Solar Panel Distance (Battery + Charge Controller + Inverter/House)

If you are wondering how far away from your solar panels you should mount the charge controller?

The best answer is shorter is better in terms of distance. Solar Battery storage systems should be within 20-30 feet, and you would mount the charge controller within a yard or meter of the batteries.

Compact solar design is an essential part of preventing energy loss. There are a few other things you need to know about where to place components of your solar array. Keep reading as we go over those items. 

Does the distance between the solar panels, battery storage system, and controller make a difference? 

The distance between your solar panel components — the panels, batteries, and controller — is critical. If the space is too large, power loss occurs. 

Inside, we discuss:

  • The optimal distance between solar components
  • The best wire gauge for energy transfer
  • Whether you need a solar inverter
  • And a few other bits of information you need to know.
Solar Panels And Inverters On A Roof Space - Sol Voltaics: Solar Panel Information
Solar Panels And Inverters On A Roof Space

1. What is Power Loss?

Power loss is a natural occurrence. It happens when energy travels along wires. The farther the energy travels, the more power is lost.

For example, about two percent of the energy is lost on the public utility grid as it travels on high-voltage lines.

That same process occurs as energy travels from the solar panels to the controller, the batteries, the inverter, and your home or business.  

That loss is why the solar panels and solar components must be as close as possible. 

2. How Far Can Solar Panels Be from Battery? 

Generally, 20-30 feet is the ideal distance between a solar panel, such as an array, and the solar battery backup supply.

The longer the wire from the solar panel to the battery, the more energy lost in transport.

The amount of energy lost also depends upon the gauge or thickness of the wire.

Thicker wires lose less energy. Thinner wires lose more power. 

Charge Controller Wires
Charge Controller Wires

What Gauge Wire is Best?

The best gauge of wire for a home array with a panel over 50 watts is ten gauges. If the panels are a string and each panel is over 50 watts, you would use an eight gauge wire for smaller strings and a three gauge wire for longer strings. 

A string is multiple solar panels wired together as a unit. All the energy from all the panels moves as a single unit.

Generally, a ten gauge wire allows for around 30 amps; if you add more panels, the amps increase, which is why you should use a thicker wire.

In terms of wire gauges, the smaller the number, the thicker the wire. A three gauge wire is thicker than an eight gauge wire.

The higher the number, the thinner the wire. A 20 gauge wire is thinner than a ten gauge wire. 

A lesson learned: A Charging Cord

If you are shopping for a single solar panel charger, do you want a longer or shorter cord?

The shorter the cord, the less energy is lost. With mobile solar panels, the wires tend to be higher gauge making them thinner.

A shorter charging cord will give you more power from the panel to the battery and make it less convenient to keep the panel in direct sunlight and still connect it to your device.

The lesson here is that sometimes there is a trade-off between two perfect worlds. 

Solar Panel Inverter Under A Solar Panel
Solar Panel Inverter Under A Solar Panel

3. How Far Away Can Solar Panels Be from Inverter?

Are you wondering how far away to put the inverter from the solar array? The answer to this question can be two-fold.

First, the answer would depend on if you have a solar battery backup system. If so, the question is how far from the batteries should the inverter be.

Second, solar panels produce DC volts, and Solar Batteries use DC volts.

Therefore, an inverter between solar panels and solar batteries would not be needed because they both use DC volts. 

The second way to answer this question would be to ask how far the solar panels and inverter should be from each other.

The answer is no more than a yard or so.

It does not have to be exact, but the batteries and inverter should be pretty much in the same room. You can mount the inverter inside or outside the building near the meter box if your home is grid-tied.

Overall, the solar panels and the inverter should be close, and the wiring to the house should not be more than 30 feet.  

4. Do you Need an Inverter for Solar Power? 

You do not always need an inverter to use solar power. Some devices operate on DC voltage. If the solar energy runs from the solar panel to the battery, an inverter is not needed.

However, an inverter is required if the solar energy eventually runs to a home or business. If the solar energy from the solar power runs to anything that runs on AC voltage, an inverter is needed. 

If you run DC voltage directly to a home, the Direct Current will destroy most of the appliances and electronics in the house. It can also overheat those items and cause a fire.

For that reason, any DC to AC circuit needs an inverter. 

Solar Panel Setup Engineers Controlling A Solar System
Solar Panel Setup Engineers Controlling A Solar System

5. How Far Apart Should Solar Components Be? 

Suppose you are designing a solar array and wonder how far apart the solar components — the panels, controller, inverter, and home — should be from each other.

In that case, the simple answer is as close together as possible. 

The array should be within 30 feet of the batteries, and the controller should be within a yard of the batteries.

The controller is not closer to the solar panels than it is to the batteries because it will limit the power provided by the solar panels, and there will be some bleed-off that occurs naturally.

The solar panels will almost always send too much power to the controller, which will block most of that power to protect the batteries.

So energy loss during that process is not a big deal. It is a big deal if the energy loss between the controller and the battery is significant. 

The solar batteries and the inverter should also be close — within a yard or so.

The inverter and the home should also be as close as possible so that energy from the inverter has a short distance to travel to the electrical box. 

6. How Far Can Solar Panels Be from a House?

Many solar arrays are installed on the roof of the house. That location puts the solar panels close to the controller, batteries, and inverter.

Ideally, you do not want more than 20-30 feet of line between the solar array and the next solar component, whether a controller or a battery system. 

7. How Far Can You Run Solar Panels?

In terms of the distance from a building, the max distance would be under 500 feet. The farther the array is from where the energy use occurs the more expensive the project.

The biggest add-on here would be for a much heavier gauge of wire, a lot of extra conduit piping, and potentially a trench to hold both. 

8. How Far Apart Should Solar Panels Be?

Solar panels come in various sizes and most are not full inches. What that means is they are 35.6 inches wide by 55.4 inches tall.

Most companies simply round up to the next inch when installing solar panels. In the examples above the solar panels would be 36 inches wide by 56 inches long.

So add an inch to the width and length of your solar panels for ideal spacing.

The added space is all that is needed between panels. You want to fit the most panels in the smallest space. How far apart should solar panels be? About an inch is all. 

Sources

Solar Panel Setup FAQ

How long do solar panels last?

How long solar panels last depends on their quality and how well looked after. In general, though, most solar panels will last between 25 and 30 years, with the most expensive models having a life expectancy of 40–50 years. That being said, solar panels will still produce energy after this time, although their capability will have declined significantly. 

How do you set up a solar panel system?

The first step in setting up a solar system is determining how much power you need, and planning your solar system accordingly. After this, the setup is fairly straightforward;
1. Gather all the required components together; panels, inverter, batteries, cables, etc. 
2. Find a safe space in your home to house the inverter and batteries
3. Fix the panels to your roof or a stand
4. Connect the panels to your inverter or charge controller
5. Connect your inverter to your batteries

What is required for solar panel installation?

Again, the first crucial step for any solar installation is calculating your power needs. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to purchase the appropriate components. These include;
1. Solar panels
2. Batteries
3. Inverter
4. Charge controller
5. Suitable cables
These components are typically purchased separately according to your needs, but you can purchase ready-made solar kits that have all the components you need too.

Can I set up solar panels myself?

With a bit of basic DIY and electrical knowledge, you can certainly set up solar panels yourself, especially smaller systems. The setup can become somewhat complicated for large, high-power systems that are grid-tied, though, and you may want to get assistance from a qualified electrician. 

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