Solar Panels and Solar Regulators go hand in hand. Everyone knows that. However, not everyone understands the exact function of a solar regulator or the science behind it.
In this blog I will look in depth at the excellent 30 Amp Intelligent Regulator from iTechworld. This one of the most sophisticated, flexible and full featured regulators currently on the market. However, if you strip away the fancy features and displays, the 30 Amp Intelligent Regulator does the exact same basic task as almost all of their cheaper and less sophisticated versions.
So what does a regulator do?
If we were to look at the job description of any solar regulator, the first item (and in some cases the only function) is to prevent the battery bank from being over charged. The regulator does this by simply disconnecting the solar panels from the battery. So at a really basic level, the regulator is just a switch.
It is however a switch with a brain. Clearly we want the regulator to disconnect the solar panels only when the batteries are fully charged. To do this it must employ some intelligence and have some understanding of battery technology. The dumbest of regulators simply watch the battery voltage until it reaches the regulation point (battery maximum voltage) it then switches the panels off.
Most regulators have a bit more smarts than this. With some understanding of how batteries like to be charged, it is more reasonable to allow the battery voltage to rise to the regulation point, then carefully regulate the charge from the panels to hold the voltage at this point for a time (normally 1 – 2 hours). This is referred to as the absorption phase. This absorption phase typically takes the batteries from 92% up to fully charged.
After this absorption phase is complete, the 30 Amp Intelligent regulator will drop down into float mode. In this float mode the regulator is letting just enough charge from the panels through to the batteries to keep the battery voltage up at its float point.
So this is the three stages that you often hear about:
- Bulk – push as much power into the batteries as possible.
- Absorption – control the charge to hold the battery voltage at a point for an hour or two.
- Float – maintain the battery at close to full charge by controlling the charge and holding the battery voltage at a preset point.
Bells and Whistles
Most regulators present some kind of information display. At the most basic level this is simply a couple of colored lights that give you some idea of the stage that the regulator is currently in. The 30 Amp Intelligent Regulator is equipped with an LCD displays that provides a huge array of information about what is happening and what has happened.
By far the most useful feature of the 30 Amp Intelligent Regulator is to see the actually Amps that your solar array is producing. the 30 Amp Intelligent Regulator can even tell you how much amps your are taking out of you batteries if you connect your load to it. This allows the regulator and more importantly you to have a complete picture of the solar/battery system. If it can “see” all the power that is going into the battery AND all the power that is coming out of the battery, it is not difficult to calculate how much usable power remains in the battery.
Here are some other features of the 30 Amp Intelligent Regulator that I think makes them worth the extra few dollars.
- An intelligent control point for your solar panel system. With an intuitive LCD display screen you are in control of your solar panel system.
- Will enable you to monitor your solar panel power conversion, power storage and use of your solar power supplies.
- Using the touch keypad you can program the controller to your preferences and monitor your solar system in real time.
- Installation of the control panel is made easy with step by step instructions.
- Easy to read display icons and indicators will tell you the operating status of your solar panels.
- The controller comes with a temperature sensor which measures the temperature immediately around the control unit.
- Easy and simple key operation.
- Intelligent Charging Mode.
- Adjustable charging & discharging control parameters.
- Overloading & short-circuit protection
- Battery reversed discharge protection
- Protection for battery back discharging
- Protection for battery low voltage
- Auto temperature compensation
A simple solar regulator can be purchased for about $40. It will tell you nothing about what it or your batteries are doing. It will have just three simple terminals to connect and will function perfectly for years. Alternately, you can spend $79 on the 30 Amp Intelligent (“all singing, all dancing”) Regulator that will tell you everything about the status of your electrical system and do pretty much everything apart from set your Satellite TV System up.
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