What Are Charge Controller Settings? (Key Details)

The profile setting on a solar charge controller sets up the power output parameters to charge the battery bank in the most optimal voltage and current based on the battery chemistry used. Lead-acid, Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM), and Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) type batteries have different optimum charging parameters.

The battery manufacturer defines the charge controller settings, such as charge voltage and current, to ensure optimal charging conditions and battery longevity. The settings are specific to each brand and type of battery and must be adhered to, to maintain your battery warranty.

Battery manufacturers list their recommended charging parameters on their product websites or supply them as part of the support documentation when purchasing the device.

Solar Charge Controller
Solar Charge Controller

important Charge Controller parameters;

  • Battery Voltage 12V/24V/48V
  • Charge Controller Capacity 10A/20A/30A/….150A
  • Charge Rate – Manufacturer specified
  • Charging Voltages – Manufacturer specified per stage
  • Absorption Voltage
  • Float Voltage
  • Equalization Voltage
  • Absorption Duration
  • Maximum absorption rate (30 minutes/100Ah of battery capacity)
  • Voltage Compensation for Low Temperature
  • Low Temperature Cut Off
  • Load Output Profile – Maximum Battery Life
  • Smart Networking Enabled/Disabled

Let’s review these parameters and understand what they mean and what role they play?

How Do Charge Controller Settings Work?

The battery manufacturer defines the charge controller settings according to the type of battery chemistry and battery bank setup.

The parameters are programmed for the battery charging parameters, load output parameters, programmable relay settings, external device settings, firmware update settings, Bluetooth enabled/disabled, and networking setup.

Battery manufacturer websites and user manuals typically provide the charge controller settings required for optimal charging and battery protection. If this data is not supplied, the manufacturer’s technical support contact can be requested for it.

The most critical settings For Charge Controllers:

  1. Absorption Voltage:
  2. Float Voltage:
  3. Equalization Voltage:
  4. Re-Bulk Voltage offset:
  5. Absorption Duration: (Adaptive/Fixed)
  6. Maximum Absorption Time:
  7. Tail Current:
  8. Equalization Current Percentage:
  9. Automatic Equalization: (Disabled / Equalize every X Days)
  10. Equalization stop mode: (Fixed Time / Automatic on Voltage)
  11. Maximum Equalization Duration:
  12. Temperature Compensation (mV/°C):
  13. Low-Temperature Cutoff (optional):

Also, request the method of programming for these settings to be supplied. Most smart MPPT charge controllers can be programmed via a mobile application interface. Older models have switch dials that must be set in certain combinations to achieve the desired settings.

A simple e-mail request to the battery manufacturer technical support requesting the above settings should prove effective.

Also, please provide them with a brief description of your solar systems, such as the type and number of solar panels and the make and model of the charge controller.

How To Set Up A Charge Controller – Example

I will discuss an example of how the settings are loaded for a Victron Smart Solar Charge Controller via the mobile application interface. Mobile applications are the easiest way to interface with the charge controller and to set parameters and monitor performance.

  1. Download and install the mobile application on your smartphone
  2. Open the mobile application on your smartphone
  3. Select the Charge Controller to be programmed on the “Device List.”
  4. Select the Settings Cog in the upper right-hand corner
  5. Select the “Battery” menu
  6. Enter the values specified by the battery manufacturer for Battle Born LiFePO4 Batteries.
  7. Battery Voltage (12V/24V/48V)
  8. Maximum Charge Current (30A) – 50A maximum per 100Ah battery capacity
  9. Charger Enabled
  10. Battery preset – User defined
  11. Expert mode Enabled
  12. Absorption Voltage – 14.60V
  13. Float Voltage – 13.50V
  14. Equalization Voltage – 14.40V
  15. Bulk Voltage Offset – 0.10V
  16. Absorption Duration – Adaptive
  17. Maximum Absorption Time – 6 hours – 30 minutes per 100Ah battery capacity
  18. Tail Current – 2.0A
  19. Equalization Settings
  20. Equalization Current Percentage – 25%
  21. Automatic Equalization – Disabled
  22. Equalization Stop Mode – Fixed Time
  23. Equalization Duration – 4 hours
  24. Manual Equalization – Select (Start Now)
  25. Voltage Temperature Compensation – Disabled
  26. Battery Limits – Low-Temperature Cutoff – Disabled
  27. Once the settings are loaded, they are automatically saved and active.

The charge controller settings have now been set, and you can activate the system to start charging the batteries.

Monitor the charging via the mobile application and use a voltmeter to verify the output voltage going into the battery bank.

Why Careful Recording Of Charge Controller Settings Are Important

Battery manufacturers will warrant their products for as much as ten years. Still, the burden of proof is on the owner or installer to show that the proper installation procedure and charge controller settings were used.

The quality and durability of modern Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries are so good that battery manufacturers use durability as a key selling point.

The high cost of these batteries is easily offset by the numerous benefits versus conventional flooded batteries.

Lithium Iron Phosphate Vs. Lead-Acid Batteries – Key Comparison

 LiFePO4 BatteryLead-Acid Battery
Battery Capacity100Ah 12V200Ah 12V
Depth of Discharge100%50%
Self-discharge rate2 to 3% per month33% per month
Battery Life3,000 to 5,000 cycles500 – 1,200 cycles
Weight31 lbs144 lbs
Warranty10 years3 years
Purchase Price$1,000$450
Battery ProtectionInternal BMSnone
LiFePO4 Battery V.s Lead-Acid Battery

A comparison between LiFePO4 (LFP) and Lead-Acid batteries gives the stark contrast in performance and durability between the two battery types.

Battery Capacity

The battery capacity of the LFP battery needs only be equal to half of that of the Lead-Acid battery as the allowable depth of discharge on an LFP battery is 100% versus only 50% on the Lead-Acid battery.

Only half the stated battery capacity can be used due to the deterioration of the electrolyte chemistry if the capacity falls below 50%. All batteries lose charge over time, even when not in use. The monthly discharge rate of the LFP is ten times less than the Lead-Acid battery.

Battery Cycles

LFP batteries also weigh 70% less than their equivalent Lead-Acid models and boast a manufacturer warranty that is typically seven years longer.

Although the upfront purchase cost of the LFP battery is about double that of a Lead-Acid battery, the benefits are numerous, and the cost per kWh is significantly better.

Battery Cost

Due to the significant upfront cost of batteries, the batteries must be charged under the optimal conditions as specified by the battery manufacturer. Batteries can constitute 50% of the total cost of an off-grid solar system.

Whether you are using low-cost Lead-Acid or expensive Lithium-Ion batteries, the charging settings are key to getting the optimal lifespan and value from the battery bank.

References:

Solar Panel Setup FAQ

How long do solar panels last?

How long solar panels last depends on their quality and how well looked after. In general, though, most solar panels will last between 25 and 30 years, with the most expensive models having a life expectancy of 40–50 years. That being said, solar panels will still produce energy after this time, although their capability will have declined significantly. 

How do you set up a solar panel system?

The first step in setting up a solar system is determining how much power you need, and planning your solar system accordingly. After this, the setup is fairly straightforward;
1. Gather all the required components together; panels, inverter, batteries, cables, etc. 
2. Find a safe space in your home to house the inverter and batteries
3. Fix the panels to your roof or a stand
4. Connect the panels to your inverter or charge controller
5. Connect your inverter to your batteries

What is required for solar panel installation?

Again, the first crucial step for any solar installation is calculating your power needs. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to purchase the appropriate components. These include;
1. Solar panels
2. Batteries
3. Inverter
4. Charge controller
5. Suitable cables
These components are typically purchased separately according to your needs, but you can purchase ready-made solar kits that have all the components you need too.

Can I set up solar panels myself?

With a bit of basic DIY and electrical knowledge, you can certainly set up solar panels yourself, especially smaller systems. The setup can become somewhat complicated for large, high-power systems that are grid-tied, though, and you may want to get assistance from a qualified electrician. 

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