PWM Solar Regulators

The technology for solar battery charge controllers has dramatically advanced over the past five years. The most exciting new technology, PWM charging, has become very popular.

What is PWM?

Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) is the most effective means to achieve constant voltage battery charging by switching the solar system controller’s power devices. The PWM regulator controls the current from the solar panel according to the battery’s condition and recharging needs.

Why is there so much excitement about PWM?

Charging a battery with a solar system can be a difficult challenge. The “old style” simple on-off regulators were used to limit battery outgassing when a solar panel produced excess energy. However, as solar systems matured it became clear how much these simple devices interfered with the charging process.

The history of on-off regulators has been early battery failures, increasing load disconnects, and growing user dissatisfaction. PWM has recently surfaced as the first significant advance in solar battery charging.

PWM solar regulators use technology similar to other modern high quality battery chargers. When a battery voltage reaches the regulation setpoint, the PWM algorithm slowly reduces the charging current to avoid heating and gassing of the battery, yet the charging continues to return the maximum amount of energy to the battery in the shortest time. The result is a higher charging efficiency, rapid recharging, and a healthy battery at full capacity.

In addition, this new method of solar battery charging promises some very interesting and unique benefits from the PWM pulsing. These include:

  1. Ability to recover lost battery capacity and desulfate a battery
  2. Dramatically increase the charge acceptance of the battery
  3. Maintain high average battery capacities (90% to 95%) compared to on-off regulated state-of-charge levels that are typically 55% to 60%
  4. Equalize drifting battery cells
  5. Reduce battery heating and gassing
  6. Automatically adjust for battery aging
  7. Self-regulate for voltage drops and temperature effects in solar systems
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