.
How many hours per day is the device used?

Reset Estimator

* Number of Solar Panels (80-100 watt) =

* Refrigerator watts = WattHours =

Television watts = WattHours =

MicroWave watts = WattHours =

House lights watts = WattHours =

Computer system = WattHours =

Misc items watts = WattHours =

Summary of WattHours required

Total daily WattHours required =

WattHours required for 3 days =

Battery capacity (50% discharge) =


Battery Bank size in AmpHours
12 Volt 24 Volt 48 Volt

NOTE: The number of Solar Panels required is based on a typical 90 watt panel. The batteries are
* assumed to be standard 12 volt @ 105 amphours.

Detailed Instructions for the System Sizing Estimator.


Step 1 is to calculate the daily WattHour usage of each item. This is done by multiplying the item wattage by the
number of hours used each day. The wattage of a UL listed/approved appliance can usually be found near the AC
power cord. Sometimes only the voltage (120) and amps (example 1.5) are given. No problem. Simply multiply
120 x 1.5 and you have watts, 180 in this example. P=E*I This is the power formula from Ohm's Law.
SPECIAL NOTE: In the case of refrigerators, freezers, and similar appliances, keep in mind that although they are on 24 hours per day,
they actually cycle on and off and really only run about 1/3 of the time. The more times you open the door, the longer they run. In the
Estimator, this is figured into the equation.
Step 2 is to add up the WattHour results for all of your appliances. This will give you the total daily WattHours
required.
Step 3 is to assume that you want at least 3 days of operation before the batteries need to be recharged. So you
multiply the total daily WattHours by 3. In practice, you will only have to be concerned about this in bad weather
or winter. See Meters and Monitors for more about keeping an eye on things.
Step 4 is to find the total battery capacity required by multiplying the 3 day WattHour figure by 2. This way, if
you run for 3 days without recharging, you will only discharge the batteries to about 50% capacity. You can
greatly increase performance and battery life by not going below 50% charge. (except of course for emergencies)
Get more information about this in the Storage Batteries tutorial.
SPECIAL NOTE: You can combine step 3 & 4 by simply multiplying the total daily WattHours (from step 2) by 6.
Step 5 will calculate the size of the battery bank in AmpHours. We use AmpHours because this is how batteries
are rated. (Kind of how much fuel they can hold). This is figured by dividing the total battery capacity required
(from step 4) by your system battery voltage, usually 12, 24, or 48 volts. Simply stated, the higher battery voltage
you use, the smaller (and therefore cheaper) size copper wire can be used to connect the solar panels to the
batteries. (The Wires and Cables tutorial has a chart for calculating wire sizes.) Here is an example of this
calculation: The default values in the Estimator give you a total battery capacity of 21120/12 volts = 1760
AmpHours. Then divide the 1760 AmpHours by the 105 AmpHour rating of a typical 12 volt battery (1760/105 =
about 17). In this example you would need about 17 batteries rated at 12 volts & 105 AmpHours each. More
information is available in the Watts & Power tutorial.
Step 6 is to determine the number of solar panels you'll need. For this step you will divide your total daily
WattHours by your solar panel wattage times the hours of sunshine. Example: 3520/(90*5)=8. The Estimator uses
the value of 450. This assumed a 90 watt solar panel times 5 hours average daily sunshine for mid latitudes in the
US. So, using the Estimator's default selections as an example, you get 3520 daily WattHours divided by 450 = 8
solar panels rounded up to the next panel. See Solar Radiation to find the number of average daily hours of
sunshine for your area.