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How to Test a Solar Panel for proper functioning

We received a call from a lady who just bought an EL8 Headlamp-Solar Panel combination from an internet site. She told me she found the EL8 Headlamp by reading the featured article in BackPacker Magazine

 See Backpacker Gear Guide

She was exited about this smart product, but after trying to charge the headlamp by plugging the solar panel into the headlamp for several hours, the battery check LED indicator kept showing a red light. She did not know what was wrong. After suggesting her to re-try charging the headlamp with the solar panel, I realized that users could do this simple test, to rule out if the solar panel was working properly or not.


EL8 Solar Panel and multi-meter connections
EL8 Solar Panel, tested on sunlight, at 5:30 pm on August 19th (date and time are provided to explain why Solar Panel current was just 60 to 70 mA) Multi-meter probes detail. Positive probe is inserted into Solar Panel's plug center hole; negative probe connected to plug's outer conection

Items needed for the test

  •  A solar panel
  •  A multi-meter, set as mA meter, digital or analog
  •  Sun light or any indoor light

Steps to follow:

1. Set multi-meter to a 50, 100, or 200mA range

2. Check that meter leads or probes are plugged into the right mA jacks. This very with the model of multi-meter used

3. Connect (+) positive probe (red) to Solar Panel center plug connection. Insert probe inside hollow plug

4. Connect (-) negative probe (black), to outer plug connection, just by holding probe(s) with your fingers

If you use a digital meter with auto-polarity, the way you connect positive and negative probes is not important; just be aware that you will get positive readings by following these instructions, and negative readings if you invert prove connections.

5. Place Solar Panel into light

6. Amp meter reading should go from zero, or a few mA, to 60 to 95 mA, depending on the brightness of sunlight.

7. Move solar panel away from light, and reading should decrease to a few mA or zero.

8. Remember that you can do this test inside of your home, or in a store, with fluorescent or incandescent bulbs as light source. The current readings (in mA) will not be close to the maximum current the solar panel can produce under bright sun light. This test under artificial light is as valid as under sun light.

9. Saying that, you might go to Radio Shack and borrow a multi-meter if you do not have one, in order to test your solar panel

Related Links

EL8 Charging Uses / Jobsite Headlamp / Ordering Products / Charging iPods / EL8 Headlamp Specifications

Charging iPhone with Solar Energy / Charge iPod 80/160/GB with Solar Energy

Please, feel free to send your comments, ideas, and suggestions about the articles you read in our site. We really appreciate them, and we answer all your questions and comments, usually the same day.

If you own an EL8 Headlamp, an AE6 USB adapter, and an iPod Classic 80/160GB, or and iPhone, or an iTouch, please send us information on charging time you were able to accomplish with this charging assembly.





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Last modified: 10/27/12.