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How should I disconnect my solar panels?

We often get asked the question how should I disconnect my solar panels. I would say for the majority of installs once the panels are up and installed they will very rarely, if ever, be disconnected. Your panels are doing their job and you just sit back and enjoy the clean & quiet power.


However it might be the case that you want to disconnect you panels safely, here's a few scenarios:


- You're a weekend sailor and you are only putting the panels out for the weekend and then disconnecting them to stow under a bunk during the week.


- You have a camper and have run out some extra panels into the sun on a 50ft cable and now need to disconnect them, stow them away and move on to the next campground.


- Maybe there is a hurricane forecast and you want to remove the panels from your bimini and stow them away.

The orange MC4 disconnect tools (sold as a pair in our store)



It's worth noting that you can never really "turn off" a solar panel and so it's very important to be aware that your panel is always generating DC voltages (potentially very high if they are connected in series) so there are steps you can take to safely disconnect your panels:


Step 1 - Turn off the circuit breaker between the MPPT charge controller and battery bank

Step 2 - Turn off the MPPT controller in the VictronConnect app

Step 3 - Turn off the circuit breaker between the solar panels and the MPPT charge controller (if installed)

Step 4 - Cover the solar panel with a dark material OR flip over the solar panel so the logo side faces the ground

Step 5- Use the MC4 disconnect tool to separate the negative MC4 connectors between the solar panel and the PV extension wire then use the MC4 disconnect tool to separate the positive Mc4 connectors second.


The MC4 connectors actually have very small - and + symbols printed onto them and the positive and negative connectors from the SunPower E-flex solar panels look like the image below:




The below warnings are copied from the SunPower "safety and installation guide"


"Do not connect or disconnect modules when they are energized by exposure to light or external power sources such as a battery. Disconnection under load will result in arcing and damage to the connector."


"Direct current will arc across a gap and may cause injury when improper connection or disconnection is made"



There are many videos you can find on YouTube about DC arcing, bear in mind these are at higher voltages than you will typically have on your smaller sized system. So whilst you may not get the dramatic (and dangerous) arcing you may generate small sparks that could cause injury or could damage your MC4 connectors and stop your system from working properly in the future.