A solar charge controller regulates the charging of the battery from the solar power system’s multi-channel solar cell array. Likewise, it controls the discharging of the battery from the solar inverter load. It controls how quickly the battery charges and discharges.
The solar charge controller is the brains of the entire photovoltaic power supply system, regulating the flow of electricity from the PV solar cell module and the battery to the load based on the load’s specific electrical requirements.
How to determine the right size of a solar charge controller?
The solar charge controller’s physical dimensions cap power output from an off-grid system. Your charge controller’s sizing should take into account both your power requirements and the output of your solar panels or backup generators.
Both maximum current (in amps) and maximum power (in watts) are common ways of describing the capabilities of charge controllers. Acquiring a charge controller with a capacity equal to or more than your solar array is recommended.
For instance, if your array is 1 kilowatt (kW), you will need a charge controller that is at least that powerful.
Most charge controllers have amp ratings for the highest current they can handle. You can choose a charge controller based on your solar array’s short circuit current.
If you need to calculate the current output of your array but just have its wattage and voltage, you can do it by dividing the power output by the array voltage.
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Why is it necessary to use a solar charge controller?
A solar charge controller functions similarly to a conventional battery charger in that it controls the amount of current that is transferred from the solar system to the storage batteries. Most solar consumers can safely skip the charge controllers at the checkout.
All battery-backed rooftop or ground-mount solar systems should be connected to the electric grid so that when the battery is fully charged, any remaining excess solar energy can be sent to the grid.
To keep your battery from being overcharged, you should investigate the use of a charge controller if you want to establish a small off-grid solar energy system with a battery backup. A PWM charge controller should suffice for tiny batteries when used in conjunction with low-output 5-10 Watt (W) solar panels. A maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controller could be useful for more advanced DIY solar projects involving higher output panels. You also need to use a solar charge controller with using a 200 watt solar panel.
Solar charge controller types available in the market
Solar charge controllers that use the MPPT method
Solar charge controllers with maximum power point tracking are more costly and complicated than other options. They protect your house battery in the same way that a PWM controller does, by cutting off power to it as it gets close to being full.
MPPT charge controllers have an advantage over PWM controllers in that they can match voltages that aren’t exactly the same as the solar panels and the batteries. The maximum power point tracking (MPPT) controller can modify its input to get the most power from your solar array and can alter its output to match the power needs of the connected battery. Because of this, MPPT charge controllers are preferable to PWM controllers because they make better use of the energy produced by solar panels to recharge a home’s batteries.
If controller efficiency were the only factor, an MPPT controller would always be the best option. On the other hand, that isn’t always an option. There are many considerations beyond efficiency when choosing a solar charge controller. A solar generator with a 200 watt solar panel must have a solar charge controller. Likewise, you can use lithium solar batteries for better efficiency.
Solar charge controllers that use pulse width modulation (PWM)
The most common solar charge controllers on the market today are PWM models. They don’t require as much complexity or expense as MPPT controllers. When your battery’s capacity is near, a PWM controller gradually reduces the power it receives. In the event that your battery is completely charged, a PWM controller will “trickle” it, meaning it will continuously give a very small amount of power to keep the battery from draining.
Using a PWM controller requires your solar array’s voltages and house batteries to be in sync. It is not uncommon for the panel voltage and the battery voltage in bigger solar panel systems not to be in sync when used to power an entire home. Therefore, PWM controllers are better suitable for low-power DIY solar generators consisting of a few low-voltage panels and lithium solar batteries.
Why do solar panels require charge controllers?
They perform the crucial task of preventing the battery from being overcharged or discharged when the solar panels are not in operation.
A charge controller is unnecessary if your solar array is wired into the utility grid because any surplus energy will simply be sent back to the utility company.
While solar charge controllers aren’t required for every solar panel installation, they are essential for any off-grid setup that combines solar panels with batteries. They perform the crucial task of preventing the battery from being overcharged or discharged when the solar panels are not in operation. A charge controller is unnecessary if your solar array is wired into the utility grid because any surplus energy will simply be sent back to the utility company.