There are two basic types of solar controller: on off and shunt, also known as Pulse Width Modulated. On off as its name suggests, switches of the power from the panel to the battery when the voltage reaches a certain level, and switches back on when it drops. This means that there are periods of time when there is no power going from the panel to the battery. Shunt controllers allow the battery voltage to increase, and then maintain it at a steady but high level.
Beware, all solar controllers use up some of the power produced by the solar panel. This is normally a tiny amount, but adds up over time and can be important if there is not much slack in your system.
Some solar controllers display battery state and input from the solar panel, either as LED lights or on an LCD display. Charge controllers should be mounted somewhere dry. Some are more watertight than others.
The control of battery charging is so important that most manufacturers of high quality batteries with warranties of five years or longer specify the requirements for voltage regulation, low voltage disconnect and temperature compensation. When these limits are not respected, it is common for batteries to fail after less than one quarter of their normal life expectancy, regardless of their quality or their cost.
A good solar controller is not expensive in relation to the total cost of a power system. Nor is it very mysterious. I hope this article has given you the background that you need to make a good choice of controls for your power system.
At Wholesale Solar, we will be happy to help find the products that are right for you. For pricing and product information give us a call. We'll also answer any questions you might have about your system.
Is a maximum power point tracking charge controllerrequired for my solar system?
MPPT or maximum power point tracking charge controllers are a relatively new product in the solar electricity game. They have a few distinct advantages over the older styles of charge controllers.
Maximum Power Point Tracking charge controllers can make your solar array produce up to 30 percent more:
This is the original purpose to create the MPPT charge controller. All solar modules have a maximum power point voltage or SWEET SPOT. The SWEET SPOT is the voltage at which a solar module will make the most energy. An MPPT controller will connect to the solar module at the best voltage and then reduce the voltage to charge the battery. By connecting to the module at the mppt voltage, the output will be better by up to 30 percent.
Seconely, mppt controller can make it possible to charge a lower voltage bank of batteries with a higher voltage solar module :
Before MPPT, customers would have to choose a charge controller and solar modules according to the voltage of the battery. If you had a 48 volt battery bank, you had to use a 48 volt solar module and a 48 volt charge controller. If you decided to decrease the battery bank voltage, you had to swap your solar module and your charge controller. Not anymore. MPPT charge controllers can take a higher voltage from the solar module and reduce it to charge the battery. As long as the solar module produces more voltage than the battery bank, the battery will be charged properly. If you decide to change the battery voltage later, the charge controller can be adjusted to the new voltage.
Thirdly, it allow you to transmit high voltage from your solar array ,keeping the amperage and wiring sizes lower to your charge controller, and then reduce the voltage to the required battery voltage:
Another great feature of a lot of MPPT charge controllers is that they can accept voltages up to 250 volts. There is even at least one MPPT charge controller that can accept up to 600 volts DC and reduce it to charge a battery bank. Think about this. You have a long transmission distance between your solar array and your charge controller/battery bank. In the past you would have to transmit that electricity at 12, 24 or 48 volts. In a large array such as 10,000 watts, that would equate to 833 amps at 12 volts DC or 416 amps at 24 volts or 208 amps at 48 volts. Up the voltage to 600 and the amperage is only 16 amps. That equates to decreased size wiring and a lot less loss to resistance in the wire.
Are MPPT charge controllers worth the extra cash? I would have to say YES in most cases.
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