Sounds like you got one of the BP Solar panels, like i did from a gentleman off Craigslist last year for like $1/Watt in LB.
Good panel, very solid. A few tricks on how to use it:
- For using with a battery system, rather than a grid-connected system, it's for a 24V battery system. (The 36V is kinda a spec for bigger solar systems)
- I got a 24V Morningstar charge controller, and a "24Vdc -> 110Vac" inverter to use with this panel. This requires TWO batteries to be connected IN SERIES to get the 24Vdc.
- DON'T get a "MPPT" controller to try to jury-rig it to use the full 36V converted to 12Vdc. Those are far too expensive and quirky to justify using them on a 12Vdc, one battery system. Most Chinese "MPPT" controllers are a joke anyways, there's no fed law defining "MPPT", so anything can get sold using this designation. And, if you look deep into the specs of any charge controllers that imply charging a 12V battery from a 36V panel, you'll find that they'll probably overheat and burn up immediately, as you experienced, so it's not worth trying to figure out if you may, perhaps, be able to find one that might possibly work.
An easy way to use this good panel with a 12Vdc (one battery) system:
- NO charge controller. Put a solar BLOCKING diode in-line from the solar panel "+" output to the battery. The MBR1645 is a good 16 Amp solar blocking diode. The blocking diode is NECESSARY to prevent the battery from draining through the solar panel at night and when it is shaded. Google "MBR1645" and solar BLOCKING (not bypass) diode for info. You can mount the blocking diode to the solar panel module metal using a plastic screw/nut and non-electrically-conductive, isolating "TO-220 insulator" and thermal grease. It's easy, just verbally ask someone who understands what i just said to give you a hand.
- Monitor the battery voltage, and put a small tarp over the solar panel when the battery voltage reaches near it's limits, or point the solar panel away from the sun. It takes a full day of good sunshine for this panel (5 Amps) to recharge a depleted deep-cell, so it's easy to do. You can get an automotive cigarette-lighter-battery-voltage-meter for like $12 to watch the voltage.
- The panel is able to recharge two 12V batteries IN SERIES at the same time, with the same current as when recharging only one battery, thus recharging two batteries in the same amount of time that it takes to recharge one battery. Make up a "battery-positive 12V terminal to battery-negative 12V terminal" cable for doing this without having to swap around cables and perhaps blowing things up, and leave this cable connected to the normally-used 12V battery's positive terminal.
- An article with info that you need to do this: http://www.wholesalesolar.com/Informati ... ticle.html
(Note to mod: this article is just info needed by the OP, not a rec for a company)