Which Solar Panels Are Compatible With The EcoFlow River Power Stations?
EcoFlow is a popular brand that makes and sells both portable power stations/solar generators and solar panels.
Power stations are great for travelers looking for portable electricity, because they have built-in solar charge controllers so you can plug solar panels into them to recharge its battery.
But which solar panels are compatible with an EcoFlow power station, and how do you know what to look for?
In this article, I am going to talk about some of the smaller solar generators made by EcoFlow, the River line-up.
Some of them include a so-called “Solar Charging Cable”, what is this and how do you use it? That’s some of the questions I want to answer today.
As always, feel free to leave a comment if something is unclear or if you have questions about a specific battery or solar panel.
River Power Stations Specifications Compared
Before we talk about specific solar panels, it’s a good idea to get a general understanding of what decides whether a panel is compatible or not.
Take a look at the “Input Specifications” in the table below, especially the ones of your River model. Then I’ll explain what these numbers mean after the table.
Under each input specification, we find essentially three different ratings. One is a voltage range (11-39V), one is an amperage (8A), and one is a wattage (100W max).
This is what the solar charge controller in the River Mini is rated for, which is what’s inside the power station.
A solar panel example
Now that we know what voltage the charge controller will accept, let’s take a look at a panel like the Renogy 100W 12V Monocrystalline solar panel (click to view on Amazon) and see if it’s compatible or not.
If we scroll down to its specifications, we see a list of words that talk about power, voltage, current, temperature, etc.
What we’re looking for in this list is the VOC, short for Open-circuit Voltage. The voltage is the most important rating to understand, so you don’t buy a panel that the charge controller won’t accept input from.
When you start looking at solar panel specifications, it might be hard to track down which is the VOC, but see which ratings sounds most like Open-Circuit Voltage.
The Renogy panel has a VOC rating of 24.3V. But the listing name mentioned 12V, right? Yes, but it doesn’t output 12V just because it’s a 12V panel. It simply means it’s made for a 12V system.
Alright, back to the River Mini input limits. It accepts voltages between 11 and 39, so the Renogy panel is compatible since it sits somewhere in the middle at 24.3V.
What about the amperage and the watts?
The River Mini still has the 8A and 100W max rating, but these numbers are not as important as the voltage.
If the charge controller accepts voltages between 11 and 39, it won’t charge at all with a panel outputting 42V.
But it will charge with a panel producing 10A, even though the limit is 8. It will simply regulate the amperage and use as much as it can to safely charge the battery. It can’t do the same with a voltage that is too high.
Connectors And Inputs
One last thing I want to cover before recommending panels is the connector used on solar panels, and the input used on EcoFlow power stations.
Not all solar panels use the same type of connector, but there is one that is more popular than all the others, and that is the MC4 connector.
There are two different MC4 connectors, one male and one female.
In the solar panel example above, I used the the Renogy 100W 12V Monocrystalline solar panel (click to view on Amazon).
Renogy uses MC4 connectors on its panels, even EcoFlow uses MC4 connectors on its panels.
But EcoFlow does not use MC4 inputs on its power stations, it uses XT60 connectors.
The power station models that include a solar charging cable (check the table above), includes an MC4 to XT60 adapter so you can connect either EcoFlow or compatible third-party panels.
If your power station did not include one of these adapters, EcoFlow sells them on Amazon (click to view).
One last thing, notice how the MC4 to XT60 adapter has one cable that is red and one black. The red one has an MC4 female connector, and the black an MC4 male connector.
This matters when you connect solar panels to it, because the market standard is that solar panels have a positive MC4 male connector and a negative MC4 female connector.
I mention it because you might find a similar adapter sold by a different vendor, but it’s important that you make sure the polarity (positive to positive, negative to negative) is correct.
The Renogy and EcoFlow panels are compatible with the EcoFlow adapter above.
Solar Panel Recommendations
If you’re still reading, I applaud you. Hopefully you don’t feel confused and discouraged, but if you do feel free to leave a comment if there is something you don’t understand.
Now we’re getting to the fun part, the solar panels that are compatible with River power stations.
I have done some research and found a couple of panels that I recommend. These are compatible with all of the River models.
If you’re considering a different panel, just make sure it uses either MC4 connectors or has an XT60 connector.
After the table, I’ll talk a little bit about how to connect two panels together.
To conclude a little bit about the panels, all of the panels in the table above are compatible with the current River models.
All of the River models except the standard River Mini include the MC4 to XT60 adapter (click to view on Amazon), so you can plug any of the panels above into an EcoFlow River power station.
Connect Two Panels Together
You can also combine two panels to charge the battery faster. The limitation here will still be the max amperage the charge controller will use.
To combine two panels that use MC4 connectors you can do either a parallel or a series connection.
Because of the limitations of the solar charge controller in the River power stations, you have to do a parallel connection, but I am going to explain why a series connection won’t work.
A parallel connection is done with an MC4 Y branch (click to view on Amazon).
With a pair of MC4 Y branches, you’re going to connect the two positive wires (one from each panel) to one of the Y branches. Then do the same with the negative wires.
What you end up with is a combined positive wire and a combined negative, but positive is separate from negative. Then you connect the Y branch to the MC4 to XT60 adapter before plugging it into the River power station.
A parallel connection combines the amperage, but keeps the voltage the same as if only one panel was connected.
The reason you can’t do a series connection is that a series connection will combine the voltages but keep the amperage the same as from one panel.
Remember how I talked about the importance of knowing the voltage of a panel (or in this case two panels added together), since a charge controller in a power station will only accept voltages within a certain range?
For example, two Renogy 100W panels will output 48.6V, which is more than the 11-39 or 10-25V these power stations can handle. Therefore, we have to stick to a parallel connection.
I recommend using MC4 extension cables.
The lower the gauge, the thicker the wire, and a thicker wire will be more efficient with less voltage loss, which is what we want.
I recommend the Geosiry Twin Wire MC4 Solar extension cable (click to view on Amazon) as MC4 extension cables.
Any cable, adapter, or extension cable should be able to handle the amperage the panel is going to produce. A 10 gauge wire is safe to use with all of the panels I have recommended in this article.
Please leave a comment down below if you have any questions.