A charge controller is used in a solar panel setup to control or regulate voltage (and/or amperes) to a battery. It prevents batteries from overcharging. 12 volt is a common size controller and can be found any place that is selling solar panel equipment. The controller acts as a regulator to maintain a trickle charge so the batteries are always properly fed and protected.
Common battery sizes are 6 volt and 12 volt. By connecting two 6v batteries in series, the voltage is combined, and it becomes a 12 volt battery bank. The same can be done with two 12v batteries to create a 24v battery bank. The controller voltage rating should match the battery bank voltage rating.
Solar panels are commonly configured to provide higher than 12 volts. 18 volt solar panels are commonly connected to a 12 volt battery. The solar panels are constructed this way to account for fluctuations of voltage caused by temperature, haze, and shade on the solar panel which will decrease the output of the panel. The common 12 volt battery is fully charged at about 12.7 volts. Under charge conditions, the 12 volt battery is around 13.6 to 14.4 volts. So the solar panel will need to provide at least this voltage to charge the battery. The same concept is true for wind or hydro power, where there may be fluctuations in the voltage being supplied to the battery.
A charge controller’s main job is to regulate the voltage supplied to the battery. There are some additional features that different charge controllers can offer as well. Some charge controllers also block reverse current, prevent the battery from being over discharge, provide protection from electrical overload. Some can display the battery bank status, and also give real time readouts of the electrical flow.
Here are some 12 volt battery controllers:
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