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how to choose a solar charge regulator?

WELLSEE / 2011-03-11
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A solar regulator is connected between a solar panel and storage battery to regulate charge to a battery in a stand-alone solar power generation system.
A typical 12 volt solar charger setup consists of a 12 volt solar panel, solar regulator, 12 volt battery and the load or appliances being charged. The solar power is passed through the regulator to a battery bank to be stored for later use.
The main purpose of voltage regulation is to control the charge going to the battery so that it is not overcharged by the solar panel and may also control the power supply from the battery to the load (ie. appliances) to prevent the flattening the battery (deep discharge).

When is a solar regulator required?
Although the solar power from a small solar panel can be connected directly to a battery of reasonable capacity, a larger solar panel's output should be regulated as the current and voltage may be too great for the battery and charge it too fast resulting in gassing of the electrolyte.
Therefore a solar regulator, also know as a solar charge controller, is used to regulate the voltage and current going to the storage batteries to prevent overcharging. An easy rule to remember is that the charging current should not be more than 10% of the rated capacity of the battery, so a 40Ah battery should can be directly charged by a solar panel with a current of less than 4 amps (60 watt solar panel)

What is a PWM solar regulator?
Better designed solar regulators use PWM control to allow the current to the battery do gradually taper off as the battery nears full charge so as not to overheat and damage the cells. This also allows the battery to be more fully charged.
PWM (pulse width modulation) has been a common circuit used in motor speed controllers and is now used in solar controllers and battery chargers. Instead of just switching the current flow to the battery as it nears full charge, the PWM controller begins to rapidly switch the electrical current on and off, creating pulses of current flow that decrease the average current.
As the battery nears its fully charged state the 'on' periods become shorter and the 'off' periods longer until the battery is fully charged and the current is stopped completely.

Solar regulator users guide
When should a solar regulator be used? There is no hard and fast rule, It depends on a few factors

1. The size of solar panel
Solar panels are essentially current generators, a large solar panel generates more amps than a small solar panel. A 100 watt solar panel and a 10 watt solar panel will both output the same voltage if they have the same number of solar cells making up the solar module but the 100 watt solar panel will deliver a current of about 5 amps while the 10 watt solar panel will deliver about half an amp.

2. The amp hour capacity of the battery being charged
The maximum charging current (amps) is often specified by battery manufacturers as C/5 where C refers to the Amp hour (Ah) capacity of the battery, so a 10Ah battery being charged at a C/5 rate corresponds to a 2.0A charging current.

3. The type of battery
Ask your battery supplier about the recommended charging regime. Although most Lead acid batteries are fairly robust, some batteries using different compounds and chemicals need very specific charging sequences.


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