Charge Controllers

Charge controllers come in various types. Solar Charge Controllers regulate and optimize the charge from a solar panel array to a battery bank. Solar lighting controllers allow you to control DC lights while simultaneously charging a battery bank from solar panels. AC charge controllers allow you to charge your battery bank from an AC source (e.g. household current). Dump load or Diversion load controllers are often used with wind turbines and microhydro systems to regulate battery charging with the addition of a resistive load for excess energy. altE also offers some unique DC voltage regulators for original DIY projects. Be sure to add in the appropriate temperature sensor for you charge controller for optimal performance!

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More Info on Charge Controllers

Charge controllers can have quite a few different applications. We've tried to categorize them for better understanding. Check out the brief descriptions for each:

  • Solar Charge Controllers: used to regulate and optimize the charge from solar panels and protect batteries in solar electric systems.
  • Solar Lighting Controllers: offer both a solar charge controller and a programmable lighting controller in one unit. DC lights or other DC loads can be run directly off of the solar lighting controller at scheduled times, thus potentially eliminating the need for a separate timer or load controller.
  • AC Battery Chargers: use an alternating current (AC) source like a wall outlet or a petrol generator to charge a direct current DC battery bank. Various models are available that allow for faster charging, or different voltage inputs and outputs.
  • Constant Voltage Regulator: These products either take a variable input DC voltage and maintain a stable output voltage that depending on the converter can be higher or lower than the input DC voltage.
  • Diversion (Dump) Load Controllers: The models in this category have the capability of being either a solar charge controller, a dc load controller, or a diversion load controller. The trick is that they can only do one at a time.
  • Temperature Sensors: Battery temperature sensors allow a charging source, such as a solar charge controller or AC charger, to know the battery temperature. This prompts the charging source to adjust the charge settings in order to provide appropriate charging as well as to protect the battery. Generally each charge controller brand has its own specific temperature sensor that is sold separately.

What is a Charge Controller and How Does it Work?

People often ask us how charge controllers actually work, what does it really do in a solar power system. Or, why do I need a solar charge controller? Can't I just connect my solar panels up directly to my batteries? We answer these questions plus more like what's the difference between an MPPT solar charge controller and a PWM solar charge controller in our educational article simple title "What is a Solar Charge Controller". Check it out.

Even More on Charge Controllers

Since renewable energy power systems almost always gather power and store it in batteries, almost every system requires a charge controller. A solar charge controller will protect your batteries from being overcharged by your solar panels and it will block any reverse current (from the batteries) as well. Solar charge controllers will actually protect every aspect of your solar power system from your batteries to your solar panels. Temperature sensors are an inexpensive addition that help the charge controller more accurately regulate the charge of the battery bank.

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