How to Combine Non Nonpolar Capacitors


In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the process of combining nonpolar capacitors for various electronic applications. Nonpolar capacitors are widely used in electronics, and knowing how to incorporate them effectively can enhance their performance and functionality. We’ll cover everything from selecting the proper capacitors to safety precautions, wiring techniques, and troubleshooting tips. Let’s dive in!


Nonpolar capacitors play a crucial role in electronic circuits, storing and releasing electrical energy when needed. However, there are situations where a single capacitor may not suffice, and combining multiple capacitors becomes necessary. Whether you want to increase capacitance and voltage rating or improve ripple current handling, this guide will walk you through the steps to successfully combine nonpolar capacitors.

Understanding Nonpolar Capacitors

Before we delve into the combination process, it’s essential to understand the basics of nonpolar capacitors. These capacitors lack a distinct positive and negative terminal, making them suitable for both AC and DC applications. Nonpolar capacitors come in various types, including tantalum, aluminum electrolytic, and ceramic capacitors.

Types of Nonpolar Capacitors

There are several types of nonpolar capacitors, each with its characteristics and applications. Understanding these capacitor types is crucial when combining them effectively.

Tantalum Capacitors

Tantalum capacitors are known for their high capacitance values and stable performance. They are commonly used in applications requiring precision and reliability.

Aluminum Electrolytic Capacitors

Aluminum electrolytic capacitors are versatile and suitable for a wide range of applications. They offer high capacitance values and are cost-effective.

Ceramic Capacitors

Ceramic capacitors are compact and ideal for high-frequency applications. They come in various dielectric materials, each with specific properties.

Why Combine Nonpolar Capacitors?

There are several reasons why you might want to combine nonpolar capacitors:

  • Increase Capacitance: Combining capacitors in parallel increases the total capacitance, which can be beneficial in smoothing voltage and reducing ripple.
  • Enhance Voltage Rating: Series connections can boost the voltage rating, allowing you to work with higher voltage circuits.
  • Improve Ripple Current Handling: Combining capacitors can improve their ability to handle ripple current, making them suitable for power supply applications.

Safety Precautions

Working with capacitors, even nonpolar ones, requires attention to safety. Here are some essential safety precautions to follow:

  1. Discharge Capacitors: Before handling capacitors, ensure they are fully discharged to prevent electric shocks.
  2. Use Appropriate Tools: Choose the right tools and materials for the job, and wear safety gear, such as gloves and safety glasses.
  3. Observe Polarity: While nonpolar capacitors don’t have polarity, be cautious when combining them with polar capacitors.
  4. Avoid Overvoltage: Do not exceed the voltage rating of capacitors to prevent damage or failure.

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s move on to the steps for combining nonpolar capacitors effectively.

Tools and Materials Needed

Before you start combining nonpolar capacitors, gather the necessary tools and materials:

  • Nonpolar capacitors of your choice
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Wire strippers
  • Multimeter
  • Breadboard or PCB
  • Heat shrink tubing
  • Desoldering pump (optional)
  • Safety gear (gloves, safety glasses)

Step 1: Selecting Capacitors

The first step is selecting the proper capacitors for your application. Consider the required capacitance value, voltage rating, and other specifications based on your circuit’s needs.

Step 2: Checking Capacitor Ratings

Before combining capacitors, double-check their ratings to ensure compatibility. Matching voltage ratings and capacitance values is crucial for a safe and effective combination.

Step 3: Parallel Connection

Combining capacitors in parallel increases the total capacitance. Connect the positive terminals and the negative terminals together, ensuring a secure and low-resistance connection.

Step 4: Series Connection

If you need to increase the voltage rating, connect capacitors in series. Connect the positive terminal of one capacitor to the negative terminal of another. Ensure proper insulation between them.

Step 5: Mixing Capacitor Types

While it’s generally best to combine capacitors of the same type and values, mixing different types can be done with caution. Ensure the voltage ratings and capacitance values are compatible.

Step 6: Capacitor Sizing

Consider the physical size of the capacitors and the available space in your circuit. Ensure they fit without causing interference or overheating.

Step 7: Voltage Rating

Be cautious not to exceed the maximum voltage rating of your combined capacitors, as this can lead to failure or damage.

Step 8: Ripple Current Rating

Pay attention to the ripple current rating, especially if your application involves AC circuits. Ensure the combined capacitors can handle the expected ripple current.

Step 9: ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance)

Check the Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR) of the capacitors, as it can affect performance. Low ESR capacitors are preferable for high-frequency applications.

Step 10: Mounting Capacitors

Securely mount the capacitors on a PCB or breadboard, ensuring they are well-positioned and won’t move or short-circuit.

Step 11: Wiring Capacitors

Correctly wire the capacitors according to your chosen configuration (parallel or series). Use appropriate techniques for soldering and insulation.

Step 12: Testing and Troubleshooting

After combining capacitors, test your circuit and look for any issues. Troubleshoot if necessary and ensure the integrated capacitors function as expected.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you combine different capacitor values?

Yes, you can combine capacitors with different values, but it's essential to consider their voltage ratings and capacitance values to ensure compatibility.

Is it safe to combine capacitors of different brands?

Combining capacitors of different brands is generally safe, as long as they have similar specifications. However, it's best to stick to reputable brands for reliability.

What happens if you exceed the voltage rating of capacitors?

Exceeding the voltage rating can lead to capacitor failure or even explosion. Always stay within the specified voltage limits.

How does combining capacitors affect capacitance?

Combining capacitors in parallel increases total capacitance, while series connections maintain the same capacitance but increase the voltage rating.

Can I mix electrolytic and ceramic capacitors?

Yes, you can mix electrolytic and ceramic capacitors, but be mindful of their differences in capacitance, voltage rating, and ESR.

Is it possible to parallel and series combine capacitors simultaneously?

Yes, you can create complex combinations by both parallel and series connecting capacitors as needed for your circuit requirements.

What is the significance of ESR in combining capacitors?

ESR affects the capacitors' ability to handle high-frequency signals. Lower ESR capacitors are better for applications with high-frequency components.

How can I calculate the total capacitance of combined capacitors?

To calculate total capacitance in parallel, add the individual capacitance values. In series, use the reciprocal formula and then take the reciprocal of the result.

Are there any risks of combining nonpolar capacitors?

While combining nonpolar capacitors is common, risks include exceeding voltage ratings, improper connections, and potential circuit instability. Follow guidelines carefully.

What are the common applications for combined nonpolar capacitors?

Combined nonpolar capacitors find applications in power supplies, audio circuits, filtering, and other electronic systems where specific voltage and capacitance requirements exist.


Combining nonpolar capacitors can be a valuable skill for electronics enthusiasts and professionals. It allows for customization and optimization of circuits to meet specific requirements. By following the steps outlined in this guide and adhering to safety precautions, you can successfully combine nonpolar capacitors for a wide range of electronic applications.

Additional Resources

For further information and resources on capacitors and electronics, consider the following references:

  • Electronics Tutorials
  • Digi-Key Capacitor Basics
  • EEVblog Capacitor Tutorial
  • All About Circuits

Glossary of Terms

  • Capacitance: The ability of a capacitor to store electrical charge.
  • Voltage Rating: The maximum voltage a capacitor can safely handle.
  • Ripple Current: The fluctuating current in a circuit, typically caused by AC signals.
  • Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR): The internal resistance of a capacitor.
  • PCB: Printed circuit board is a common platform for electronic components.
  • Breadboard: A prototyping board used to build and test electronic circuits.

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