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Solar Panel Charge Controller Troubleshooting

By Benjamin Strusnik April 14, 2022

Your off-grid solar system is one of the best investments you can make for your home. So when something goes wrong, you want to get it fixed as soon as possible.

The solar charge controller is one of the most critical components in your system. If it's not working correctly, it can cause a lot of problems. It could result in your batteries being overcharged or damaged, or it could cause your solar panels to produce less power than they should.

Solar panel charge controller troubleshooting is not as easy as it sounds. This element is vital to the function of your solar power system, and if it isn't working right, it can be challenging to figure out what's wrong.

In this article, we will look at some of the most common problems with solar charge controllers and how to troubleshoot them. We will also give you some practical tips on keeping your charge controller working properly.

What is a Solar Panel Charge Controller

What is a Solar Panel Charge Controller?

Before we dive into the solar panel charge controller troubleshooting guide, let's first answer the question: "What is a solar panel charge controller?"

A solar panel charge controller is a device that regulates the current and voltage going from the solar panels to the batteries. It ensures that the batteries are not overcharged while protecting against:

Reverse Current

This is when the current flows back into the solar panel at night or when there is a power outage.

Overcharging

This occurs when the voltage from the solar panel is too high for the battery, causing it to overcharge.

Undercharging

This happens when the solar panel isn't providing enough voltage to charge the battery.

Short Circuits

A short circuit can occur if the solar panel is damaged or a loose connection.

Overcurrent

One of the main problems with solar panels is that they can produce too much current. If your charge controller doesn't have overcurrent protection, it could damage your batteries. 

The solar panel charge controller is a vital part of any solar panel system, and it's important to choose the right one for your needs. With so many different types on the market, it can be tricky to know where to start.

One of the best solar panel charge controllers is the Outback Power FlexMax FM80 MPPT Charge Controller - FM80-150vdc.

Common Solar Panel Charge Controller Problems

This is an excellent choice for a reliable and durable product. It features a maximum power point tracking (MPPT) algorithm that maximizes the solar panel's power output. It also has a built-in display that shows you all the vital information about your system.

Common Solar Panel Charge Controller Problems

The solar panel charge controller is a vital component in any solar panel system, yet they’re also one of the most likely parts to fail.

Some most common problems that can occur with solar panel charge controllers include:

Battery Voltage is Too Low; Controller Switches Off the Load

One of the most common problems with flexible solar panels is that sometimes the battery they’re connected to can run low. This mostly happens when the panel is used for a long time without any sunlight exposure.

The battery voltage drops and can't power the load anymore. Therefore, the controller switches off automatically to prevent damage.

If your solar panel charge controller keeps shutting off even though there is plenty of sunlight, check the battery voltage.

It should be between 12 and 13 volts. If it's lower, then you’ve found the problem. Try to expose the panel to more sunlight or get a higher voltage battery. The latter is usually the better option.

Battery Voltage is Too High. The Controller Switches Off the Load

One of the biggest factors in solar panel degradation is high voltage. When the battery voltage is too high, it can damage the cells.

What are the Solar Panel Charge Controllers

This is why most solar panel charge controllers have a maximum voltage limit. When the battery reaches that voltage, the controller automatically shuts off the load to prevent damage.

This mostly happens in areas with lots of sunlight and high temperatures. If you live in such an area, it's best to get a solar panel charge controller with a high maximum voltage limit.

Check whether the battery connecting cable is loose to fix this problem. This can create a high voltage problem. 

Also, make sure that the battery temperature is not too high. If it is, try to cool it down with a fan or move it to a cooler area.

Lastly, check the maximum voltage limit of the controller and see if it's set too low. This is a common mistake that people make. If it is, increase the limit and the problem should be fixed.

The Output Current of Solar Panels Is More Than the Rated Current of the Controller

This is not a problem, but more of an inconvenience. It can happen when you have a powerful solar panel paired with a lower-rated charge controller.

In this case, the solar panel's output current will be more than what the controller can handle. This usually doesn't cause any damage, but it can lower the charging efficiency.

To fix this, you can either get a more powerful charge controller or use two controllers in parallel. The latter is usually the better option because it's more flexible, and you can use different controllers with different features.

The Output Voltage of the Solar Panel Is More Than the Maximum Voltage Limit of The Controller

Why is my electric bill so high with solar panels? This is a question that most homeowners ask. The main culprit is usually a solar panel with a high output voltage.

Solar Panel Charge Controllers

When the output voltage of the solar panel is more than the maximum voltage limit of the controller, it can cause all sorts of problems. The most common one is that the controller will switch off automatically to prevent damage.

This problem can be caused by a faulty solar panel or a controller with a too low voltage limit. If you see that your controller keeps shutting off, then check the output voltage of the solar panel.

The voltage should be between 18 and 22 volts. If it's higher, then that's the problem. You can either get a new solar panel or a controller with a higher voltage limit.

The Output Voltage of the Solar Panel Is Too Low

One factor contributing to high solar panel failure rates is a low output voltage. This can happen when the solar panel is not getting enough sunlight.

The first thing you should do is check the orientation of the solar panel. If it is not pointing directly at the sun, that could be the problem.

Another possibility is that the solar panel is dirty. Dust, bird droppings, and other debris can block sunlight from reaching the solar cells.

If you live in an area with a lot of smog or pollution, that could also be why your solar panel's output voltage is low.

To fix this problem, you will need to clean the solar panel. You can do this yourself with a cloth and some soapy water. If the problem persists, seek professional help as soon as possible.

Solar Panel Charge Controller

Load Output is Short Circuit

The most common reason for a solar panel not working is a short circuit in the load output. This can be caused by a variety of things, including:

A Loose Connection

This is the main issue you should check when performing a solar panel charge controller troubleshooting. Check all connections and make sure they are tight. If you find a loose connection, simply tighten it and see if that resolves the issue.

A Damaged Wire

Another common reason for a solar panel not working is a damaged wire. This can be caused by several things, including:

  • Rodents chewing on the wires
  • Physical damage to the wires
  • Water damage to the wires

If you find a damaged wire, you will need to replace it.

A Bad Fuse

Another common issue is a bad fuse. This can be caused by several things, including:

  •  A blown fuse
  •  A loose connection
  •  An incorrect fuse rating

If you find a bad fuse, you will need to replace it.

A Tripped Breaker

Another common issue is a tripped breaker. This can be caused by several things, including:

  • An overloaded circuit
  • A short circuit
  • A ground fault

If you find a tripped breaker, you will need to reset it. If the problem persists, you may need to replace the breaker. Otherwise, your charge controller will keep tripping the breaker.

where to buy the Solar Panel Charge Controllers

Tips To Keep Your Solar Panels Charge Controller Working Properly

If you want to keep your solar panel charge controller working properly, you can do a few things, including:

Ensure it is Installed in a Cool, Dry Location

One of the main reasons solar panel charge controllers fail is that they overheat. To prevent this, make sure the charge controller is installed in a cool, dry location.

Avoid locations that are exposed to direct sunlight or near heat-generating appliances. This will help prolong the life of your charge controller.

Regularly Check for Loose Connections

Another reason solar panel charge controllers fail is because of loose connections. Over time, the vibration from the panels can cause the screws to loosen and the wires to come loose.

To prevent this, regularly check all connections and make sure they are tight. You may want to use a thread lock compound on the screws to keep them from coming loose.

Inspect and Clean the Charge Controller Regularly

Make it a habit to inspect your charge controller regularly. Look for signs of damage, corrosion, or loose connections.

If you find any problems, make sure to fix them right away. It's also a good idea to clean the charge controller with a damp cloth every few months to remove any dust or dirt accumulated on it.

Troubleshooting Solar Panel Charge Controller

Final Thoughts

Solar panels charge controller troubleshooting is important to keeping your system running properly. By following the tips above, you can help prevent problems and extend the life of your charge controller.

In case you perform a solar panel charge controller troubleshooting and you are still having issues with your system, feel free to reach out to a professional for help. They have the skills and knowledge to properly diagnose and fix the problem.

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