As we now know, solar energy can be harnessed to feed batteries. This happens through the use of solar panels which collect and harness the energy, converting it into electricity. But solar power is a little more complex than just a solar panel and a battery. What happens when the battery is full? And how do you know that a solar power system is working optimally based on actual power use? That’s where a charge controller comes into play.
Photovoltaic cells collect the sun’s energy from the solar panel’s surface and the charge controller regulates the amount of energy sent to the batteries. From there, an inverter is used to convert the direct current (DC) to an alternating current (AC) necessary for running home appliances. Once all the components are installed and running at full capacity, solar electricity is used quietly, efficiently, with zero pollution output and at no cost to the environment or the household.
The charge controller is one of the essential elements in harnessing solar energy. The solar panels pump current through the battery (or bank of batteries) in one direction. At night, the current may also reverse direction, which wastes energy. Some charge controllers have mechanisms to prevent this wasteful reverse current. Instead of passing through a semiconductor, some charge controllers use electromagnetic coils. The current sent through the electromagnetic coil passes through a relay which switches off at night, preventing any reverse current.
Photovoltaic cells work to charge a battery, but you do not want the battery to overcharge. If current continues to be applied to a battery that already has full voltage, it can cause a series of negative conditions for the equipment as well as the current itself. To prevent overcharge, charge controllers reduce and regulate the flow of energy to the battery. The regulation of the amount of charge being delivered to a battery is the most important function of the charge controller. Whether the charge controller uses an on/off switch to regulate or if it is using the more graduated pulse width modulation, the method for regulating voltage is the key. Set points are set on the charge controller to determine the charge rate of voltages. Set points are determined according to anticipated use and type of battery.