All solar power systems have a few required pieces of equipment in common, regardless of their type; these include the solar panels and the solar inverter. But other equipment requirements can vary based on the type of system you have. If you have an on-grid system, for example, you don’t necessarily need charge controllers. However, if your system is off-grid or a hybrid setup, charge controllers play an important role. Keep reading to learn more.
What Are Charge Controllers?
Charge controllers do pretty much what their name implies: They control the voltage and current as it flows through your system. Essentially, they ensure that the voltage and current don’t exceed a certain level, allowing the solar panels to deliver optimal power output for your consumption and charge your solar batteries. Charge controllers can be purchased as separate pieces of equipment, but they’ll often come built into an off-grid or hybrid inverter.
How Charge Controllers Help Charge Batteries
Charge controllers are essential in any system that utilizes solar batteries—including hybrid systems that are tied to the grid. The charge controllers help maintain batteries at their highest state of charge while preventing overcharging. Overcharging can lead to gassing and battery damage, so you must pair your batteries with charge controllers if you want to keep them working efficiently for as long as possible.
Why On-Grid Systems Don’t Need Them
There are two primary reasons why on-grid systems don’t necessarily need charge controllers. First, on-grid systems are connected to the grid; they can use the voltage and current levels from the grid as a guide to properly regulate the flow of electricity in your home, helping to prevent any surges in your circuits. Second, standard on-grid systems don’t have batteries, so you don’t need the charge controller to help with maintaining a proper charge, as described above.
Getting the Right Charge Controllers
As already mentioned, charge controllers are often built into solar inverters designed for hybrid or off-grid systems. For example, the Sol-Ark inverter contains two built-in 500V charge controllers, making it unnecessary to track down compatible ones to connect to your system. If you intend to use batteries at any point, it’s a good idea to get a hybrid inverter with built-in charge controllers, so you’re ready to add your battery bank at any time. If, however, you purchased a grid-tied inverter without charge controllers, you’ll need to speak to a solar expert about the right way to expand your system to include solar power storage.