MC4 connectors are single-contact electrical connectors commonly used for connecting solar panels. The MC in MC4 stands for the manufacturer Multi-Contact (currently Stubli Electrical Connectors) and the 4 for the 4mm diameter contact pin. MC4s allow strings of panels to be easily constructed by pushing the connectors from adjacent panels together by hand, but require a tool to disconnect them to ensure they do not accidentally disconnect when the cables are pulled. The MC4 and compatible products are universal in the solar market today, equipping almost all solar panels produced since about 2011.Originally rated for 600 V, newer versions are rated at 1500 V, which allows longer strings to be created.
The MC4 system consists of a plug and socket design. Oddly, the plugs and sockets are placed inside plastic shells that appear to be the opposite gender - the plug is inside a cylindrical shell that looks like a female connector but is referred to as male, and the socket is inside a square probe that looks male but is electrically female. The female connector has two plastic fingers that have to be pressed toward the central probe slightly to insert into holes in the front of the male connector. When the two are pushed together, the fingers slide down the holes until they reach a notch cut into the side of the male connector, where they pop outward to lock the two together.
For a proper seal, MC4s require the usage of a cable with the correct diameter. Normally double-insulated (insulation plus black sheath) and UV resistant (most cables deteriorate if used outdoors without protection from sunlight). Connection is made by use of a special crimping tool, alternatively by soldering.
The MC4 connector is UL rated at 20 A and 600 V maximum, depending on the conductor size used. Standards efforts in Europe also allow 1000 V versions.