With the different types of solar connectors being made today, your options for PV cable connections are many and varied. But that also calls for a bit of knowledge on their features, so you can find the right type for your installation. The different solar connector types, including their specific designs and capabilities, are covered in this post.
What are Solar Connectors?
Also called PV connectors, solar connectors are small devices that installers use to join together the modules and other parts of a solar photovoltaic system. They connect the cables that transmit the electrical power generated by the modules, and so are an important part of all PV systems.
Essentially, solar connectors and cables are designed to create safe and secure connections. These connections are achieved in a number of different ways, depending on the type of connector chosen. That includes locking mechanisms that prevent unplugging, weather-proof housings, and more.
For any installer, ensuring a safe and reliable connection is key. It ensures that the power generated is safely transported to its destination and at optimal efficiency.
Because the different solar panel and solar cable connector types offer different capabilities, it’s up to the installer to choose from those on the market today.
Types of Solar Connectors
Different types of solar connectors are available today, each with different design characteristics. Based on their features and other factors such as brand name, these connectors are sold in many variations. Here, we’ll look at the five main solar panel connector types and what you should know about them. These are: MC4, MC3, Tyco, Amphenol, and Radox.
1. MC4 Solar Connector
The most common types of solar PV connectors in use today, the MC4s are designed to ensure a secure connection between solar panels or solar cables. The letters MC mean “Multi-Contact”, which is the name of the company that fist produced them.
The number 4, on the other hand, denotes the 4 mm contact that the connector comes with. MC4 connectors are available in male or female variants, and both have a locking mechanism that ensures a secure connection once they’re coupled together.
MC4 solar connectors are also IP rated, which means they’re specially designed for outdoor use, and resistant to UV radiation and the elements. The MC4 is also compatible with most solar modules today, which makes it a favorite among installers. They’re also the best solar connectors to use for large scale installations.
2. MC3 solar Connectors
This is the MC4 connector’s predecessor, or the older version of MC4 connectors. The main difference between these two types of solar connectors is the size of the metal contact. The MC3 uses a 3mm contact, while the MC4 uses a 4mm contact.
Also, unlike the MC4, the MC3 solar connector does not use a safely locking mechanism. That means that the connection is not as secure as that of an MC4 connector. However, it would still work in smaller solar installations. In these systems, its less secure connection may not be much of a concern.
You’ll also likely find this type of connector used in older panels. It’s good to note that, while MC3 solar panel connectors are being used in some photovoltaic systems or panels, many manufacturers have discontinued their production in favor of its successor.
3. Tyco solar Connector
The Tyco solar connector derives its name from the company that produces it. It’s typically a two-part connector which consists of an outer shell and an internal contact block, both made up of durable plastic material.
These types of solar connectors are basically a variant of the MC4, with one key difference; they use crimp technology to provide the connection between solar cables and components. They are also IP rated and come in male and female variants.
Like the MC3 version, these types of solar connectors are also not popular anymore. In their place, most installers now prefer to use the MC4 connectors instead.
4. Amphenol Connector
These types of solar connectors are named after the company that makes them. Like the Tyco and MC4 connectors, they use a locking mechanism to provide a secure connection between two modules or panels.
The Amphenol solar connector also features a water-tight seal which makes it suitable for outdoor applications, and is IP rated. That means you can use it in outdoor conditions.
And, although the connection method of Amphenol PV connectors is different from that of most other connectors, you still get to assemble your solar cables quickly, plus they produce a weather-tight and secure connection.
5. Radox Connector
The Radox connector is most commonly used type of solar connector in Europe, and is not quite pas popular in other parts of the world since it mostly meets European electrical standards. Like the other types of solar connectors, it gets its name from the company that first made it.
In terms of design features, the Radox solar connector comes with high-strength housing, and offers resistance to moisture, dust, UV radiation, and other harsh outdoor conditions. However, unlike most other solar connectors that use plug locks, it comes with a twist lock that requires no tool to unlock.
The Radox solar connector uses a system that ensures the connection is secure and that it lasts a long time. More importantly, it uses quality contacts that are made from beryllium copper, which is known for its superior electrical conductivity.
These are the five main types of solar connectors available today. Given their different design characteristics and other features, it’s important that anyone looking to install a solar PV system knows the differences between them so that they can make an informed decision. That’s because while some types may be more popular than others, the best choice for your system will ultimately depend on your specific requirements.