Solar charge controllers play an important role protecting your batteries from damage. But what happens when things go wrong?
It can be frustrating when your solar power system isn't working as it should. In this guide, we'll discuss how to troubleshoot issues with your solar controller and how to reset your solar controller if you need to.
What is a solar charge controller?
A solar charge controller manages the amount of power going from the solar panels to the battery. Its main role is to protect the battery life by making sure the battery does not overcharge during daylight hours and that the solar panels do not drain the battery during the night.
Some solar controllers also play a role with lighting and load control. If you're new to solar power, check out our article on solar panel myths to get started.
There are two different types of solar charge controllers:
Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
PWM solar controllers are more affordable, but slightly less efficient than MPPT controllers. The main difference between them is that a PWM solar controller draws a current out of the panels just above the battery voltage, whereas a MPPT solar charge controller draws a current out of the panels at maximum voltage power.
Whether you have a PWM or MPPT solar charge controller, it's important to know how to troubleshoot when things go wrong and how to reset your solar controller if you need to.
How can I check that my solar controller is working?
One of the easiest ways to check that a solar controller is working is to read the controller's LED display and use a multimeter to read the power output. If there is no voltage output or if it is very low, there is probably a problem with the controller.
If you notice that your solar controller isn't working as it should, there are a number of troubleshooting steps you can take to diagnose the problem.
Why is my solar charge controller not working?
There could be several reasons why a solar charge controller is not working properly. Start by identifying the problem, and then working backwards to find the cause.
It's important to consider the entire solar system when troubleshooting, as the problem could lie with the batteries, panels, wiring or the controller itself. Some of the main problems you might encounter are:
The controller isn't charging the batteries
If you notice the controller isn't charging the batteries or that the controller shows 0.0 amps when charging, it could be an issue with the photovoltaic panels, wiring or input voltage.
Start by checking if the battery is full. The amps will drop low if the battery is full or nearly full.
Check that your solar panels are clean and that there are no obstructions. Dirty panels can lead to poor power output.
Check the input voltage. This should be around 18V, depending on the rating of your solar panels.
Check the wiring between the solar panels and the solar controller.
If you still can't find the cause, perform a hard reset.
If that doesn't work, install a new controller.
The controller isn't receiving voltage from the solar panels
You may notice a moon symbol on your controller during day time, which means the controller isn't receiving voltage from the solar panels.
Remove the two solar panel wires on the back of your controller.
Use a multimeter to measure the voltage across the two wires. This should be around 18V, depending on the amount of light and the rating of your solar panels.
If the voltage is too low, use the multimeter to check the voltage coming from each panel. These should be around 18V too. If one panel has much lower voltage than others, there's likely a problem with that panel.
If all the panels read around 18V, check the wiring to see if there is a connection issue.
The controller isn't turning on
The controller might not be turning on because of wiring issues or because the system isn't configured correctly. Try rewiring the system and if this does not work, perform a reset on the controller.
How to reset your solar controller
Resetting your solar controller means you are returning the controller back to its factory settings. Resetting the entire system may help fix issues with the controller if your other troubleshooting methods have not worked.
You should perform a reset at night time or, if doing the reset during daylight hours, cover up your solar panels for safety. Make sure you follow the user manual instructions.
To perform a soft reset:
Press all four buttons on the front of the controller.
Hold for 15 seconds until you see the controller resetting.
If this does not work, try a hard reset.
To perform a hard reset:
Take the solar controller off the wall.
Disconnect the 4 wires at the back (battery positive, battery negative, panel positive and panel negative)
Wait 15 to 20 minutes.
Reconnect the battery positive and negative wires first. Then reconnect the solar positive and negative wires.
Need help with your solar charge controller?
It can be frustrating when your solar system isn't working properly and you can't find the cause.
If your solar system isn't working as it should, the friendly solar specialists at iBreeze can help with troubleshooting, repairs and maintenance for solar panels in Rockingham, Mandurah and surrounds.
Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.