How to Troubleshoot a Problem With a Solar Panel

Converting the sun’s energy into electricity, solar panels are designed to supplement existing power sources and run off-the-grid electrical applications. Constructed of several individual photovoltaic cells, solar panels can be connected together in series or parallel configuration to increase the amount of the system’s voltage, the amount of useable power, or both. Because the panel’s cells are interconnected, solar panels are easily tested with a standard multimeter.

Troubleshooting solar panels requires testing each of the panel’s individual cells.

Step 1

Perform a continuity check on the panel, to verify the problem is with the panel. Disconnect the solar panel’s plug, located at the end of the panel’s wiring harness.

Step 2

Set a multimeter to the 12-volt DC “ohm” setting. On some meters the ohm setting will be marked as “1X.”

Step 3

Touch either of the meter’s probes to either the red or black terminal on the solar panel’s plug. Touch the meter’s other probe to the other terminal on the panel's plug.

Step 4

Check the meter; any reading indicates the problem is not with the panel. If there is no reading on the meter, check each individual panel cell.

Step 5

Remove the cover of the solar panel with a screwdriver. Locate the two terminals on each individual photovoltaic cell. Repeat the continuity test on each cell, beginning with the cell closest to the panel’s plug and testing each cell in the panel until the faulty cell is located.