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Solar Guide: How to Connect Charge Controller and Inverter to Battery

How to Connect a Charge Controller and Inverter to a Battery

Setting solar yourself can start to feel a bit overwhelming if you don’t have an electrical background.

However, rest easy, in this article we will pull the curtain back from this confusion and give you a step-by-step guide to install both your charge controller and your power inverter to your battery bank for your off-grid surveillance trailer system.

Quick Answer: In a hurry? Here you go! Full details can be found below.

  • Step 1: Find the right mounting point for your charge controller.
  • Step 2: Connect the battery to your charge controller.
  • Step 3: Connect the solar panels to the charge controller.
  • Step 4: Check that the wire connections are secure.

Why Does A Surveillance Trailer Need Solar Power?

While it may seem like a surveillance trailer would simply be a “plug and play” setup, oftentimes, a surveillance trailer is not located in a powered area.

Surveillance trailers provide video recordings of scenes that generally do not have “grid” power sources where they can be plugged into traditional power supplies.

Some have chosen in the past to power off-grid surveillance trailers with gas generators, which can be a challenge to leave unattended.

Gas generators require regular refills of gas, they are loud and can be stolen from sites.

What Does A Charge Controller Do For A Solar System?

A charge controller is an important component of any solar power system, whether you are powering your RV or running an off-grid surveillance trailer, you are going to need a charge controller.

A charge controller is essentially responsible for regulating the voltage and electrical current, as well as monitoring your battery charge levels and ensuring those battery levels stay within an acceptable range.

If your battery falls below an acceptable range, your charge controller will ensure the battery gets charged via the solar panel without overcharging or damaging the battery.

What Does A Power Inverter Do For A Solar System?

Another essential component of your solar system is a power inverter.

A power inverter has the responsibility of taking the Direct Current (DC) from your solar panels and your battery and converting it (or inverting it) to Alternating Current (AC), the standard of electrical current required to deliver usable power for modern equipment.

A power inverter has a crucial role in your solar system and without it, you will likely not be able to run the power and equipment needed at your surveillance trailer location.

How To Install A Charge Controller

The first step in installing a solar system charge controller is to ensure you are not working with any live power wires.

You can simply disconnect the MC4 connectors on the panels to make sure the current isn’t flowing through the leads you will be working with.

Once you have ensured your charge controller and solar power are safe to work with, you can begin your installation.

  • Step 1: Find the right mounting point for your charge controller. You will want to select a location for mounting your charge controller, ideally near your batteries to eliminate the use of excess cabling unless it is needed for a unique install.
  • Step 2: Connect the battery to your charge controller. Run a generic stranded copper wire from your battery to your charge controller. Ensure you run a separate wire from the positive terminal (+) on the battery to the positive receiver on the charge controller. Conversely, ensure another stranded copper wire is run from the negative terminal (-) on the battery to the negative receiver on the charge controller.
  • Step 3: Connect the solar panels to the charge controller. This can be done by attaching a length of wire between each panel and charge controller, with all positive leads attached to one port on the charge controller, or alternatively, you may choose to purchase pre-made cables that are sold specifically for your specific model of solar panel or charge controller.
  • Step 4: Check that the wire connections are secure. Ensure that both the battery side and the charge controller side of wires are securely installed and cannot be easily pulled out of position. A loose wire can cause damage to your batteries, charge controller and potentially create a dangerous scenario if not properly secured.

Once your battery is connected to your charge controller, you can then connect your solar panel cables to your charge controller as well. Then, don’t forget to reconnect the panels via the MC4 connectors you disconnected earlier.

Once these are securely in place, it is time to connect your charge controller to your power inverter.

How To Connect A Power Inverter To A Charge Controller

Now that you have sorted out the charge controller and battery connections, it is time to connect your charge controller to your power inverter.

Again, before working with any electricity, ensure the area is safe and no exposed “hot” wires are in an area to create a dangerous situation.

Once the area is safe, it’s time to get started!

  • Step 1: Select a good power inverter mounting location. Place your power inverter in a usable location in good proximity to your charge controller and battery. Your power inverter is a device that will be used often and having a good access point when mounting is important.
  • Step 2: Connect the power inverter to the charge controller. Run a length of power supply cables to connect the charge controller’s +/- load terminals to the corresponding load terminals on the power inverter. Again, you will want to ensure you run a separate wire from the positive terminal (+) on the inverter to the positive receiver on the charge controller. Conversely, ensure another stranded copper wire is run from the negative terminal (-) on the inverter to the negative receiver on the charge controller.
  • Step 3: Check that the wire connections are secure. Ensure that both the battery side and the charge controller side of wires are securely installed and cannot be easily pulled out of position. A loose wire can cause damage to your batteries, charge controller and potentially create a dangerous scenario if not properly secured.

Once your connections are in place and you have ensured the connections are secure, take once final confirmation the positive wires and negative wires are each running to their corresponding positive/negative terminals.

After all final checks have been made, you can then face your solar panels back up towards the sun and start running your off-grid solar-powered surveillance trailer.

About the author

Lee Waters

I've built a business around off-grid surveillance and want to help you do the same.