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Old 12-04-2016, 03:56 PM   #1
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Solar Connectors Failed

I am doing my 6 month wash and wax and discovered that both of the plastic solar connectors on the roof panel have sheared in the same place. I hadn't lost the solar power yet, but the plugs were working themselves apart and it was just a matter of time.
Studying the setup, my best guess is that it is due to the way they were installed. The wires behind the connectors were zip tied to the panel foot allowing both connectors to buffet in the wind and bang against the metal panel when driving, etc. Neither had major sun exposure as they were under the panel in the shade for the bulk of the time, had to be fatigue from being allowed to flop around.
I will turn in under warranty on Monday, but will probably attempt a Myron style JBWeld to get me through upcoming camping until we can get new connectors.
Going to try and figure out a better installation when I put the new ones on rather than they way they came.
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Old 12-04-2016, 04:03 PM   #2
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Greg, I'm not a fan of those connectors, when I do my panels. I will do it the way AM Solar does it.



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I am doing my 6 month wash and wax and discovered that both of the plastic solar connectors on the roof panel have sheared in the same place. I hadn't lost the solar power yet, but the plugs were working themselves apart and it was just a matter of time.
Studying the setup, my best guess is that it is due to the way they were installed. The wires behind the connectors were zip tied to the panel foot allowing both connectors to buffet in the wind and bang against the metal panel when driving, etc. Neither had major sun exposure as they were under the panel in the shade for the bulk of the time, had to be fatigue from being allowed to flop around.
I will turn in under warranty on Monday, but will probably attempt a Myron style JBWeld to get me through upcoming camping until we can get new connectors.
Going to try and figure out a better installation when I put the new ones on rather than they way they came.
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Old 12-04-2016, 04:20 PM   #3
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Thanks, Kent. AMSolar is one of the best out there, and apparently they knew these connectors are weak links. When I was looking closely at the setup up there, I asked myself why those weren't wire connected straight through exactly like the video shows. No reason to have the bulky plastic connectors that I can see, especially if they are a fail point.
You could also add in a plug in type connector right there at that point to plug in a portable panel without having to do any additional wiring or put another hole in the trailer. Goes right to the charge controller. If I ever add back in a portable panel, that is where mine will connect.
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Old 12-04-2016, 04:45 PM   #4
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Anyone have an idea how to protect these connectors against the elements? Wrap them?
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Old 12-04-2016, 05:03 PM   #5
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They are weather proof, looks more in need of vibration proofing.
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Old 12-04-2016, 05:05 PM   #6
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Anyone have an idea how to protect these connectors against the elements? Wrap them?
Hi: Rossue... DUCT TAPE? Alf
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Old 12-04-2016, 05:07 PM   #7
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Anyone have an idea how to protect these connectors against the elements? Wrap them?
The MC4 connectors are meant to be used outdoors. My concern after seeing Greg's is just that they are not strong enough. I wonder if it might help to strengthen them with shrink wrap tube.

But I too was wondering why he would not just wire direct into the junction box.
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Old 12-04-2016, 06:25 PM   #8
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The people at AM Solar apparently know what they're doing, but other than that video I couldn't find any indication in their web site (which has extensive explanatory content) that they think there is anything wrong with using MC4 connectors at each panel's output; in fact, they sell MC4 assemblies and parts (connectors and cables) specifically to build panel output collection systems like this.

MC4 connectors are very common in solar applications, but many - if not most - solar applications are stationary. Also, while MC4 started as a proprietary connector type, there are now multiple manufacturers of interoperable products, and I don't know of a quality standard; perhaps these were brittle.

Supporting the cables on both sides of the connectors would make sense to me. Over-wrapping them with heat shrink tubing would likely help, and seems reasonable given that they will only need to be disconnected if panel repair is needed.

I assume that the connectors were used because the panel has stub wires on it, and the connection box on the panel is a sealed unit which does not have accessible terminals... but that's only a guess. If it does have usable terminals, then I agree that running uninterrupted cables to those terminals would be the best solution - either bare wire onto the terminals, or MC4 connectors on the wire end plugged into MC4 connectors built into the termination box, depending on what the box provides.
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Old 12-04-2016, 06:35 PM   #9
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Also, I found it bizarre that the AM Solar video shows them cutting apart the supplied MC4 harness, then hacking their cable onto the cut ends. This means they still have the MC4 connection at the termination box (because that's how it is designed), but they also have extra splices. The alternative would be to run their oh-so-special two-conductor cable right to the termination box location, install an MC4 connector on each conductor, and seal up the end of the cable jacket. I suppose their problem is that by insisting on using the two-conductor cable, they have given up the ability to use the MC4 connectors properly, since those connectors are designed for individually jacketed single-conductor cables.

Since Escape is using separate single-conductor cables, AM Solar's problem of adapting to two-conductor cable does not apply to an Escape installation.
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Old 12-04-2016, 06:41 PM   #10
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My recommendation for all with solar panel is to at a minimum zip tie the actual connectors to the panel foot and not the wires. It will only take about 10 minutes to do this and it may save a connector shearing, or in my case two shearing. When I receive the new connectors from ETI, I may try and design something more secure than zip ties to hold the connectors firmly to the panel foot.
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Old 12-04-2016, 07:19 PM   #11
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I was wondering about taking about a 3" piece of small diameter PVC pipe, just large enough for both connectors to fit inside and zap strapping it to the panel support. Then pulling the connectors inside and zap strapping them in place. The sleeve might be all that's required to vibration proof them and they would still be easily disconnected if required. Just a thought.

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Old 12-04-2016, 07:26 PM   #12
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Some good ideas here, thanks for the heads up.....
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Old 12-04-2016, 08:09 PM   #13
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Quote:
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Anyone have an idea how to protect these connectors against the elements? Wrap them?
perhaps as a cheap and easy method... Home Depot or Lowes used to sell that liquid rubber in a can used to dip tools in so as to provide a rubber handle....pour in a disposable container, make sure the connector is okay then dip in rubber , remove and let it dry...takes a few minutes
the heat shrink also sounds good if you can easily find a big enough diameter.
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Old 12-04-2016, 08:11 PM   #14
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Wrap them with black electrical tape, should help for a couple of years at least.
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Old 12-04-2016, 09:10 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Ron in BC View Post
I was wondering about taking about a 3" piece of small diameter PVC pipe, just large enough for both connectors to fit inside and zap strapping it to the panel support. Then pulling the connectors inside and zap strapping them in place. The sleeve might be all that's required to vibration proof them and they would still be easily disconnected if required. Just a thought.

Ron
Thinking along ur lines here Ron. There are two screws that mount the panel to the foot and was thinking I could eliminate the zip tie entirely, which is also a fail point, and secure it using the screws that mount the foot to the panel. Maybe some kind of aluminum hangar that holds the connectors and then screwed between the panel frame and the foot.
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Old 12-05-2016, 08:57 AM   #16
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You might also consider using this flexible shielding, available in different colors and diameters at Ace Hardware stores.
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Old 12-05-2016, 09:02 AM   #17
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Here is a picture of the connection on the new style 19, they are now low, on the roof.
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Old 12-05-2016, 09:05 AM   #18
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A couple more pictures...
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Old 12-05-2016, 09:09 AM   #19
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My applied solar connections for protection...
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Old 12-05-2016, 01:58 PM   #20
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My applied solar connections for protection...
Myron, it looks like you have connections protected in a short section of corrugated tube, plus another set of connections further away from the panels. Are there two sets of connections, and if so... why?
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