Charge Controllers Limiting Your Losses

Posted on 09/22/2017 at 12:00 by Seth Hansen

Charge Controllers Limiting Your Losses Blog Post Title Graphic


Nobody likes a dead battery.


You want power available to charge your device. 


To keep your fleet of vehicles on-line.


To stay safe during inclement weather.


To get things done. 


Often you might think about inexpensive batteries versus their elite counterpart, but many times we neglect the importance of a charge controller in the solar collection process. 


If paired with an inappropriate or inefficient controller, you can throw away an enormous amount of potential energy. 


To discern the best controller for your situation let's talk through the different options, their advantages and disadvantages so you can make the most informed decision. 


At its most basic level, a charge controller works to maintain your battery's health and ensure that you aren't damaging it. This is achieved by regulating the amount of voltage and can be achieved in a few different ways. 


There are a myriad of different styles of charge controllers on the market, but at the most basic level there are three types. Those that use Pulse Wave Modulation (PWM), Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) and Ratio Power Point Tracking.


Types of Controllers:


PWM controllers are an older genre that will only buck or drop voltage to the appropriate number for your specific battery. The controller reads the voltage appropriate for your battery and pulls it down to that number. These controllers can work in some scenarios but prove troublesome in others as we will discuss. 


MPPT controllers are a more modern take on controllers that are able to optimize the amount of power going into the battery meaning faster charging times and less waste. This is accomplished by the controller checking the voltage incrementally until it finds the point where it can collect the most power. 


Ratio Power Point Tracking controllers function similarly to MPPT controllers but rather than looking for a true voltage incrementally they look to maintain the specific ratio of open circuit voltage that you the user dictate. This can result in very similar results to MPPT but can also be less efficient in some cases. 



Advantages/Disadvantages of Controllers:


PWM: The main advantage for PWM controllers is their cost. These controllers are less complex and easier to manufacture. This leads to a smaller price tag. The biggest disadvantage of this controller is its lack of flexibility. If you experience variable light conditions and the controller drops the voltage going into a battery when a solar panel is shaded, it will not boost that voltage back up once the obstruction is clear.


MPPT: The main advantage of MPPT controllers is their "smart" technology that allows voltage to fluctuate depending on what results in the most energy collection. This means that you get more energy into your battery no matter what the conditions are. It will always be working as hard as it can in your given conditions. The main disadvantage of MPPT controllers is their cost. These controllers are more advanced and are more complex to manufacture. Another thing to be aware of is the variability in build quality and overall performance. With any piece of technology, many products that claim to be "the same" can vary greatly. Before determining the best solution for your application test, test and test again.


Ratio Power Point: The main advantage, much like MPPT, is the ability to remain agile and adjust to conditions. The main drawback is that it will almost always be less efficient than MPPT controllers making it a firm middle choice between these three options. 


When determining what solar charge controller to select, customization is vital.


While many electronics companies manufacture controllers, few do so with solar in mind maximizing efficiency at every step. Ensuring that your systems fit together and operate at an optimum level.


PowerFilm has been in the solar industry for nearly 30 years and understand the many unique mobile energy challenges you face. We can not only design a custom solar panel for you, but an entire system that eliminates unnecessary frill and focuses on what is important to you, leading to a cheaper, more efficient product. 


When looking to create an "off grid" solar solution let us design an innovative energy solution completely tailored to you. 


Looking for a solution? Have a question? Contact us or leave a comment below.



Categories: Solar Education