Solar Charge Control

Five things you should know about solar with battery storage


1. Order of connection

Many solar charge controllers (also known as charge regulators) are destroyed when connected to panels in the wrong order. Whilst many regulators now have protection against this, typically the battery should be connected first, then panels and load. Usually these items are all connected in parallel ie positive to positive.

2. Battery Type selection on regulators

Sometimes a jumper selection or switch is used to tell the charge controller that the battery is flooded lead acid or sealed lead acid/AGM. It may also be necessary to manually choose the system voltage (12V or 24V, etc). Not selecting these can result in poor performance, premature failure or the system not working at all.

3. Batteries need to be insulated from cold floors

Lead acid batteries provide more storage when warm, so care should be taken to separate the battery bank from the floor, whilst still providing adequate ventilation for charging of flooded lead acid batteries.

4. Earth/Grounding stakes will be needed for most systems

Most electrical systems incorporate an earth for safety and function, especially in the case of systems including an inverter (providing household AC electricity). Rural radio applications, such as CB radios, solar powered telecom towers, mobile phone towers and repeaters are sensitive to noise introduced by poor ground-earth connections. Be sure to think about this before heading off into a rural environment where the soil may be hard or very dry – you may need hammers, spades and ways to improve earth-ground connections, such as specialty sands and clays.

5. Use realistic estimates of solar energy available and consumption by loads

It’s important to understand the power ratings of solar panels do not apply consistently across the whole day – energy conversion is affected by many factors, such as time of day, shade, orientation, seasons and weather. On average, 1 kilowatt of solar panels will provide 4 kilowatt-hours of DC energy per day, not accounting for losses in charging and inverting processes. More solar energy will be produced in summer and less in winter. Remember that some energy is lost with discharging and charging of batteries.

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